In case you didn’t know, the answer is “no.” Bart Ehrman explains why…
You can see the full debate here.
Posted in Christianity, Church and State, Islam, Mormonism, Politics, Religion, Science, Video, tagged atheism, atheist, Bible, Christian, Christianity, creationism, evolution, God, Heaven, Hell, intelligent design, irrationality, Jesus, morality, Old Testament, Physics, politics, reason, religion, Science, Skeptic, skeptical, theology, Universe, Video on July 1, 2012 | 1 Comment »
As promised, I’m following up on my previous blog post where I revealed the first video I’ve produced here at TheSkepticalMagician.com – “Genesis Creation Visualized – Scientifically.” I put a considerable amount of thought and energy into creating this video, and I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look into the reasons why I made it the way I did.
A common response one gets when talking to Christians about the origins of the Universe and the lack of specificity and accuracy of the Genesis account — is that the complex laws of physics would have been lost on bronze age peoples, so God had to dumb it down so humans could comprehend all that he had done. In other words, the divine creator had to be vague, and not quite as accurate because the concepts were not there to explain it fully. This seems to make a lot of intuitive sense to believers, and it is something that enables them to continue believing what they want to believe, so they don’t take that next crucial step that everyone should take when determining whether or not something they believe is true… They don’t try to prove themselves wrong! And just like a scientist who submits something for peer review without first trying to disprove their ideas, if they don’t do it — someone else will. By re-writing the Genesis account as I did (and I could have been far more detailed were it not for my time limits), I was able to show that one could give a scientifically accurate portrayal of the evolution of the Cosmos that a bronze age human could understand, while still maintaining certain poetic liberties. Had the first 18 verses of Genesis been something similar to what I created, we in present day would have to stop and ask, “How in the heck did these bronze age illiterates know about things like fusion and the forging of the elements within stars?” “How did they know the Earth orbits the Sun, and how did they know it rolls upon the fabric of space like it does?” Instead of having to answer difficult questions like these, we’re left with undeniable evidence that the Genesis account of creation is just one more in a long line of creation myths.
Now, I fully admit that the Genesis account as currently written could have happened just like the Bible says, and I say as much in the video. There is no way for me to disprove this, though I don’t think most Christians would be comfortable with what this would tell us about the creator. If the Genesis account of the Bible is a literal, historical account of the creation of the Universe, then the creator is a deceiver. He’s a trickster. He’s a hoaxer. In order for the Genesis account to be true, it would mean that creator would have had to intentionally alter time and space itself to make it look like things had occurred completely different than they actually had. In essence, that God is one who not only tricks people, but tricks people into not believing in him, or in his written text, which plainly goes against the idea in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.“
A track that many liberal Christians take is that the Genesis account is not a literal history of creation, but that it’s a symbolic or metaphoric account of man’s relationship with his creator etc, etc, etc. Again, I can’t disprove that either, though I don’t think people who follow that line of thinking consider the greater negative theological implications for the Christian faith later on down the line. Without a literal Genesis, or a literal Adam and Eve – there is no basis or necessity for a literal 2nd Adam (i.e. Jesus) to undo what they did in Genesis. For these types, much of the Bible is looked at as metaphorical or symbolic, and these issues aren’t of any great concern to them, and they are happy to believe just the same. Again, trying to disprove their perspective is a bit like trying to nail jello to a wall, and there are so many ad hoc fallacies, and so much special pleading injected into the conversation that one can find themselves quickly frustrated. In general, these types of believers aren’t usually trying to get Biblical creation crammed into science classrooms, and are often times just as against their fundamentalist brethren in that regard as secularists are. So while I don’t agree with their conclusions, and can no more disprove their claims than I can disprove Russell’s teapot, I can at least respect their ability to accept the clear evidence of origins instead of dogmatically clinging to ideas that are either false (my position), or the product of an omnipotent trickster. (more…)
Posted in Christianity, Church and State, Islam, Mormonism, Politics, Religion, Science, Video, tagged Adam, Apologetic, Apologetics, astronomy, astrophysics, atheism, atheist, Bible (Religious Text), Biblical, chapters, Christ, Christian, Christianity, church, Cosmos, Creation, Earth, Eve, garden, Genesis, God, Humanism, Humanist, Jesus, Literalism, moon, New Testament, Old Testament, Physics, Planets, reason, Science, Secular, Secularism, Skeptic, skeptical, Stars, Sun, theology, theskepticalmagician, Universe on June 27, 2012 | 5 Comments »
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for — I give you the first video production for TheSkepticalMagician.com…
Blog post to follow in the next couple of days talking about what went into the making. Enjoy!
