Does This Make Any Sense At All?

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151 thoughts on “Does This Make Any Sense At All?”

  1. I should add that she’s been posting about this for days. They’ve been praying for this kid a ton already — makes you wonder why God needs so much convincing.

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  2. Oh, Nate. Those are the kinds of things (and I only have a few on my Noseybook feed who would put something like that on there) that I have a very hard time ignoring. But I must. Sensible, logical discourse in retaliation to these sorts of things are blatantly, rudely dismissed. . . I mean, was that last comment (“prayer is a blessing”) meant to make the baby’s mother feel better?? Really??
    The thing is, if the baby gets better who will get the credit? Not the doctors and nurses whose expertise and diligent work probably saved the baby. . . nope, (their) god gets all thanks and praise. And if the worst happens, (their) god gets exonerated.

    Like I say, I have a hard time keeping my fingers from the keys (you know, like clamping your jaws shut, person-to-person)

    . .. sigh. . . why can’t people just say, “I share your pain and wish things could be different” ?? 😦

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  3. I’m not sure how the act of talking to one’s self can in any way dilate constricted blood vessels but I suppose it’s worth a shot, as long as it’s seen for exactly what it is, a form of magic known as the ‘Hail Mary’, in which a telepathic message, or ‘prayer‘, travels through space and time to an invisible entity who lives in an invisible kingdom with many mansions; the entity then thinks the blood vessels into a dilated state, for which the praying person sends the entity a telepathic message of gratitude.

    If that makes sense, I doubt that constricted blood vessels are the greatest of your problems.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Yes, I guess it makes sense in an odd way.

    It’s a placebo. But there can be a “placebo effect”, so it can be a useful treatment.

    In this case, it is not treating the child. It is a treatment for the frustrated adults.

    Prayer as placebo would not work for you or me. But it can be effective for those who believe in it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Those kinds of posts drive me nuts. I am bothered that people give God the credit when they get the outcome they prayed for, but don’t blame Him when they don’t. This kind of inconsistency can be maddening. In my mind you can’t have it both ways – but they won’t get that until they are willing to actually THINK it through.

    That said, while I agree that what is referred to as prayer in that stream neither changes God’s mind nor directly dilates constricted blood vessels (although I would buy that more than option 1), there are enough studies out there to convince me that there is more to this than meets the eye. There is a supernatural (beyond physical measurement and quantification) aspect to our lives that I am not willing to ignore altogether. We are more than a collection of physical cells – my own ability to analyze my own thoughts tells me this (‘who’ is analyzing ‘who’?). And I have seen some pretty weirdly amazing shit firsthand myself in terms of spontaneous healings that defy medical explanation.

    There is too much mystery within the human body alone for me to completely discount anything supernatural existing at all. This is no defense of God’s existence, just a belief that there is ‘more’ out there (be it spirituality, higher self, or whatever you want to call it), and perhaps what the poster calls ‘prayer’ CAN actually affect the outcome, whether it is the effect (or how) they think or not.

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  6. I agree with makagutu, it makes sense. My interpretation of their possible logic goes like this:

    “We suffer and imperfect world due to our fallen nature, and the Devil may play a role, thus this baby is sick. Doctors don’t have the answer, so this is a chance for God to get the glory. But we can only ask and pray. God will answer in his own time. And we can not doubt the outcome for God’s ways are above ours. Our holy duty is only to pray, trust and obey.”

    And I agree with Neil and others about the placebo affect and Christian jargon to express hopes and comfort fears.

    Do I dislike it — yeah, but then I turned of the theist switch decades ago.

    Once, on my flight to Guatemala, an elderly woman was obviously having a heart attack. People were nervous and disordered, so I got out of my seat, identified myself as a medical provider, and stabilized the situation with aspirin, oxygen and notifying Guatamala to have an ambulance ready for transport to a hospital with possible stenting options available. The woman arrived comfortable and stable. And while being transported out of the plane, the woman said “thank you” to everyone. The woman in front of her (quiet the whole time) said, “You’re welcome sweetheart. I was praying the whole time and God answered my prayers.”

    Argggghhh

    Liked by 6 people

  7. Well, it is obvious the “God’s plan” for Titus has a mistake in it and God needs correcting. The people praying, therefore, know better than God what His Plan should be and prayers are just memos, sort of, bringing that fact to His attention.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sabio, an interesting reply to the prayer lady in your plane story might’ve been something like, “I know, right?! The goddess Artemis heard my prayers – she is in our midst, protecting this vulnerable woman!”

    Liked by 5 people

  9. and then there is this:
    http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/10/17/vatican.teresa/index.html

    “I am really astonished,” he said. “This is nothing, but a farce.”
    The controversy centers on a woman, Monica Besra, and her claim that in 1998 her large stomach tumor vanished after praying to Mother Teresa.
    After months of study, including lengthy interviews, Rome cleared it as a miracle.
    One doctor who treated Besra told CNN there was no scientific explanation for her recovery.
    But the doctor who first diagnosed Besra, says the church should not push Besra’s case because it was medication, not a miracle that cured her.
    “It is scientifically proven that the tumor that she had was linked to tuberculosis,” he said. “And it responded to an anti-tubercular drug.”

    oh, jeeeezzzzuuuuuuuussssss!!!!!, merry Christmas ya’ll!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nate, I feel like I can make some sense of it. My take is similar to Sabio’s.

    For one who already believes, there’s likely no questioning of the god propositions. Taking those as a given, prayer provides comfort and confidence that it’ll all work out for good in the end – even if that end is in heaven, and I hurt now and I don’t understand why why why is god letting this happen, sky daddy will fix everything eventually.

    It’s not about making a case for the existence of the alleged deity. That question probably doesn’t even occur to her. When challenged, defenses likely go up, and many believers probably find the notion that they’re possibly mistaken as absurd, and dismiss it out of hand.

    …There was a caller once to “The Thinking Atheist Radio Podcast” that sticks out in my mind. IIRC, the show was on dealing with loss, and the caller was describing a situation where a believer was using a loss in the caller’s life (perhaps a loved one) to proselytize. The phrase he used was “my tragedy is not your soapbox”.

    I find it offensive (if understandable) when believers use such events to push their religion on others. But by the same token, I’m not inclined to use their tragedies to challenge their notions of god(s). I feel that there are other times and places for that.

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  11. Some of the books I read as I was leaving the church talked about the effect group thinking (not necessarily the term used) could have on events and circumstances. The point being made that when several people focus their thoughts on a desired result, it can affect the outcome.

    Of course the big difference is this line of thinking does not credit any supernatural forces as being the impetus for change.

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  12. Reaffirming that stupid is as stupid does, did anybody catch this?

    http://d2uzdrx7k4koxz.cloudfront.net/user/view.act?p=MTYyNDQ=&c=MzYyNjU5Mjg=&fuid=MjExNTI2NDI=&showDate=true

    Augusta County schools and all administrative offices in Virginia closed on Friday because of parental objections to a controversial high school geography assignment involving the complexities of Arabic.

    So the schools completely shut down.

    It all began over a homework assignment at Riverheads High School which some parents considered to be Islamic indoctrination.

    WTVR reports:

    Kimberly Herndon said she felt her rights as a parent had been violated when her ninth grade son came home with the assignment.

    “It asked him to copy the Shahada, the Islamic statement of faith which translates to “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” said Herndon.

    The assignment said it is meant to give the students, “an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy.”

    Dozens of people went on to meet at Good News Ministries.

    Herndon said she has not sent her child back to school since the incident happened last week.

    “I will not have my children sit under a woman who indoctrinates them with the Islam religion when I am a Christian, and I’m going to stand behind Christ,” Herndon said.

    On Facebook, Herndon writes, in part,”This evil has been cloked [sic] in the form of multiculturism [sic]. My child was given the creed of the Islam faith to copy.”

    Augusta County Schools released a statement which reads, in part, “the school division began receiving voluminous phone calls and electronic mail locally and from outside the area” and that, “based on concerns regarding the tone and content of those communications, Sheriff Fisher and Dr. Bond mutually decided schools and school offices will be closed on Friday, December 18.”

    “We regret having to take this action, but we are doing so based on the recommendations of law enforcement and the Augusta County School Board out of an abundance of caution,” the statement reads.

    Watch courtesy of WTVR:

    “As we have emphasized, no lesson was designed to promote a religious viewpoint or change any student’s religious belief,” the statement continues. “Although students will continue to learn about world religions as required by the state Board of Education and the Commonwealth’s Standards of Learning, a different, non-religious sample of Arabic calligraphy will be used in the future.”

    Herndon’s Facebook post concludes, “Blessed be the name of THE LORD. THE LORD OF LORDS AND THE KING OF KINGS. THERE IS POWER IN HIS NAME AND HE IS WORTHY OF ALL PRAISE.”

    It’s like the War of the Fundamentalists. ‘My God is better.’ ‘No, MINE is!’

    When in reality, it appears the class was just teaching what it said it was teaching: the complexities of Arabic and different religions.

    We wonder how Ms. Herndon would feel about a Muslim student having to learn about Christianity in the classroom. Apparently, Herndon will not be indoctrinated into grammar or spelling either.

