Saturday, February 6, 2016

Did Jesus' Family Secretly Remove his Body from the Tomb?


I get the impression that many conservative Christians believe that the onus is on skeptics to provide evidence of exactly how the body of Jesus left the tomb if it did not leave supernaturally as the Bible claims. This is false. Skeptics are under no obligation to provide evidence that proves one specific alternative explanation. We only need to demonstrate that the little evidence that there is for this claim can be explained by alternative, non-miracle, explanations.

Here is just one possible, alternative, non-miracle explanation:


Not all of Jesus' family believed that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. Some of them thought he was completely nuts. They also thought that Mary and James were nuts to believe his claims.

Jesus crucifixion was conclusive proof to these skeptical family members that Jesus was NOT the Messiah. Every first century Jew knew that the Messiah was not supposed to die. These family members were deeply ashamed that a member of their family had claimed to be the Messiah and had been hung on a tree by the hated Romans, a curse under Jewish law, proving without any doubt, that he was not the Messiah.

The family expected that the Romans would give them Jesus' body after he died to bury in a family burial plot (in Bethany), as was the Roman custom. The family was shocked when members of the Sanhedrin requested that the Romans give them the body. Why would the Sanhedrin want Jesus' body? This was a shocking departure from Jewish custom. The family receives the body, not Jewish authorities. Jesus mother had been right there at the foot of the cross. Why wasn't the body given to her??

The family was furious.

After the Romans took down Jesus' body and handed it to two members of the Sanhedrin, a couple of Jesus' brothers (not James) and a couple of his cousins followed Aramathea and the body, at a distance, to Aramathea's family tomb, immediately adjacent to Golgotha. They watched, from a distance, as Aramethea prepared the body, rolled the stone in front of the door, and left with other members of the Sanhedrin.

As soon as they were out of sight, the family moved the stone back, took the body out, rolled the stone back into place, and took the body to Bethany, where it was buried in an unmarked grave in the same family plot as Zechariah and Elizabeth. They told no one else, not even Jesus' mother (or James), for fear of what the Sanhedrin and Romans might do to them. All that mattered to them, is that their brother and cousin was buried in a family plot, as per Jewish custom in their Honor-Shame society, not in the tomb of one of the very men who had voted unanimously the night before to execute Jesus.

Sometime Saturday, the guards show up to the tomb and seal it shut. They do not roll the stone back to verify that the body is there as they assumed no one would have moved the heavy giant stone.

Very early Sunday morning, some of Jesus' female disciples travel to the tomb. As they reach the entrance of the Garden, they see a man. He turns to look at them..."It's Jesus!"...but he disappears into the mist of the early morning. The women don't go any further into the Garden (so they do not see that the stone is still in place in front of the tomb, nor do they see that the guards are still there). They run to tell the disciples the good news. On their way to the disciples they mention to some people on the road whom they know that Jesus is risen! Word spreads rapidly and makes its way back to the guards at the tomb. Horrified that if this claim is true they will be in danger of being executed for not having checked the tomb for the body prior to sealing it, they break the seal, move back the stone...and no body! The guards run to the Sanhedrin to see if they had moved the body on Friday. The Sanhedrin tells them that they will cover for them with Pilate if the guards will spread the rumor that the disciples had stolen the body.

When the women tell the disciples, the disciples don't believe it. "You saw the gardener!" they say.

The women return to the Garden to check the tomb...and find the stone rolled away.

And from there, the story takes on a life of its own, with embellishment after embellishment as it is told and retold for three to four decades before anyone writes it down. In the euphoria, excitement, and near hysteria in believing that Jesus is alive again, one disciple after another begins to have false sightings of Jesus, seeing him in the distance or in crowds, and some have vivid dreams where Jesus appears to them in person, allows them to touch him, and even eats fish with them.

And the brothers and cousins never say a word...for fear of their lives.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Best Christian Argument against Atheists and other Skeptics




The best defense for traditional/conservative Christianity is Biblical Inerrancy.