Posted in Christianity, Miracle Claims, Religion, Video, tagged Africa, Helen Roseveare, hot water bottle, Jesus, Miracle, missionary, non-miracle, Patton Oswalt, Skepticism on June 11, 2012 | 2 Comments »
You’ve got to love those email forwards that you get with those little stories about the mysterious ways that God works, and the miracles, like a gallon of milk showing up at a house with a hungry baby just in time. Most of those stories are likely made up whole cloth, and they can never be tracked back to an original source. Every now and then you come across one of these stories where you can trace it back to it’s source, but just because you can trace something to a source, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true. Here is the story as told by Christian Missionary Helen Roseveare, which was included in her book Living Faith, …
One night, in Central Africa, I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all that we could do, she died leaving us with a tiny, premature baby and a crying, two-year-old daughter.
We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive. We had no incubator. We had no electricity to run an incubator, and no special feeding facilities. Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts.
A student-midwife went for the box we had for such babies and for the cotton wool that the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly, in distress, to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. “…and it is our last hot water bottle!” she exclaimed. As in the West, it is no good crying over spilled milk; so, in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over a burst water bottle. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways. All right,” I said, “Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm.”
No. There is no reason to believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and I think Richard Carrier does an excellent job of explaining why in this debate against William Lane Craig.
I’m in a “book club” with four other guys who are all believers, and we tend to read books on Christian Theology, which always makes for good discussion with me being an apostate and all. One of the things I like most about the group is that we are free to disagree with one another (even on core issues), and yet we can all still walk away as friends at the end of the night. Our most recent book is The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight.
Let me start off by saying that McKnight is very easy to read — that is to say –he writes well. While I of course disagree with his position and the conclusions he comes to, I didn’t have to trudge my way through the book like others I’ve read, so that was a bonus. Other than being pleasant to read, however, I can’t say much else in favor of the book or McKnight’s conclusions, and I’ll tell you why.
Scot, like other authors such as Brian McLaren, and Rob Bell, seem to be under the impression that Christianity has gotten the gospel and major tenants of the Christian faith wrong for the last 2000 years. In essence, Jesus set things on one trajectory, and then Christians through the ages highjacked things and went off in a direction Jesus never intended. They then call believers to return to the true gospel as proclaimed by Christ, in McKnight’s case — The King Jesus Gospel — the completion of Israel’s story in the person of Jesus. I think there is a major problem in this line of thinking, whether it’s McKnight, or anyone else making the claim that the church has had it wrong for so long. That problem is the Holy Spirit.
In John 16:13, Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…” and in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” This presents a tremendous problem for McKnight and others who want to say the Church has gotten it wrong for so long, especially as the Holy Spirit is supposed to be indwelling and leading all believers. At best, the Holy Spirit has been asleep behind the wheel for the last 2000 years, and at worst, he is purposely slamming the Church into the guard rails in an attempt to drive Christianity off of a cliff. I tend to think people have the best intentions in pursuing what they believe to be their god, and the same goes for Christians down through the ages. If things have gone so far off the track, and so much destruction and misery has occurred because of the good, yet misguided, intentions of the church — is this not a case of asking for a fish and getting a snake, or asking for bread and getting a stone (Matthew 9:7-11)? McKnight acknowledges the places in history where the church has flown off the rails, but he seems to miss the culpability of the Holy Spirit who was supposed to be leading and guiding the believers.
Now of course the believer, including McKnight, can claim that those people were listening to their own flesh and not the Holy Spirit throughout the ages, but this just loops back around to the same problem. How does Scot know that he’s not listening to his flesh in the direction he’s going? What makes him so sure the confirming voice he hears with his theological conclusions is the Holy Spirit and not his own? It would be quite arrogant for McKnight to claim that he knows it’s the Holy Spirit and those other people are wrong, though theologians of course have done this all through the ages. This is the problem with a deity that chooses to play hide and seek instead of revealing itself plainly to claim its worship from everyone. The most likely conclusion is not that the Holy Spirit is asleep at the wheel, or that he’s trying to run Christianity off of a cliff — it’s that he doesn’t exist. The claims of authors like McKnight or McLaren that the Church has had it wrong for two millennia I think hammer this point home better than anything, and Occam’s razor dictates this is the most reasonable position to come to. I would, however, certainly like to hear Scot’s response to this critique.
“Skeptic Non-Miracles” is a recurring feature on The Skeptical Magician Blog, where the coincidental, fortuitous, random events of The Skeptical Magician’s life are put in the spotlight. These non-miracles are occurrences someone else may have attributed to an outside agency, or divine entity had they occurred in their own life, but here they’re seen for what they truly are – the regular occurrences of life that happen to everyone.
