Bad Atheist Arguments: “History Is Unreliable”

Andy Bannister The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist book history unreliableThis is part 11 of a critique of The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist: The Dreadful Consequences of Bad Arguments (2015) by Andy Bannister (part 1).

In critiquing this final chapter of Bannister’s book, I was reminded of this observation by H. L. Mencken: “Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.” Similarly, there are only eleven chapters in this uninspired book, so it could’ve been worse.

Chapter 11. The Reluctant Eunuch

In our final thrilling episode with Bannister’s friend Fred, the two of them are in a natural history museum. Fred wonders if he’s Alexander the Great’s chief eunuch. More precisely, how can he prove that he’s not? He then wonders if history in general is reliable. With forgeries, mistakes, interpretation, and conspiracy, how can we trust any of it?

How can we trust history?

Bannister begins with an anecdote. He avoids the example of someone with a reasonable question—something like, “Given that we only see Jesus through 2000 years of history and legend, how certain can we be of the Christian story?” No, he tells of someone who proposed dismissing all history as completely unreliable. Bannister explains in careful detail how he publicly humiliated his antagonist.

Bannister tells us that Jesus is a difficulty for atheists. “Of all the major world faiths, it is really only Christianity that is a ‘historical’ religion, in the sense that history matters to it.” He doesn’t make clear why history matters more to Christianity than, say, Islam.

His complain about Islam is different: “Muslim theology is exceedingly clear that Muhammed was just an ordinary human being.” Yeah, and Mark, the first gospel, makes clear that Jesus was, too. It opens with Jesus being baptized. There’s nothing about Jesus being part of the Trinity or having existed forever. Avoid the Christian dogma, and a plain reading of Mark likewise tells of Jesus as an ordinary human being.

Bannister declares that to defeat Christianity, you must address Jesus and his claims. He ignores that Jesus didn’t make claims; the gospels say that he made claims. How reliable is that record? And if history is that big a deal, you must acknowledge that historians scrub out the supernatural. Sorry, historians aren’t your friend.

Dawkins uses the game of telephone (“Chinese whispers” in British parlance) to show how the Jesus story is unreliable, but Bannister isn’t buying it. He mocks this approach:

We mustn’t think of Thucydides, or Josephus, or Tacitus, or St Luke as carefully interviewing eyewitnesses, reading sources, and weighing the evidence—goodness, no, they were ignorant ancient yokels, relying on what they half-heard, whispered into their ears, after the stories had made their way through a long line of pre-school children, high on sugar and gullibility.

Where do you start with someone so afraid of honest skepticism that he hides behind straw man arguments like this? Josephus said nothing about Jesus, and Tacitus wrote in the early second century. Thucydides died in about 400 BCE and so is irrelevant; presumably, Bannister uses him to say that the period produced well-respected historians. So therefore all ancient documents are reliable? Nope, that doesn’t follow.

Let’s review some of the historical weaknesses of the Jesus story that follow from Dawkins’ example of the game of telephone.

  • There were decades of oral history from event to documentation in the gospels.
  • There is a centuries-long period of Dark Ages from the New Testament originals to our best copies (more here and here). We can’t be certain what was modified during that period.
  • Much of Christianity comes from Paul, who never saw Jesus in person (more).
  • We don’t even know who wrote the gospels (more).
  • The gospel of Luke promises that the author is giving a good historical analysis, but why is that believable? You wouldn’t believe an earnest supernatural account from me, so why is it more believable if it’s clouded by the mists of time?
  • Matthew and Luke copy much of Mark, something that an eyewitness would never do.

These are some of the actual problems with the Christian story. For Bannister’s next book, I encourage him to respond to them directly rather than laugh nervously and hope that he can misdirect us elsewhere.

Bannister continues: “If Dawkins is right, then all history is bunk.”

Who’s surprised that that is not what Dawkins said?

“Historical skepticism is a universal acid, destroying everything it touches.”

If you’re a Bannister fan like me, you’ll remember the “universal acid” argument from chapter 3. Historians do indeed reject everything supernatural. Universally. And yet history continues along just fine, with skepticism as an important tool that is used in moderation.

He declares that the gospels are biographies. Wrong again—they’re better described as ancient biography, which is a quite different genre. An ancient biography isn’t overly concerned about giving accurate facts but with making a point. (More: Charles Talbert, What is a Gospel? p. 93–98.)

I’ll distill some of the highlights from the remaining blather.

  • Jesus really existed; don’t believe Jesus mythicists! I don’t make that argument. I don’t care whether he was a myth or not. My point is that you have no reason to accept the supernatural claims in the gospels.
  • The gospel story isn’t fiction. If it were fiction, why invent these impossible-to-follow moral rules like looking at someone with lust equals adultery? Right—I never said the gospels were fiction. (Though fiction is still probably easier to defend than the supernatural.)
  • The gospels weren’t myth. Right—they closer to legend. (Jesus probably a legend here; the differences between myth and legend here.)
  • He says that the gospels have lots of place names with details about each, which refutes their being fiction. Right—I don’t say that it’s fiction. This is the Argument from Accurate Place Names fallacy.
  • He marvels at the fluency of Jesus’s rebuttals to the bad guys. The story was honed over decades—I should hope that some compelling anecdotes would come out the other end. The stories that flopped didn’t make the cut.
  • He appeals to the Criterion of Embarrassment (the more embarrassing a story, the likelier it’s true) and gives as an example a passage from Mark in which a man calls Jesus “good teacher.” Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good?” Yeah, that’s embarrassing, and you’ve undercut your claims of deity. And just how is this supposed to give me confidence in the supernatural parts? He notes that Jesus died when he should’ve been a conquering hero. So much for him fulfilling the prophecy of the Messiah, eh?
  • “If we were dealing with theological fiction, one would expect the edges to be straighter, the language more doctrinally polished.” More to the point, we’d expect that if we were dealing with the words of the omniscient creator of the universe. You’ve nicely shown that it doesn’t hang together and could never have been inspired by a perfect being.
  • He gives Lewis’s (false) trilemma—the only possible bins to put Jesus in are Liar, Lunatic, or Lord. Wrong again. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t address the obvious genre: not fiction but legend.