Dear Conservative Christians:   Tell your children that no matter what evidence is presented by Christian liberals or atheists, the plain, simple reading of the Bible is ALWAYS right. God is infallible; human evidence is not.  Once you start picking apart the Bible with Higher Criticism, it is a slippery slope to a loss of faith (or in my current worldview, seeing the truth).

Let me give an example of the best way for conservative Christians to deal with atheists and other skeptics:


Skeptic: What evidence do you have, Mr./Mrs. Christian, that your god is real; that he is the ruler of the universe; and that if I do not believe in him and obey him I am going to be eternally punished in some fashion?

Christian: The Bible says so.

Skeptic:  But how do you know that the Bible is true?

Christian: God says so.

Skeptic: How do you know that God says so?

Christian: The Bible says so.

Skeptic: Wait a minute! That is a circular argument!

Christian: That is simply your fallible human reasoning. Since you are not a believer, you cannot see the truth of the Bible.

Skeptic: So what you are saying is that unless I first believe and submit to your god and your belief system, I will never understand how your circular reasoning is not circular reasoning?? How can anyone debunk such an argument??

Christian: Exactly. Believe, repent, or perish, Sinner!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Does Protestantism, in particular Calvinism, predispose to a higher rate of Deconversion from Christianity?

John Calvin

Reader:

I think that the Reformed Approach to Theology, as shown by its attitude about Jesus' presence in the Eucharist and about Holy relics in particular, eventually could lead out of Biblical Christianity. Its idea of sola scriptura really is about an arbitrary reading of scripture where anyone can claim they have the "true" meaning and don't have to be chained to what other Christians teach or have taught (Tradition) about the Bible. The Calvinist reading of scripture on the Eucharist is very naturalistic and uses "the ordinary laws of nature" as Calvin put it in his Institutes, to reject the Lutheran and traditional view of the Eucharist and Christ's bodies. Once you go down that route, the resurrection itself and Jesus' ascension are under question for violating natural laws. Likewise he considers relics to be "Superstition".
 
Of course, the plain meaning of the Eucharist in scripture is that the food actually is Christ's body like Catholics and Lutherans teach in one way or another. And holy objects and relics are mentioned numerous times in both Testaments. But for Calvin, who started his religion in the Enlightenment era, the "ordinary laws of nature" can trump the plain meaning of scripture and he doesn't have to conform to the way the rest of the Christians (the Church) understand the Bible. So eventually Protestants like Marcus Borg or A.R.Eckardt can claim that Jesus' miracles like resurrection were just an allegory or give other reasons for claiming that it didn't actually happen.
 
Gary:
 
Thank goodness for Protestantism!
 
Yes, I agree, Protestantism opened the door to a more personal (and more critical) evaluation of the Bible and the claims of Christianity.  Prior to Luther (and Calvin) Christians simply believed what they were told.  Protestantism allowed Christians to (begin, at least, to) think for themselves.  Yes, it split the Church into dozens if not hundreds of denominations and sects, but it did liberate western culture from the iron grip of Rome, leading to freedom of religion, freedom of conscious, and eventually, freedom of speech.
 
Secularism/atheism owes a great deal of debt to the Protestants. 
 
I shudder to think what western civilization would look like if Martin Luther had not nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of that church in Wittenberg, 499 years ago.

The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus: Too many plausible, alternative Explanations to believe it.

Dear Readers, I think it is obvious to any rational, educated person who is willing to look at the evidence:

1. There are alternative, plausible, naturalistic explanations for the empty tomb.
2. There are alternative, plausible, naturalistic explanations for why individuals and even groups of people will claim to have seen something that in reality was not there.
3. There are alternative, plausible, naturalistic explanations for why a small minority of people in a group would believe a new, unheard of, even shameful belief.
4. There are alternative, plausible, naturalistic explanations for why one very religious man would claim to have seen a dead person and subsequently convert to that dead person's new religion that he had previously despised and persecuted.
5. There are alternative, plausible, possible exceptions to almost every generalization.

Skeptics cannot disprove that the Judeo-Christian God literally brought the dead body of Jesus back from the dead. But neither can we disprove the majority of supernatural claims of other supernatural based belief systems. But the fact that there ARE alternative, plausible, naturalistic, possible explanations for every piece of evidence related to the early Christian belief in a Resurrection should give every intelligent, educated, rational person pause. In all other areas of your life a miracle/magical cause is the last explanation that you would assume explains any odd event.