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  13. It’s clear they used this class as a way to sneak religion back into the classroom, but by ‘religion,’ they envisioned only the Christian version – now the hillbillys know that ‘backfire’ isn’t restricted to rusty pickup trucks —

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  14. Hi Nate,

    Every atheist blog has to have a token christian to be the whipping boy (it’s a cosmic law!), so I guess sometimes I have to be it! 🙂

    I can agree with the feelings behind everyone who has commented here. I often find those expressions embarrassing, difficult, whatever. I am deeply troubled by the pain I see around me in the world, and I cannot explain how a loving God allows so much. (I believe much of it is caused by the fact that God gave us the gift of autonomy and choice, but this much suffering??)

    Nevertheless, there is good evidence that prayer does sometimes, perhaps often, change the way things happen, including keeping people safe, healing them and giving them peace of mind. Just as you can find websites like this that decry the possibility of God, you can find others that give accounts of healings. You will be unable to accept these, but I can, because I have investigated some healings and found the evidence points to the accounts being true, and I have a friend whose website is one that includes first-hand accounts of healings, and I trust him.

    So there are two different realities, two different belief-systems or worldviews, and it seems, unfortunately, that rarely do the twain meet. But if you believe, as I do, in a different reality to the one here, you will pray. And if that other reality is actually true, you will sometimes receive answers, even quite miraculous ones.

    Those people might be corny in some ways, but they’d be mad NOT to pray!

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  15. UnkleE

    Every atheist blog has to have a token christian to be the whipping boy (it’s a cosmic law!), so I guess sometimes I have to be it! 🙂

    Martyr complex much?

    Liked by 2 people

  16. No, Nate, none of that makes sense. However, many of us were once like them. We tried so hard to believe.

    If the whole reaping what you sow theory applies here, Christians are implying that this child must have “sinned” while in the uterus. If not, the baby must be paying for the “sins” of the parents then. And if the little baby isn’t paying for his/her sins, or the parents’sins, then he/she must be paying for the fall due to Adam and Eve. If god exists, he is not a just god, he is the ultimate sadist.

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  17. Imagine a small child who has experienced terrible abuse at the hands of his drug addicted or mentally ill parent. In a desperate attempt to maintain his sanity, the child invents an imaginary friend; an imaginary friend with amazing supernatural powers; an imaginary friend who promises the child that no matter what his evil parent or anyone else does to him, that he (the friend) will be there with the child, helping him to get through it, and promising amazing, future rewards for the child as long as he never gives up; as long as he keeps believing and trusting in his “friend”.

    What is the child’s alternative? Answer: a world of absolute hopelessness and unimaginable terror.

    For a variety of reasons, many adults need an imaginary friend, and no amount of evidence that questions the existence of this “friend” is going to convince these people to let go of him.

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  18. The good news for adults, is that we can call the cops when someone is abusing us, unlike the small child. Adults have choices. We can cower in the corner, afraid of the scary, dangerous world that we were born into, or, we can live our lives enjoying all the beauty and thrilling experiences awaiting us in this amazing, but scary and dangerous world. It’s our choice.

    I choose to face this dangerous world with a positive outlook. I intend to do my best to protect myself from danger, but I also choose not to cower in the corner. I choose to make the most of my life, realizing it is all I have. I choose to treat others well, because it makes me feel good to do so, and because it encourages others to treat me well in return. It is a win-win situation.

    And I choose not to create an imaginary friend.

    I don’t need him.

    —Gary

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  19. I find it odd that so many Protestant Christians appeal to personal experiences of miracles and healings attributed to Jesus as absolute proof that he is alive and is the one, true God…but the tens of thousands of similar personal experiences of miracles and healings attributed by Roman Catholics to the Virgin Mary, by Muslims to Allah, and by Hindus to Krishna or to one of their other gods, are viewed by these same people as sheer coincidence and an over-worked imagination.

    Strange coincidences happen, folks. Just because Uncle Bob recovered from his sinus infection after you prayed to Jesus for his recovery, is not proof that Jesus performed a miracle in Uncle Bob’s sinus cavities.

    If Christian prayer was really as effective as Christians claim it is, we should see dramatically lower illness, accident rates, and death rates among Christians compared to members of other Faiths (or no Faith) in the same society and social class.

    There is zero evidence that such a disparity exists.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi nonsupernaturalist,

    “There is zero evidence that such a disparity exists.”

    I wonder what your evidence is for this statement? Could you share with us please on what you base it? Thanks.

    Just to offer an alternative view, I do have evidence for the opposite view. Here’s just a few examples (I have many more):

    Researchers Study Health-Faith Connection

    Spirituality May Help People Live Longer

    Religion, spirituality, and physical health in cancer patients: A meta-analysis

    View of God as benevolent and forgiving or punishing and judgmental predicts HIV disease progression.

    I’m not at all suggesting that all prayer is answered, or that these and the other studies offer proof of anything. But I am saying that the medical evidence is against what you have said, and I don’t think your statement is well based. I’m hoping you’ll be interested in getting the best facts available. Thanks.

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  21. IMO, all these articles are saying is that if one practices religion or believes in some kind of spiritual superbeing, they may have better health and/or faster healing. It does not necessarily indicate that prayer had anything to do with it.

    From another perspective … I often ask why does god allow the sickness, the tragedy, the death to happen in the first place?

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  22. Faith doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. That said, prayer causes people to unite under a common purpose and focus on a singular goal. When people do such things fervently, amazing things can happen.

    It always strikes me as funny that the only response people accept to a prayer is the one they want. (An “answered prayer” is one in which God did as s/he was told. Any other “response is typically considered a non-answer.) Most prayers, if they are “answered”, are answered through the efforts of people. Whether that’s “God” pulling the strings, just human effort, or some combination of the two is anybody’s guess.

    That said, there is some Freaky Shit that happens in this world that cannot be explained. Makes this marble more interesting, really.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. “Two hands working can do more than a thousand, clasped in prayer.”
    — Madalyn Murray O’Hair —

    Carter’s Law of Prayer:
    “As time goes on, a person learns to pray for only those things which will likely happen anyway.”

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Ok, Unkle E, I am going on the record admitting that I am wrong and you are right…kind of.

    Read the following excerpt from an article in Psychology Today in which their studies show that religious people in counties like the United States do have better health statistics than atheists, however, before you jump for joy, the article goes on to then ask this question: If religion/faith is the key factor in better health, why then do secular countries like Sweden and Japan have much better health statistics than the much more religious United States?

    Excerpt: In the U.S. some health researchers are fond of giving religion the credit for boosting life expectancy. Yet despite being a nation with a large religious majority, Americans have much lower life expectancy than is enjoyed by secular countries at a similar level of economic development such as Japan and Sweden. Evidently, the lower quality of life here both provides a market for religion and reduces life expectancy.

    From that perspective, it seems bizarre that health researchers would be so keen to tout the alleged health advantages of religion (2). If religion really promoted longevity, how could people have such short life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa where virtually everyone is deeply religious?

    Gary (nonsupernaturalist)

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  25. Watching the Miss Universe contest (for no other reason than really hoping to see Venusians or maybe Andromedans, but nooooo!), and Miss USA was chosen as one of the last five finalists (SURPRISE!), but she lost me when she said that if she won the title, she would be blessed. BIG minus —

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Hi Nan,

    “if one practices religion or believes in some kind of spiritual superbeing, they may have better health and/or faster healing.”

    I’m glad we are agreed on this. But it isn’t just belief in something vague – the studies sometimes differentiate different types of belief. For example, belief in a loving God helps health more than belief in an angry God; prior belief is better than a belief a person takes on in the crisis; a personal and spiritual belief is generally better than a cultural belief; certain practices seem to be important, etc.

    “It does not necessarily indicate that prayer had anything to do with it.”

    No, not “necessarily”, but it does seem to be important. e.g. like I said, prior belief and religious practice is a great help when a health crisis occurs, and those practices generally include prayer, and may be specifically measured in some studies. So prayer is in the mix along with other things. It would take very specifically designed studies to separate out the causes, and some studies have done that. For instance, neuroscience studies by Andy Newberg led him to this conclusion: “Activities involving meditation and intensive prayer permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that are involved with lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive and intellectual functioning.” (How God Changes Your Brain, p 149)

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  27. Hi Gary,

    “Ok, Unkle E, I am going on the record admitting that I am wrong and you are right…kind of.”

    Thanks for that. I hoped, as a doctor, that you would see that.

    “If religion/faith is the key factor in better health, why then do secular countries like Sweden and Japan have much better health statistics than the much more religious United States?”

    This is very easy to explain. Such studies only work when the study controls for other factors like age, diet, marital status, age, etc. In simple terms, religiosity is associated with better physical and mental health other things being equal

    But of course, when comparing people from Europe or Japan and the US, other things aren’t equal. There could be all sorts of factors involved – diet, exercise, gun ownership, homicide rates, unemployment, social security (or lack of it), hereditary, etc. Only when a study controls for those factors, and many others, can the conclusions on religiosity be compared.

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  28. Gary, that Psychology Today article is really a bit silly. It concludes with this:

    “If religion really promoted longevity, how could people have such short life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa where virtually everyone is deeply religious?”