Come to Jesus!

Unsurprisingly, he ends the book with an altar call.

The God of Christianity, the God of the Bible, the God seen in Jesus is a God who isn’t willing to lurk in the shadows, but one who, the Gospels claim, has stepped into space-time and walked into history, who has his nose up against the window and is tapping loudly on the glass, demanding our attention.

Could you get him to tap any louder?

This is the Problem of Divine Hiddenness, which to my mind is the biggest obstacle to Christian belief. How can a god who desperately wants a relationship with us not make that happen? He is omnipotent, right?

He characterizes the tough spot the atheist is in: “Arguments are thus needed, any arguments, no matter how bad, provided we can hammer them like planks across any possible opening [through which God might enter].” We all, deep down, fear that “we are more broken and messed-up than we realize.” But don’t worry, kids! “All is not acidic skepticism, or unyielding despair, or hopeless lostness, or the utter blackness of the void, but that everything that is broken can be mended.”

I know of no atheist suffering from hopeless lostness. Christianity is the solution to a problem that Christianity invented. I think I’ll just discard both problem and solution since I’ve been given evidence for neither. And with it, that condescending characterization of atheists’ desperate position.

The first rule of the Liars for Jesus club
is to lie about being in the Liars for Jesus club.
— commenter Greg G.

Image credit: Forsaken Fotos, flickr, CC

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  • RichardSRussell

    FWIW, Anton Szandor LaVey’s brand of Satanism espouses its own equivalent of the 10 Commandments called The 11 Satanic Rules of the Earth. And Bannister’s book contains 11 chapters. Coincidence? You be the judge!

    • Raging Bee

      Satan goes to ELEVEN! Just like Spinal Tap!

    • Michael Neville

      I went to a church that had ten commandments but that was too much for me. So I found another church that had two commandments and eight “do the best you can”.

  • Joe

    Given that we only see Jesus through 2000 years of history and legend, how certain can we be of the Christian story?

    Not at all. Case closed? It would be for any other historical claim apart from religion.

    • eric

      Weeeelll… sort of. In the spirit of ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’, I probably wouldn’t be highly skeptical if someone claimed they had unearthed a story of Bob the Pict from 2000 years ago, even though pictish recorded documents are only known from several hundred years later. But if they then claim a story that Bob the Pict could walk on water was true, I’d get a lot more skeptical. While the mythicists make the argument that we have no credible evidence of even an itinerant apocalyptic preacher on whom Jesus was based, I’m pretty comfortable thinking that’s a reasonable assumption based on the bible. What is much much less reasonable is thinking the miracle claims are true based on nothing more than these writings.

      • Joe

        I probably wouldn’t be highly skeptical if someone claimed they had unearthed a story of Bob the Pict from 2000 years ago, even though pictish recorded documents are only known from several hundred years later

        That kind of emphasizes my point. We only have and idea of the Pictish era because of the oldest archaeological evidence. The fossil record gets put back millions of years occasionally, so it wouldn’t be surprising to find earlier Picts.

        As for the end of the era, unless genocide occurs there isn’t really a definitive end. Cultures merge, or change gradually over time. So historical evidence is still only probabilistic.

  • Raging Bee

    He says that the gospels have lots of place names with details about each, which refutes their being fiction.

    So if I write a story about aliens fighting the US Army in places I know well and describe in detail (EDIT: or at least name), that means it really happened, right?

    • Herald Newman

      You’re talking about the US-Mexico border, right 😉

    • Dessany

      The Harry Potter novels are set in Britain so I guess that means that Hogwarts is a real place.

      • https://www.jonmorgan.info Jon Morgan

        What’s more, even improbable things like Platform 9 3/4 are real places in King’s Cross (I’ve been inside…).

      • epeeist

        The Harry Potter novels are set in Britain

        As are chunks of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Similarly Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, Dorothy L. Sayers “Peter Wimsey” novels, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories…

        All of these are obviously factual according to Bannister’s “logic”.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The Wizard of Oz story begins in Kansas. Heck, I’ve been to Kansas.

      • Kodie

        I’ve never been to Kansas, and I don’t know anyone who has ever been to Kansas (probably; can’t say the same about Oklahoma). It sounds like the kind of place an author might make up. Just look at it, it doesn’t even look like a real place. It’s all gray and shit. People enter parallel magical lands where everyone you meet looks like someone you already know through portals inside of tornadoes.

        All kidding aside, Dorothy wants to go back to Kansas, and ends up back in Kansas in the exact bed in her own house. That’s the kind of place it is. It’s not a state so much as “my house”. Some of the places that really exist as depicted in literature and film might as well be called Camelot or Brigadoon or Emerald City or Wonderland (a place that actually exists on a map… ) http://www.mbta.com/uploadedimages/services/subway/Wonderland%20Neighborhood%20Map%20tn.png

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The end of the blue line! (At least in the late 70s.) I went to the dog track once with some friends and bet on dogs with nerdly names (Archimedes’ Revenge or similar)

        • Kodie

          It’s still the end of the Blue Line, no more dog track. I was on the T once and there was a small crowd of young teenage friends together deciding to make a project out of riding all the Ts to their ends, and looking at the basic map on the wall of the train, decided their next adventure would be to go to Mattapan, they yelled in unison, “Mattapan!”

        • MNb

          Belgium doesn’t exist.

          http://zapatopi.net/belgium/

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          All kidding aside, Dorothy wants to go back to Kansas, and ends up back in Kansas in the exact bed in her own house.

          Do not confuse the movie for the book. In the book, she did not end up in her same bed. She landed in Kansas, after the silver shoes carried her across the deadly desert, and ran to Aunt Em.

        • Kodie

          Lol, me read a book. If there is a book and a movie and they don’t match, are they even the same thing? You have your theological concept of Kansas, and I have mine.

        • TheNuszAbides
        • busterggi

          Ever see the documentary Room 237?

        • TheNuszAbides

          no! thanks for the tip!

        • TheNuszAbides

          Jim Emerson, writing for RogerEbert.com, offered a mixed 2.5 stars out
          of a possible 4. He wrote that the documentary “isn’t film criticism, it
          isn’t coherent analysis, but listening to fanatics go on and on about
          their fixations can be kind of fun. For a while, at least.”

          that’s all i ask for at least a few segments!

