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

 

POPULAR AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • 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.

        • TheNuszAbides

          ah, your view of “natural” is rather like Sam Harris’s view of “atheist” – a term that shouldn’t even be needed, let alone quibbled over.

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

          I’m not saying it isn’t needed or shouldn’t be quibbled over. Just that it is hard to pin down.

        • TheNuszAbides

          fair enough. it is interesting that two individuals who identify as atheist can pedantically disagree on the technical definition (I continue to prefer the more inclusive usage because to the extent that “I’m-‘just’-an-agnostic”s are repelled by “strong” atheist ‘purists’ [and vice versa], they (a) practically give cover to at least the most apathetic theists, and (b) perpetuate this pedantic segregation from those with whom they could be pooling resources in support against religious encroachment in politics etc.).

          it’s some kind of funhouse-mirror reflection of how two (thousand!) Xians can disagree with each other on what makes a Xian a Xian. I’ve had a Catholic react to my use of “Christian” as a generic term, insisting that it wasn’t an appropriate label for Catholics, and a variety of evangelicals say technically the same thing, but of course she and they were expressing very different sentiments – to the latter group, being labeled “Christian” was of crucial significance, while to that Catholic woman it was seen as an annoying mark of cluelessness.

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

          I’ve moved to the more standard atheist definition (at least it’s standard for philosophy, the dictionary and non-atheists usage), that is, belief that there is no God. Agnostics just can get repelled. I don’t think we need to get everyone onboard. Lots of groups are “Atheists, agnostics, etc.” anyway so they can still be inclusive.

          From what I’ve seen, no one can actually agree on what’s a “true Christian”. Catholics have their view of course. Evangelicals often deny Catholics are Christians at all. I go for Bertrand Russell’s view, that it’s a person who believes Jesus was either God or “the best and wisest of men”. Beyond that it doesn’t matter to me.

      • 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!

        • TheNuszAbides

          it needs to be a surprise to pack that extra ‘oomph’.

      • 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

    • james warren

      It actually does. Not in scientific language but in metaphorical and mythical language.

      • Greg G.

        Only if you understand the science and write the metaphor into it. Otherwise, we could look for metaphors for quantum computers and unlimited power generation.

        • james warren

          “Super brains”?

      • epeeist

        Not in scientific language but in metaphorical and mythical language.

        In which case so does each and every other cosmogony that we have invented. Christianity is just one amongst many others.

        • james warren

          I absolutely agree.
          And I am also aware that many scientists and researchers use metaphor and myth to clarify and illuminate their own theories. Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Loren Eisley, Gregory Bateson, etc, all come to mind.
          The world’s faiths have a foundational notion that the divine is unknowable, infinite and is beyond human description and understanding.

        • Greg G.

          I could have earned a doctorate in physics by claiming my answers weren’t wrong, they are metaphors. You just have to search for the correct answer in it.

        • james warren

          Here’s an essay from the Economist that’s titled “The Impossibility of Being Literal”:

          https://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/11/metaphors

        • adam

          “The world’s faiths have a foundational notion that the divine is
          unknowable, infinite and is beyond human description and understanding.”

          Of course, but then why call it divine?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5f13c9a6994d545cc03dc045bf1d796f3f47635db60b7beabd2bae91a593fab4.jpg

        • james warren

          Simply because it is foundational in religion to refer to the divine as “unknowable” and “indescribable.”

        • Greg G.

          It is foundational in religion that the divine be indistinguishable from the imaginary. A reasonable explanation for that is that the divine is imaginary.

        • james warren

          Paul once described God as something in which “we live and breathe and have our being.”
          This is not the God of supernatural theism of today’s Christianity.

          It is a description of a God that is both immanent and transcendent–not a God who dwells outside the universe and dips in occasionally to perform some ostentatious miracle.

          It infuses the cosmos.

          I agree that it does spring from the imagination of one who seems to have had some experience that communicated to him in some major way.

          A scientific theory is also something imagined before experimentation begins. In ancient cultures, I would guess that experimentation of the divine happens every moment one is alive.

        • adam

          “Paul once described God as something in which “we live and breathe and have our being.”
          This is not the God of supernatural theism of today’s Christianity.”

          How it not?

          “It is a description of a God that is both immanent and transcendent”

          I can give you a description of Sherlock Holmes.
          Both IMAGINARY beings.

          “It infuses the cosmos.”
          An evidenceless claim.

          “A scientific theory is also something imagined before experimentation begins.”
          Nope, the data is not imagined, a scientific theory is DERIVED from the data, not IMAGINED, you are thinking religion, not science.

          ” I would guess that experimentation of the divine happens every moment one is alive.”
          Guessing is why we have religion at all.

          Because the facts couldnt support the claims.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/75f6018d11b7534565e1a271187120582baef1ebe1da0dc5c353b6e7ba36dab5.jpg

        • james warren

          You seem to be more rational & logical than intuitive and emotional…

          Since the Enlightenment we have been taught that unless something is factually correct then it is not true.

          And that’s okay.