---If your keys are missing, do you assume a demon took them?
---If there is a gash on your car, do you assume that a gremlin did it?
---If your paycheck comes back short, do you assume that the Devil did it?
---If you see an empty grave today, do you assume that the body left in a supernatural manner?
---If someone tells you that their dead friend or family member appeared to them in bright, shiny garments, and was able to enter a locked room without using the door, do you believe them??

So when you hear an ancient story about a man whose grave was found empty and allegations that his friends, family, and ONE stranger saw this dead man appear to them, why would you jump to the miracle/magical explanation before assuming that one of the many alternative, plausible, naturalistic explanations is most likely the true explanation?

Think about that. What conservative/traditional Christians are asking you to believe is not rational thinking.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

DNA proves that Jesus was not Virgin-Born


The Virgin Birth:  How many Christians have really thought through this core Christian teaching?

Remember, in the Old Testament, Yahweh is always referred to as a spirit. The "angel of the Lord", whoever that might be, took on human form at times, but the OT never once states that Yahweh has a body. So Yahweh, God the Father, the Father that Jesus often referred to as being his father, did not have a body. He did not have bones, muscles, blood...or DNA.

So the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us that Mary was a virgin and that Yahweh selected her to be the mother of his Son. Now, how exactly is a spirit going to procreate with a human to produce a son? Presumably, the authors of these stories believed that God the Father sat on his throne and simply spoke "thou shalt conceive my son, Mary of Nazareth", and it was so. But if this is what happened, I find the choice of words used by the gospel writers to describe the moment of Jesus' conception very, very odd: "and the spirit of the Lord overshadowed her...". If God simply spoke the words...and it was so...why use this type of language? Did the gospel writers actually believe that Yahweh copulated with Mary as Zeus copulated with women?

We don't know.

But however it happened, Jesus was conceived in the fallopian tubes or in the uterus of Mary by a spirit, Yahweh. Now here comes the complicated part: How could Jesus be fully human and not have the DNA of his father AND his mother?  Because...how can a bodiless spirit pass on DNA to a child?

"Well, God simply *poofed* some DNA into Mary's body to give Jesus a full complement of DNA. But if that is what happened, then Jesus is not the Son of Yahweh, but the son of a *poofed* or invented collection of DNA---it did NOT come from his bodiless father because by definition, his bodiless father has no DNA.

So, either Jesus was NOT the Son of Yahweh, or, Jesus was not fully human---he only possessed the DNA of his mother.

And if your solution to this dilemma is the tried and true Christian retort: "It is a mystery."  My response is: No...it is much, much more likely that this is a tall tale.

The claim of the Virgin Birth is just another silly supernatural tale.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Evidence for the Resurrection: Generalizations and Assumptions

History or Legend?
Posted on the Christian website, Theology Web, earlier today:


There are many Christians who believe that the Resurrection of Jesus is one of the most attested, if not the most attested, event in Antiquity (read here).  I believe that this is a blatantly false claim.  I believe that the alleged bodily Resurrection of Jesus is based on nothing more than assumptions and generalizations.

When analyzing an historical claim, what kind of evidence do historians prefer?  Answer:  Multiple, non-biased, contemporaneous sources.

Let's use the military exploits of Alexander the Great as an example.  Let's say that there is one stele, in Macedonia/Greece, which describes a certain battle that Alexander is alleged to have won.  That is certainly evidence, but it could be biased.  It could record a legend.  But what if we have the stele and several accounts from three Greek generals who fought with Alexander in this battle?  That is much better evidence.  But it still could be biased.  Maybe all three generals were simply repeating the Greek version of the outcome of the battle that isn't historically accurate.  Maybe the outcome of the battle was a "draw".  But what if the opponents in the battle, let's say the Persians, recorded the same story as did the Greeks?  Now we have evidence from an adversarial source making the same claim.  This is very good evidence.  And of course if even more adversarial sources recorded the same event, such as if the Egyptians recorded the outcome of this battle between the Greeks and the Persians, with the same details, that makes the historical claim for this event very strong.