        • TheNuszAbides

          Leon Vitali,
          who served as personal assistant to Kubrick on the film, stated “There
          are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash” … He concluded that
          “[Kubrick] didn’t tell an audience what to think or how to think … I’m certain that he wouldn’t have wanted to listen to about
          70, or maybe 80 percent [of Room 237]… Because it’s pure gibberish.”

          i’ll dig around for that 20, or maybe 30 percent.

      • busterggi
        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          There was also a little girl in Kansas with an Aunt “M”

          (she was L Frank Baum’s niece)

          In a later book (Dorothy of Oz I think), Dorothy and Uncle Henry visit San Francisco, where they are swallowed up by an earthquake.

          Earthquakes are very common in San Francisco. Therefore, that must have happened.

    • Jim Jones

      Most of the James Bond stories happen in known places.

      • TheNuszAbides

        and the UK really has a spy programme!

    • KarlUdy

      It means you know the places well. If the story was set in the 1800s and the places matched instead the 21st century descriptions, it would show that it was not written by someone familiar with both the time and place of the story.

      • smrnda

        Much of this can depend on how much places change over different time periods. How much research would it take to write a story about life on the American frontier and get geographic details right? “Hey, this story said there was a mining town in this territory, and there was one right there!” Would it be easier to write historical fiction about an unnamed Russian soldier in WWII, or historical fiction about a more famous person? Imaging writing a story that’s supposed to be set during a particular year in NYC. Even if I was there during that year, and it’s not that long ago, I’d have to check the city against my memories to make sure that the restaurant the characters eat in was open during the time the story takes place. If you don’t want people calling you out for inaccuracies, it can sometimes be better to set your story in the past. You can get some key details right, and nobody will be around to argue with you about some of the details that you got wrong. I mean, if I were simply going to try to write books that would convince people that they were accurate for the time, I might do better to write about times longer in the past, but which still would have left artifacts. I could, perhaps, check out the ruins of a ghost town in the desert and come up with a pretty convincing story of its rise and fall. My attempt to depict NYC accurately would be far harder.

        • KarlUdy

          The issue with places, names and descriptions is what it tells you when someone gets them wrong.

      • MNb

        And that forces us to conclude that the author himself was not an eyewitness. Given the fact that authors 2000 years ago had a huge fantasy (for instance Julius Caesar in one of his accounts describes a unicorn in detail) the fact that a second hand witness/author claims that there have been witnesses for something doesn’t force us at all to accept that there actually are. Still that’s exactly what apologists – and specifically you – want us to do.
        Thanks for undermining your line of thinking yourself. I appreciate it.

  • Lerk!

    “… eleven chapters in this uninspired book” — as opposed to 929 chapters in that other uninspired book.

    • Sophia Sadek

      Does that include the apocryphal texts?

  • watcher_b

    This is the Problem of Divine Hiddenness, which to my mind is the biggest obstacle to Christian belief.

    Here here! This sentence sums up what caused me to stop believing! I was in an argument with another Christian concerning then President Obama. He claimed I was not listening to the “Holy Spirit™” and I believed the same thing about him. If God loved us so much to send His Son to die for us so that we could be saved, why would He then not have any objective way to determine whether or not someone was saved?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      He did! The Holy Spirit! And if you disagree with your friend, that’s simply evidence that your supposed evidence from the Holy Spirit is bogus.

      It’s really quite simple when you consider it logically.

  • Erp

    Correction 1, the earliest and reasonably complete versions of the books in the New Testament date to the 4th century (e.g., Codex Sinaiticus) which is well before the start of the “Dark Ages”. Manuscripts both before and well after are looked at because variations in the text can hint at what the original version contained (no historian trusts that the Codex is a completely accurate copy of the original).

    Correction 2, Luke’s author never claims to be an eyewitness and does claim to be using multiple sources so the existence of large chunks of Mark in it is not surprising even for Bible literalists (even if the differences do give them problems).

    • MNb

      BobS wrote: “There is a centuries-long period of Dark Ages from the New Testament originals to our best copies.”
      You just confirmed that. From 37 CE to 325 CE (earliest possible date) is “a centuries-long period” about we have insufficient information, which is what “Dark Ages” refers to. BobS’ “Dark Ages” doesn’t refer to the obsolete name for the Middle Ages.

      • Erp

        In which case lowercase would be clearer or even something like ‘obscurity’. Plenty would be willing to jump on “Dark Ages” as an error sufficient to sink the whole. I note btw that most historians consider the earliest NT documents to be some of the Pauline letters starting in 50CE (not 37CE) and the earliest gospel to be about 70CE (with the latest gospel early 2nd century). Papyrus 46 has a fairly complete collection of the Pauline letters; it is dated all over the place (but before 4th century) with most current scholars seem to say about 200CE. We have manuscripts containing fairly large chunks of most of the individual books in the New Testament from the 3rd century and a certain amount from the 2nd century so the “dark ages” weren’t completely dark though the material was piecemeal (it is notable that many inerrantists prefer much later manuscripts since the manuscript tradition indicate that Mark 16:9-end or 1 John 5:7-8 are much later additions). It is not surprising that early 4th century is when more begins appearing given that that is when Christianity became legal (and shortly thereafter the preferred religion) in the Roman Empire and the number of adherents skyrocketed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve cataloged, chapter by chapter, the time delta from authorship to our oldest manuscripts here.

        • MNb

          Yeah, for many people it takes too much effort to understand what an author means. Apparently you are one of them. I write this without irony: this blogpost deals exactly with that. Unfortunately it’s in Dutch.

          https://apoftegma.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/ontlezing/

          The author originally wanted to write
          “U wist natuurlijk al dat joden van nature onbetrouwbaar zijn.”
          “Of course you already knew that jews are untrustworthy by nature.”
          I immediately understood this was sarcasm, something that became clear just two or three sentences later. The author still decided to leave it out because of bad readers like you.

          “I note btw”
          That’s why I deliberately formulated my sentence as “we have insufficient information, which is what “Dark Ages” refers to” because I think that’s the weak spot, not your squabbling about how someone should formulate things. Thanks for the implicit compliment. It’s not returned.