          That means to me that any posts I make describing my thinking and beliefs will be rejected a priory.

          Facts and faith are two different things.
          “Jesus was a man” is, to me, a statement of FACT.
          “Jesus was the Savior of the World” is a statement of FAITH.

          The word “faith” as Jesus used it actually means trust.
          For me it has to do with “letting the mystery be.”
          There is NOTHING I say, think or do that I can claim is absolutely correct.
          Nor can I ever prove what I say is absolutely correct.

          I don’t always get there, but I strive to be less arrogant and more humble.

        • Greg G.

          Paul once described God as something in which “we live and breathe and have our being.”
          This is not the God of supernatural theism of today’s Christianity.

          I doubt Paul said it. The quote is from Acts 17:28 and Acts is mostly fiction. The quote actually comes from Cretica by Epimenides (6th century BC), Cretan philosopher: “in him we live and move and have our being” so you are correct that it is not even ancient Christianity.

          I think that the idea that space is equal and opposite to the energy that makes up the matter of the universe is plenty ostentatious, and it can be derived mathematically, too, which puts it way ahead of ancient guesses

          A scientific theory is also something imagined before experimentation begins.

          That would be a scientific hypothesis. A scientific Theory is potentially falsifiable but it has passed extensive testing.

        • james warren

          “Scientists once concluded that _______________. Now we know better.”

        • Greg G.

          Science is provisional, always open to change as new information is received. Scientists once thought the Earth was a sphere. Now we know that Earth is an oblate spheroid, but a sphere is closer to an oblate spheroid than to a flat Earth, which was the belief of ancient religions.

        • james warren

          Everything is provisional. “All that is solid melts into air,” observed Marx.

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

          Not sure where you’re going with this. You have another source of knowledge about the world besides science or some application of the scientific method?

        • james warren

          Yes. Poetry, art, love, metaphor, paradox, music–all just as important as logic, rationality or the cerebral.

        • Greg G.

          BTW, Epimenides was disagreeing with the Cretans who thought Zeus was mortal.

          Epimenides is also quoted in:

          Titus 1:12 (NRSV)12 It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said,

          “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.”

          That is one of my favorite Bible verses. Epimenides was probably not intending to be ironic.

        • james warren

          An audience listening to Paul and Barnabas preach concluded that after Paui ordered a crippled man to stand up, they were both gods:

          They called Barnabas Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

          –Acts 14:11-1

        • Greg G.

          Seven verses later, Paul got stoned by some Jews. One day you’re the biggest fish in the pond and the next day, you’re an alligator turd.

        • james warren

          I can totally relate.

          “Some days you eat the bear and other days the bear eats you.”

        • Greg G.

          Acts 14:15 (NRSV)15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.

          Compare to:

          Now if there be such a person among you, mind, I do not say that there is, to him I may fairly reply: My friend, I am a man, and like other men, a creature of flesh and blood, and not ‘of wood or stone,’ as Homer says.
            Plato, Apology of Socrates, from The Dialogues of Plato, Volume 2 [Benjamin Jowett translation]

          It’s like Luke was using a scroll of quotations to write narrative around in this part of Acts.

        • adam

          Of course to protect it from exposure of the truth.

        • james warren

          For me, truth is what illuminates the conflict between opposed ideologies.

          Neils Bohr, the famous atomic physicist, once observed:

          “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”

        • adam

          “For me, truth is what illuminates the conflict between opposed ideologies.”

          For me truth is:

          truth Merrriam Webster

          n.
          Conformity to fact or actuality.

          “But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
          Yet, religion offers no profound truth.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e6eceefda06b08605b3653301b5e246ee7fbd6ce2a594a4e6a0d18e41ce10f5.jpg

        • james warren

          There is a God and he exists.
          Christ was resurrected three days after he died.
          Jesus performed miracles.

          All these are profound truths of Christianity.

          I don’t think they “really happened” but I see them as profoundly true.

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think Kate Upton is really my girlfriend but, in my fantasies, I see it as profoundly true.

        • james warren

          You probably mean to say you are attracted to her [media image].

          Only by trying to discover what a biblical passage meant to its original writer and the listeners/readers who heard/read it can I begin to apply its lesson to the modern world I live in.

          Since the Bible is by and large a repository of universal themes, this is not difficult to do.

        • Kodie

          What does being a repository of universal themes have to do with anything? We’re all a repository of universal themes. An old book about people who don’t know shit and amplify their superstitious beliefs is not really a good guide for living. I don’t need this old book to tell me how to be a person. I was born a person and I have a particular animal behavior. Maybe you just don’t think enough about sociology to understand what I’m talking about, having bogged yourself down with biblical themes instead.

        • Kodie

          That makes no fucking sense.

        • epeeist

          And I am also aware that many scientists and researchers use metaphor and myth to clarify and illuminate their own theories.

          Metaphor yes, in that it can help to explain things for people without the necessary background to understand, say, tensor calculus in general relativity.

          Not too sure about myth though, I have never come across scientist who uses myth to explain scientific theories.