So let's look at the evidence for the Resurrection.

Do we have any contemporaneous accounts of this event?  Do we have any writings, written during the lifetime of Jesus, by any author, Christian, Jewish, Roman or other who recorded Jesus' amazing feats and the claim of his Resurrection?  No. Not one.  No contemporaneous Christian, Jew, Roman, or pagan wrote down anything about the most amazing event to have happened in all of human history!

So let's look at what Christians claim to be "evidence" for this alleged event, the overwhelming majority of it coming from a biased source---the Christian New Testament:

First, let's start with the empty tomb

Is an empty tomb evidence of a resurrection?  Answer:  No!  An empty tomb is only evidence of an empty tomb!  Christians have convinced themselves that there is only one plausible explanation for this particular tomb being empty but this is absurd.  If tomorrow morning your local newspaper reports that an empty tomb has been discovered in your local cemetery, the last explanation that is going to come to your mind is a resurrection. 

"But there were Roman guards at the tomb round the clock from the moment Jesus' body was placed in the tomb to the moment that angels came and rolled away the stone on Sunday!" 

No there were not! 

Even if the "guard story" in Matthew is historical (which even many Christians scholars doubt), the author of Matthew specifically states that there was a period of time when the tomb was not guarded.   Any number of people could have moved the body during that time period for any number of reasons.  It is mind-boggling how Christians believe, based on a plethora of assumptions and generalizations, that a resurrection is more plausible than that someone moved the body.

"No Jew would move a body on the Sabbath."

This is a generalization.  We have evidence from the OT that under certain circumstances, devout Jews will break the Sabbath.  In addition, after sundown on Saturday night, it is no longer the Sabbath.  If there were no guards, someone could have moved the body during this time, prior to Sunday morning.  In addition, this statement assumes that the only people who would have moved the body were Jews.  There were Romans and other pagans in Jerusalem at the time.  The idea that a resurrection is a more plausible explanation than that a Jew, Roman, or other pagan took the body is simply wishful thinking on the part of people who very much want to believe this supernatural tale.

"No Jew living in an Honor-Shame Society would have believed the very shameful Resurrection claim unless they had seen a resurrected body with their own two eyes."

Again, a generalization based on assumptions.  This assumption can easily be proven false.  The Jews in Asia Minor and Greece that converted to Christianity based on Paul's preaching did not see the resurrected body of Jesus with their own two eyes!  They believed the story based on hearing it from someone else (second-hand information) and by "searching the Scriptures".  If the "Scriptures" can be searched and evidence for a shameful dying-on-a-cross/resurrected Messiah can be found, one doesn't need to see a resurrected dead body to believe this supernatural tale.  These facts prove that some first century Jews were "ripe" for believing this story.  They only needed a persuasive preacher to convince them.  So what does all this tell us:  We should not be shocked when a small minority of a particular group of people believes a drastically new belief system...even if they are first century Jews!

"We have eyewitness testimony to the Resurrection."

Prove it!  You can't.  A substantial number (some claim the majority) of New Testament scholars doubt that the four Gospels were written by eyewitnesses.  What is known about these four books is this: they were written decades after the alleged events, written in the third person, by anonymous authors, writing in far away lands, in a foreign language, some of them written in very elegant prose.  It is a huge stretch of the imagination that an "unlearned" fisherman wrote the most stylistic and elegant of the four books, the Gospel of John.  Possible?  Sure.  Probable?  Absolutely not.

In addition, it has been shown that two, maybe three of the four gospels borrow heavily from the first.  Why would Matthew (and possibly John, using Mark as a basic template for his story) plagiarize large sections of Mark's book, when Mark was not an eyewitness?  And if Luke was obtaining his information directly from eyewitnesses, why would he plagiarize a large percentage of Mark's book into his own gospel?  That would mean that at best, Luke was quoting John Mark, who was quoting Peter, who was telling stories about events which had happened in previous years (Mark was not written until 65-75 AD).  That is third hand information, folks!  And we have no proof that Luke's "eyewitness accounts" were not simply stories of "eyewitness accounts" passed down by word of mouth.

