Today is the five-year anniversary for Patheos, the site that hosts this blog. Patheos is now in the top 500 U.S. websites and is the world’s largest site for several communities, including atheists. Congratulations, Patheos!
I’ve been blogging at Patheos for close to two years (and solo for a year before that). When I started, there were about ten Patheos atheist blogs, and now there are 21. Patheos hosts more than 300 blogs exploring many categories of thought.
The Cross Examined blog has gotten almost 900,000 total views. Patheos as a whole will generate that twice in a week, but that sounds like a nice bit of impact to me. And I don’t make the views—you do. This wouldn’t work without you, and I’m very appreciative for your time and feedback.
Figuring out what content connects with the audience and what doesn’t is sometimes difficult. Maybe the headline was boring (if yesterday’s Doonesbury is good advice, I need to work “sideboob” into my titles more). Maybe the post just didn’t get the Facebook or reddit love that it deserved. Or more likely it was just a lot less insightful or interesting than I thought. Ah well—I always learn from the process.
I’ll take this fifth birthday opportunity to muse on five categories of blog posts during my time at Patheos.
1: “10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes No Sense”
This post has been my most popular. Each of the ten points is touched on only briefly, but the post seems to be a useful high-level summary of skeptical criticism of this part of the gospels. Christians who find the sin/redemption story compelling would probably dismiss this post as no challenge to their faith, but that’s not where it ends. These Christians would likely also think that the crucifixion story is compelling to outsiders. It’s not.
2: Social issues
Google ranks “20 Arguments Against Abortion, Rebutted” first for the search “arguments against abortion.” That’s ironic, since it’s a rebuttal of those arguments, and I wonder how many pro-lifers arrive here to find something they didn’t expect. Still, I’m not complaining. I hope it’s provocative while being civil.
Christianity is an 800-pound gorilla within society. It does some good, but it also does a lot of harm, and I’ve responded to some of those social issues—homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Creationism, church/state separation, the First Amendment, and so on.
Institutions like Christianity are inherently conservative, but the paradox is that this one claims to have a direct line to the source of morality. Christianity should be leading the way rather than digging in its heels. Let me quickly acknowledge that some Christians are doing honorable work to improve society, but theirs is too often the still, small voice amidst the wind and earthquake.
I’ve found the history behind Christianity to be both more complicated and less supportive of confident Christian pronouncements than I expected. I’ve written about:
- biblical polytheism
- the immense gulf of understanding separating us from the events of Jesus’s day
- the illogic of the Garden of Eden, Flood, and Resurrection stories
- the weakness of claims of prophecy (Psalm 22, Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, Daniel 9)
- the Mesopotamian Combat Myth (in which good conquers chaos) present in the Old Testament
- the irrelevance of our vast number of New Testament manuscripts
In general, I’ve been fascinated at how easily some icons of Christian thought have crumbled with research. That’s not to say that there’s nothing there, but what’s there often turns out to be different from we’ve been told.
Apologetics, the intellectual arguments in favor of Christianity, are what got me into this study over a decade ago. I’ve blogged about the Transcendental Argument, Argument from Design, Argument from Morality, Cosmological Argument, and others.
I’ve also responded to arguments from about two dozen apologists. Repeat offenders include William Lane Craig, Greg Koukl, Lee Strobel, Frank Turek, and John Hagee. Their arguments are widespread, and I will continue to respond to what appear to be the most popular.
5: Trying on some new things
New projects keep it lively. I made a short video, “Are the Gospels Eyewitness Accounts?” I wrote a flash fiction piece, “Interloper.” I wrote my second novel exploring atheism and Christianity, A Modern Christmas Carol.
I also issued a public challenge to organizers of Christian apologetics conferences: you say that your apologetics can withstand the challenge? Then don’t have a Christian present the atheist position; bring in an atheist. You’ll get the last word, but don’t you want your attendees to understand the real challenge? Give me an audience, and I’ll do it for free. (So far, no takers. Just intimidated, I guess?)
As a blogger, sometimes I feel like the new teacher who’s just a chapter ahead of the students in the book. I’ll never be a biblical scholar, but if I can learn interesting things and pass them on to you, that will be enough. If you’ve enjoyed reading along, I hope you’ll continue to share the journey with me.
So what’s next? Do you have ideas for improvement? Any fundamentals that I need to focus on or new areas to explore?
Faith is not an excuse for getting “there” last.
It’s an obligation to get there first.
— Leonard Pitts, speaking about how Christianity
often lags society in knowing the right thing to do
Photo credit: Robo Android