Christianity’s Unbroken Record of Failure

Show one scientific truth about nature or new technology that was discovered first in the pages of the Bible.

Show one disease eliminated from the earth or one missing limb restored through prayer.

Show one person who can preach the gospel in every human language.

Show one Bible prophecy or interesting prediction by a Christian prophet that is accepted as fulfilled by non-Christians.

Show one supernatural event in the Bible that is accepted by historians.

Show one earthquake or volcano that was halted by an incantation or holy relic.

Show one tsunami or plague whose damage was undone by divine action.

Show any supernatural claim within Christianity that is accepted by non-Christians.

An unbroken record of failure

The Bible has stories of people miraculously cured of disease, but so might a book of fairy tales. The Bible has no discussion of how to avoid germs, no advice to boil water, no sanitation rules for the placement of latrines. It doesn’t even have a recipe for soap.

Jesus could have eliminated plague and smallpox and saved the lives of billions, but instead he withers a fig tree and does less curing of disease in his career than a typical doctor does today. The Bible makes clear that every believer will be able to perform the works of Jesus and more, and yet no medical miracle claims are validated by science.

Some in the early days of the Pentecostal movement claimed the Holy Spirit gave missionaries fluency in any language, though that claim is a little too testable. The “gift of tongues” today usually refers to a gibberish utterance in no human language.

God hasn’t guided his most cherished creation past problems like war, genocide, slavery, prejudice, pogroms, overpopulation, and environmental disasters. Nor has he helped undo the damage from natural disasters. Faith has never moved a mountain, though the Bible says that it will. And prayer doesn’t do anything measurable.

Christian response

Lots of worldviews can encourage you to do good things, and Christianity is one of them. For this post, I’m focused only on the supernatural claims. The Christian may respond with tangible here-and-now contributions of Christianity to society.

  • Majestic cathedrals were built just for Christianity. Show one grand building built by science. How about the Royal Society? Or Scientific American magazine. Or Bell Labs. (And keep in mind that science and engineering put those physical buildings up, not faith.)
  • The Sistine Chapel ceiling is a masterpiece inspired by Christianity. Show one great work of art inspired by science. How about the Large Hadron Collider? Or the Hubble space telescope. Or the Eiffel Tower. Astronomy has given us mind-expanding works of art—photos of a distant galaxy, earthrise from the moon, and the earth caught in Saturn’s rings—that Christianity couldn’t begin to imagine. And it’s not like Christianity has a monopoly on religious art. Consider the ancient Indian, Chinese, Mesoamerican, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art inspired by their religions (see the Egyptian stone relief above).
  • Christianity inspired Michelangelo’s art. Show a Michelangelo of science. How about Richard Feynman? Or Albert Einstein. Or Stephen Hawking.

The Christian may respond to demands for evidence that God doesn’t perform like a monkey on a leash. However, what we see is nicely explained by God not performing at all.

I compare the predictions of theism against reality in Sean Carroll Slaps Down Fine Tuning Argument.

“Religious truth” bears the same resemblance to “truth”
that “homeopathic medicine” bears to “medicine,”
“creation science” bears to “science,”
or “Fox News” bears to “news.”
— commenter Richard S. Russell

Inspiration credit: the core of this post came from Richard S. Russell.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 2/3/14.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

 

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Herald Newman

    Show one person who can preach the gospel in every human language.

    There are probably some Pentecostals who believe they can, but isn’t it rather amazing how this “miracle” doesn’t seem to happen anymore.. It’s almost like they made up that part of the story. Or maybe it’s not part of God’s holy plan anymore… There are so many ad hoc reason the Christian can use.

    The Bible makes clear that every believer will be able to perform the works of Jesus and more, and yet no medical miracle claims are validated by science.

    Not sure what you mean here Bob. Science could never “validate” a miracle, and surely you already know this. At best science would accept the phenomenon, but it could never say that an actual miracle had taken place. Science only deals with natural explanations.

    • Lark62

      The point is nothing has ever happened anywhere anytime that does not have a natural explanation.

