Prayer as an either/or.

I’m often told by the people trying to assure me that prayer works that god doesn’t like to be tested (which makes prayer seem silly in the first place).  This is a roundabout way, in my eyes, of saying you can’t just pray and let god fix our problems.  You have to pray while actually trying to fix them and, voila, sometimes they get fixed.  The credit then is supposed to be shared with (or relinquished entirely to) god, as if the believer had forgotten all about the human hands that toiled.

It seems to me that every single human innovation is a testament to the uselessness of prayer.  Praying to cure people of appendicitis didn’t work, so we came up with medicine and surgery.  That worked.  So anybody who tells you that, given the choice between prayer and medicine, they’d choose prayer, they’re simply lying (or one hell of a masochist).  So what I think I’m going to start doing with these people is presenting prayer vs. human endeavor as an either/or proposition.

For instance, take keeping schools safe from mass shootings.  If you could have people praying for the kids or have security guards in the schools, which would you take?  If the answer was security guards, that means we have one more thing that works better than prayer.

Or how about finding your keys in the morning?  If you had the option between sitting in your easy chair and praying for them to turn up or actually looking for them because you needed to leave the house five minutes ago, which would it be?  Is there a single person who, when in that situation, would even consider choosing prayer?

Maybe I’ll even walk them back a little further.  If you had to choose between praying for the floor to be warm or putting on socks, something that insignificant, what would you do?  On something that insignificant, would you even rely on prayer then?

I imagine most believers, if they had to choose, would admit via their actions that actually doing shit works while prayer doesn’t.  Yet, when they fix things themselves and pray, suddenly it’s a team effort with the same god who lacks the power to make the floor warm.

If god really existed, he could earn the credit for making things better himself, rather than needing his followers to steal the credit for human work wherever and whenever they can.  Yet it’s obvious that we protect our children ourselves, we find our keys, we put on warm socks, and we feed the starving, because god won’t move the world the way we would.  In fact, if god exists, then he has clearly moved it in the opposite direction of human interest, otherwise we would be having to figure out how to feed children on the brink of starvation.

And we’d never lose our keys.

  • sqlrob

    If god really existed, he could earn the credit for making things better himself, rather than needing his followers to steal the credit for human work wherever and whenever they can.

    And on the more violent side, why can’t god handle the nonbelievers / “insulters” himself? Some believer always has to do the dirty work. Come on, a guy that destroyed cities, and at one point, most of the world, can’t deal with one single solitary person directly? Materializing an anvil and dropping it on their head can’t possibly be that hard for someone that powerful.

  • Glodson

    I’m often told by the people trying to assure me that prayer works that god doesn’t like to be tested (which makes prayer seem silly in the first place).

    I would call this Schrodinger’s Deity, except every time we attempt to observe this god, he always fails to exist. Funny that.

  • iknklast

    “Or how about finding your keys in the morning? If you had the option between sitting in your easy chair and praying for them to turn up or actually looking for them because you needed to leave the house five minutes ago, which would it be?”

    I took an even easier way out this morning – I let my husband look for them, because then I didn’t have to disturb the dog twice, making it more difficult for me to get out of the house. But I didn’t have to pray to my husband; I just sort of stomped around a couple of minutes mumbling, then he asked me if he could help me look and I sent him to the car. Letting people help you works so much better than asking god(s) to help you.

    • ksb935

      Letting people help you. What a concept! I think the idea of god came up because people were so unreliable that someone got desperate and invented an imaginary friend who “might” always be there to help out. I guess the imaginary friend is just busy somewhere else sometimes when he’s needed. But, seriously, if we could somehow learn how to get along with each other better, and help each other out, we wouldn’t need to invent imaginary friends. Conflict resolution and/or communication skills courses, anyone?

  • Makoto

    I find it amusing that after a dinner charity group I work with is finished for the day, the religious types gather around for a prayer circle, while a few others and I end up loading up all the tables and roasters and such used to transport and serve the food.