    Now surely it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to postulate a few reasons why a religious person in sub-Saharan Africa may have a shorter life expectancy that an atheist in Sweden?

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  29. I had my tonsils out when I was seven, since then, I haven’t been ill a day in my life – I don’t pray, I don’t get sick – works for me.

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  30. You are making an assumption, Unkle E.

    You assume that if all things were equal, that American (for example) illness and death rates would be lower than those of the Japanese and the Swedes. Do you have evidence for this statement? The article I quoted from Psychology Today asserts that the disparity between theists and non-theists in the United States is possibly due to the fact that theists run this country and atheists are often treated like outcasts. I will have to see what research they have conducted to back up this assertion. In your country, which is twice as secular as the United States, the health statistics and life expectancy rates are better. Are you saying that Americans have such terrible diets, lifestyles, and gun laws that all of that outweighs the benefit of having a much higher rate of faith in God?

    But maybe there is some truth to your position: Maybe believing that an all-powerful, invisible, imaginary friend is always with you and will always provide you with emotional/psychological support, no matter what tragedy you suffer, may lower your blood pressure and have other positive health effects.

    If you are correct, what does that mean? That believing in imaginary beings is good for your health?? Is that really what we want to teach our children? Isn’t there any value to the truth?

    And another question: Is there any country on earth that is highly religious AND as healthy as Sweden and Japan? Why are the most religious countries in the world, and the most religious states in the US, often the places of higher infant mortality, poorer health, and lower life expectancy?

    Lastly, do Christians really want to push the idea that one can derive the same health benefits by believing in ANY supernatural belief system as one receives by believing in Jesus, who they allege is the one and only true God? I should have left “and those of no Faith” out of my original statement: Why are there no significant differences in healing rates, accident rates, and death rates between Christians and persons of other
    religions? If one can receive the same health benefits and longevity by praying to Allah or Lord Krishna as praying to Jesus, why go with Jesus? I don’t see how Christians can point to perceived personal miracles and healings and attribute those events as proof of Jesus as the One, True God.

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  31. The one thing to which I have to look forward with mixed emotions, is that in your country, the adorable Koala and you are on the road to extinction.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. “Now surely it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to postulate a few reasons why a religious person in sub-Saharan Africa may have a shorter life expectancy that an atheist in Sweden?”

    Why?

    Let’s leave out the orthodox Christian teaching that God punishes non-believers who reject Christ with bad fortune, and assume that God simply leaves atheists in Sweden and Japan alone. So if the overwhelming majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa are very devout persons of faith and prayer, why wouldn’t God provide them with equivalent life expectancy and good health as he seems to allow the Swedes and Japanese to enjoy?

    “Ask anything in my name, and it will be done…”

    If God really “blesses” the faithful, sub-Saharan Africa should be an area of peace, tranquility, and economic boom. Why isn’t it? Is it possible that the reason is this: while the people in sub-Saharan Africa are spending their days praying to Allah and Jesus to improve their lives and are following ancient, superstition-laden cultural rules that encourage bigotry and discrimination, the Swedes and Japanese are using science and principles of secular humanism to create peaceful, harmonious, low-crime societies?

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  33. Hi Gary,

    “You assume that if all things were equal, that American (for example) illness and death rates would be lower than those of the Japanese and the Swedes.”

    No, I don’t assume that at all. Why on earth would I assume that? It quite likely isn’t true – for a start, how could ALL things be equal?. And why did you think I had assumed that?

    I said: “Only when a study controls for those factors, and many others, can the conclusions on religiosity be compared.” So obviously I wouldn’t draw any conclusion unless a study had controlled for all the other relevant factors.

    “Why are the most religious countries in the world, and the most religious states in the US, often the places of higher infant mortality, poorer health, and lower life expectancy?”

    This is a good question, and there is a tentative answer for it (i.e. a hypothesis), though I’m not sure if this is properly established yet. Poorer countries and countries with higher wealth inequality, have lower levels of health and prosociality and higher levels of crime. People feel less secure than if they are in wealthy safer countries with less inequality. People who are poor or insecure are more likely to turn to religion. So it is likely that wealth is the key to both health ands religion. The US is anomalous in some of these areas because it is a wealthy country but it has higher inequality, crime and homicide. It is dangerous to use the US as an example because it is an outlier in many of these stats. I can give you references to studies on all this if you want.

    But like I said, you can’t use statistics with multiple factors to make a statement about any one of those factors without controlling for all the others.

    “while the people in sub-Saharan Africa are spending their days praying to Allah and Jesus to improve their lives and are following ancient, superstition-laden cultural rules that encourage bigotry and discrimination, “

    Gary, this is another speculation like your comment that we started with and which you have agreed was wrong. Have you any evidence that this occurs? I think I have evidence that this too is a demonstrably false statement, and I’ll see if I can find it. Until then, it is a baseless statement.

    I would have thought it was obvious that most sun Saharan countries are way poorer than Europe, Japan and the US, have far less effective health systems, are subject to drought, sometimes civil war and sometimes famine. Before you draw any conclusions, you’d have to control for those factors, and I suggest (1) that would be very difficult and (2) once those factors were controlled for, there’s be very little difference left to explain.

    Unless of course you think that medical science is largely useless!!?? 🙂

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  34. I guess you aren’t seeing my point. When Jesus said (or at least the anonymous authors of the Bible assert he said), “ask anything in my name and it shall be done unto you…” I think he meant it. If you have TRUE faith in me, you will have the power to move mountains. Either the devout people of sub-Saharan Africa aren’t praying hard enough, or Jesus was wrong about the extent of his magical powers.

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  35. Bottom line, our discussion may have revealed that, in certain countries, if the majority believes that they have an all-powerful imaginary friend, the result is that they have better health and life expectancy as compared to persons who do not believe in imaginary friends, but you are still stuck with the fact that there is no proof that believing that one’s imaginary friend’s name is Jesus is any more advantageous than if his name is Allah or Krishna.

    Our discussion may have proven that imaginary friends are heart healthy, but please provide evidence that Jesus specifically answers prayers for health, safety, and long life any more effectively than prayers to any other imaginary friend. If Christians could demonstrate that prayers to Jesus really work, whereas prayers to any other god do not, you would probably see some of us come back to the fold. I don’t think you can do that…but then I’ve been wrong before…

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  36. Imagine if there was a study that demonstrated that people who believe in fairies and leprechauns live longer. Would that be reason enough to believe, pray to, and worship these invisible entities??

    Sorry. I’ll take the truth…even if it shaves a few years off my life expectancy.

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  37. Gary, we have reached some understanding, that religious belief and practice does, on average, confer some health benefits. I could show you information on prayers to the God of Jesus leading to surprising recoveries in some instances, but I’m doubtful you would be convinced, so why bother? I have achieved what I set out to do, and that is sufficient for me. Thanks.

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  38. Anyone unfamiliar with unklee’s presentation of highly distilled ”facts” to support his fundamental Christian perspective – which contains zero fun but a llot of mental – might be left wondering if he is simply uniformed and might want to do the charitable thing and help straighten him out.
    Those familiar with unklee’s, somewhat sycophantic and oft-times condescending method of presenting his brand of highly-distilled ”facts” merely indulge his ineptitude because, as he rightly states,

    ”Every atheist blog has to have a token christian to be the whipping boy”

    .
    And for once I wholeheartedly agree with him – he is a token Christian, and an ignorant one at that.

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  39. the studies sometimes differentiate different types of belief. For example, belief in a loving God helps health more than belief in an angry God; prior belief is better than a belief a person takes on in the crisis; a personal and spiritual belief is generally better than a cultural belief; certain practices seem to be important, etc.

    … For instance, neuroscience studies by Andy Newberg led him to this conclusion:

    Activities involving meditation and intensive prayer permanently strengthen neural functioning in specific parts of the brain that are involved with lowering anxiety and depression, enhancing social awareness and empathy, and improving cognitive and intellectual functioning.
    (How God Changes Your Brain, p 149)

    To me, these points are extremely important. If God’s real, you’d think that whether people believed in a happier version of him vs an angrier version wouldn’t make much difference in their health so long as they believed. Coming to belief earlier in one’s life shouldn’t matter much either, just so long as you come to that belief (parable of the workers in the vineyard). Also, why would meditation offer the same benefits, since meditation is often practiced by non-religious people or adherents of Eastern religions?

    But if these benefits have nothing to do with the supernatural but stem from the effects of optimism, then these details make perfect sense.

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  40. Unkle E,

    Here was my original claim: “If Christian prayer was really as effective as Christians claim it is, we should see dramatically lower illness, accident rates, and death rates among Christians compared to members of other Faiths (or no Faith) in the same society and social class. There is zero evidence that such a disparity exists.”

    You have FAILED to disprove the majority of my statement and have only focused on the three words in parentheses. Yes, I agree with you, believing in an imaginary friend seems to convey some health benefits, but the name of that imaginary friend seems to be irrelevant. Christian prayer is no more effective than Muslim or Hindu prayer.