      For example, we are figuring out the natural explanation for why lizards can regrow limbs. We have surgeries and transplants to medically reattach severed limbs.

      But there is no human who has regrown a limb by prayer.

      • Herald Newman

        The point is nothing has ever happened anywhere anytime that does not have a natural explanation.

        Prove it! Regardless of whether I agree with you, you’ve making an assertion that I don’t know how to justify.

        But there is no human who has regrown a limb by prayer.

        Okay… Agreed.

        • RichardSRussell

          There is an oft-cited problem in philosophy called the “white crow problem”. It is asserted that there are no white crows, only black ones. How does one prove it? Can’t be done definitively unless you can examine all the crows that have ever existed anywhere in the world at any point in time.

          So what’s usually done is to advance the assertion as a rebuttable presumption and ask for disconfirming evidence. A single counter-example will serve to falsify the proposition. So far, no white crows. Also, no limbs demonstrably regrown by prayer.

          So what’s reasonable to conclude?

        • Herald Newman

          So what’s reasonable to conclude?

          Agreed, our null hypothesis (that all crows are black) prevails. But the null hypothesis is an assumption, and shouldn’t generally be strongly asserted.

          EDIT: Further, we lack any methodology to actually show that the null hypothesis of philosophical naturalism is false. Whether I agree with philosophical naturalism or not, asserting if it is a fact is hard to justify.

        • RichardSRussell

          Yup. And I think that’s consistent with the definition of atheism as simply “without” (a-) “god” (-theos-) “belief” (-ism). That not only IS but SHOULD BE the null hypothesis, pending arrival of some convincing evidence for anything else.

        • Michael Neville
        • RichardSRussell

          Cool beans! Where was this taken?

        • Michael Neville

          I have no idea. I did a google image search for “white crow” and that was one of the choices.

        • RichardSRussell

          Well, following your lead, I too did a google search on the subject and came up with both photos and articles confirming that, indeed, white crows do exist. All we needed was one counter-example to disprove the hypothesis, and now we have several, so it’s definitively refuted.

          Still waiting on the counter-example that will disprove the hypothesis that prayer can’t regrow arms or legs.

        • MR

          That’s not a crow! That’s Rachel Dolezal.

        • Jim Jones

          Or the black swan problem/theory.

        • Lark62

          I also cannot prove my assertion that leprechauns have never existed at any time. If you have an issue with my assertion, if you want to make a positive assertion that leprechauns exist, show me evidence of one leprechaun.

          Likewise, my assertion is that supernatural explanations do not exist. If you have an issue with my assertion, if you want to make a positive assertion that supernatural explanations exist, show me evidence of one supernatural explanation.

      • http://webpages.charter.net/silkroad/ kermit

        There have been plenty of observed phenomena for which we have no natural explanation. This does not, however, mean that there is an unnatural explanation. Science isn’t finished yet – we cannot explain everything we see, nor do we know what there is that we have not seen yet. E.g. we propose a nebulous concept like “dark matter” as a provisional explanation for certain unexpected observations involving gravity at large scales. But not knowing what exactly is going on doesn’t mean that it’s a miracle.

        “God” makes no predictions, nor is it testable. It is cognitive noise, providing no answers at all.

        The point is nothing has ever happened anywhere anytime that does not have a natural explanation.

        I would say instead that of all the explanations we have come up with, that is, all models which make predictions and are testable, are natural.

        Saying, for example, “My mother had terminal cancer, but then it went away. It must have been a miracle of God!” does not provide an explanation. One might just as easily say that the remission was caused by a witch’s spell, or a glitch in the Matrix, or an unknown mutation, or something in the water. None are repeatable, nor testable, nor useful, nor informative.

        Edit: Duh. Models have to be testable (that is, they make predictions) and the observation are verifiable. Sorry for the senior moment.

        • Lark62

          Yep. We agree, but you said it better. Natural explanations include those explanations we haven’t discovered yet. Reality isn’t dependent on human awareness.