        • james warren

          A mystic or mythologist has to start from the topic of actual language [as anthropologists often do].

          Language is not the ultimate reality; it is a way of approaching that reality.

          Many rational, logical Westerners should learn this….

          Most of us are still caught in language and the belief that if something cannot be described then it does not exist.

          Language is a vehicle to the sacred, but it is not a hard and sure path. It is like a river which operates its own force and carries us where it will, It’s not the golden throne at the top of the hill where we discover the sacred. It is in an uncertain and chaotic river journey where the varieties of the sacred are fluid and sometimes dangerous. But for those who take the plunge, they become profoundly meaningful.

          Right now I am fearing that my post is failing, simply because I do not have the language to post it.

          We are all like a colony of ants crawling across an oil painting. We can sense a succession of colors and textures, but we are unaware of the entire painting. It’s the poets and mystics who articulate the whole gestalt and scientific confirmations are in the wings ready to find bits within the mythic whole that can stand logical and rational scrutiny.

          But the immense framework that supports the nuggets of rationality is still there like the ancient scientific truth of “ether” that permeates everything in space.

        • adam

          “Right now I am fearing that my post is failing, simply because I do not have the language to post it.”

          That is because you are not explaining reality but emotional responses.

          ” It’s the poets and mystics who articulate the whole gestalt and
          scientific confirmations are in the wings ready to find bits within the
          mythic whole that can stand logical and rational scrutiny.”

          Poetry and mystics describe EMOTIONS and EMOTIONAL reactions, not Truths.

        • james warren

          Anyone who tries to divorce him/herself from the emotional side of life is committing a serious epistemological error in my opinion.

          We all have good intentions. We seldom are able to recognize and accept the EFFECTS of our good intentions. This applies to science as well as faith concerns of religion.

          The tongue can’t taste itself and the eye can’t see itself [unless one uses a mirror]. It stands to reason that it is difficult to look within oneself and see with a critical, objective eye.

          Perhaps that is why Socrates preached “Know thyself.” That applies to scientists and pastors.

        • Greg G.

          The tongue can’t taste itself and the eye can’t see itself [unless one uses a mirror]. It stands to reason that it is difficult to look within oneself and see with a critical, objective eye.

          The brain is the only organ that can think about itself, though. One can’t comprehensively contemplate emotions one has never felt nor can one comprehensively contemplate an emotion in the thralls of it. Even subjective experiences are best analyzed objectively.

        • james warren

          Approaching the world with rationality and logic results in an arid landscape.

          Everything is metaphor–even the word “literally.”

          Most of the time we are unconscious that nearly every word that comes out of our mouths has made some kind of jump from older, concrete meanings to the ones we use today.

          Simple language change is a fact. Yesterday’s metaphors become so common that today we don’t even process them as metaphors at all.

          Studies in “cognitive bias” have shown that being irrational is a good thing. We don’t always make decisions by carefully weighing up the facts. But we often make better decisions as a result.

          I believe the mind can’t know itself. Neurological frontiers are still being crossed.

          “Logic cannot comprehend love; so much the worse for logic.”
          –Theologian N.T. Wright

        • Greg G.

          Approaching the world with rationality and logic results in an arid landscape.

          Baloney. I can appreciate the beauty of a sunset, a bouquet of flowers, an ancient statue, or a beautiful painting. But the sunset is even more magnificent when the refractions and shadows are understood, the complexity is greater considering that as beautiful as it is, it may be a terrible storm on the morning side. The bouquet is enhance by contemplating the insects the flowers attracts and how the mix of colors and textures affect my perception. I see an ancient statue and think about the environment it was sculpted in, the people who were involved, how it was received, and the geology that made the stone. I am fascinated by paintings not only by the overall effect, but by how the techniques creates the overall effect, the history of how the painter composed the painting, which to include and what was omitted, the paint, and so on.

          Approaching the world without logic and rationality is so shallow as to be nearly meaningless.

          Simple language change is a fact. Yesterday’s metaphors become so common that today we don’t even process them as metaphors at all.

          The metaphors are baby steps.

          Studies in “cognitive bias” have shown that being irrational is a good thing. We don’t always make decisions by carefully weighing up the facts. But we often make better decisions as a result.

          I think our sub-conscious brains work as analog computers while our conscious thought is capable of critical thought. There is room for both. Paying attention to the the subconscious is fine when the information is hard to quantify and qualify. When I go to a restaurant, I pay attention to what makes my mouth water as I read the menu.

          I believe the mind can’t know itself. Neurological frontiers are still being crossed.

          Much of the basic brain chemistry has been sussed out for years. It is a matter of how trillions of the neurons and signal channels work together that is more difficult since observing it in the necessary detail would kill it.

          “Logic cannot comprehend love; so much the worse for logic.”
          –Theologian N.T. Wright

          Love without logic is wonderful. Love with logic is even better.

        • james warren

          In love one might say “You are the most beautiful person I have ever known.”
          Logically, one has to say “No. I’m afraid you’re not.”
          Love is a red, red rose.

        • Greg G.