    Liked by 3 people

  41. In a similar vein, I was told, on Colorstorm’s blog, that I could easily be the Bible’s god’s next convert – when I expressed doubt, it initiated the following conversation:

    Tricia says:
    December 21, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    God can work miracles on anyone Arch, even you…;)

    archaeopteryx1 says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    December 21, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I can wait, Trish, at least until he finishes healing all of the ill, regrowing the limbs of the amputees, and filling the empty bellies of all of the starving children and providing for their future nutritional needs. When he’s done all that – and if he created an entire universe in only six days, it shouldn’t take that long – have him get back to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. And to further your point, Gary, you did say “dramatically” different stats. And that’s just not the case. There are slight benefits in some studies, but as you said, they aren’t isolated to a single belief set. And some specific studies about prayer have indicated that it might sometimes do more harm than good.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. NeuroNotes has lots of links on the ineffectiveness of prayer in the healing process, and I’ve emailed her to join in on this discussion, but I’ve yet to hear back from her.

    Like

  44. Back in August when I was challenged about the truth of the Bible over on the Isaiah 53:5 blog I responded by listing a number of passages in the New Testament that suggest the the prayers of the faithful should be answered. I posed the question of whether these promises could be claimed to be honored.

    That stored up a hornet’s nest which clearly angered the folk on that blog and after I was accused of taking the texts out of context I was eventually banned from the blog.

    Looking back I realise I touched a raw nerve, that the faithful struggle to rationalize the disconnect between what the Bible says the life of the believer should be and the reality of what the experience of that life really is.

    Liked by 4 people

  45. And some specific studies about prayer have indicated that it might sometimes do more harm than good.

    I read such a study this afternoon – http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html?_r=4&

    I was going to post the link earlier but we got hit by a rather violent lightning storm and all the power went out across half dozen suburbs.

    What annoyed the crap out of me was reading the Templeton Foundation had spent 2.4 million on one study and worse ,the frakking US Guv’ment spent around 2 million!

    For frak’s sake, that’s over 4 million dollars simply squandered for absolutely nothing.

    Just imagine how many kids died of malnutrition while a bunch of half-wits pandered to some goddamned belief continually promoted by religious arseholes – some of whom pop up here on Word-Press.

    Truly, It’s enough to make you gag, and such people should be thoroughly ashamed to even admit they put any stock in this horse manure.

    Liked by 2 people

  46. Yes, Arch, I think this the same study I read. It was extensive and the conclusion needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
    .

    For the Christian whipping boy … Maybe when you get to heaven you could explain to some of those kids why they died while you had your hands together, as did one of your fellow Christians who was praising the Lord for helping her find her car keys and for also securing her favorite parking spot at the supermarket.

    Truly, why aren’t you ashamed and disgusted?

    CONCLUSIONS:
    Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

    Liked by 2 people

  47. Many Christians use amazing personal experiences of “miracles” as evidence of the existence of their god. The problem is—Mormons, Muslims, Hindus, and members of many other religions can make the very same “amazing” claims. Amazing coincidences even happen to atheists.

    To demonstrate that prayers to Jesus are truly effective (other than the benefit of lowered pressure and heart rate as discussed above), Christians should be able to demonstrate that Christians have significantly lower accident rates and death rates than persons of other Faiths, and, that Christians have a significantly higher “recovery from illness” rates than persons of other Faiths. Can Christians provide such evidence? Let’s see, but I doubt it.

    The initial intent of my comments was not to claim that being an atheist will give you better health and prolong your life. The initial intent of my comments were to demonstrate that there is no good evidence that prayers to a man who has been dead for 2,000 years are magically fulfilled by his invisible supernatural powers.

    Dear Christians, if praying to dead people makes you feel better and improves your health, all power to you! But please stop telling the rest of us that if we do not submit to your superstitious belief system that we are in danger of unpleasant consequences at the hands of your dead prophet after we die.

    Liked by 3 people

  48. Earlier in this thread I wrote: “From another perspective … I often ask why does god allow the sickness, the tragedy, the death to happen in the first place?”

    I just read on Facebook about an explosion and fire south of where I live. Four people were critically injured. At last count, there were 33 people who had “commented” and said they were praying. I ask again … why doesn’t god prevent these type of tragedies from happening in the first place?

    Obviously, he doesn’t, so my next question is what possible good are all the”prayers” going to do for the family involved? Is god going to take time out from his “heavenly” duties to heal all the injured and prevent their possible death?

    When push comes to shove, the only value in prayers is to the person doing the praying.

    UnkleE and others may cite “answers to prayers,” but they are minuscule in the big picture.

    Liked by 4 people

  49. When push comes to shove, the only value in prayers is to the person doing the praying.

    Exactly! It is all part of the self-delusion.
    People like unklee claim to be unbiased and side with the ”experts” but in reality they enter every such discussion with their presuppositional beliefs firmly intact.
    This is undeniable as the premise of the belief is that their god exists and is Jesus of Nazareth and therefore anything is possible.
    The decision to become a Christian is based on emotion.
    But why I am telling you this…. lol.. forgive me, Nan!

    Liked by 3 people

  50. Hi Nate, Gary,

    You will note that when I made my first comment to Gary I said:

    “I’m not at all suggesting that all prayer is answered, or that these and the other studies offer proof of anything. But I am saying that the medical evidence is against what you have said, and I don’t think your statement is well based.”

    That is what I have said all along. Gary’s original statement that there was no evidence was wrong – the evidence shows that. And it seems that you both agree now.

    My reason for pointing this out is that christians don’t have a monopoly on people who make unjustified statements – the internet is also full of atheists making unjustified statements as if they were fact. It was worth pointing that out and correcting it.

    And the example of a “failed” prayer study offered by Victoria via Arch is another example of the same. You would be amazed how many atheists offer up this study as the definitive answer, without (apparently) checking to see if other studies have been done. I have looked extensively at this question, and found 26 studies on the question, several of which were “meta studies”, summarising the results of further studies, making something like 60 studies over all.

    I have summarised the 26 studies in Studies of intercessory prayer. The results are roughly 2:1 in favour of a positive effect. I don’t think these results “prove” anything about God, or even test anything much about God (they are not measuring prayer for divine healing as practiced by christians, they are measuring prayer as a therapy), but the number of studies demonstrates my point that unbelievers can easily fall into the error of not doing the research before they make statements, and/or only quoting the studies that fit their preconceived viewpoint.

    So, I have certainly raised a hornets nest haven’t I? Quite a few contributions all looking like (to paraphrase Peter’s words):

    “the faithless struggle to rationalize the disconnect between what naturalism says the life of the believer should be and the reality of what the experience of that life really is”

    But it seems my rather forthright presentation of evidence, without making any claims beyond the facts, has still been too much for some readers, and I really don’t like to to generate ill-feeling, so I will cancel my subscription to this post and leave you all in peace. Thank you Nate for putting up with me, I appreciate it.

    Like

  51. That is what I have said all along. Gary’s original statement that there was no evidence was wrong – the evidence shows that. And it seems that you both agree now.

    Hi unkleE,

    About this point in particular, we’d still disagree. Gary’s post said that there was zero evidence of “dramatically” different outcomes for religious people in these situations. You posted articles that talk about minor differences… but that’s not what Gary was talking about. So I don’t think you’ve overturned anything. The two of you were just talking about different things. And thanks for putting up with me, too. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  52. Peter,
    I totally understand this.

    I was quite the prayer zealot before deconversion. Jesus was the absolute last thing I held unto in the faith. When I looked at how incredibly rude and violent he was in the Bible I just couldn’t take it anymore. More than that, I got tired of his lies. He said if you ask in his name you shall receive. It’s also mentioned in the New Testament that we should do even greater feats than what he did because he left us the holy spirit. This whole “yes, no or maybe” thing isn’t in the teachings of Jesus. Ask and it shall be given. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened. One day I finally decided it was time to hold the savior of my salvation accountable to his own words. And that was the end for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  53. Imagine meeting someone and having him or her tell you the following:

    “My grandfather is the most incredible man who has ever lived! I can count on him for everything. If I need help at work, he always helps me. If I’m having relationship issues, I can always count on him to give me good counsel and support. If I’m ill, I talk to him and he helps me to get better. I talk to him before going to bed every night and before every meal.

    My grandfather is the Creator of the Universe and has promised all those who pray and worship him that when they die, he will beam them up to his cosmic city on the edge of the most distant galaxy to live forever.

    Would you like to know more about my grandfather?

    You: Uhhh. How old is your grandfather?

    Oh, he’s dead.

    Observation: Scary, crazy nonsense, huh? Yet Christians are baffled when we skeptics don’t buy THEIR “my-dead-friend-is-God” story.

    Liked by 3 people

  54. Gary,

    I’ll take the truth…even if it shaves a few years off my life expectancy.

    After adjusting for the time, money, worry, shame, etc. spent on the religious life, maybe you’ll break even, or come out ahead. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  55. I just read on Facebook about an explosion and fire south of where I live. Four people were critically injured. At last count, there were 33 people who had “commented” and said they were praying. I ask again … why doesn’t god prevent these type of tragedies from happening in the first place?

    Prayer: too little, too late.

    (Lest anyone think me a hypocrite wrt tragedies and soapboxes: I don’t apply that rule of thumb to third parties.)

    Liked by 1 person

  56. Yes, Arch, I think this the same study I read. It was extensive and the conclusion needs to be shouted from the rooftops.