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

      If someone could walk on water, for instance, under testable and controlled conditions, there is no reason scientific verification couldn’t be made. You seem to be confusing science with methodological naturalism.

      • Herald Newman

        Science is methodological naturalism. What are you talking about?

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

          It is only a prevailing view of scientists. Methodological naturalism is not identical with science itself. I gave an example of where a miracle can, in theory, be scientifically verified. The assumption is that only “natural” events can be verified. If this happened, that would be proven false.

        • Herald Newman

          We could verify the phenomena occurs, and rule out things like obvious trickery, but science could never verify an actual “miracle” (a word I hate to use because it tends to be poorly defined. For this discussion I will define miracle to mean an event with supernatural origins), or ever say that there cannot be a natural explanation.

          If we never find the cause of said “miracle”, how do know that the event is actually a miracle?

          Perhaps we’re using different definitions of “miracle”?

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

          Well, that’s the difficulty I have too with not only “miracle” and “supernatural” but even “natural”-what do they mean? If there were an event with no known natural cause, it’s fair to say “I don’t know” and leave it at that. However, let’s say that such events only occurred if certain prayers were said, or this was only done by people of specific religions. That seems like better evidence of their beliefs.

          As to what a miracle is, most people define it something like you do, but that brings us back to what is “supernatural” and “natural” at all? Many times I’ve seen “supernatural” defined as just “something that has no natural explanation”, and now we’ve made a circle.

      • Joe

        Why would that necessarily be a miracle?

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

          It wouldn’t be necessarily, but the possibility at least would be confirmed.

        • Joe

          How? If somebody is walking on water, there’s a reason why it’s happening. If there’s a reason, it’s not a miracle.

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

          So… miracle means “an event with no reason for it”?

        • Joe

          I don’t know what the word means. You’re the one talking about miracles.

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

          I didn’t actually use the word in the comment you replied to. Anyway, let me put it this way-such an observation would tell us events like those many religions allege do happen, at least in some cases.

        • Joe

          And that there’s nothing really remarkable about them.

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

          If they’re rare and unexplained, that is still remarkable.

        • Pofarmer

          Rare and unexplained things happen literally all the time.

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

          Is that right? Well, they can be remarkable too.

        • Joe

          Yes, but not miraculous.

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

          What is a miracle? You didn’t know what the word meant earlier. By many definitions this would qualify.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Show any supernatural claim within Christianity that is accepted by non-Christians.

    Don’t most Muslims believe that Jesus was magically transported to heaven?

    • Michael Neville

      Jesus is a Muslim prophet. According to the Quran both he and Elijah were taken to Heaven, along with Mohammed.

      • Herald Newman

        But isn’t Muhammad buried in a tomb in Medina?

        • Michael Neville

          You’re right. I misremembered.

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

          He was taken to heaven but came back and died naturally, so goes the story in the Quran.

        • Herald Newman

          Ah, the flying horse story.

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

          Indeed.

      • Lerk!

        I don’t know about the Quran, but the Bible had two transportations to Heaven (3 if you count Jesus). Elijah, and before that, Enoch. I think the Jews actually list 8 people, but they aren’t all in the Christian Bible.
        Enoch actually has his own book, but even though it’s directly quoted in the book of Jude, silly canon compilers didn’t include it in the Christian Bible. Dunno why not… just because it explains all about the Watchers and clarifies who those confusing “sons of God” who had children with the “daughters of men” in Genesis were?

    • Lark62

      Hmmm. Perhaps God could magically transport a few people today, just as a show of good faith.

      • TheApe

        You mean like the rapture? God seems to be having trouble pinpointing a good date for that. Just ask Harold Camping.

        • Lark62

          True. But also like the Vaughn Meador comedy album The First Family with JFK impersonations (from way back in the olden days).

          A reporter asks: “Mr President, when will we send a man to the moon.”
          “JFK” – “As soon as Senator Goldwater wants to go.”

        • MR

          Poor guy died over his beliefs…, but who would die for a lie? He must have been raptured and faked his death! Checkmate atheists!