          There is a difference between a perfect relationship and a great relationship. A perfect relationship can withstand complete honesty. I think perfect relationships are mythical.

          Logically, one can privately maintain an opinion that does not have to be expressed, in order to maintain a great relationship.

        • james warren

          “You are the perfect wife for me. Of course, rationally you are far from perfect. I can appreciate your good looks but you fall short of being the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Logically the halves of your face are slightly mismatched and your eyebrows have more hair on them that is average. But this fact just means I will love you always–I hope. Your less-than-attractive attributes show the amazing power of our DNA and our genetic allotment and variety.”

        • Kodie

          My deep moment of today was the idea that people angle for popularity more than they enjoy spending time together, and it’s sort of the same thing. I didn’t analyze it, it was one of those Wonder Years moments when I “realized” something. I mean, speaking of the bible or whatever, it’s sort of just a form of art, it is people expressing their perspective. On The Wonder Years, Kevin as an adult* would express realizations in every episode, and supposedly his life would never be the same. I can’t verify that no themes repeated themselves to double his impression of his own perceptions, but goddammit, fucker, people have impressions of life and social interactions. The bible isn’t even unique, first, or interesting in this aspect. The whole known body of literature since the bible has done nothing but refine and modernize human impressions of social interaction. Emotions, to get to your actual point, are not always accurate. People feel feelings, but sometimes let their feelings rule them. That’s what I know about emotions.

          *Fred Savage can’t be as old as he is, but he is cool.

        • Greg G.

          Language is also a vehicle to the purely imaginary. How do you make the distinction between sacred and imaginary?

          One man’s sacred cow is another man’s bacon cheeseburger which would be forbidden by Jainism for the meats, Hinduism for the beef, Islam for the bacon, and by Judaism for the bacon and for being a cheeseburger from “seething a kid in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14:21b).

        • james warren

          From what is factually correct and what is metaphorically or mythically true.

        • Kodie

          You are pseudo-deep. You think everyone doesn’t know everything you don’t know, and that applying some bullshit to the problem, we’ll be impressed. Sorry, you’re just a moron.

        • adam

          “The world’s faiths have a foundational notion that the divine is
          unknowable, infinite and is beyond human description and understanding.”

          Of course to protect insane claims from scrutiny.

        • james warren

          Human awareness of the holy and the sacred is not “insane” in my view.

          The famous biochemist August Kekule and his research of the compound benzene is noteworthy:

          “The new understanding of benzene, and hence of all aromatic compounds, proved to be so important for both pure and applied chemistry after 1865 that in 1890 the German Chemical Society organized an elaborate appreciation in Kekulé’s honor, celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of his first benzene paper. Here Kekulé spoke of the creation of the theory. He said that he had discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after having a reverie or day-dream of a snake seizing its own tail (this is an ancient symbol known as the ouroboros). This vision, he said, came to him after years of studying the nature of carbon-carbon bonds.

          And of course Albert Einstein came up with the metaphorical, mythic vision of “God not playing dice with the universe. Other scientists like Gregory Bateson, Loren Eisley and Thomas Kuhn were dependent on myth and metaphor themselves. And many, many others.

        • Greg G.

          IIRC, Kekulé had a dream with a fever.. But our brains have some error correction capabilities to save on weight and energy as a trade-off for larger signal channels between neurons. Sometimes the error correction makes “incorrect corrections” that happen to be better than the original. That would give us the illusion of creativity and free will.

          Scientists are trying to illustrate by using metaphors, not saying that the metaphor is the proper view.

        • james warren

          What scientist took his temperature?
          If a researcher defines a fever as feeling feverish, one’s head feels hot is not using strict, literal scientific observations.

          If a metaphor or myth works, it is proper. Myths are not true or false–they are useful or not useful.

          Myth, metaphor, dreams, the imagination, visual or auditory epiphanies, paradox, humor–all examples of what I am talking about.

          http://www.hughhowey.com/everything-is-metaphor/

          https://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/11/metaphors

          https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/908874-everything-in-life-is-metaphor-we-accept-irony-through-a

          Something that rigidly “left brain,” super-rational and -logical people are unwilling or unable to grasp is that the human mind is a metaphorical machine.

          It associates events, objects, people with our perceptions of them. In a sense, everything’s a metaphor, because our perceptions—not raw facts—determine how we react. And these metaphors, these perceptions, are more important even than the reality behind them.

          When people say “I stand by my country” they are not talking about the land mass south of Canada and north of Mexico.

          They are saying “America AS.”

        • Greg G.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Kekul%C3%A9#Kekul.C3.A9.27s_dream

          It may not have been a dream at all. The story was told 35 years after the benzene ring structure was published and there had been parodies in the meantime. Kekulé may have gone along with the joke.

          It associates events, objects, people with our perceptions of them. In a sense, everything’s a metaphor, because our perceptions—not raw facts—determine how we react. And these metaphors, these perceptions, are more important even than the reality behind them.