"Oral traditions in first century Judaism were meticulously guarded for accuracy."

Generalization. 

Can Christians prove that there were never any exceptions to this generalization?  No.  Are we to believe that every story that circulated in first century Judaism maintained its accuracy?  It may be true that the oral tradition of the Hebrew Bible was closely guarded for accuracy, but can we really be sure that stories of angels, dead bodies rising out of their graves, and levitations into clouds were never embellished or changed?  Don't the gospels themselves prove this generalization false?  Compare the four stories of the Resurrection in the four gospels.  There are some very significant differences, in particular, Matthew's claim of guards at the tomb, a claim that no other gospel author mentions.  And when did all the disciples see the resurrected Jesus?  One gospel says that the eleven all saw him on the same day of the Resurrection in the Upper Room, while another says that Thomas was absent and did not see Jesus until a week later.  In one gospel the disciples are told to go to Galilee and in another they are told not to leave Jerusalem until the coming of the Holy Spirit!  Yes, Christians have harmonizations for each of these issues, but one must admit that the stories themselves contain significant differences.

"But the disciples would not die for a lie."

Assumption.  We have no evidence that even one of the original Eleven died because he refused to recant seeing a resurrected body, other than Church tradition, written centuries later.

"The amazing growth of Christianity is evidence that the Resurrection was true."

Major assumption!  Many strange sects, of many different religions, have seen amazing growth, even under severe persecution.

"But even some non-Christian scholars believe that the Resurrection is the best explanation of the evidence, such as the Jewish scholar, Lapide."

So what?  Imagine today if one Jewish scholar declares that he believes that the Mormon claim of ancient, sea-faring Hebrews colonizing North America is true.  Would that be sufficient evidence for all of us to believe the Mormon claim?  Of course not.

"But the Resurrection has to be true because Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament."

Assumption after assumption after assumption.

First, even if we assume that all the alleged prophecies in the Old Testament that Christians claim point to Jesus being a suffering/dying/virgin-born Messiah are true, that still doesn't prove that Jesus' dead body exited his tomb.  Where in the Old Testament does it explicitly state that the Messiah will be buried in a sealed tomb and that his resurrected body will somehow exit the tomb and ascend into heaven?  Nowhere.

Secondly, the claim that the Old Testament talks about Jesus is a major Christian assumption.  The overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars say that the Old Testament (the Jewish Bible) says NOTHING about Jesus and that all the passages that Christians claim point to Jesus are mistranslated or misconstrued.  Again, which is more probable:  First century Christians, desperately looking for any evidence to support their belief that Jesus is the Messiah, scoured the Old Testament for passages which could be construed to refer to Jesus; Christians translators then slanted their translations of those passages with a bias towards the Christian interpretation...similar to what Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons have done with the New Testament, discovering passages which prophesy things that no Christian for the last 2,000 years has ever heard of...or...a dead man really did exit his sealed tomb in a supernatural body to ascend into the clouds??

"But Papias knew that John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark and Papias knew Polycarp."

Papias never says that he knew any alleged eyewitness to the Resurrection personally and Papias never states that any disciple of an eyewitness told him the details of the Resurrection.  Even if Papias knew Polycarp, and Polycarp was a disciple of John, son of Zebedee, is that proof that Polycarp told Papias about an empty tomb and the details of the post-death appearances of Jesus?  No.  Maybe John, son of Zebedee, only had a vision of Jesus, which he believed to be a sign that Jesus had bodily risen from the dead, and that is what he told Polycarp.  We just don't know!  We have no statement from Polycarp in which he details the events of the Resurrection as told to him by John, son of Zebedee.

"But Paul was an eyewitness to the Resurrected Body of Jesus."

Nope.  Paul says himself in Acts 26 that his experience on the Damascus Road was a "heavenly vision".  A vision of a talking bright light is not the same as seeing and touching a resurrected dead body.

"But Paul would have discussed the Resurrection details with the apostles during his several trips to Jerusalem."