      • Jim Jones

        Or someone could fly off on a winged horse.

    • Ambaa

      But Islam is a related religion. They believe many of the same claims as Christianity because they are from the same source, worship the same God, and are sister religions. I wouldn’t use them as an example.

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

      Mohammed visited heaven on a winged horse. I don’t know about Jesus.

      What I meant was supernatural claims pretty much universally accepted.

      • Doubting Thomas

        I was just being nit picky due to the wording.

        But just for our edification, I looked it up and, according to wiki “Most Muslims believe Jesus was not crucified, but was raised bodily to heaven by God…”

  • guerillasurgeon

    With the prevalence of halfway decent cell phone cameras, you’d think that more miracles would be recorded not fewer. Or for that matter, un-blurry photographs of flying saucers or Bigfoot. It’s still not happening.

    • Herald Newman

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

        They didn’t even need Photoshop. People were fooled with photos of cardboard “saucers” thrown up into the air, or before that just paper fairies. In neither case there alteration of the actual photo.

  • igotbanned999

    Show any supernatural claim within Christianity that is accepted by non-Christians.

    OT stuff shared by Jews and Muslims…

  • carbonUnit

    Lovely set of Show Me‘s. (Are you sure you aren’t from Missouri??)

    Show one Bible prophecy or interesting prediction by a Christian prophet that is accepted as fulfilled by non-Christians.

    My Significant Other would argue that prophecies in Daniel and Revelation have been fulfilled, for example that the capture of the Pope in 1798. (Just discovered Historicist interpretations of the Book of Revelation in Wikipedia, interesting summation.)

    My feeling is that this is just fitting patterns in the noise of history against vague biblical prophecies. It’s like holding a prism up to white light and finding a predicted color. (Noise contains all frequencies.)

    • MR

      Same silliness as is behind Nostradamus predicting the JFK assassination and any and every conspiracy out there. The art of weaving together a narrative by connecting anything and everything by loose and vague connections.

  • alverant

    Inspiring something pretty doesn’t make it true.

  • alverant

    “Show one person who can preach the gospel in every human language.”
    Does Klingon count?

    • Michael Neville

      Only if Quenya counts.

    • carbonUnit

      He said human, not humanoid…

    • Greg G.

      Acts 2:6 says that the preaching doesn’t need to be done in all languages for it to be understood in the listener’s language.

      Acts 2:4-6 (NRSV)
      4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

      5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.

      Maybe a devout Jewish Klingon could hear the preaching in Klingon, unless heaven is only over this planet.

      PS: Or if the Klingon Empire establishes a nation on this planet.

  • carbonUnit

    Astronomy has given us mind-expanding works of art—photos of a distant galaxy, earthrise from the moon, and the earth caught in Saturn’s rings—that Christianity couldn’t begin to imagine.

    Christianity totally fails to describe the cosmos.

    • http://webpages.charter.net/silkroad/ kermit

      Pre-science descriptions of bacterial contamination or a heliocentric solar system (or the nature of planets!) would have been a strong clue that the biblical writers at least had a link to some sort of information source. Instead, the myths show no information not available to early iron age goatherds and their handful of literate neighbors.

      • Michael Neville

        The Biblical writers didn’t have all the information available to their literate neighbors. The Book of Kings was written during the Babylonian Captivity c. 560 BCE. Contemporary Babylonians and Egyptians had approximated π to 22/7, yet the Hebrew priests didn’t understand the concept of π when they wrote Kings

  • Jim Jones

    > Jesus could have eliminated plague and smallpox and saved the lives of billions, but instead he withers a fig tree and does less curing of disease in his career than a typical doctor does today.

    … and does less curing of disease in his career than some doctors do in a day.

    Sight for sore eyes: ‘Maverick’ doctor who restored the vision of 100,000 people

    Bill Whitaker: Is it ever daunting? I mean, you look out there and you see that line of people, all who need this surgery.