      • TheNuszAbides

        i’ve recently practiced simply avoiding putting “the” before any use of “Dark Age[s]”. not nitpicking Bob at all, habits are habits and reading skills are a whole package of them, and it should be easy not to miss or fog the point as Erp seems to err/prefer.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      1. What MNb said.

      2. I agree, though I don’t believe I said otherwise. Regardless, thanks for the clarification. I mentioned Matthew, which many apologist do say was an eyewitness.

  • guerillasurgeon

    I’d have thought that every undergraduate history student would realise that you use a variety of sources to arrive at something close to the truth. Still, I suppose you could regard the Bible as a variety of sources :).

  • Otto

    >>The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist

    Perfect name for his book, just not for the reasons he intended.

    • Robert Templeton

      And just to drive home the point, the subtitle could be:

      “and here’s the strawman that I made to show you”

      • epeeist

        After Bob’s expose “So much straw it could hold an infinite number of Edward Woodwards” might be a better subtitle.

  • MNb

    “I know of no atheist suffering from hopeless lostness. Christianity is the solution to a problem that Christianity invented.”
    I disagree here. It’s easy to imagine that slaves suffered from hopeless lostness indeed 2000 years ago. Life generally was not pleasant back in those days.

    “If Dawkins is right, then all history is bunk.”
    I cannot help but be reminded of Karl Udy a couple of days ago: “If you accept the moon landings as historical you must accept the Resurrection as historical.”
    Anyhow, several historical claims can be tested by natural science. A famous example is Archimedes’ burning mirrors. Physicists have done the appropriate calculations: not possible. Mythbusters and many before them have tried to build them: not possible. Conclusion: despite his genius Archimedes didn’t build them.
    Biology tells us that resurrections are not possible either. Divine intervention you say? OK – then accept Archimedes’ burning mirrors as well, because anything goes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Did Karl U really say that? I’m guessing that’s your paraphrase?

      But yeah, Bannister and Karl are on the same page. I guess great minds think alike.

      Biology tells us that resurrections are not possible either.

      Well, yeah, but suppose you have a resurrection story far back in time. You’d have less data to work with, wouldn’t you, Mr. Smartass? How about now–would you reject a resurrection story now??

      • eric

        Jesus’ resurrection miracles are not just derivative, they’re not as spectacular as the original. He had to actually will/request resurrection before it took place. The real resurrection master was Elisha; he could resurrect someone else even after he (Elisha) was dead and rotted, and no request was necessary; you could just throw a body haphazardly against his corpse, and that would do the trick (2 Kings 13:21).

      • MNb

        See above – it’s a paraphrase and I should have made that clear. Mea culpa.
        KU tried to apply the Socratic Method. He accepted the position of the moon landing skeptics to collect arguments for the historicity of the moon landing. When he thought the time was ripe he applied them to the Resurrection. I think that justifies the paraphrase even if KU contradicts that above.

        • KarlUdy

          KU tried to apply the Socratic Method

          It was hard work. Several people on this board are allergic to self-examination.

          My point was simply to show that both rested primarily on the same type of evidence, and that the sort of arguments for or against one case can easily be applied to the other.

          As we are closer in time to the moon landings, understand the culture that those events happened in better, and still have some of the key witnesses alive to testify, it is easier for us to be confident in the truth of the moon landings.

        • epeeist

          Several people on this board are allergic to self-examination.

          I haven’t come across a non-theist on this site that doesn’t want solid evidence in support of claims.

          On the other side, I haven’t come across a theist who is unwilling to accept the flimsiest scribble as the strongest of evidence.

        • al kimeea

          Looked in a mirror lately?

          Both events rest on the same type of evidence? We have viddy of Jebus? Oh, it’s just Christopher Pike.

          Key witnesses? There ere are millions of eye witnesses to the landings and the work being done in space today to confirm the reality based event.

          The other is based in aether.

        • Pofarmer

          Self examination and reflection are why several of us on this board are-atheists.

        • MNb

          “My point was simply to show that both rested primarily on the same type of evidence.”
          Which you totally failed to do and which you totally neglect when pointed out to you.
          Closer in time has not that much to do with it. We reject Archimedes’ burning mirror if only because we know he hadn’t the necessary technology available back then. Plus it remains a category error – you simply refuse to make clear how it’s even possible that evidence (by definition taken from our natural reality, specifically including eyewitness testimonies) can point at supernatural intervention.

        • Ctharrot

          Let’s put aside whether the evidence we have (or can find with some determined legwork, FOIA requests to NASA, etc.) for the Resurrection and the moon landing are materially analogous.

          The claims are not. One involves an executed man rising from the dead after three days–something flatly inconsistent with our knowledge of human biology. The other involves a complicated, resource-intensive enterprise entirely consistent with–indeed, one could say dependent on–the laws of physics. Are you suggesting that we should accept both kinds of claims as equally likely to be true, if given equivalent evidence?

          Or let’s try the Socratic method with simpler examples, if you’re game. Here are two claims:

          Last Friday, I flew to Munich on a commercial airliner.

          On Monday, I flew back, carried only by spirits.

          You have identical evidence for both claims in the form of my personal testimony. The claims are even somewhat similar–far more similar than the Resurrection and moon landing. As a starting point, given only the claims and my testimony, do you think each claim is equally likely to be true?

        • Joe

          How’s the in-flight service on Spirit Airways?

        • Greg G.

          How’s the in-flight service on Spirit Airways?

          You can’t imagine how good it is. It’s out of this world!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, that’s a good point. We are indeed closer to the moon landings. Not only do we have eyewitnesses to testify, we have the fucking astronauts themselves.

          Given that this is not the case with the gospels, how does this reduce our confidence in the gospel accounts?

        • Greg G.

          The first moon landing is closer in time to the first radio broadcast of the baseball World Series than it is to our present time.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          This is off topic, but this supports my thesis about technology change. It’s popular to think that things are just progressing faster and faster, but here we have this ancient but important technology, manned moon landings, that we’ve simply discarded.

          Technology progress is a lot more erratic than we often think.

        • Greg G.