Assumption.  Paul doesn't tell us what he discussed with the Eleven.  Maybe the Eleven "saw" Jesus in the same fashion that Paul "saw" Jesus:  a bright, light in a vision.

"But we have the Creed in First Corinthians 15 that says that 500 people at once saw Jesus.  Five hundred people can't all have the same vision."

Who were these five hundred?  Where did this sighting occur?  What did they all see?  Did they all see a cloud formation in the sky that they all thought was Jesus?  Did they see "Jesus" in the same way that thousands of Roman Catholics, in the same location, all at the same time, have seen "Mary"?
We don't know because neither Paul nor anyone else gives us any details!

"But Paul says that most of the five hundred were still alive, so if he had been lying or mistaken, people could have verified this claim."

Assumption.  Paul specifically states that he got this information from "others".  Where did these "others" get their information?  For all we know the source of this "five hundred" claim came from one guy showing up in Jerusalem five years after the Crucifixion and saying, "Hey, my cousin in Persia says that five hundred people there saw Jesus all at the same time, and most of them are still alive to verify the story."

And voila!  This "appearance" of Jesus gets added to the "Creed" which already listed the names of all the prominent men in the Church who had had visions of Jesus, similar to Paul's.  We don't know how this Creed developed.

"But if the Creed was written within five years of the Resurrection, it had to have occurred."

Assumption.  As an example: a story circulated very shortly after the death of Charles Darwin, that on his deathbed he had converted to Christianity.  This story continued to circulate in Christian circles for years, even though the children of Darwin, who were present at his bedside when he died, were still alive and repeatedly denied the claim.

So you see, folks, the evidence for the Resurrection is so poor that in no way can any Christian justify claiming that the Resurrection is the most attested event in Antiquity.  It most certainly is not.  It is a supernatural claim propped up by generalizations and assumptions.

If we were to find out that Alexander the Great did not win a particular battle that historians have always believed he won, what difference would it make in each of our lives?  Answer:  Not much if any.  But imagine the consequences if the world was given absolute proof that Jesus is still dead.  That the Resurrection did not happen.  The lives of millions of people all over the world would be drastically affected and changed.  I believe that this points out the fundamental reason why millions of people are willing to believe the tenuous evidence, if it can be called that, for this supernatural claim:  their entire world view and their life depends on it being true!

If the Resurrection of Jesus were viewed with the same dispassion as any other historical claim from Antiquity, very few people would claim that this event ever happened.  The evidence just isn't there.






Monday, January 25, 2016

How did I cope with Life after Deconverting from Christianity?

Blog reader:

Gary,

In your deconversion story on your blog, you wrote about finding out that the resurrection probably didn't bodily happen: "I was broken-hearted, but...."  How did you deal with that?  Your essay basically ends on a cliffhanger, effectively, where you decide that it didn't happen.

I am currently at the point in my own life...where to go from there.

Thanks



Gary:

Dear Reader,

I was initially devastated when I lost my Christian faith.  Ever since I started attending an LCMS church in approximately 2011, my conservative Lutheran Christian faith had become the focus of my life.  So when I saw my faith begin to slowly circle the drain in the winter and spring of 2014, I panicked.  I reached out to numerous Christian pastors to essentially "rescue" me.  But it was too late.  By June of that year, my faith was dead.

"What do I do now?"  I thought.  The foundation of my life no longer existed.  What was the purpose of life?  Was death the end?  I had always had the comfort of knowing that whatever happened, Jesus would be with me.  Now I was all alone.  It was scary.

That went on for a couple of distressing weeks, then I calmed down. 

Things became much clearer once my belief in the supernatural no longer existed.  First of all, I had to face the loss of my invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing friend and "bodyguard"---the loving, faithful Jesus---and this realization helped me do that:  What good is it to have an all-powerful bodyguard if he doesn't really protect you? 

Christianity doesn't teach that Jesus will protect you from harm, only that he will comfort you during the process.  Think about that...practically.  Imagine hiring a bodyguard to protect you and your family, but in the fine print of your contract with him, there is a clause that says that he is not obligated to actually protect you from getting harmed, he just guarantees that he will be there during your beating, and comfort you while you are having the crap knocked out of you!
 