    Geoffrey Tabin: It’s daunting on a worldwide basis. It may be a long line but this individual person I’m gonna give the very best care I can.

    Dr. Ruit set a rapid pace. He repaired an eye; the patient got up; the next patient was ready on an adjoining table. Just minutes an eye, then onto the next. Dr. Tabin performed the delicate surgery just feet away.

    Geoffrey Tabin: Want to take a look. See how nice and clear that is. I don’t know what that was – maybe 4-5 minutes. And it’s going from total blindness to great vision.

    They kept up this pace until 7:00 in the evening.

    Bill Whitaker: It’s almost like an assembly line. But assembly line sounds too mechanical. I mean, this is people’s eyes.

    Geoffrey Tabin: It’s people’s lives.

    • Lerk!

      I saw that report on 60 Minutes yesterday. Now THAT’S inspiring! I think they said it costs them $11 or $12 per eye, and they can do several in an hour. Thanks for reminding me… I want to see if there’s a way to financially support them.

      EDIT: It’s cureblindness.org

      • Jim Jones

        $20 there, $2,000 in the US IIRC.

        • Lerk!

          They did explain the reason. They’re making their own lenses, and they’re not subject to the same regulations as they are in the U.S. They’re also using a procedure that allows them to do the job really quickly.
          In the story, they didn’t comment on the success rate. I have no reason to think it’s not nearly 100%, but it may not be high enough to be acceptable in the U.S.
          I was also curious as to whether the lenses were all the same. They don’t seem to be measuring anyone’s eyes, just taking out the old lens and inserting a new one. Doing that, the patient’s resulting vision may not be 20/20. But it’s way better than being blind!

        • Jim Jones

          I assume they have a few steps not shown in the video. But I don’t know.

  • ClintonKing

    This is not the first time these challenges have been made, nor these questions asked. It’s almost as if Christianity were designed to provoke such questions.

    • Philmonomer

      Can you explain further?

      • ClintonKing

        Well, Mr Seidensticker doesn’t exactly say this, but his essay put me in mind of a question I’ve heard from others that goes something like, “if God is good, and God is all-powerful, why does anyone suffer unjustly?” CS Lewis wrote a whole book about it called “The Problem of Pain”.

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

          Yes, it’s as old as the religion.

        • Joe

          CS Lewis wrote a whole book about it called “The Problem of Pain”

          He also wrote books about a magical wardrobe and a talking lion that were more convincing than his arguments.

        • ClintonKing

          And who have those books convinced?

        • Joe

          Not me, for one.

        • ClintonKing

          I would be surprised if the Chronicles of Narnia have convinced anyone of anything.

        • Joe

          I would be surprised if “Mere Christianity” converted anyone, but it did. Don’t write off The Chronicles of Narnia just yet.

        • Ambaa

          I loved the Narnia books and as a kid my Jewish friend and me (a Hindu) had no clue that they were Christian in nature. Didn’t lead us towards any understanding or acceptance of Christianity either.

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

          The Riddle of Epicurus is another variant of that.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil#Epicurus

        • Greg G.

          How does he solve the question?

          If suffering can achieve anything, the achievement is logically possible. If God is all-powerful, then he can do anything that is logically possible which means the suffering part is unnecessary and, thus, superfluous. If an omnipotence allows unnecessary suffering, then it is sadistic and the label “good” cannot apply.

        • ClintonKing

          It’s been too long since I read the Problem of Pain, but for my own part, I don’t believe that God is omnipotent.

        • Greg G.

          I was looking at this outline of the book. I went through all the reasons he gives for pain. If the pain serves a purpose, the purpose is then logically possible to achieve and could be done by an omnipotence and would be done by an omnibenevolence.

          I gave up on it when I read “when we say ‘this animal feels pain’, we are misspeaking.”

    • Herald Newman

      And all theistic religions come up with ad hoc excuses for the problem of {evil, suffering, pain, whatever.} Apologists have had a long time to come up with “answers”, but I’ve yet to see that any of them have good justification.