          But the metaphor is not the reality behind itself. It is easier to understand something that is related to what you understand but the understanding gained that way might be wrong because of it. For many people, the metaphor is the destination but it’s not where you want to go.

          Thinking of something in metaphor might be OK for something one doesn’t care about. I can say, “I’m hungry” without adding “as a horse.” If there I was interested in worshiping a deity, I would want my religion to be more than metaphors. I have developed the hobby of studying the gospels but not to learn what they are like but what they are, their real sources.

        • james warren

          To be blunt, a religion without metaphors makes no sense to me.

      • Kodie

        You’re settling for a very blurry image.

  • 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.

        • james warren

          Apologetics never convince. They are meant for insiders, not outsiders.

        • james warren

          That’s a sneaky way of smuggling the Christian faith across the border between adults and children!

        • 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.”

        • james warren

          The Book of Job depicts Job as asking God “Why do I suffer? I’m a good guy and have done nothing wrong.”

          God answers Job out of the whirlwind with a lengthy lesson in natural history.

    • 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.

        • TheNuszAbides

          … according to our understanding of naming 😉

    • 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…

        • TheNuszAbides

          best of luck to you and your partnership.

        • TheNuszAbides

          indeed, i wouldn’t know how feasible/resource-intensive it might be to undertake the study, but comparative stats on how often a significant such change occurs could be very useful [esp. if (a) variations were found + (b) causal factors for variations were confirmed].

      • 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.

        • TheNuszAbides

          there’s still a refuge for scoundrels/tools as long as “generation” and “taste death” (or whatever the original words indisputably? meant) can be spun this way or that.

        • james warren

          Again, there is a difference between the historical figure and the Christ of Christian theology.

        • Greg G.

          No, one is imaginary and the other is imaginary.

        • TheNuszAbides

          oh, to be sure, nothing holds up to “plain reading” like whatever was translated into the “generation”, “tastes death” etc. of English.

          cue another round of “but but but deeply profound concepts can only be communicated in metaphor!”

        • james warren

          After the Enlightenment, the idea of the Bible is to be generally to be read literally made its appearance.

        • TheNuszAbides

          sure, it made an appearance. are you suggesting that Augustine of Hippo came up with the concept of literalism before anyone else had and proceeded to firmly pre-empt it from consideration for the next dozen centuries?

        • Greg G.

          Before the Enlightenment, very few were able to read the Bible.

        • james warren

          The belief in an apocalyptic Jesus is in flux right now within the community of Jesus scholars. Much of the apocalyptic language does not cohere with Jesus’ teachings. The examples come from the later church dogma that were inserted into Jesus’ mouth decades after his death.

        • Greg G.

          The apocalyptic ideas are basic to Christianity. The Pharisees apparently were expecting a Messiah to come during their own lifetime because the OT suggested that David’s throne would be filled. But Judea was under control of other nations.

          The teachings of Jesus are a hodge-podge of Stoical and Cynical thought plus Jewish philosophy. Many of the topics attributed to Jesus in Matthew appear to have been lifted from the Epistle of James, which never attributes anything to Jesus and most of that stuff was derived from the OT.

          The epistles don’t have any teachings of Jesus and the gospels are creative fiction. Jesus was the Suffering Servant read as an actual person from the past. Mark wrote a fictional anachronism putting the fictional Jesus in the early first century.

        • james warren

          I am convinced that the genre of the apocalyptic makes its appearance when actual history forces a crisis in a culture, a politics or a religion.

          Things are so bad that only the Lord as a deus ex machina can set things right.

        • Greg G.

          I think that is probably correct. I also think it is a good reason to keep the Christian Dominionists out of power.

        • james warren

          Jesus, please protect me from the Dominionists! And your other followers!
          😉

        • adam

          “Things are so bad that only the Lord as a deus ex machina can set things right.”

          You mean while he’s so fucked it up til now?

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/701ad31004c57acab5bab2092d271b38e35efb5a87d32ff6631714eef0cfc9e4.jpg

        • james warren

          That’s not how I would put it.
          Foundational for the majority of religions is the idea that God is infinite and humankind is finite. Even the name of the divine was unmentionable and indescribable.
          Here on earth, God’s work has to be our own. God has to operate through the same physical and scientific laws everything else has to conform to.
          The Christian God of supernatural theism lives outside the universe and ducks in now and then to pull an ostentatious miracle out of his hat.

        • al kimeea

          I’m pretty sure everything we know aboot this character is from decades after he is claimed to have existed.

          “Don’t beat slaves too badly ’cause if they die too quick you’re on the hook” – Jebus in modern parlance

        • james warren

          Slavery was a fact of life in the world of Jesus of Nazareth. It is not surprising that he would have used that dynamic to help illustrate his parabolic teachings.

          In the earliest gospel written [Mark] Jesus’ aim was not only to preach the coming/present Kingdom of God on earth but to “set the captives free.”

          Slaves and servants were often the same thing.

          Exodus and Deuteronomy both advocate treating slaves humanely.

        • adam

          “Exodus and Deuteronomy both advocate treating slaves humanely.”