Note: This is a slight deviation from the typical Skeptic Non-Miracle segment, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share such a good story. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed hearing about it from my wife.
This installment of Skeptic Non-Miracles involves a run-in my wife had with an honest-to-goodness believer in “G-Zus,” which is exactly how the woman in the grocery store said it.
My wife was in the grocery store the other day checking out when she started digging through her wallet trying to find her debit card. Now, she knew her card was in her wallet, told the checkout person such, and continued to dig through her mess of receipts and such to locate it. The gray haired woman behind her also heard about her predicament of trying to locate the card, and decided she would help… by praying.
“Oh please G-Zus, please G-Zus, please just let her find that card, Lord.” The woman was fairly loud and had a decent sized audience on a Saturday at the grocery store, and wouldn’t you know it — the card my wife knew was in her wallet (again, she had already mentioned that) was found a moment later. The woman then busted out with, “Oh thank you G-Zus! Thank you G-Zus!” It’s a non-miracle! A non-miracle to me and almost anyone else reading this anyway. To the woman, however, this was just one more miracle and proof of the goodness and mercy of “G-Zus.”
This whole ball got rolling with the first video below, and I recommend watching all of them in order. By the time you get to the third one, you’re primed to laugh hard. Be advised the last one has plenty of F-bombs, but even if you’re a believer, it’s worth a watch.
Christian#1: Fluffy, happy, religion sucks, Jesus is my homeboy perspective…
Christian#2: Hey bonehead, Christianity is religion, and Jesus started it perspective…
Atheist: Hey bonehead, Christianity is a religion, but it still isn’t true perspective…
Posted in Christianity, Religion, tagged Amazon, Autobiography, Christianity, Frederick Douglass, Free, Human Rights, Jesus, John Loftus, Kindle, New Testament, Old Testamen, Onesimus, Paul, Philemon, religion, Servant, Sex Slave, Slave, Slavery, Wicked on December 24, 2011 | 4 Comments »
The other day, while perusing my Facebook feed, I ran across a link to a blog post by John Loftus on the issue of slavery and the Bible. In the post, he brought up a book that I had heard mentioned in various articles and podcasts before, but hadn’t had a chance to read. The book in question was Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, by Frederick Douglass, and quickly checking Amazon.com, I found the price was right for the Kindle version — $0.00. I read it until bedtime, and got up the next morning and read until it was finished. It was a truly gripping and engaging book, and I highly encourage anyone and everyone to pick it up. What follows are a couple of the more memorable excerpts, as relating to my post here…
“In August, 1832, my master attended a Methodist camp-meeting held in the Bay-side, Talbot county, and there experienced religion. I indulged a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves, and that, if he did not do this, it would, at any rate, make him more kind and humane. I was disappointed in both these respects. It neither made him to be humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he relied upon his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter. His activity in revivals was great, and he proved himself an instrument in the hands of the church in converting many souls. His house was the preachers’ home. They used to take great pleasure in coming there to put up; for while he starved us, he stuffed them.”
“I have said my master found religious sanction for his cruelty. As an example, I will state one of many facts going to prove the charge. I have seen him tie up a lame young woman, and whip her with a heavy cowskin upon her naked shoulders, causing the warm red blood to drip; and, in justification of the bloody deed, he would quote this passage of Scripture –’He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.’ Master would keep this lacerated young woman tied up in this horrid situation four or five hours at a time. … Master Thomas was one of the many pious slaveholders who hold slaves for the very charitable purpose of taking care of them.”
It is common for Christians to claim that it was Christianity and the Bible that ultimately led to the abolishment of slavery in the United States, and while I don’t doubt that there were Christians involved in the abolitionist movement, their efforts were a result of them being good people, and not from anything they were getting from “the good book.” There is a reason that southern slave holders were using the Bible in support of their barbaric practices — because of it’s overwhelming support of slavery!
Right here is where the believer interjects, “But you don’t understand; slavery in the Bible is different than the slavery you’re talking about it.” Really? Let’s explore slavery in the Bible, and you can tell me if it’s different… You have Israel going into foreign lands forcing people of another ethnic identity into slavery, and the buying and selling of human beings, as well as passing them along as personal property (Leviticus 25:44-46). You could buy sex slaves as long as you gave them food and clothing and screwed them (Exodus 21:7-11). You could beat your slave into a coma with rods and even kill them if it took a couple of days and it was okay, because the slave was your property (Exodus 21:20-21). I don’t know about you, but it sure sounds a lot like the slavery I’m thinking of.