      • ClintonKing

        Yes, I suppose that all theistic religions do try to answer these questions. Could you expand on what you mean by ‘ad hoc’ in these cases?

        • Herald Newman

          That the explanation is specific to the specific problem and doesn’t generalize. I tend to use “just-so”, and “ad hoc”, interchangeably.

    • Joe

      It’s almost as if Christianity were designed to provoke such questions

      It doesn’t seem ‘designed’ for anything.

      • ClintonKing

        Curse my advanced hominid brain that sees patterns where none exist.

        • Joe

          The hominid brain evolved to do that very well. Don’t curse yourself.

        • Greg G.

          Of all the organs in all the species of animals that have ever lived on earth, the human brain is the only organ that has ever given itself a name.

    • Otto

      When you have a human invention claimed to be of divine origin it is inevitable.

  • skl

    With such an unbroken record of failure, what’s remarkable is that Christianity still exists.

    • Herald Newman

      Never underestimate the power of confirmation bias, ad hoc excuse making, along with childhood indoctrination. We generally want our beliefs to be true, and don’t like knowing that we believed something that is false.

      • ClintonKing

        It’s also remarkable that anyone ever changes their beliefs in adulthood.

        • carbonUnit

          I was Christian by default. When my Significant Other went SDA, I intended to follow to the new church, but decided to take a look at what I was purporting to believe first. Didn’t get through Genesis before the overwhelming stench of BS made me stop. I’ve been essentially atheist ever since.

          I would, at some point, like to read the Bible from cover to cover, asking innocent questions along the way. Might make SO recognize all the holes in the darn thing. As it is, I have a feeling SO (and the sources SO reads) does a lot of extrapolating. It would be nice to confirm that…

      • skl

        “Never underestimate the power of confirmation bias…”

        But how would the first Christians have confirmation bias?
        I thought they were all expecting a shining world conqueror, not an obscure
        victim conquered by the world.

        • Herald Newman

          I thought they were all expecting a shining world conqueror, not an obscure victim conquered by the world.

          They probably were expecting this, but that doesn’t always matter. There are people who, once convinced of something, will never give up the belief, no matter what evidence is presented to them. The human brain doesn’t like to admit to being wrong, and people will sometimes go to great lengths of convince themselves that their belief is actually true. Have you ever talked to a conspiracy theorist?

        • Pofarmer

          Many of the first Christians may have expected that figure to come to Earth in the near future. They didn’t think he’d actually been here. Early Christianity had all kinds of beliefs.

        • Joe

          I thought they were all expecting a shining world conqueror

          Some still are.

        • Greg G.

          They thought the savior would come as a human, then again later, you know, like the Rapture.

        • al kimeea

          and I’m pretty sure Jesus mentions at least once that he’ll be back within his audience’s lifetime

          or am I taking it outta context?

        • Greg G.

          But some of the people in the audience are still alive. For some, that is easier to believe than the Bible is wrong, especially when quoting Jesus.

          I think the quote is that some standing there would not taste death before he returned. Maybe he was being macabre and meant that some of them would have their tongues pulled out while they were still alive.

        • http://www.amazon.com/dp/1518617530/ PartialMitch

          How would the first Mormons have a confirmation bias? The first Muslims? The first Zoroastrians? The first followers of Jim Jones? The first Scientologists? The first believers in Gray aliens?

          The existence of gullible people who buy into woo is in no way surprising or unique. It’s certainly not evidence that there’s any truth to any myths. People fall for nonsense constantly.

        • MR

          Leon Festinger’s experience with the UFO cult would be a perfect example. He studied a small religious group in 1952 who believed they would be rescued by a UFO from a great flood. When the event didn’t happen, many of them doubled down on their belief and proselytized even more.

        • Jack Baynes

          That’s easy! Satan did it. /s

        • MR

          As a follow on, I was just reading about the Fox sisters who were instrumental in the creation of Spiritualism in the late 1800s. Later in life they confessed that their ability to communicate to the dead was a hoax. The “rappings,” mysterious knocking sounds supposedly made by the dead, were actually made by the sisters by snapping their toes (if I’m interpreting their description correctly).

