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Tag Archives: bible

Berfore I really got down and dirty with the history of the New Testament books, I knew that the situation was bad for believing in its veracity. But I was never prepared for just how bad the situation really is, all the while people taking the New Testament as – well, gospel. This is a transcript of part of episode 8.18 of the Non-Prophets podcast (aired in December) in which Matt Dillahunty responds to a letter from a listener who has a friend claiming that the evidence for miracle claims in the bible is irrefutable. I have to say I always enjoy listening to Matt on subjects biblical.

The facts are these – there are no contemporary extrabiblical accounts of any events specific to the life of Jesus. That means no independent sources from any eyewitnesses with regard to his birth, life, miracles, ministry, death or proposed resurrection. The gospels are anonymous; we have no original manuscripts; they do not agree on details; they do not agree with recorded history; and the consensus of New Testament scholarship is that none of them were written by eyewitnesses. The bible has stories about eyewitnesses, but we don’t have a single comment from anyone claiming to be an eyewitness.

The process of canonization included books that doctrinally agreed with those in power, and eliminated and attempted to destroy books that were considered heretical by those in power. Yet those same books were considered inspired by other sects. Books like Revelations barely made it into the bible as many considered them uninspired. Books like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Apocolypse of Peter which have traditionally been considered divinely inspired were excluded. Paul’s epistles, some of which are of questionable authorship, were the first books of the New Testament to be written, and that was decades after the purported life of Jesus. The gospels were written many years later – perhaps even decades later – by unknown authors. Historians from the late first and second century do mention Christians and some refer to Jesus, but none of these were eyewitnesses, and most of them couldn’t even have spoken to someone who claimed to be an eyewitness.

So we have the bible, a collection of stories by largely unknown authors who were unlikely to be eyewitnesses and we don’t have originals of their work. We have copies of copies of copies of translations of copies of copies of anonymous books reporting an oral tradition passed down for decades or centuries after the purported events in a time when myths, superstitions and god-men claims were plentiful; during a time when fact-checking and literacy were rare; and when doctrinal wars prompted forged documents (Paul even mentions this in the bible) in order to prop up competing theologies as orthodox or heretical. And for my money, that means none of it is believable.

Contrast this with, for example, claims of alien abductions. You can – if you like – actually speak to people who claim to have actually been abducted by aliens. If you look around, you’ll find groups of people who tell consistent stories, and might even claim to have been abducted together. There are countless reports of UFO sightings, often by groups of people or, in rare cases, dozens or even hundreds of people in a particular town or area. These reports have been ongoing for decades, reported by countless news sources in addition to specialized periodicals. Many of these people sincerely believe their story. Do you? Does you’re friend?

I don’t, because there isn’t sufficient evidence. Yet the quantity and quality of evidence for these claims is vastly superior to any miracle claims reported in the bible. We have more evidence, and we’re not 2000 years removed from events, and we still don’t believe, and find the most fervent believers to be a little crazy. Yet somehow, millions of largely ignorant, well-meaning, nice people sincerely believe third-hand reports of miracles from thousands of years ago. And they don’t just believe – they strongly believe. They not only consider it not only absurd to disbelieve, but also their sacred duty to convince others – at a minimum – and legislate their beliefs on others – or worse. And yet we do not somehow don’t consider these people a little crazy.

Here endeth the lesson. Amen.

“It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law and the acknowledgment of God has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge.” ~ Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, Nov. 14, 20031

Hypothesis: The Ten Commandments are the basis for our modern western legal system.

2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery;
3 Do not have any other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

~ Exodus 20:2-17

Many Christians believe that our western legal system is an extension of the Ten Commandments. This sounds to me like rather like ‘Guilt by Association’, a form of post hoc ergo propter hoc. Just because modern laws have some overlap, or even completely overlap each other, does not at all establish cause (God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses) and effect (civil law).

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‘The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.’ ~ Abraham Lincoln

A lot of Christians think they are being singled out when religion is criticized. In North America, this is actually true. But it’s not because we atheists have some soft spot for any other religion. It’s certainly not because atheists and agnostics in this part of the world think Christianity is somehow less credible than other mythologies. It’s simply because Christianity is what we are familiar with. Not surprising, given the relevant demographics on this continent. I just know more about it to criticize the specific elements of the religion. If I knew more about Judaism and Islam I would be equally critical in the specifics of their tenets.

And from what I do know about other religions, I see the same withdrawal from reason as that demonstrated by practitioners of Christianity. I see no reason to accept that any religion is more valid than any other. I’m very equal-opportunity in that regard. All religions ask one thing: either accept or reject unsubstantiated and unverifiable dogma. Given such a choice the path is clear: I do not. In the absence of positive evidence to the contrary, logic demands that the null hypothesis (in this case, the non-existence of god(s)) be maintained.

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On an episode of a Christian radio program The Things That Matter Most, William Lane Craig spoke on the subject of ‘Is God Real or Imaginary?’ Of course, being a theist, Craig posits that God is real. Fine, but what follows disgusted me to no end, as Christian apologetics in regards to atrocities assigned to his minions in the Old Testament are wont to do.

About 9 min into the show, Craig tries to explain why he feels Dan Barker’s journey to atheism is wrong. He seems to think the problem lies in a rigid belief that the Bible is inerrant, and once that rigid position is broken it is more reasonable to believe that the Bible may be wrong here and there than to cross over to the ‘Dark Side’ known as atheism…

‘The Bible is not an accurate record of what God is like, that the ancient Israelites in writing these narratives got it wrong about God.’ 

OK. If the Bible is wrong about God, how can he speak about God in an authoritative way at all? If the Bible is NOT inerrant, then you must pick and choose what you want to believe and there is no basis which is not arbitrary! This is just nonsense. His suggestion that this is an argument against the inerrancy of the Bible and not the existence of God is correct, but he doesn’t go to the obvious conclusion that if the Bible is wrong here and there, and you do not know exactly where or how many of these places there are, you have to throw the whole thing out. In fact, Craig throws the Old Testament out, but as we’ll see, he arbitrarily claims that the New Testament is okay even though it suffers from exactly the same issues.

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