          Space travel was easier before they started bringing the metric system into it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          English units were the original base-2 units. Who needs liters when you’ve got bushels and pecks and pottles?

        • epeeist

          English units were the original base-2 units.

          Err, wut?

          As I remember my “Imperial units”, 14 pounds to a stone, 112 pounds to a hundredweight. 3 feet to a yard, 22 yards to a chain, 10 chains to a furlong and 8 furlongs to a mile.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          2 gills in a cup, 2 cups in a pint, 2 pints in a quart, 2 quarts in a pottle, 2 pottles in a gallon

          For dry volume, 2 gallons in a peck, 4 pecks in a bushel

          This is curiously relevant today when we measure RAM in kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes. It’s not really a kilobyte (10^3 bytes); it’s properly a kebibyte (2^10 bytes). The difference grows, so that “1 GB of RAM” is actually 9% more than a billion bytes.

          This base-2 vs. base-10 problem doesn’t exist with disk memory.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Technology progress is a lot more erratic than we often think

          follow the money/military?
          and map out the ‘dead ends’ temporary or otherwise.

          but yep, it’s funny whenever technology is treated as a monolithic endeavor. (cue A Space Odyssey)

        • Otto

          Are you seriously comparing a non supernatural event with plenty of direct evidence to a claimed supernatural event with no direct evidence and saying they are on equal footing?

          Yes, self examination would be very beneficial for you here.

        • Susan

          It was hard work.

          Not hard at all. You compared a non-acceptance of a single/resurrection story with non-acceptance of the moonlanding.

          You ignored the substantial evidence that supports the landing of humans on the moon vs. one of countless claims of stories people tell. You showed no way of differentiating your belief from countless other beliefs that have no outside supporting evidence.

          I.e. Elvis is alive. Anal probings by aliens. Muhammed’s final prophecy, vampires, etc.

          On top of that, you’ve shown no way to distinguish your belief in your rising god from the other rising god claims that humans accept that have nothing to do with your rising god.

          As MNb has pointed out (and this is key), a natural claim is not the same as a supernatural claim. You have provided no method for sorting out a reliable supernatural claim from an unreliable supernatural claim. Because you don’t have one. You don’t seem to be able to provide one even in principle.

          It’s not hard work at all for you, Karl. You pop in occasionally, ask questions, ignore the responses and fail to respond to the questions people ask you.

          You say it’s because “you’re on the road a lot” but if that were the case, an honest person would follow up (at least some of the time) on the subject they raised.

          Socrates would be appalled.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Several people on this board are allergic to self-examination.

          and/or you don’t earn it.
          plus you were already in debt for numerous broken ironymeters.

    • KarlUdy

      I second MNb on the first point. Woody Allen would be an example.

      I must clarify on the second point though that he is misquoting me. I said that the reasons for accepting or rejecting both the moon landings and resurrection are essentially the same (do we believe the witnesses, or do we think they are part of a big con). It is entirely plausible to come to different judgments with different sets of claims and witnesses.

      • Joe

        At best, your questioning the historicity of the moon landings throws both this event and the Biblical accounts under a bus. It poisons the well of historicity.

        I said that the reasons for accepting or rejecting both the moon landings and resurrection are essentially the same

        The same in principal, but not in application.

        (do we believe the witnesses, or do we think they are part of a big con)

        Do we believe contemporary, direct statements from multiple known witnesses, that are independently verifiable, or do we believe an unverifiable claim by an unknown author that there were witnesses?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        I said that the reasons for accepting or rejecting both the moon landings and resurrection are essentially the same (do we believe the witnesses, or do we think they are part of a big con)

        Not really. The claim, “Men have landed on the moon” is a technology claim. The claim, “A man rose from the dead” is a supernatural claim.

        We have countless examples of true technology claims that everyone agrees to. Not so with supernatural claims.

        • KarlUdy

          Bob, they are both events, and events for which most people do not have access to the most intimate details and so are required to trust in the say-so of those few who do.

          The moon landing is not a technology claim. We have had the technology to land people on the moon my whole life, but there has not been a moon landing in my lifetime.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m not sure where we go from here if you’re determined to lump these two very different claims into “well, they’re both events.” These two claims are so very different, that I have no idea how to pursue it.

          You win–a claim based on technology today is just as likely to be true as a 2000yo supernatural claim. “There are artificial lights in Nepal” is just as likely to be true as “Mithras was born out of a rock” since I must take both of them on faith, having no direct evidence of either.

        • eric

          Postmodernist “all claims are equally valid” logic has been a pretty standard fallback defense for Christian apologists in the past few years. For the life of me, I don’t know how they miss the Pyrrhic-ness of the victory they think they’re getting, but evidently, they do (miss it).

        • adam
        • Herald Newman

          Throwing knowledge under the bus is pretty standard fare, even outside of Christianity. As long as people believe that their personal experience counts for more than objective evidence, we aren’t going to get away from this.

        • adam
        • MNb

          Thanks for confirming what I wrote just above. You want us to commit your category error without any do. One is a claim about a natural event. The other is a supernatural event.

        • epeeist

          there has not been a moon landing in my lifetime

          But there has been in mine.

          But so few words, so many errors. Yours is a false equivalence, one sided assessment and an isolated demand for rigour.

          As others have said you are trying to compare something for which there is considerable documentary and physical evidence to something else for which, at best, there is hearsay from anonymous writers.

        • Herald Newman

          > Bob, they are both events, and events for which most people do not have access to the most intimate details and so are required to trust in the say-so of those few who do.

          Except that almost anyone can learn the details of how we got to the moon. It’s a very plausible idea given the technology we had at the time.

          On the other hand, with the resurrection, we have no idea how it could possibly have happened. It’s completely implausible, if not outright impossible. It’s much more likely that the resurrection story was a hoax (although not necessarily perpetrated by the disciples) than truth, given our background understanding.

          Look at it this way. You offered one supernatural explanation, and somehow ignore all other possible supernatural explanations, and I don’t know why.

          Consider the Devil. If you accept that the Devil is a real being, then it’s entirely within possibility that the Devil was Jesus, and created this ruse to steer people away from the true nature of God. Perhaps the Jesus thing was a test from God to see who would stay faithful to him, much like the story of Job?!