What good is that?  Answer:  none.  It is of no comfort to me to know that Jesus, the all-powerful Ruler of the Universe, just let me get the crap beaten out of me and he didn't find it in his "will" to lift a finger to protect me.  I don't need that kind of bodyguard...or friend.

So what's left?  Answer:  Jesus the "Decider" regarding my destiny for all eternity.

Basically, Christianity tells us that even though Jesus will let us get our clocks cleaned, and he won't lift a hand, we must stick with him or he will toss us into his pre-fabricated torture pit for all eternity, or if you believe the moderate Christians, he will make us spend eternity without him causing us great "psychological" pain, or just sit us in a dark room for all eternity.  None of it sounds good.

But during my four months of wrestling with the claims of Christianity; for the first time really investigating the claims made in the Bible and by my Church; I discovered that Hell is an invention of the ancient Egyptians, adapted into Greek theology, which was then adapted into Jewish theology during the Greek occupation of Palestine, which was then adapted into early Christian theology...I was no longer in need of an invisible bodyguard/friend or the other Jesus:  the "Decider" or "Lord" Jesus.  I didn't need Jesus as a friend and I wasn't afraid of Jesus the "Lord" anymore. 

 I could face life myself.

Think about this:  As a Christian I had to fear three causes of my getting hurt or killed:

1.  Random chance.
2.  My stupidity or carelessness.
3.  God's will.

Now that I no longer believe that Yahweh/Jesus Christ exist, I can reduce my causes of getting hurt or killed to only two:

1.  Random chance.
2.  My stupidity or carelessness.

Do you remember the story of Job in the Bible?  Job lost everything, including his family.  And do you know which of the three causes caused his misery? Answer:  "God's will."  And if you read the Book of Job, why was it God's will to kill Job's family and practically destroy the poor man?  Answer:  to win a bet with the Devil!  What nonsense!  No good, just, loving God would do that to someone!

And what about eternity?

Have you ever thought of this?  What does the Bible say we will be doing in heaven?  Answer:  Singing praises to Yahweh/Jesus...forever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever.... !  Sorry, but I can take just so much of the "Gospel Hour".  If given the option of spending all eternity singing "How Great Thou Art" and being dead, I'll take being dead!

So now I enjoy every minute of every day.  I appreciate my family and friends.  I enjoy the here and now.  I don't sit around and pine for the "sweet by and by".

My peace of mind is much greater as a non-believer than when I was a believer.  Once you get to the point that you realize that there are no invisible ghosts, gods, and ghouls whirling around your head,  trying to control your "soul", and no heaven or hell, it is much easier to deal with reality.

So what would I suggest to get you through the deconversion process?  Here is my advice:

Read the blogs and books of former believers; people like you who have come to the realization that the supernatural claims of the Bible are no more probable than the existence of leprechauns, unicorns, and fairies.  Talk to other former believers.  Be part of our community.  There is comfort and support waiting for you.  Check out the list of blogs to the right on my blog page for resources.  Best wishes, friend!




Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Claim that no First Century Jew Would Believe in the Resurrection of One Person is Patently False


I am going to dismantle one of modern Christian apologists' primary claims of "evidence" for the Resurrection: that no Jew would believe that one individual had been resurrected from the dead prior to the general resurrection of all the righteous dead unless they had truly seen a resurrected body.

1. Many Jews believed that John the Baptist was Elijah raised from the dead.
2. Many or at least some Jews believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead.
3. When the disciples allegedly saw Jesus walking on water, they believed that he was a ghost.
4. All of Judea knew that Lazarus had been raised from the dead.

So the claim that no Jew would believe that an individual could be raised from the dead is blatantly false. Jews seemed to readily believe that people could come back from the dead, as ghosts, as other people, or as themselves, in the case of Lazarus. So it is no stretch of the imagination that a small minority of first century Jews came to believe that Jesus had come back from the dead. And if Jews could believe that ghosts could walk on water, then Jews could believe that raised bodies could walk through locked doors, teleport between Emmaus and Jerusalem, appear and disappear in front of their eyes, or levitate/ascend into the clouds.