          Not so much:
          When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that
          the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the
          slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the
          slave is his own property. (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

          “Slaves and servants were the identical or close to the same thing.”
          Stormtrooper.com is misleading you.

          Slaves
          However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the
          foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of
          such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your
          land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your
          children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like
          this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated
          this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

          Servents
          If you buy a Hebrew slave, he is to serve for only six years. Set
          him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his
          freedom. If he was single when he became your slave and then married
          afterward, only he will go free in the seventh year. But if he was
          married before he became a slave, then his wife will be freed with him.
          If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave, and they had sons
          or daughters, then the man will be free in the seventh year, but his
          wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may
          plainly declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I would
          rather not go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him
          before God. Then his master must take him to the door and publicly
          pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will belong to his
          master forever. (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)

          Your KKK is showing…

        • james warren

          Mark, the earliest gospel, says Jesus came, among other reasons, to “free the captives.” Paul’s Letter “Philemon” talks about the nascent Christian view of slavery.
          Elsewhere Paul says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
          Jesus was said to have died to pay a “ransom for many.” The word is “lutron” and it referred to the money paid to a guard to release a slave or a criminal from prison.
          We make an error when we assume that all slavery in the ancient world can be compared to the Antebellum south in the 1800s.
          “The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.”
          –J.T. Hartley

        • Greg G.

          We make an error when we assume that all slavery in the ancient world can be compared to the Antebellum south in the 1800s.

          But when slavery was instituted in the Antebellum (Revolutionary War, that is, even the French and Indian War) South, it was based on the Old Testament law. They changed it as they went because the Bible laws didn’t work as well as expected.

        • Greg G.

          Slaves and servants were the identical or close to the same thing.

          Exodus and Deuteronomy both advocate treating slaves humanely.

          That is something Christian apologists like to say but the Bible says otherwise. It’s like they get there information from other Christians without doing the research themselves.

          Slaves were bought from foreigners with no questions asked. Indentured or bound servants were Hebrews who worked for six years and the males were rewarded with stock and goods. The colonies in America adopted this system with indentured servitude for six years for young British men and women and foreign slaves bought from foreigners kept for life and their offspring.

          Exodus 12:43-45 (NRSV)43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: This is the ordinance for the passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but any slave who has been purchased may eat of it after he has been circumcised; 45 no bound or hired servant may eat of it.

          Leviticus 22:10-11 (NRSV)10 No lay person shall eat of the sacred donations. No bound or hired servant of the priest shall eat of the sacred donations; 11 but if a priest acquires anyone by purchase, the person may eat of them; and those that are born in his house may eat of his food.

          These passages show that purchased slaves were not indentured servants.

          Leviticus 25:44-46 (NRSV)44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves. 45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. 46 You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.

          Slaves could be kept forever and could be bequeathed to the owner’s heirs. They could be treated like slaves and they are excluded from the injunction of not being treated harshly which was just for Israelis.

          Exodus 21:20-21 (NRSV)20 When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

          A slave could be beaten to death without punishment if they could walk away from it and suffer through the night, or at least until sunset when the next day started.

          Deuteronomy 15:12-17 (NRSV)12 If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. 13 And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. 14 Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today. 16 But if he says to you, “I will not go out from you,” because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his earlobe into the door, and he shall be your slave forever.You shall do the same with regard to your female slave.

          Exodus 21:2-6 (NRSV)2 When you buy a male Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, but in the seventh he shall go out a free person, without debt. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave declares, “I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out a free person,” 6 then his master shall bring him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost; and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him for life.

          These passages show that a Hebrew could be an indentured servant. Even a Hebrew could be made a slave for life. Both passages spell out exactly how to use family values to con an illiterate teenager into becoming a slave for life.

          Jesus doesn’t think slaves should even be thanked for their service.

          7 “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? 8 Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?” –Jesus, Luke 17:7-9

          Compare that with a first century Roman pagan:

          “‘They are slaves,’ people declare. NO, rather they are men.

          ‘Slaves! NO, comrades.

          ‘Slaves! NO, they are unpretentious friends.

          ‘Slaves! NO, they are our fellow-slaves, if one reflects that Fortune has equal rights over slaves and free men alike. That is why I smile at those who think it degrading for a man to dine with his slave.

          But why should they think it degrading? It is only purse-proud etiquette… All night long they must stand about hungry and dumb… They are not enemies when we acquire them; we make them enemies… This is the kernel of my advice: Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters.

          ‘He is a slave.’ His soul, however, may be that of a free man.”

              — Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 65 AD), Epistulae Morales, 47.

        • 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

        • james warren

          Satan Claus would never do such a thing. 😉

        • 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… 😉

    • Greg G.

      In 2011, an earthquake and a hurricane hit his house in the same week.