    I sometimes laugh and wonder if they’re praying for the cleanup to just happen.. and since it’s usually finished by the time they open their eyes, they think the prayer works…

    • Glodson

      Maybe they are praying to not clean up. God is merciful in his wisdom to help people be lazy. Amen.

  • Art Vandelay

    No word of a lie…when my mom loses her car keys, she prays to St. Anthony, who I guess is the Patron Saint of finding shit or something. She spins around in a circle and says, “Tony, Tony turn around, something’s lost that can’t be found.”

    • Kodie

      Can I say that’s hilarious?

  • tumeyn

    You appear to be arguing that God is meaningless since we can clearly see the action of people in this world but we cannot clearly see the action of God. A couple points:
    1) This is not an argument against God, per se, but just against a particular brand of Christianity. (perhaps mostly against charismatic Christianity in particular). Much of Christian prayer involves praise, worship, and requests for God to change the PERSON – not the situation. Of course, all Christians at times pray for particular things.
    2) The fact that prayers are not answered on a regular basis comes as no surprise to Christians. As recorded in the New Testament, Jesus himself prayed for several things that went unanswered. Christians don’t expect God to intervene willy-nilly in the world any more than they expect the physical laws to change on a whim. The God described in the Bible intervenes for particular “big picture” reasons – typically not for the simple comfort or whim of an individual.
    3) Your analogy is a poor one at best. It would be sortof like my arguing that no one ever wins at the casinos because the people that go there only bet a small percentage of their money. If there really was a payoff, then they would bet their whole house, right? Of course that is absurd. Just as absurd as the argument you are making. Some gamblers win, some loose. Some prayers are answered, some aren’t.

    Setting up this idea that you can only pray or only use actions is ridiculous. If you really trusted the antibiotics, then you would never wash your hands, right?

    • sqlrob

      The God described in the Bible intervenes for particular “big picture” reasons – typically not for the simple comfort or whim of an individual.

      Nice to know that a bet with the devil is a “big picture” reason. Really cements him as an asshole.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      “Setting up this idea that you can only pray or only use actions is ridiculous. If you really trusted the antibiotics, then you would never wash your hands, right?”

      That’s a pretty silly argument too. I trust antibiotics to be antibiotics- they kill bacteria but not viruses, and there’s some bacteria they don’t kill. They kill good bacteria in our gut along with the bad ones. I’m allergic to some of the more common types of antibiotics. So while I firmly trust antibiotics to be good at what they do, they aren’t perfect and don’t save all lives. Isn’t it smarter to wash my hands and prevent getting sick in the first place?

      Besides, that analogy is flawed for another reason. Hand-washing is preventative/proactive. Antibiotics are reactive. Prayer and looking for keys are both reactive, after losing one’s keys. You really can’t compare proactive steps with reactive ones and expect the analogy to be meaningful at all. As a proactive measure, one could pray to not lose one’s keys before setting them down, but it’d still be more useful to do things like have a shelf you always set them down on to prevent losing them in the first place.

      Or to state it very simply, if:
      Prayer + action == action,
      then,
      Prayer = 0.

      • Loqi

        Another reason the analogy is flawed: JT sets up a case where you can choose one or the other in order to achieve a one-time outcome. A more correct analogy would be something like, “If you have a kidney infection, would you rather wash your hands or take an antibiotic?” The answer becomes clear. You take the antibiotic, because washing your hands isn’t going to do shit for your infection. In another case, say, “You’ve just spilled a corrosive chemical on your hands, would you rather wash your hands or take an antibiotic?” the answer is of course to wash your hands, because an antibiotic isn’t going to do shit. There are instances where antibiotics help and instances where washing your hands helps, so it’s safe to say both are useful. Try to think of a situation like that where prayer helps. The only thing I can think of is, “A religious right fanatic has a gun to your head and says he’s going to shoot you if you don’t pray in front of him. Do you pray or tell him to get stuffed?” That’s not exactly a realistic scenario (though looking at the fundamentalists out there, it’s not as unrealistic as it ought to be).