    Would you mind ever so much doing that? I have a touch of vertigo —

    Liked by 3 people

  57. I ask again … why doesn’t god prevent these type of tragedies from happening in the first place?

    Someone once said that thanking god for surviving a disaster in which others died, is like writing a thank-you letter to a serial killer for bypassing your house and slaughtering your neighbors instead.

    Liked by 4 people

  58. People like unklee claim to be unbiased and side with the ‘experts’ but in reality they enter every such discussion with their presuppositional beliefs firmly intact.

    Plus, they cherry-pick their ”experts”.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. I believe he is very careful how he phrases his arguments and he certainly weights the odds in his favour. As there are currently so few scholars that measure up to (his) specific criteria in this field who are openly prepared to acknowledge that the character, Jesus of Nazareth, ( and Paul for that matter) is very likely mythological he is currently holding all the aces.
    But, in the grand scheme of things, this scenario is changing rapidly.

    Give it a couple of decades, and who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

  60. One day I finally decided it was time to hold the savior of my salvation accountable to his own words.

    At the risk of sounding like an apologist, Charity, that’s really not fair, but given the circumstances, it’s about all you can do with what you have to work with. We really can’t say just what his words were, assuming he existed.

    According to Bart Ehrman, the oldest writings are closest to the truth, and I know of no reputable biblical scholar who disputes that “Mark” wasn’t written until a full 40 years after Yeshua’s alleged death, “Matthew” five years (+/-) after that, “Luke” ten years later still, and “John” around the turn of the century, or 60-70 years after the fact. By the time pseudo-John wrote, he had so embellished his account that it likely does not resemble anything even remotely approaching the truth.

    We can discount outright the 7 genuine letters of Paul (out of 13), as he never met the man, and though it does seem that he did indeed meet some of the actual apostles, anything he wrote is at best second-hand.

    The closest accounts to his actual words were written by two anonymous authors (surprise!) – the author of the “Q” source (which no longer survives) and the “Gospel of Thomas”. Neither of those wrote literary accounts – no story-line, no shepherds, angels, wise men, walking dead, etc. – but were comprised entirely of statements that Yeshua allegedly actually said, and as they were written so early in the history of Christianity, these are the ones most likely to have been closest to being accurate.

    It’s really difficult to judge Yeshua on the basis of what someone said he said. Unfortunately, the boy could likely neither read nor write, and so couldn’t have produced his own manifesto.

    Liked by 1 person

  61. That’s the thing, Arch, I was making the best decision that I could at the time with the best tools I had available for me. I never read anything by an atheist while I was still a Christian. Instead, I extensively went through various translations, bible studies, commentaries and the Strong’s concordance for about 20 years (when my serious doubts began) before deconversion. I wore out all of my Bibles, prayer journals, Vine’s and Pentateuch looking for answers for many years. If said god has something important to say, wouldn’t he be as clear as possible through the most precise communication as possible? This is why we often hear that the Bible is the best tool for atheism. It’s nauseating to try to figure out what was said and what was not. What the Greek or Hebrew actually meant. Where there should be a comma instead of a period or a period instead of a comma. Word of Faithers are notorious for the latter.

    For me, the proof of god not existing does not fall on non believers and the proof of his existence isn’t up to his followers. The almighty needs to show himself to all of us if he wants us to follow him.

    As I’ve mentioned before, my children know I exist. My children don’t have to put together puzzles or riddles for answers. There is no mystery about the love I have for them. They know that their parents have great affection for them and work hard to meet their needs.

    Like

  62. I wanted to comment on this, Peter, but was out (or ‘oot and aboot,’ as the Canadians say) all day yesterday, so sorry for the seeming delay.

    I’m deep into Dr. Bart Ehrman’s book, “The New Testament, A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings,” and Ehrman explains that before Yeshua was crucified, some of his followers may have come to believe that he was the Messiah, but then, he was summarily executed for sedition, thereby shattering the hopes of his followers that he could be the future deliverer of his people.

    Prior to the 587 BCE overthrow of Judea by the Babylonians, the Jewish king was cerimonially anointed with oil at his inauguration ceremony as a symbolic expression of their god’s favor – thus he was known as “the Lord’s anointed,” or in Greek, the christos, but there was no king to warm the throne for over three hundred years (until the Hasmonean rulers in the mid-second century BCE), but this led to the idea that there would be a future king, like David, who would rule the “chosen people” once again as a sovereign nation in the Promised Land.

    By the time of the New Testament, several different versions of what this future ruler would be like, emerged. Some expected a warrior-king like David, who would throw off the yoke of Rome, others a more supernatural cosmic judge of the earth, while still others (the community of Essenes who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls), a priestly ruler who would provide authoritative interpretations of their god’s law for his people.

    BUT, in no source, prior to the writing of the NT, was there any reference to a future messiah who is to suffer and die for the sins of the people.

    So with the death of Yeshua, a new scenario was necessary if anyone was to believe that he was actually the messiah – the earliest Christian believers were therefore compelled to insist that their messiah, contrary to general expectations, was to die and be raised from the dead, as their god’s demonstration that the man had been vindicated of all wrong doing. Thus they scrambled to search their scriptures for divine proof that their definition of the messiah was the correct one. Isaiah 53 was one of those blueprints, and the authors of the testaments made sure that all of the ancient prophecies were made to appear to have come true in their stories of Yeshua.

    These were combined with the Jewish custom of sacrificing a perfect lamb for the Sin Offering of Atonement, which led to Migdal Edar, where such perfect sacrificial lambs were raised and wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger for the first few hours of life to prevent their injuring themselves until they had had time to gain strength in their legs – Megdal Edar was located just outside (spoiler alert!) the little town of Bethlehem.

    Interestingly, nowhere in Isaiah, nor in any of those prophecies, was the term ‘Messiah’ ever mentioned.

    Liked by 3 people

  63. I was making the best decision that I could at the time with the best tools I had available for me.

    Oh, I completely understand that that was the case, Charity, and I had hoped I had made that clear, but in case I didn’t, I’m not faulting you in the least, just saying that we really have no way of knowing where biblical truth begins and ends, but that’s on the Bible, not on you.

    Liked by 1 person

  64. …and the authors of the testaments made sure that all of the ancient prophecies were made to appear to have come true in their stories of Yeshua.

    Pseudo-Matthew is particularly obvious about this, often stating blatantly, “And this was to fulfill the prophecy, (specific prophecy stated, yada, yada) —

    Liked by 1 person

  65. It’s nauseating to try to figure out what was said and what was not. What the Greek or Hebrew actually meant. Where there should be a comma instead of a period or a period instead of a comma.

    In most cases, the god followers don’t worry about any of this, Charity. They just accept as “TRUTH” what comes out of the mouth of their preachers, pastors, bishops, priests, etc. It isn’t until one experiences a twinge of doubt and then follows it up with reading and research that all this comes to the forefront. Of course, when it does, the world of Christianity gets turned upside down and voila! Another atheist or agnostic is born!

    Liked by 2 people

  66. Oh, I absolutely agree with you, Arch. I think what many Christians fail to understand is that many of us non believers have done more homework regarding their faith than what they have. That is why we don’t believe.

    Like

  67. The difference being that, in their minds, such research could be seen by their god as a lack of faith – then you have to go out and buy a lightning rod and carry it around at all times – you can see how complicated that could get, better to just believe.

    Liked by 2 people

  68. Indeed, Nan. I was a Christian from the age of three to 39. From my late teens (while I attended Bible school) until my deconversion, I prayed and studied like crazy. That was 20 years of MAJOR doubts and I still stuck around. Why? I thought I was the common denominator in all of my struggles. Near the end I realized that god/Jesus itself was the common denominator instead. After all, “he” was the center of all the drama in my life regarding church, family, prayer, Bible Study and friendships.

    Over the past couple of years, hubby and I have come out to both of our large families, co workers, medical providers and even a little bit to our kids’ teachers. There’s been something quite liberating about all of that. Some we have told we’re non religous, others we have flat out told we’re atheists. All in all, it’s really not surprising to see who has kicked us out of their lives. At first it was painful, but in looking at how abusive and judgemental those people are it’s no surprise at all.

    I’m learning more and more about the value of common sense and logic. I’m learning to go above my emotions and be more direct with those around me. After all, I’m not an intellectual. If I, as an American woman living in the South, had the questions I had, I can’t be the only one. There’s got to be so many more Christians out there looking for a way out, but haven’t a clue as to how.

    Liked by 3 people

  69. So true, Arch. Like I told Ruth earlier, I don’t miss having to consistently convince myself that god is god and he is good.

    Like

  70. Ruth is a sweet girl. She’s much nicer than I am. She went through some real life horror and still came away from it all as kind as she is. If these visiting Christians still think prayer works, they need to read her story, especially what she wrote about her first marriage. God had plenty of times to save her faithful Christian self from harm, but did nothing. Somehow, someway, she got smart and left her wretched husband and Jesus. She will never cease to amaze me!