        • MNb

          “It’s a very plausible idea given the technology we had at the time.”
          Which was exactly my point when I expressed to Karl my skepticism to a supposed NASA claim that they had send a mission to Jupiter. But then we get back at Pofarmer above”

          “You would think that Karl Udy would have learned something in his interactions here. You would be wrong.”

        • eric

          One of those events is consistent with vast amounts of other evidence we have about how the world works – including both what physics, chemistry, and biology says can happen, as well as historical evidence of what did happen. The other is not consistent with large swaths of either. That is an extremely important difference. It’s the difference between “Columbus sailed to America” and “Columbus flapped his arms and flew to America”.

        • MNb

          Worse. Columbus flapping arms and flying to America still belongs to our natural reality. God intervening to resurrect Jesus does not.

      • Gussie FinkNottle

        Not quite. Anyone with access to a powerful enough laser and a map can demonstrate that humans have been to the moon. Scientific claims are testable in a way that historical claims rarely are.

        • KarlUdy

          Russians put laser reflectors on the moon too. Did they send men to the moon?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Getting desperate now, I see. You might try temporary amnesia to avoid the issue next time. Or glossolalia.

        • KarlUdy

          You tell me, Bob … does someone pointing a laser at a reflector on the moon placed by the Russians demonstrate the Russians put a man on the moon?

          If not, then how can pointing a laser at a reflector on the moon placed by the Americans demonstrate that the Americans put a man on the moon?

          FWIW, I believe the Americans did, and the Russians didn’t, but it is not solely based on the reflectors existence. It’s one of those pieces of evidence that accumulates to strengthen the overall case without being conclusive by itself.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          how can pointing a laser at a reflector on the moon placed by the Americans demonstrate that the Americans put a man on the moon?

          I really have to walk you through this? A reflector on the moon is evidence of men on the moon. The Americans say: “Yes, of course we put a man on the moon! They put a reflector there. Take a look.” And then you look, and you see evidence backing up the assertion.

          I know you’re desperate to make this hard. It’s not really.

        • Michael Neville

          The difference between putting a reflector on the Moon and putting a man there are matters of degree. Essentially the same technology is required for both with the man-mission being more sophisticated than the reflector mission.

        • Greg G.

          I remember what the moon looked like before they walked all over it. The footprints can be seen from space.

          https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/news/apollo-sites.html

        • Joe

          Well, NASA could have made a boot-shaped rocket and flown it up there.

        • Greg G.

          So that’s what Project Mercury was all about? The flying shoes?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i hope the smithsonian takes good care of the best-resolved Olde Moon photos.

        • Joe

          does someone pointing a laser at a reflector on the moon placed by the Russians demonstrate the Russians put a man on the moon?

          Does somebody writing about witness testimony demonstrate there was witness testimony?

          You’re drinking out of a well you poisoned yourself.

        • Otto

          We have lots of contemporary evidence from the Moon landings including reports from our enemies.

          When you have one piece of contemporary evidence for Jesus let us know…

        • Gussie FinkNottle

          Hmmm… again, not quite. If you’re talking about their Lunokhod rovers, keep in mind that they were lost until just a few years ago, and the reflector thing was a tool we used to find them rather than their original purpose. I’ll agree that American space technology back then was superior in many ways to the Soviet, but it would be a little silly to claim that they gave up on the space race with their mortal enemy so precipitously despite being able to prove whether the American landings were a hoax.

      • Susan

        I said that the reasons for accepting or rejecting both the moon landings and resurrection are essentially the same (do we believe the witnesses, or do we think they are part of a big con).

        You are pretending that the moon landings are supported by a few witnesses. You’ve ignored all of the supporting evidence that many people here have pointed out to you.

        You should also accept the Angel Moroni’s messages the existence of vampires, that Elvis lives, and countless other silly human claims if you think testimony of witnesses is sufficient.

        Again Karl, when you raise the question, I can assume it is an innocent one and that you haven’t thought hard about this and it was a genuine question.

        It’s when you ignore all the responses that I lose confidence in your honesty.

        The moon landing is not supported by the testimony of anonymous witnesses. If that’s all it had, it would be as real as flying carpet claims. (For which there were many ancient eyewitness testimonies.)

        • KarlUdy

          You are pretending that the moon landings are supported by a few witnesses. You’ve ignored all of the supporting evidence that many people here have pointed out to you.

          Not ignored. Much of the supporting evidence is inaccessible to most people first-hand and also not conclusive. Russia put reflectors on the moon and brought moon rocks back. They basically did everything the Americans did but put men on the moon.

          You should also accept the Angel Moroni’s messages the existence of vampires, that Elvis lives, and countless other silly human claims if you think testimony of witnesses is sufficient.

          Or I believe the witnesses are lying or mistaken. You are misunderstanding my stance that the testimony of the witnesses is key to these truth claims, for the stance that all witness testimony is true.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          We have all living witnesses to the moon landings and extensive documentation about how they did it. People can also get educations and get involved with NASA to learn themselves.

          If we accept that Jesus is still alive and able to speak intelligibly, the absence of his witness is damning evidence against the Bible claims, which we wouldn’t even need if he was alive (a gigantic Catch-22).

        • smrnda

          Wait, what witnesses? The NT contains accounts by a few non-eyewitnesses backing up supposedly eyewitness accounts. We’ve also got issues of time lapse and trying to ascertain authorship.

        • Pofarmer

          You would think that Karl Udy would have learned something in his interactions here. You would be wrong.

        • busterggi

          Eyewitnesses who, according to the bible, didn’t even recognise Jesus when he supposedly returned despite being his closest followers.

        • MNb

          “Much of the supporting evidence …..”
          Thanks for giving me the opportunity to stress another point you totally neglect.
          Evidence by definition stems from our natural reality. The Resurrection is triggered by a supernatural entity according to you. You haven’t made clear how it’s even possible that evidence can point at something supernatural – you just smuggled this assumption in your arguments.

        • Joe

          You are misunderstanding my stance that the testimony of the witnesses is key to these truth claims, for the stance that all witness testimony is true.

          So the only witness testimony that is true is testimony that you accept as true?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You should also accept the Angel Moroni’s messages the existence of vampires, that Elvis lives, and countless other silly human claims if you think testimony of witnesses is sufficient.