      • Herald Newman

        I’m sure it’s because he’s made a pact with the devil. Only reason I can see that that codger is still alive. 😉

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

      Here’s hurricane Isabel (2003) making landfall, very close to Virginia Beach where Pat Robertson’s ministry is located.

      https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7f/Hurricane_Isabel_18_sept_2003_1555Z.jpg/455px-Hurricane_Isabel_18_sept_2003_1555Z.jpg

      • TheNuszAbides

        very close to Virginia Beach

        “Almost only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades.” I’ll bet Pat spun it either as ol’ Jove waving “Hi!” to his trusty minion en route to the unrighteous target of retribution – or as a suggestion that if he didn’t try harder to raise that Ca$h4God, he was On The List!

  • 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.

      • james warren

        How is the symbol used?

        • Greg G.

          Disqus allows many HTML codes and has some of its own. Well, one that I know of.

          Here’s a sample of things you can do.

          <b>This</b> = This
          <i>This</i> = This
          <u>This</u> = This
          <strike>This</strike> = This
          <s>This</s> = This
          <blockquote>This</blockquote> =

          This

          <spoiler>This</spoiler> = Fooled you

          The last one is just for Disqus show you can talk about movies without spoiling it. Move your cursor over the block.

        • james warren

          Thanks!

          Or should I say:

          THANKS

        • Greg G.

          Also
          <s><u><i><b>This</b></i></u></s> = This

    • MR

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

      • james warren

        Historical evidence indicates he WAS gay. And so was King James of England who was responsible for one of the first biblical translations to be available to the reading public.
        Ellen DeGeneres is also gay. And Liberace was as well.

        • MR

          Um…, I think you missed the joke….

        • james warren

          I am not aware of missing it, but maybe I did. I chose to replay with some history and some modern humor.
          I may be old but at least I am stupid! 😉

        • Greg G.

          Aye, ya build the finest fences in the land for thirty year and nobody calls you “Angus, the fence builder” but you fuck one goat…

  • 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.

      • james warren

        Thanks for your comment. It is very interesting for me and I will have to take a look.

        There are two little cherubs near the bottom of the painting and I remember a story that they were portraits of actual kids that were hanging around Michelangelo when he was trying to do his job–so he included them in the final painting.

        I was very lucky to have seen the chapel two times about 20 or 30 years apart. I remember the first time that here was a possible curator who was walking around shouting “No flesh! No flesh!” He was actually speaking to people who had flash cameras. It was his Italian accent!

        …jw

        • Greg G.

          I have a vague recollection that Michelangelo painted someone’s rear end toward the place where the Pope or someone who was causing him grief would be seated.

        • james warren

          I am glad some artists are not without a healthy sense of humor !!!

  • james warren

    Jesus–from the accounts we have in the New Testament–was a healer.
    Since he was a human being, a teacher from the peasant class he certainly did NOT cause the storms over the Sea of Galilee to stop, nor could he walk on water or come to live after being dead for three days.

    We have to draw a line between healing and curing. He might have been able to cure skin diseases such as psoriasis but in may have been healing that most characterized his encounters with sick and diseased people.

    A cure for any disease is desirable and indeed welcomed.
    But the healing of infirmities and maladies can be healed by refusing to engage in the ostracizing of diseased people, to empathize with their anguish and to envelope their suffering with love, compassion and respect.

    The rigid exclusion of sick people was just the way it was in the religion and culture of first-century Palestine.

    Jesus overturned and dislocated this pervasive idea and was able to give the marginalized the healing they were born to have.

    Was Jesus curing disease from an intervention in the social world or was he healing an illness or though an intervention in the social world?

    Since Jesus directly challenged the social and religious world of his day over and over and over again, I tend to believe the latter.

    One more thing. When you visit Lourdes, the Catholic healing shrine with the trickling water and the statue of the iconic Mary, you can see a lot of cast-off canes and crutches as well as empty wheelchairs at the end of the pilgrims’ path. But no empty coffins, artificial limbs or piles of toupees.
    The pagan healing shrine of the god Asclepius in Turkey also has piles of canes, crutches and wheelchairs at the end of the path.

    • Greg G.

      It has been pointed out that more people have been killed in train accidents on the last leg of the trip to Lourdes than the number of miracles validated by the Catholic Church. The number killed doesn’t include those who died on the way to France or on the return trip.

      • james warren

        That does not surprise me… It’s incredible how many horrific bus accidents I read about; they occur all over the world. I especially feel bad when a busload of older people careens down a hill and kills people. A bus ride to a Christian shrine is a money-maker, I’m sure.

        Everyone’s out to make a buck and I am positive many bus drivers are neither screened or regulated.

        I remember some tourist buses in Turkey and there were probably buses at Lourdes. I really don’t remember.

        I learned the other day that shortly after suicides or terrible accidents [all heavily publicized] there is a general uptick in both suicides and fatal accidents in the surrounding area.

        But this is just something I heard or read and I cannot be sure this is the actual truth.

        • Greg G.

          Just a few months ago, a small church bus was returning with several elderly church members from a trip. A texting driver in a pickup hit them. Twelve of the fourteen died. So tragic. I think I read that they were all wearing seat belts, too.