    Like

  71. She’s much nicer than I am.

    She’s a WHOLE LOT nicer than I am, but all in all, I’m very pleased with the way I turned out. Oh, I could maybe part my hair differently, but other than that —

    Liked by 3 people

  72. When unkleE sites a study like this one, Spirituality May Help People Live Longer, he hopes we won’t read further , statements like, “Researchers, including Koenig, say there are limitations to the conclusions anyone should draw from these studies. It could be that people who attend religious services benefit from the social network they form”.

    In other words, belonging to other social networks like civic clubs can produce the same results. But of course these other social networks don’t promote unkleE’s agenda. Hmmmm

    Liked by 2 people

  73. I had a Christian lady (whom I was paying to teach my granddaughter piano) send me a link to a YouTube video that maintained that a number of academics had been fired for being Christian. I jotted down those names and researched, and discovered that each had lost their jobs for reasons entirely unrelated to their religion. I emailed her each of my discoveries – she was not pleased and stopped emailing me. We’re supposed to take such assertions at face value and never dig any deeper, after all, that’s what Christians do.

    Liked by 4 people

  74. Thanks for the ‘Like,’ Nan – makes me very reluctant to tell you that the piano teacher’s name was Nan.

    Like

  75. Well, this Nan is a sweet lady (much like yourself), but she’s been so heavily indoctrinated she just can’t see anything else.

    When I sent her the email (this happened three or four years ago), she praised me for the quality of analysis I had done on her video, and asked if I thought I could do a critique on the Bible. By this time, I had already completed analyzing 50 chapters of Genesis (about which, she knew nothing), so I said I thought I just might be able to do that.

    I emailed her a chapter at a time, making it look like a simple analysis, rather than something I had already prepared for a website. At the end of each email, I posed certain questions, which I noticed, in return emails, she never answered.

    After a time, I began to realize why – she wasn’t reading to the end of any of my entries! She said she wanted it, but when she got it, she couldn’t even bother to read it.

    I spent 4 emails telling her I felt we shouldn’t email anymore, but each one was answered with a chatty, how’s-the-weather kind of response – once again, she didn’t know I had suggested ending the emails, because she didn’t read my damned emails!

    Finally, SHE suggested we stop emailing, so I let her feel good about herself, believing that she was the one who initiated the idea. I still see her every year, at piano recitals – we smile and exchange pleasantries, but any discussion of religion is off the table.

    Liked by 1 person

  76. @Ken

    Amen , Brother Arch !

    I am sending you the cleaning bill for the coffee spilled on my trousers and any fees for any damage for what ended up on my keyboard.

    Like

  77. oh crap, how did that happen? I wasn’t finished with my comment and it posted supernaturally. lol

    Anyway, as I was saying, I caught benny hinn’s return to tv and here is what he said.

    he said, “if god doesn’t answer your prayers for healing, then pray that god finds you the best doctors to heal you.”
    OH, LOL.
    stupid Christians.

    Liked by 3 people

  78. Hi guys. If anyone is sitting around bored with nothing to do today, come over to Theology Web and check out a discussion I am having with the conservative Christians there regarding Jesus’ alleged miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead; a miracle only mentioned in the last gospel written—John—and a miracle never mentioned by Paul or any other writer of the NT epistles. Here is an excerpt:

    One Bad Pig (Christian):

    Gary, your ENTIRE CASE is built on the assumption that everybody made stuff up, with a side of “ancient peoples were gullible fools with bad memories”. And you’re still ignoring this, doubtless because it doesn’t fit your fantasy. Eyewitnesses, y’know, witnessed. They told people all over the place, who independently told others. At some point, everybody got a copy of the gospel; if it hadn’t generally checked out, it would have been rejected, like most other gospels were.

    Gary:

    Assumption, after assumption, after assumption, my friend.

    Once again, I have NEVER said or assumed that Christians in the first century were all lying or intentionally concocted false stories. It is my guess that most people involved in new religious movements, especially new religious movements that are severely persecuted, are very SINCERE about their beliefs. However, sincere belief doesn’t not equate with TRUE AND HISTORICALLY ACCURATE beliefs.

    My assertion is this. Which is more likely:

    1. The story of Lazarus was a theological story, never meant by the original author to be read literally as a true historical event.
    2. The tale of Lazarus originated with the poor beggar Lazarus from the Synoptics. By the time it reached (the non-eyewitness) author of the Gospel of John in circa 100 AD, the story had become incredibly embellished after being handed down from person to person over many decades, passing between countries and cultures, told in one language, and translated into many others. No one lied. No one intentionally made anything up. The story changed because that is what happens to oral stories retold over a long period of time.
    3. The author of John made up the story from whole cloth with the intention of deceiving his readers into believing that this event was a true, historical event. He lied.
    4. A dead, stinking corpse really did rise from the dead after being in a sealed mausoleum for FOUR days.

    The statistical odds of option number four being the correct answer is INFINTISIMALLY small when we look at cumulative human history and the number of stinking corpses that have come back to life after being sealed in a tomb for four days.

    My position is NOT based on assumptions, but on statistical probabilities! And that is how you and every other educated person in western civilization evaluates wild, unheard of claims today. I am only asking you to use the same reasoning when evaluating wild, unheard of claims made TWENTY centuries ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  79. you can’t reason with unreasonable people.

    If, like one bad pig suggests, that essentially no big falsehood would last this long, then that would mean that all existing religions, not only his goofy one, but all other existing goofy religions are also just as true by such asinine standards.

    I just can’t go back over there and look at that train wreck any longer. It’s madness, and they’re not interested in reasonable discourse, but merely in a collective circle jerk where they congratulate each other for having strong faith despite the evidence, while they spout out mind-numbing crap like the above…

    Help us Jebus

    Liked by 2 people

  80. In John’s Gospel the interchange between Jesus and Nicodemus has some very clever wordplay as recorded in the original Greek. It is hard to translate this wordplay effectively into English, but also, tellingly, the wordplay would not have worked in Aramaic, the language in which Jesus and Nicodemus would have conversed.

    John’s Gospel has all the hallmarks of a theological treatise weaved around a historic narrative. The history is secondary to the theology, the author is quite prepared to change events, like the timing of the cleansing of the temple, to serve the broader theological agenda.

    The raising of Lazarus from the grave appears to be an entirely made up story that was needed to serve the broader theological agenda. As the cleansing of the temple had been moved to the start of the story, the author needed another reason for why the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus, this story serves that purpose. It also is part of the ‘signs’ in the Gospel that are the backbone of the story. Each of the miracle in John’s gospel is a sort of parable.

    These stories only really start to make sense when we are prepared to accept the possibility they may not be recording actual history. But the apologist is not prepared to grant this premise so the discussion will be most likely fruitless and frustrating.

    If we are prepared to accept that John’s gospel is not actual history then we can appreciate it for the skilled creation that it is.

    Liked by 3 people

  81. You are both very right…but I’m sucker for a good debate (or a good brawl down in the mud…depending on your point of view).

    🙂

    Like

  82. @Gary

    I think mud brawlers will be insulted at your insinuation.

    What you have there is worse.

    I agree with William, it’s just circle jerking at it’s best. But hey, who doesn’t like circle jerking? Aren’t we also doing that here? Lol

    Liked by 2 people

  83. This thread has gotten pretty slow, so I hope Nate doesn’t mind me doing the following. I posted the following comment on TW. I’d be curious of what my fellow skeptics here on Nate’s blog think of it:

    The four gospels and the writings of Paul are good evidence for the existence of a real, historical Jesus but they are NOT good evidence for flying supernatural beings in radiant white garments opening sealed tombs and dead men walking out of their tombs and flying off into outer space. Extraordinary/supernatural claims need better evidence to be believable. Every Christian on this thread would agree to that EXCEPT when it comes to the extraordinary/supernatural claims in YOUR ancient holy book.

    If five men write in five books that that they saw me driving my car on March 9, 1983, that would be good evidence. But if five men write in five books that they saw me flying a Martian mothership, which suddenly shot up into the sky and landed on the moon, on some unspecified date forty years ago, no one but the most gullible and superstitious is going to believe their supernatural claim!

    That is your problem, folks. It is not that you have zero evidence, it is that your evidence is extremely weak; not sufficiently strong to support such a fantastical supernatural claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  84. The four gospels and the writings of Paul are good evidence for the existence of a real, historical Jesus

    Besides the crackpots, there are some scholars nowadays who assert otherwise (e.g. Richard Carrier, David Fitzgerald). I haven’t looked into it in detail, and I’m not convinced one way or the other, but IMO, the presence of legitimate historical doubt over the very existence of the character serves as evidence against his alleged magic powers godhood.

    Liked by 2 people

  85. I think your argument is good, Gary, but I also don’t think it’s going to go anywhere. Like me, I know you were a Christian for many years — do you think your argument would have been persuasive to you if you’d heard it back then? And that’s not a rhetorical question; I’m genuinely curious.

    For me, I don’t think it would have been enough. I would have been able to see the logic in what you were saying, but I believed that the Bible was inspired and infallible, so your argument would have just sounded like conjecture to me. I don’t think I could have left my faith over conjecture. I first needed to be shown that the Bible was not inerrant. Once that was done, I was open to all other arguments — but that had to come first.