“Okay, I see your point, but that was the Old Testament, and Jesus changed all that.” Are you sure about that? The very verse that Frederick Douglass’s master used as he beat the slave “who knew his master’s will and did not do it,” was spoken by none other than Jesus himself (Luke 12:47-48). Of course, that shouldn’t matter seeing as Jesus was the one handing down the Old Testament laws on beating slaves to begin with (John 14:8-9), but I digress. Back to Jesus’ parable in Luke, what he’s essentially saying is, just like it’s the right of an earthly master to beat his slaves for not doing his will, it is just and right for God to beat his slaves (Christians) for not doing his will.
“Okay, so Jesus is for Slavery, but what about Paul? He said, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,’ and because Paul said that, it proves the Bible is against slavery.” A quick glance between your legs should help you determine your gender, so it’s obvious Paul is not talking about physical reality here, but instead he is speaking in “spiritual terms.” He’s saying that there is not male or female, slave or free in a spiritual sense, but not a physical one. Actions of course speak louder than words, and in the book of Philemon, Paul sends the runaway slave Onesimus back to his master. While Paul asks Philemon to receive Onesimus as more than a slave, it’s obvious Paul recognizes Philemon’s “right” to do with Onesimus as he pleases, being he is his master. Instead of a command in “the name of the Lord” to set him free, he is returned to his custody as a slave.
As much as believers would like to claim that the Bible is anti-slavery, the opposite is actually true. As a result, Biblical inerrantists are stuck in the awkward position of having to defend an indefensible position by calling that which is wicked – “good,” or by doing hermeneutical backflips to make the unjustifiable appear justified. Either way you look at it, if it were a metaphorical game of rock, paper, scissors; they’re forced to throw rock no matter what, leaving the opposing side free to throw down paper for the win, every time.
Posted in Christianity, Religion, tagged afterlife, atheist, Belief, book of life, death, Eternity, Heaven, Hell, Jesus, judgement, pearly gates, St. Peter, What do atheists believe? on December 5, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Last week marked the first death I’ve had to deal with since becoming an atheist — the death of my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family. He finally succumbed to pneumonia as a complication caused by a rare degenerative neurological disease. He was 78, lived a good life, and I’m glad he’s no longer suffering. So, is dealing with death harder now that I’m an atheist you ask? Actually, dealing with death as an atheist is easier than it ever was as a believer.
We just passed the 3 year anniversary of the death of a friend and co-worker who was shot and killed by a jealous ex-boyfriend of the girl he was seeing at the time. To conceal the evidence, his body was doused in gas, covered with a mattress, and then lit on fire. Steve was a great guy, who loved life, and loved to have a good time, but he wasn’t exactly a Christian. Because of that, not only did Steve meet a fiery end, but according to popular Christian doctrine, immediately following that he met a fiery start in eternity. As a believer at the time, I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility for not doing all I could to get Steve “saved” before he died. It bothered me so much that I didn’t make the trip up north to his funeral. How does one celebrate the life of a friend, when eternity, which is what really matters in Christianity, has swallowed that person up in torment forever?
My wife posted something really nice about my grandfather’s death on her Facebook wall: “Eric’s Grandpa passed away last night. He was a wonderful man, whom I know left an amazing legacy to all he encountered. He left us having lived a full, happy, and adventurous life….and he will be greatly missed & greatly remembered.” Among the various comments that followed were these two here:
“Did he love Jesus?!”
“Sorry to hear of your loss. Was he a Christian? I hope so…”
For those who may be rusty on their Christianese, allow me to translate: “Is Eric’s grandpa burning in hell right now? Is he roasting for all eternity, or did he escape the clutches of perpetual damnation?” Would it even matter at that point? Even if Christianity were true, what good would it do to ask the question? It’s too late at that point, so why even bring it up?
So, what were my grandfather’s religious beliefs? I don’t know. Being I never heard him speak of a god, or any type of religious belief, and the poem on his memorial card was completely secular and gave no hint or mention of an afterlife, I would tend to think he was an unbeliever. Of course, I could be wrong, and it doesn’t matter anyway. The views he held were his own, and whether he believed in a god, or he didn’t, the impact he made in the lives of his family and his friends is all that really matters, and he lives on in the hearts and memories of those who loved him.
As for me, what do I think happens after we die? I think it is just like before we were born — non-existence. I don’t fear the year 1732, so there’s really no reason to fear the year 2232. Some may think it’s a tragedy that we don’t go on forever, but that’s what makes life that much sweeter, and truly worth living. And just like the 100+ billion people who died before me, one day I too will cease to exist, and I find it far more comforting that my memory will live on in my children and I not continue, than for a fraction of those billions to enjoy eternal bliss, while the overwhelming majority suffer forever.