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

          Hmm. This could be a fun game. When is prayer actually useful?
          Pray or get kicked out of the house- I know that one happens. But is coerced prayer really prayer? I mean, anyone can say the words, but isn’t there supposed to be some sort of feeling behind them? I still know a lot of the prayers, and I find myself chanting them sometimes because they’re pretty, but I’m not directing them anywhere …

          • Loqi

            You’re right, pray or get kicked out of the house is a common enough scenario that I can stand corrected on this one. Prayer does have a use. But I’m sure “theater to quell the bigotry of the gullible and hateful” wasn’t the intended purpose.

    • Loqi

      “The God described in the Bible intervenes for particular “big picture” reasons – typically not for the simple comfort or whim of an individual.”
      But I thought there was a plan. If an omnipotent, omniscient being has a plan, surely there’s no reason to intervene, since everything is going according to the plan. The act of praying is asking said being to change the plan. Isn’t that a bit…blasphemous?

      • tumeyn

        Lewis quotes always seem to come to mind when dealing with questions like those posed above. Those are excellent questions – but think a little deeper about what you are asking. If prayer is illogical, then free-will itself is also illogical. As Lewis describes it:
        “Can we believe that God ever modifies His action in response to the suggestions of man? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate. He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to cooperate in the execution of His will. “God”, says Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But it is not only prayer; whenever we act at all, He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so.”

        • sqlrob

          If prayer is illogical, then free-will itself is also illogical.

          pssst. In a deterministic universe, free will IS illogical.

        • Loqi

          Quoting Lewis is not going to impress me. I’ve read him, and even at a young age I was left wondering how anyone was convinced by his flimsy reasoning. He’s either a sloppy thinker or a poor communicator of his thoughts. That quote specifically doesn’t say anything useful. Saying “he could if he wanted to, he just chooses not to” isn’t an answer to the question. It’s an explanation of your conclusion.

          Free will, at least the Christian idea of it, *is* illogical. The ideas that there’s an omnipotent being and lesser beings with free will are incompatible (and if you throw out Molinism here, I’ll probably vomit).

          • Loqi

            That should read “rationalization of your conclusion.”

    • Glodson

      If you really trusted the antibiotics, then you would never wash your hands, right?

      Or you wash your hands so that you don’t get sick as to require an antibiotic. And because you want the antibiotics to work when you need them, as overuse of an antibiotic can produce a situation where you’ll get a bacterial infection that resists the effects of the antibiotics. And because you realize that you can spread your own germs to others, and want to spare them this. And because you realize that not all infections and illnesses are due to bacteria, and you hope to minimize their effects as well. And because washing your hands is a common courtesy, done for the benefit of others as well. And because you might not want to put your hands into the food your are cooking after your latest trip to the bathroom.

      The main point is that prayer is not directly tested. Which is a good indication that no one is granting these prayers. Which means there’s no god, or there’s a god who doesn’t care.

    • lulu_footloose

      “Christians don’t expect God to intervene willy-nilly in the world any more than they expect the physical laws to change on a whim. The God described in the Bible intervenes for particular “big picture” reasons – typically not for the simple comfort or whim of an individual.”

      Then what’s the use of praying if you don’t hope for a result that you are expecting? I also find it ironic that a prayer to pass an exam is answered more often than a prayer of an abused spouse for the abuse to stop. But then, as JT pointed out, “answered prayers” are usually those that involve human action anyway. In other words, it’s human actions that make things happen.

      • tumeyn

        That’s interesting that the whole like of reasoning here is that human action makes things happen while divine action is irrelevant. Other atheists (like Sam Harris) actually argue that human action is completely determined. Therefore, your “actions” don’t really impact anything at all. (because there is no such thing as an “intentional” action – everything is cause-and-effect) Your actions are all predetermined. You believe atheism, not because it is rational, but because the molecules bouncing around your neurons lead you to say certain things. You have no choice in the matter. I have no choice but to be a Christian. It was predetermined by the dice of chance and the laws of physics.