Christians may argue that there is a big distinction between being "raised" and being "resurrected" but no one would have known the difference until the "raised" person died for the second time!  But maybe the "raised" person wouldn't die. Maybe the "raised" person would be taken up into heaven, without dying, as allegedly occurred to one of the prophets in the OT. See folks, there is plenty of precedent for the Jesus Story to be believable by some Jews.

Christians might also say that a "resurrected" body has no need of food, water, or toileting, unlike a "raised" person, but if Jesus was always eating broiled fish with these guys, how would they ever know??

And here is something else about this story:  if Jesus can appear and disappear in a matter of milliseconds, teleporting between Emmaus and Jerusalem, why did he need to "ascend" into the clouds?? I'll tell you why: to make this supernatural tall tale more fantastical (magical)!

The belief that Jesus appeared to people after his death can be easily explained: the Jewish people were superstitious people who believed in ghosts and dead people coming back to life as other people. Jesus' despondent followers started having false sightings of Jesus, mistaking some guy in the distance or in a crowd for him, seeing shadows of him at twighlight, having visions, etc. It is no stretch of the imagination to see these superstitious, ghost-are-real-believing people having sightings of a dead Jesus.

And don't give me the excuse, "but there were witness who could counter a false claim".  There is currently a rumor going around that Bart Ehrman is going to convert to Islam...and Bart Ehrman is still alive (and denies the claim)! And we have the internet!

Rumors can perpetuate even if there are eyewitnesses around. When Charles Darwin died, a rumor started that he had converted to Christianity on his deathbed. His children, who were present at his bedside when he died, denied the rumor. However, Christian pastors were making this claim from their pulpits for years afterwards!

Open your eyes, folks. You are following an ancient superstition.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Does God Cook his own Fish?

My dear Christian friends, I am going to present to you the ONE passage from the Bible that PROVES that the Christian story is a tall tale (Addendum:  If you are a liberal Christian and do not believe that the following story from the Bible is, without question, a real historical event, this post does not apply to your form of Christianity.)


Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.



There are a couple of very odd things about this passage. First, if this was the third time that Jesus had appeared to these guys, why the concern about verifying who he was? Seems odd, to me. I mean, all but Thomas had seen him in the Upper Room where he sat down and ate a broiled fish lunch with them. And a week later, they had seen him again, this time with Thomas, and they had all gotten so close to him that they could touch his body and his wounds. But here they are sitting around the fire with him...and they are worried about verifying who he is. Hmm.

And now the whopper in this story.

Remember. The proverbial cat is out of the bag. Jesus is resurrected. Jesus has returned from the dead, verifying that not only is he the Messiah, the Son of God, but that he IS God. He is Yahweh. No further need of parables and riddles to hide his true identity. He is the Almighty, All-Knowing Creator of the Universe. I can just imagine the disciples asking Jesus, after the Resurrection, during the forty (or eight) days that they spent with him...

...Jesus, tell us how you created the entire universe in six days. What was it like before Creation?
...Jesus, tell us about the time in the Garden when you discovered that Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge.
...Jesus, tell us about the Great Flood. Was it really of the entire world, or just the Euphrates River Valley? Were there really a male and a female of every one of the tens of thousands of species of animals on earth, all on that one boat? And how did the kangaroos make it to Australia without leaving any skeletons along the way from Mt. Arat?
...Tell us about the Exodus! Tell us about how you killed all the firstborn of Egypt! How did you do it? Poison gas or did you just smother the little Egyptian brats?
...Tell us how you brought the walls of Jericho crashing down.

And then the Creator of the Universe...cooks some fish.

Really?

The All-Powerful God of the universe cooks...on a wood fire?

Give
me
a
break!

The God of the Universe doesn't need to cook. If he wanted his disciples to have a nice meal he could just speak the words and it would be so...like:   Smorgasbord guys!  Come and get it!



But he didn't.  He cooked his own fish.

This is a dumb story! This is a stupid story!

Open your eyes, folks. This is a tall tale!