          Don’t forget the UFO abductions and the anal probing. (Why do they always want to probe there?)

        • smrnda

          For recent and non-supernatural (at least some of them) I’m going to go with the various ‘creepy clown sightings’ of the past year.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Great example.

        • adam

          “Don’t forget the UFO abductions and the anal probing. (Why do they always want to probe there?)”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f488e0c02baa291ceffcdb8e4f96261951bf94043a0dbb44de063d7e59a97715.jpg

        • eric

          “You humans spend so much time sticking stuff up your bums, we figured there must be something good in there.”

        • busterggi

          Because they aren’t dentists.

        • al kimeea

          dentists with a fetish

        • busterggi

          Let’s hope they sterilize their instruments between uses.

        • Herald Newman

          Gives A2M a whole new meaning….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Completely irrelevant and inappropriate joke: How do you tell an oral from a rectal thermometer?

          The taste.

        • Joe

          Maybe frat-boy humour is universally objective?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, frat boy humor is universally humorous, though I confess I’m perplexed at by those people who just don’t get the (as you say) objective nature of it.

        • Kodie

          Humans are probably famous all over the universe for being assholes, so that is naturally their major topic of research.

        • TheNuszAbides

          dude, c’mon, the root chakra is down there somewheres. obviously that’s where any respectable examination must begin.

        • TheNuszAbides

          … when you raise the question, I can assume it is an innocent one and that you haven’t thought hard about this and it was a genuine question.

          It’s when you ignore all the responses that I lose confidence in your honesty.

          i’m in your camp. though i usually end up more snarky [in response to even his initial questions] when late to the party, since i already get to read the takedowns and putdowns that have piled up.

      • smrnda

        There are a few differences :

        Let’s take two events for which there could be eyewitnesses in the present. I claim that John Q Smith from my hometown broke the world record for bench press at the local gym, and I’ve got 2 friends of his to back it up. Sorry, nobody got it on their phone. Then, let’s take the outcome of the latest World Cup, Super Bowl, or some other major sporting event. What’s the difference? John Q Smith at the gym wasn’t subjected to as much scrutiny, did not set his record in as public a fashion, and did not produce a video record. On top of that, faking the outcome of an event like the Super Bowl would required a pretty large conspiracy. John Q Smith has only convinced maybe 3 – 5 people to back up his record setting claims. A good question with a con is ‘how big would this con have to be?’ I mean, back in 2016 there were numerous ‘scary clown sightings’ – incidents which happened and were verified came later, to the point where the initially reported ‘sighting’ could easily be made up and later ones just copycats.

        Then we’ve got issues with different times in history having better or worse means of verifying records. “Where and when was this person born?” For someone of my age, it’s uncommon for a person not to have a fairly precise date and time for this. However, I know people whose grandparents or great grandparents were unsure of when they were born exactly, or where, and events happen that can destroy records. Even in the present, we consider certain record keeping institutions more reliable than others. If there was a question about someone’s employment, will the US military, Google, a local restaurant, a meat packing plant or a farm have better records that would verify dates of when someone was working for them? If I were to make claims about my whereabouts during certain times, what evidence would be more convincing? Eyewitness? GPS data from my mobile device?

        The moon landing would have required a more extensive conspiracy than the resurrection, which could simply be another legend which grew up in the ancient world.

        • busterggi

          The moon landings never happened – I know cause I was on the moon at the time & didn’t see anyone.

        • TheNuszAbides

          that reminds me, i need to borrow your lunar panopticon this weekend plz? mine’s in the shoppe.

        • busterggi

          I’ll leave it outside the back door.

      • MNb

        That’s what you said – but then you started to argue that we should accept the Resurrection as historical, so my paraphrase (I admit I should have made clear it was one) is justified.

        • Halbe

          I think we should all just stop treating Karl Udy’s deceptive little ploy as a valid argument. Karl is equating the rational conviction that the supernatural claims of the NT are false with a batshit crazy conspiracy theory. My answer: that’s just bullshit, try something else. Evidence for example.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, and Karl isn’t going to like where this argument takes him, because now he can’t argue against the miracles of Shiva, or Sathye Sae Baba, or Joe Smith, or L. Ron Hubbard, or any of a host of other miracle claims. You literally have to take them all at face value.

        • Joe

          now he can’t argue against the miracles of Shiva, or Sathye Sae Baba, or Joe Smith, or L. Ron Hubbard, or any of a host of other miracle claims.

          That’s where special pleading takes over: “Those claims can’t be true because we just accepted the Bible claims are true.”

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’ll never speak for everyone*, of course, but sometimes the fun/interest is in attempting to tease out how much of the deception is self-. it seems like Karl and Luke tend to generate the most response-text because the extent to which they are articulate makes it a more tricky/foggy endeavor.

          *or all atheists, or all regulars here, etc.

      • Philmonomer

        I said that the reasons for accepting or rejecting both the moon landings and resurrection are essentially the same (do we believe the witnesses, or do we think they are part of a big con). It is entirely plausible to come to different judgments with different sets of claims and witnesses.

        Huh? The two choices aren’t only 1) true (because we believe the “eyewitnesses”) or 2) a big con. The obvious third choice is that the “eyewitnesses” (really, early followers) honestly believed, but they were believing things that weren’t true.

        That seems manifestly possible to me; indeed, almost certainly what actually happened.

        This is because the early sightings of the resurrected Jesus make complete sense, given that his resurrection was the first sign of the coming Kingdom of God, where the world would be transformed and the dead will be raised. Indeed, this would happen before all of the towns of Israel could hear the good news!!! (How’d that work out?)

    • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

      On the first point, the ancient world indeed had many philosophies and also religions that dealt with how to alleviate suffering. Epicureanism and Stoicism would be two philosophies which focused on this.

    • Marja Erwin

      Well, besides the physical evidence, there’s the fact that this occured during the cold war, the reasonable inference that the Soviets would be able to set up telemetry [e.g for their own lunar programs, such as L1/Zond and Luna 15, unless we’re talking about multiple hoaxes], and that they congratulated the Apollo astronauts instead of calling it all a hoax.