    Of course, that’s just me. I know plenty of other Christians who don’t believe the Bible has to be inerrant, and I’m not really sure what kinds of arguments might work with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  86. @Nate

    I don’t think I could have left my faith over conjecture.

    You know this is the question I asked, but the other way round –

    I don’t think I can believe over conjecture. When all religions around the world are making different conjectures.

    Hence I think it simply takes an open mind, for someone to ask “can I be wrong”, then he/she will be on the path to deconversion.

    I think the prime issue is that most people just like to be right. This applies to religious and non-religious folks. You think about it critically, how many people are actual fervent christians to begin with? 10%? 20%?

    How many christians even read the bible? The whole idea that this is the word of the ultimate all-powerful creator wanting to talk to you, and you don’t even read it? Something tells me you don’t really believe at the core of your being. So why are you even holding onto your faith? I think it’s pride.

    Liked by 2 people

  87. To answer your question, Nate: Probably not.

    Like many Christians, it wasn’t just one piece of evidence that convinced me of the truth of the Jesus story. For instance, if someone told me that the evidence for the Resurrection was too sci-fi to be believable, I would then point out all the prophecies from the OT that Jesus fulfilled; or the “would not die for a lie” argument; or the “miracle” of the spread of Christianity under horrific persecution; or personal testimony of “miracles”…and on and on…

    But now I see it all this way: a house of cards held up by the glue of assumption after assumption after assumption.

    Liked by 2 people

  88. One Bad Pig (Christian) on TW:

    I know you’d really, really like that to be true (that I am involved in one of the greatest movements in the history of humanity: the debunking of supernaturalism and the liberation of the human mind from the fear and control of religious superstitions), but if you were interested in actually “debunking supernaturalism” you’d unhesitatingly read and refute the sources we bring up. You’re only interested in sowing doubt.

    Gary: I and other skeptics have learned from our own personal experience that “deconversion” from a supernatural-based religious belief system does not happen overnight. It is a slow process, that begins by one day, whether surfing on the internet (as in my case), debating skeptics online, reading a provocative article, or watching a TV program, you suddenly see something wrong with one aspect of your belief system. It doesn’t immediately destroy your “faith” but you begin to question your previously unquestioned beliefs. You begin to dig, and as you dig, deeper and deeper into the rational for your beliefs, the more things seem to be not quite right…and before you know it you are questioning your entire belief system. And then…it is as if you wake up out of a trance and see just how preposterous your supernatural beliefs really were and you ask yourself, “How could I have ever believed something so silly?”

    I’m not making that up. I’m not saying it to be insulting. That is how many of us who have left religion/faith describe our deconversion experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  89. To Christians on TW:

    Why are we skeptics resistant to reading the long list of Christian books that every Christian apologist wants us to read?

    Answer: You have to understand our perspective when you ask us to read your Christian scholars’ books regarding the alleged validity and historicity of your supernatural belief system: You might as well ask us to read scholarly books on the existence of Martians and their space travels. To us it is just as ridiculous and just as much a waste of our time.

    We do not challenge the intelligence and integrity of your Bible scholars. We do not question their expertise in the beliefs and practices of early Christians. What we question is their agenda: Most of them are not investigating early Christianity for the sole purpose of evidence collection and general knowledge. Most Christian Bible scholars have an agenda to confirm to the world (non-believers) that their supernatural-based religious beliefs are legitimate and respectable. We, on the other hand, view Christian supernatural claims to be in the same category with Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Leprechauns. We don’t believe that your position on the supernatural is worth taking seriously. But we feel the same way about the supernatural claims of the Muslims, Mormons, Jews, and Hindus, so don’t take it personally.

    Liked by 1 person

  90. How many christians even read the bible? The whole idea that this is the word of the ultimate all-powerful creator wanting to talk to you, and you don’t even read it? Something tells me you don’t really believe at the core of your being. So why are you even holding onto your faith? I think it’s pride.

    Couldn’t agree more!

    But now I see it all this way: a house of cards held up by the glue of assumption after assumption after assumption.

    Yeah, I totally agree. I sometimes wonder why I stayed in it so long, but when you’re inside it, surrounded by others who believe just as strongly, you miss all the flaws.

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  91. I’m not making that up. I’m not saying it to be insulting. That is how many of us who have left religion/faith describe our deconversion experience.

    you know, it’s funny, but I wrote my last comment before I even read what you said to him. You’re exactly right!

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  92. You know, it’s not just that we don’t take their claims seriously. We have read the kinds of books they suggest (sometimes the very ones). The problem most of those books have is that they don’t relay the counterarguments against their position. Meanwhile, very few Christians read any of the stuff that we suggest, which means they only ever hear one side of the argument.

    What many Christians fail to think about is that when you’re dealing with truth claims, it doesn’t matter how many details you get right — any details that are wrong potentially jeopardize the whole position. If you were trying to convince someone that Santa Claus is real, you could get pretty far by showing them all the presents that show up Christmas morning, by reading all the books that have been written about him, by watching all the movies that portray him to be real. You can even watch the news on Christmas Eve, where they track Santa on NORAD. You can make a decent case. But all it takes to debunk the whole thing is hearing from parents who acknowledge that they buy all the gifts and put them out Christmas Eve. Or sit up and wait for Santa to show. Or learn that science makes it impossible for Santa to actually visit every house in one night. Or notice that the number and quality of gifts that kids receive seem to be in direct proportion to their families’ income.

    In the same way, I can read a Josh McDowell book about how amazingly accurate the Bible is, but all of his points are moot if I find out about the archaeological, historical, textual, and scientific problems that he doesn’t tell me about.

    Liked by 2 people

  93. Nate I just read John Ankerberg’s and Dillon Burroughs book ‘Taking a Stand for the Bible’. I read this book partly based on your advice to read both sides of the arguments. I was frankly disappointed by the quality of the work that seemed designed to bolster the faith of a believer but did not seriously object any the very real issues which a open skeptic on the subject would raise.

    I was interested to note that among the long list of archaeological/historical ‘proofs’ was the census in Luke’s Gospel. This statement was made with no qualification or discussion. This of itself was enough to confirm my view of the book as a whole is either uninformed or dishonest. Hopefully the former.

    That anyone could say the census recorded in Luke’s gospel has been confirmed beggared belief. Indeed a reputable scholar like Raymond E Brown lists it as one of the three historical factors in Luke’s gospel/Acts which create the most difficulties for those who seek to argue that Luke is a reliable historian.

    I constantly get disappointed by apologists saying there are no errors or contradictions in the Bible without addressing the many contradictions in the plain reading of the text. Dr Steve DiMattei has documented 322 contradictions so far on his site http://contradictionsinthebible.com/ and is only up to the Book of Numbers.

    Liked by 4 people

  94. I’ve read many books from the late Raymond E Brown. At one time he was the “Go to Guy” for the Catholic Church. He indeed ruffled a lot of feathers within his own church and Protestant Theologians alike because he let the chips fall where they may.

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  95. Yeah, I can’t stand how one-sided these kinds of books are. And I guess they have to be, considering the material they’re working with.

    The one that always stood out to me was the treatment of the Tyre prophecy in Ezekiel. I know I beat that dead horse all the time, but it was one I had actually researched fairly well, and I couldn’t believe how these guys were trying to act like it was amazing evidence for the Bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  96. I’ll have to check out Brown. Peter Enns strikes me that way too — I really enjoyed his book Inspiration and Incarnation (I think that was the title). I thought it was very fair and honest.

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  97. It was after reading a Peter Enns article that my faith finally cracked as he proved beyond reasonable doubt that the Bible was not historically accurate.

    But what does puzzle me is that Enns seems to continue to have faith himself. I considered very briefly whether faith could be reconciled with an erroneous Bible but could not. Enns like Raymond E Brown seems to be able to reconcile this better than I could.

    Brown like Enns seems to see a version of God that communicates through a flawed human medium, This brief clip from Brown does address this matter to some extent:

    Liked by 1 person

  98. Not to blow my own horn (well, maybe just a little), I felt I presented both scripture and argument in my book. Perhaps not “scholarly” arguments, but ones the average reader couldn’t help but miss. My hopes were that the seeking believer would read the book (since it wasn’t totally anti-Christian) and be able to discern that what they had been taught had some flaws.

    Of course, whether I accomplished any of that … ??

    Liked by 1 person

  99. Yeah, I don’t get it either. It seems to just run off an assumption that God’s there and that it’s true. At least, that’s how it sounds to me.

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  100. Yeah, Nan, I thought you were very fair in your book. In fact, while I’ve read some skeptics who don’t treat the facts fairly, most of the ones I’ve read have come across as being pretty objective.

    Nan, have you gotten feedback from any believers who have come across your book?

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  101. Not that I’m aware of … except for one negative review on Amazon and from the comments, it’s doubtful the person even read the book.

    There’s been a couple of acquaintances that I would call “borderline” believers who have read it (at least they bought a copy), but I’ve never received any feedback from them — which is actually not all that surprising (although one did comment that I used a lot of words she had to look up (!))

    BTW, I just checked the Amazon reviews and had a new one (from an “Amazon Customer”) that was positive. I THINK i know who wrote it, but can’t be sure (a friend).