        • james warren

          Once we get rid of the government, we will be free of all those pesky regulations that mandate licenses for bus drivers. Drivers should be able to drive how they want. The Charlotte, North Carolina sidewalk driver comes to mind… 😉

        • Greg G.

          I saw a meme that showed the irony of the people in that march carrying a Confederate Flag in one hand and a sign in the other that said, “You Lost! Get Over It!”

        • james warren

          Classic!

          I happen to be one of those people who see no reason to tear down statues of Confederate soldiers. It’s all about history for me–certainly not racism.

          A true story: liberals at some American university are trying to get the name changed on a campus building. The building was named after a benefactor named Lynch and was known as “the Lynch Building.” Simply because of that single word, some students are demanding the building be re-named because blacks and others might be made uncomfortable b y the word.

          Unbelievable!

        • Greg G.

          I happen to be one of those people who see no reason to tear down statues of Confederate soldiers.

          I have been thinking about this. The monuments for Civil War soldiers were not erected shortly after the War. They were put up in the 20th century when Jim Crow laws were being created. It does not seem that the monuments were for the soldiers themselves except as a proxy for the racism. Perhaps they could be moved to a museum and viewed as an example of the behavior we should not condone.

          The party of Lincoln is becoming the party of Jefferson Davis.

        • adam

          What other country deifies traitors to it’s own country?

        • james warren

          There is at least one statue of Gandhi in London.
          Also a huge bust of Karl Marx was recently installed outside of Highgate Cemetery in London.
          There are statues of American World War II soldiers throughout Germany.
          I am also thinking of at least one statue to the honor of Benedict Arnold, the famous American traitor.
          I wonder if there are any statues or monuments to Oliver Cromwell, Guy Fawkes or William of Orange in England?

        • adam

          “There is at least one statue of Gandhi in London. ”

          A new statue of Mahatma Gandhi has been unveiled in London’s Parliament Square to mark the 100th anniversary of his return to India to start the struggle for independence from British rule.

          “By putting Gandhi in this famous square we are giving him an eternal home in our country. This statue celebrates the incredibly special friendship between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest, as well as the universal power of Gandhi’s message,” he added.

          “India and the UK share the same values and we are a partnership of equals.

          https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/14/new-gandhi-statue-unveiled-in-londons-parliament-square

          So Gandhi wasnt a traitor.

          We already understand the ‘universal power’ of Confederates – subjugation of human beings as property.

          You are willing to place freedom (Gandhi) on the same level as oppression?
          Is this is the town center or does it represent the capital? What are America’s shared values with racists?

          “Karl Marx”
          You mean at his GRAVE?

          Karl Marx is an author, not a traitor.

          Stormtrooper.com is misleading you….

        • james warren

          Based on your characterizations, re-definitions and personal interpretations of history and historical persons, you can certainly claim you are right. Sometimes it is easier to deny nuance and complexity when studying past events. And that’s perfectly okay.

          We all do it at times. At least I do.

          That said, I have no use for immature and disrespectful comments that indicate I read white supremacist literature or have any affinity with it.

        • adam

          “Based on your characterizations, re-definitions and personal
          interpretations of history and historical persons, you can certainly
          claim you are right”

          I’ve redefined nothing.

          And you havent demonstrated where anything in my post is incorrect.

          ” I have no use for immature and disrespectful comments”

          You’ve got plenty of use for such comments when you make them.

          You are just too cowardly to actually DEFEND your claims.

        • james warren

          The political and cultural conflict of democracy and Marxism needs no further explanation. Neither does the anti-colonialism of Mahatma Gandhi vis-a-vis the British Empire.

          And calling me:”cowardly” and arrogantly assuming I have not defended my claims shows a regression to insults and name-calling. Maybe this comes from the way you were raised in your own family dynamic. I don’t know….

          There are a myriad ways to criticize someone’s ideas and statements without feeling the need to give in or fight back.

          I think it is childish and immature to use such comments. They have no place in an adult dialogue in my view.

          Instead of saying “I’ve redefined nothing” you might have said “I am not aware of redefining anything, but perhaps I have. If you can show me specific examples where I have done this, we can certainly go over them together.”

          Instead of “You’ve got plenty of use for such comments when you make them,” you could have said “On one hand you call attention to my so-called disrespectful comments, yet on the other hand you, too, have made similar comments. I cut and pasted your own comments, such as ________, __________, and ___________.”

          You posted: “You are just too cowardly to actually DEFEND your claims.”
          What prevents you from saying “I don’t see how you have yet defended your claims. Would you be willing to do so once again so I can understand what you are communicating?”

        • james warren

          Moving them to a special museum is a good idea. Or maybe to a park–the Gettysburg battlefield or somewhere.

        • adam

          “I happen to be one of those people who see no reason to tear down statues of Confederate soldiers.”

          What other country deifies traitors to it’s own country.

          “It’s all about history for me–certainly not racism.”

          Then why deify racists traitors?

        • james warren

          Having historical statues and deifying trators are two different things.

        • adam

          Not in this case, these are traitors who got deified.

          This is merely AN ACT OF TERRORISM, against the very people they lost a war over.