          From Wikipedia:

          The Fox sisters have been widely cited in parapsychology and spiritualist literature. “…many accounts of the Fox sisters leave out their confession of fraud and present the rappings as genuine manifestations of the spirit world.” [A critic] notes that “remarkably, the Fox sisters are still discussed in the parapsychological literature without mention of their trickery.”

          Christ could have denied himself three times and they still would have believed.

        • Susan

          I thought they were all expecting a shining world conqueror, not an obscure
          victim conquered by the world.

          Harold Camping’s followers were expecting the world to end when he said it would. When it didn’t, some left and many others dug in even deeper.

          Have you never heard of the Sunk Cost Fallacy?

        • skl

          “Harold Camping’s followers were expecting the world to end
          when he said it would. When it didn’t, some left and many others dug in even deeper. Have you never heard of the Sunk Cost Fallacy?”

          Yes, I think I’ve heard of Sunk Cost Fallacy. It’s different, though, from the confirmation bias Herald and I were talking about.

          Perhaps the difference between Harold Camping’s followers
          and the Christians is that the latter claimed they actually saw the thing which their leader had predicted but they hadn’t understood or believed.

    • Joe

      That statement can, and should, be read literally.

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

      Is it also remarkable that Scientology and Islam and Mormonism are going strong? Or can we attribute that to human imperfection and a dangerous world?

      • skl

        “Is it also remarkable that Scientology and Islam and Mormonism are going strong?”

        I don’t know if they’re as remarkable. But that could be an idea for future
        articles – Scientology’s Unbroken Record of Failure; and the same for Islam and Mormonism.
        If their unbroken record of failure is just as long and bad, then their
        still going strong would be just as remarkable.

        Or on second thought, perhaps not remarkable. Because maybe their followers just evolved to believe such things.

        • al kimeea

          taught from birth is far more likely

      • al kimeea

        dinna forget the JWs laddie, no matter how many times the world doesn’t end, including from the get go, they endeavour to persevere…

        Had a visit from one the other day. He talked about the dog mostly as he was there to sell the upcoming meeting not preach

  • Michael Lonergan

    There was that time when Pat Robertson prayed away a hurricane… 😉

  • Ambaa

    Well said!

  • epeeist

    The Sistine Chapel ceiling is a masterpiece inspired by Christianity.

    Painted by a gay artist who did it for the money.

    Have their been artists who have been committed Christians? Yes, J.S. Bach comes to mind, but many others who have produced religious art have only done so on commission.

    • Michael Neville

      There’s a > missing from your blockquote.

      • epeeist

        Already fixed!

        I post a fair amount on the Guardian. Their comment box comes with buttons to italicise, embolden, quote and link selected text. Why Disqus can’t do this I don’t know.

        • Michael Neville

          If you’re using Firefox there’s an app BBCodeXtra that will let you do the same thing. Despite the name, it also supports HTML. I used it in this post to give the link.

          EDIT There’s also a similar app for Chrome.

    • MR

      Oh, sure, you do it for money one time and they label you gay!

  • Chuck Johnson

    Evidently, in ancient times there was a shortage of paper and people who could read and write. So they wrote down only the most important things to them. This would include law, politics, morality, historical tales, etc.

    Then, when the Jesus stories became popular, these were written with the same portentous style as the Old Testament to make them more dramatic.

    This is too much like the more modern Joseph Smith scam.

  • Kevin K

    I’m actually reading an historical account of the painting of the Sistine Chapel, which is fascinating. Michelangelo was as concerned about getting paid for his work as he was about actually doing the work. When the pope commissions you to create a religiously themed work of art, that’s what you do.

    • lady_black

      Michelangelo also put clues in his work that probably escaped the notice of the religionists. For instance, the divine beings pictured in the depiction of the creation of Adam are contained within a structure that looks suspiciously like a human brain and the beginning of the spinal column.