      The earliest resurrection references come from Paul, and he converted instead of calling it all a hoax.

      Of course Paul’s vision doesn’t confirm the later resurrection narratives.

  • eric

    If it were fiction, why invent these impossible-to-follow moral rules like looking at someone with lust equals adultery?

    Goodness, is he really saying that neither God nor Jesus nor ancient priests ever suggested aspirational normative goals? Very clearly there’s a lot of stuff they wrote that people couldn’t live up to, but they wrote it nevertheless in order that people would constantly strive to be better (in their definition) people.

    This is most blatantly obvious in Jesus’ words on celibacy vs. marriage. He says point blank that celibacy is better but that most people can’t hack it, and so he also states that if you can’t hack celibacy, get married rather than sleeping around.

    He appeals to the Criterion of Embarrassment…
    …“If we were dealing with theological fiction, one would expect the edges to
    be straighter, the language more doctrinally polished.”

    Bart Ehrman has dealt with both these arguments in Forged. IIRC, he points out that the forgers who added bits to the bible were sophisticated enough to realize the value of including specifics, but also including embarassing bits of a story, and looking ‘unpolished’ in making a forgery credible. They did all three things intentionally, to make their forgeries look more authentic. He backs his argument up by taking some specific parts of the bible that biblical scholars nearly universally agree were later adds, and analyzing them. Lo and behold, they have these traits.

    Even some of the authentic parts of the NT appear to be written with a fairly sophisticated understanding of the potential audience. The marriage of Cana story is a good example. Turning water into wine was a common ‘miracle’ that con men did in that time. The NT story includes several passages that seem tailor-made to tell an audience familiar with this con that Jesus’ act was different (the mention that the jugs were large, and also that the wine was very high quality). So the people who wrote that story down seemed to understand what sort of details they would need to include specifically to make the story more believeable; rather than simply relating an oral story, they intentionally shaped the story to make it sound more credible. So Bannister’s claim that nobody would add details that were embarrasing or make it sound unpolished is just wrong. These folks weren’t stupid; they could make their characters and speech unsophisticated if it suited their purposes in the same way Larry the Cable Guy does.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      This is most blatantly obvious in Jesus’ words on celibacy vs. marriage. He says point blank that celibacy is better but that most people can’t hack it, and so he also states that if you can’t hack celibacy, get married rather than sleeping around.

      You may be thinking of Paul in 1 Cor. 7.

      • Joe

        Didn’t Paul have celestial Facetime with Jesus anyway?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, with Jesus in his final, spirit-body form.

        • busterggi

          I wonder how Paul knew it was really Jesus and not some imposter.

        • Kodie

          Same way any theist knows their god is the one contacting them and guiding their life in profound ways – “gut feeling”. Nobody has ever admitted to screwing up with their gut feeling, no gamblers or divorced people or abuse victims, and for some reason, the devil just can’t manipulate your gut like god can.

        • al kimeea

          how many innocents are in prison due to some nebulous gut feeling, followed by fixing evidence

        • Kodie

          That’s the most sickening. People have an automatic opinion sometimes, and they’re so sure of it, they don’t care if a guilty person goes free, as long as someone gets punished. It might be like that Jesus thing, where, uh, it really doesn’t seem to matter – Jesus got punished so sinners could sin in total freedom, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

      • eric

        Nope, Matthew 19: 10-11. It’s a “red text” citation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK. I think Paul says it more clearly, but thanks for that verse from Jeebus himself.

  • Jim Jones

    > He says that the gospels have lots of place names with details about each, which refutes their being fiction.

    And yet the bible gets some geography wrong.

    • Michael Neville

      He says that the gospels have lots of place names with details about each, which refutes their being fiction.

      Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books have lots of place names and details about many of those places. It even has maps, something the Bible lacks. So obviously the LOTR is even more refutable as fiction than the gospels.

      • busterggi

        LOTR is quite correct – I’ve been through Mordor and it was really depressing.

        Or was that Detroit?

      • Michael Murray
        • Michael Neville

          Tolkien was quite annoyed that he converted his friend C.S. Lewis to Christianity but instead of becoming a Catholic like Tolkien Lewis became an Anglican.

        • epeeist

          Don’t know whether it is true or not, but reading Jill Paton-Walsh’s The Late Scholar she mentions that Tolkien refused to tutor female students.

    • Kevin K

      In the case of one of the Ms (I always forget which), horribly wrong geography.

  • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

    His claim that any argument will do to justify atheism (an old claim) is also one that can be made about theism. Bad arguments do not disprove a position (not that he’s shown this is the case here). Also, even if we agreed that “We all, deep down, fear that “we are more broken and messed-up than we realize.” this still wouldn’t mean Christianity is wholly true. At best it would be right about that, but this wouldn’t mean it is the solution. Some other philosophy or religion could be too.

  • Bruce Gorton

    He says that the gospels have lots of place names with details about each, which refutes their being fiction.

    No it doesn’t. Spiderman is set in New York, which is a real place, and the comics often get details of the place right, that doesn’t mean Spiderman is real, it just means the writers and artists have been to New York.

    And that isn’t even getting into when the Bible gets its geography and history wrong.

  • busterggi

    Lies, lunatics and legends imo.

    • Lerk!

      I used to describe it as “myths, legends, and embellished history.” But your way works!

      • Kevin K

        My favorite is “dietary guidelines for people without ice”.

  • Sophia Sadek

    Don’t touch the fruit of the tree of historical knowledge lest it open your eyes to the hooey that the Church professes.

  • Dys

    Too many Christians like to pretend that the bible must either be completely true or completely false, so some historically accurate place names and people is enough to justify everything.

    They conveniently ignore the genre that the bible fits into perfectly that sits between the two: historical fiction.

  • Kevin K

    I think history is reliable…but works of fiction do not count as history.

  • TheNuszAbides

    presumably, Bannister uses him to say that the period produced
    well-respected historians. So therefore all ancient documents are
    reliable? Nope, that doesn’t follow.

    all the cheer squad needs to take home is “it’s possible that an ancient document could be reliable” … and to utterly ignore that this is only relevant up to a point, and doesn’t at all contradict or oppose skeptical analysis …