    Liked by 1 person

  102. The bigshot Christian apologist over on Theology Web is Nick Peters, son-in-law of well-known evangelical apologist, Mike Licona. He likes to debate skeptics. He is a smart guy and a well-informed apologist. He is very proud of the fact, as he states on his forum on TW, that unlike many Christians, his belief in Christianity is based on evidence, not personal experiences and feelings. And the event for which he claims to have such good evidence is the Resurrection of Jesus. Below is a comment I left for him today:

    I like your thinking, Nick. Skeptics get really tired of some Christians using their personal experiences and feelings as evidence of the veracity of the Christian claims. Most of us like evidence, just like you. And I also like that your belief in the veracity of Christianity rests on the evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus. If only all Christian apologists would believe like you.

    I have a suggestion. Both sides, Christians and skeptics, should accept the positions of the majority of NT scholars on the claims of the Resurrection and then let people decide for themselves if this event really happened. So what do we have:

    1. Public execution.
    2. Public burial.
    3. Sealed tomb.
    4. Guards at the tomb for most of the period of time in question.
    5. Empty tomb, three days and two nights later. (No known witnesses to the body leaving the tomb, however)
    6. Post-death sightings, sometimes by hundreds of people at once.
    7. Dramatically changed behavior of disciples.
    8. Very shameful, very strange new belief system in an Honor-Shame society.
    9. A belief never heard of in Judaism, yet believed by several thousand devout Jews.
    10. Rapid spread of Christianity.
    11. Willingness of thousands of Christians to be persecuted, tortured, and painfully executed for their beliefs.

    Now the question:

    Based on the agreed upon evidence above, Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, do you believe that a dead man named Jesus of Nazareth was brought back to life by an ancient Hebrew God, exited his sealed tomb by some manner other than moving the stone, appeared in a superhero-like body to his grieving friends and family (but apparently no one else), and forty days later levitated into the clouds and from there, in some fashion, traveled to the farthest extent of the universe (or possibly into another dimension) to sit on a throne at the right hand of the ancient Hebrew God? Are there any other more naturalistic explanations for the evidence above, or, are the miracle/supernatural/magical explanations of Christianity the most probable explanation?

    Liked by 3 people

  103. @Nate

    “It seems to just run off an assumption that God’s there and that it’s true. At least, that’s how it sounds to me.”

    This is the exact problem I’ve faced recently.

    My FIL wanted to “educate” me on the historicity of the Resurrection of Christ. And he proceeded to throw me the book by WLC which I have read previously. The funny thing is even before he threw the book at me, we were already discussing about modern day apologetics and I’ve already told him that I do not find WLC’s argument persuasive. I also mentioned the tactics WLC used, and why WLC had to resort to this instead of relying on CS Lewis apologetics 101.

    So him throwing me WLC’s book after me telling him WLC is a hack job was amusing to say the least.

    But wait! There is more!

    So I utterly debunked everything WLC said in that book – chapter by chapter, point by point, and what he did was simply throw another book at me – Gary Habermas Minimal Jesus (which I have also read) – without addressing any points that I’ve raised.

    Then, in his email, he added the fact that it is great that we are having this discussion as his faith in the Resurrection has actually increased by talking to me.

    That was kinda the last straw for me, and I called him out on it.

    Firstly – clearly he didn’t read any counter-apologetic books on the historical facts about christ, so I told him what he is doing is akin to someone who simply watch Fox news and reaffirm himself that Obama is a Muslim.

    Secondly, the fact that he said his faith in the Resurrection grew suggested that he has NEVER read WLC nor Gary Habermas prior to talking to me, and I told him as much. I told him this is clearly out of line as the reason we are even having this conversation in the first place was because he was convinced I got my conclusion wrong, and he actually has evidence that Jesus resurrected. However, in our cursory exchange, it is clear he have never explored the evidences, and on the other hand I have done all the necessary readings and found the “evidence” wanting. Yet, somehow I’m the one who has reached the “wrong conclusion”. And of course throwing books at me that I’ve already read while you haven’t is insulting to say the least.

    ___________________________

    That was 2 weeks ago, till now there’s no reply for him so I guess that is tacit admission to my charge.

    Well, that was a pretty lengthy response to Nate’s one liner lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  104. I want to say that what you experienced is totally crazy, powell. Unfortunately, I think it’s pretty much par for the course. 😦

    When my wife and I were going through our deconversion process, I had many people ask to speak to me about all of it, and I readily agreed every time. But in almost every case our interactions were essentially the same thing you’re going through with your father-in-law. In fact, I can only think of one person who ever read anything that I suggested, and he actually had the decency to admit that he didn’t have good answers for it. I don’t know why he’s remained a Christian ever since, but I at least admire the fact that he didn’t try to BS me.

    Liked by 2 people

  105. It’s funny: Conservative Lutherans tell my deconversion was because I was never a true conservative Lutheran. Evangelicals tell me my deconversion was because I was never a true (born again) evangelical. And fundamentalists tell me my deconversion was because I was never a true fundamentalist.

    My deconversion is always due to me not believing and understanding the one TRUE flavor of Christianity…never the fact that all of Christianity is wrong.

    Liked by 3 people

  106. I have presented two (and I have more) hypothetical, naturalistic (non-miracle) explanations to the Christians on Theology Web which accounts for all the evidence related to the Resurrection claim of Jesus, and Christians still believe that the supernatural explanation is far more probable than any possible naturalistic explanation for the Resurrection! It is mind-boggling. And they think that I have a presupposition.

    Here is what one of them said about my alternative, naturalistic explanations that explain all the evidence for the alleged Resurrection (evidence as agreed upon by the majority of scholars/experts), and I have even allowed for the empty tomb to be considered an historical fact:

    “Yeah, it’s pretty ad hoc. I’m certain Occum would have something to say about Gary’s re-imaginings. In my opinion, a lot of this does comes down to presuppositions though. If you believe there exists a divinity who has the capability to raise people from the dead, then there really isn’t any reason to deny where the evidence leads. The Jewish historian Pinchas Lapide wasn’t a Christian, but believed the evidence was insurmountable, and led to the conclusion of a resurrection. A skeptical non-heist or deist is always going to look for naturalistic reasons to explain the miraculous.”

    Are these people brainwashed or what??

    Liked by 1 person

  107. What I have realized in talking to these Christians is this: the root cause of our inability to understand each other’s position is this: our view of the probability of miracles.

    For any extraordinary event involving a Christian, these Christians give a very high probability that the cause was a miracle. I and most other skeptics would give a very, very low probability that the cause was a miracle. So if we look at the (limited) evidence for the Resurrection claim, I and most skeptics see so many more probable explanations for the development of this claim, but Christians only see one plausible explanation: the miracle explanation.

    This is mind boggling to me.

    Even when I was still a Christian, when I found out that only ONE gospel mentions that there were guards at the tomb (Matthew), and even in Matthew’s “guard story”, he states that there was a period of time when the tomb was not guarded and sealed, even then I could see: “Hey, wait a minute! Someone could have taken the body during that short period of time!”

    But this explanation is impossible to these people for many reasons, many of them based on generalizations:

    “No Jew would ever move a body that had already been buried.”

    “No Roman would have broken the seal of a tomb as this was a crime against Caesar.”

    “No Jew would ever have believed the shameful, unheard story of the death and resurrection of Jesus unless they or someone they knew had seen the resurrected body”

    To these Christians, the rare violation of these generalizations are much more improbable than that a dead Jewish preacher walked out of his grave with a “resurrected” (superhero) body, to later levitate into outer space!

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  108. “No Jew would ever have believed the shameful, unheard story of the death and resurrection of Jesus unless they or someone they knew had seen the resurrected body”

    Yep, we hear this one from time to time. But Crossan’s book The Historical Jesus mentioned something I hadn’t thought of before. Consider Mark 6:14-16:

    King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”

    This looks like a problem for that claim. If we can trust Mark, then plenty of people were ready to believe that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist. How in the world did they get that idea if it was so unheard of among the Jewish people? Or if Christians are right that no one thought of this until Jesus’s resurrection, then the writer of Mark simply made it up. What else might he have invented?

    Liked by 1 person

  109. At some point, everybody got a copy of the gospel

    So is 1BP saying that at some point, all 97% of the illiterate population of the Levant received a copy of a book they couldn’t read? How is that more advantageous than showing an armless man how to juggle?

    Liked by 2 people

  110. The four gospels and the writings of Paul are good evidence for the existence of a real, historical Jesus

    I’m not sure that the literary efforts of five authors who never met the principle character of any of their works, is evidence of ANYthing, other than reaffirming P. T. Barnum’s observation that there’s a sucker born every minute.

    Liked by 2 people

  111. I have a couple of problems with that:

    4. Guards at the tomb for most of the period of time in question.” – While that is essentially true (in terms of being in accordance with the scriptures), it’s important to note that the tomb was not guarded the first night.

    6. Post-death sightings, sometimes by hundreds of people at once.” – Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say, Unconfirmed reports of post-death sightings, etc., etc —“?

    11. Willingness of thousands of Christians to be persecuted, tortured, and painfully executed for their beliefs.

    How many young men and women died in Iraq in the misguided belief that that country possessed weapons of mass destruction? People will often die for a lie if they believe the alternative to be worse.

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