        • iknklast

          But who says Sam Harris has to be right? Just because he’s an atheist? Nope. I am perfectly free to dispute the things he says, and consider that he might have oversold the pre-determination thing, and that some of the things we do might, just might, be amenable to human action. If not, well, then I am pre-determined to take that action and to say the words I just said, so you might as well quit arguing with us because we are going to say them anyway.

          Please don’t throw around Sam Harris, Lewis, and Blaise Pascal in the same comment thread; it makes my head hurt. I feel like you are just name-dropping anyone you’ve ever heard of to avoid having to think for yourself.

        • Loqi

          “Therefore, your “actions” don’t really impact anything at all. (because there is no such thing as an “intentional” action – everything is cause-and-effect)”
          Huh? Determinism doesn’t mean actions don’t have an impact (in fact, if actions didn’t have an impact, cause and effect wouldn’t even work). If there’s a machine that is pre-programmed to swing a sledgehammer at my head, it’s going to have an impact. My life, if it continues after the hit, is going to be radically different than it was before. Just because the machine was predetermined to swing at my head doesn’t mean that it didn’t have an impact.

          “You believe atheism”
          Atheism isn’t a doctrine. One cannot positively believe it. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in any gods, not because there’s some atheist doctrine to which I adhere.

          “You believe atheism, not because it is rational, but because the molecules bouncing around your neurons lead you to say certain things. You have no choice in the matter. I have no choice but to be a Christian.”
          This, combined with the rest of your post, makes me think you’re confusing determinism and fatalism. They are distinct.

        • lulu_footloose

          I can’t give an informed opinion on free will as I have yet to understand both sides of the argument (that ‘free will’ is an illusion or not), but either way, our actions are still due to natural processes. No divine intervention, which is what prayer is.

    • Daniel Schealler

      1) This is not an argument against God, per se, but just against a particular brand of Christianity.

      Actually, it’s an argument against any interventionist God that responds to prayer – and not just Christian flavours.

      Furthermore: You say that as if it’s a counter-argument. Many people believe in interventionist deities that respond to prayer. Why shouldn’t that be addressed specifically?

      So what if other people may not believe in an interventionist God? If they’re Christians then I’m interested in how they’d interpret Luke 11:9, but whatever. Good for them. This piece wasn’t directed at them in the first place. Why bring them up as if their existence is some kind of a counter argument?

      2) The fact that prayers are not answered on a regular basis comes as no surprise to Christians. As recorded in the New Testament, Jesus himself prayed for several things that went unanswered. Christians don’t expect God to intervene willy-nilly in the world any more than they expect the physical laws to change on a whim.

      Now you’re speaking as if all Christians agree with you. That’s not the case.

      Even so: It is irrelevant whether or not a given Christian thinks that God intervenes only some of the time. If God intervenes only some of the time, then we should be able to detect that.

      3) Your analogy is a poor one at best. It would be sortof like my arguing that no one ever wins at the casinos because the people that go there only bet a small percentage of their money.

      *blink*

      So… You’re arguing that prayer is analogous to random chance?

      That isn’t so much a counter-argument against JT as it is conceding his point.

      You probably want to rephrase that analogy.

    • Loqi

      3) Your analogy is a poor one at best. It would be sortof like my arguing that no one ever wins at the casinos because the people that go there only bet a small percentage of their money. If there really was a payoff, then they would bet their whole house, right? Of course that is absurd. Just as absurd as the argument you are making. Some gamblers win, some loose. Some prayers are answered, some aren’t.
      How is your gambler scenario even remotely analogous to JT’s? I really don’t see any similarity.

    • Brad1990

      OK, technically you’re right; this is not an argument against God so much as a particular aspect of God… but it is an aspect of God that almost every believer believes in and one taught by every major world religion, and it’s false. It’s perfectly obvious that prayer is ineffective, and so if there is a God, he does not answer prayers.

      ” Christians don’t expect God to intervene willy-nilly in the world any more than they expect the physical laws to change on a whim.”

      Then why bother praying? Prayer is, essentially, asking God nicely to intervene in the physical world and temporarily change the laws of physics and probability so that they are briefly in the worshipper’s favour. So if you do not expect him to alter physical laws, why bother praying?

      “Some gamblers win, some loose. Some prayers are answered, some aren’t. ”

      So the outcome of a prayer is down to random chance? Well yes, that’s rather our point. Some prayers are answered, some not, seemingly at random. That’s because it is random. You can beg and plead all you like, you are not going to affect probability. The percieved efficacy of prayer is nothing more than confirmation bias combined with the law of large numbers. For example, let’s say you pray for rain. 4 days later, it rains. The believer whoops and dances for joy, declaring loudly that they’re prayer worked, completely oblivious to the fact that given enought ime, it was always going to rain. Their prayer had no effect whatsoever.

      I fail to understand how you can come so dangerously close to the truth while still managing to persuade yourself that prayer is effective.

    • Kodie

      So you seem to understand how statistics work, but you don’t acknowledge it. People pray now, they don’t burn a goat or do a little dance. Chanting to the air for something is the same no matter what. It’s a neurotic little habit that gets the same results as random chance.

    • Droopy

      You really missed the point that prayers are actually never answered.

  • lulu_footloose

    “I have prayed before not to have another child, but the condom worked better.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=168515932

    I find the quote above quite funny, but it shows the reality of the uselessness of prayer.

  • baal

    I once had a similar discussion with a witch. She was a good witch but asserted that magic spells worked but only if you had the proper state of mind (existing belief that they worked). Lab tests, of course, fail. Researchers lack the relevant belief…. I then moved onto the concept of ‘falsifiability’.

    • Daniel Schealler

      I know, right?

      If you start with a bedrock assumption that magic spells work, then you will be able to conclude that magic spells work.

      Well… Yeah. Of course. That’s just assuming your own conclusion. Duh.

    • Kodie

      And what is accomplished by these magic spells? I imagine they appear to work only for things that can actually happen. If your keys are in the house, they’ll turn up eventually. The spell hasn’t actually moved the keys to the house from wherever you did lose them.

  • Andrew Kohler

    Thanks to seeing the recent filmic (one of my favorite bits of academic jargon) adaptation of Les miserables, I’ve been revisiting the musical, to which I listened obsessively as a teenager. (And now that I’m a doctoral student in musicology, I can identify Fantine’s “You let your foreman send me away” as being soooo delightfully yet incongruously Puccinian.) The number “Turning,” sung by Parisian women as they lament the futility of the deaths at the barricade, features the following line, which one assumes is meant to evoke their existential despair and pathos: “What’s the use of praying if there’s nobody who hears?” I think when I first heard that, even though I didn’t pray myself, I found it somewhat impressive. Now, I think, “Well, DUUUUHHHHH!!” It’s possibly the truest line in the whole libretto.

    By the way, this number was curtailed almost to the point of excision in the movie (so they could add that unremarkable candidate for “best original song”?), so alas this gem of wisdom is not heard.

  • http://Skeptomatisk.se Urban

    Jesus is quoted many times in the Bible saying that a believer can ask for anything through prayer and receive it. He even goes so far as to say that mountains and trees can be thrown into the sea simply by praying for it. This is clearly a lie, and can be proven to be a lie by any believer. Simply pray for me to be converted to Christianity right away. Or better yet ask God to move the mountains behind my house. He could make a lot of converts that way. If I’m converted today, I’ll post a public apology on my web site and devote my life to kissing God’s ass. If I’m not converted it would only be fair for you to apologize and devote your life to kissing my butt.

    Here are the quotes from Jesus that proves that he lied:

    1) And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22 NAS)

    2) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NAB)

    3) Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)

    4) Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. (Mark 11:24-25 NAB)

    5) And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-13 NAB)

    6) And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14 NAB)

    7) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 NAB)

    8) It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. (John 15:16 NAB)

    9) On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:23-24 NAB)

    From http://www.evilbible.com/Jesus_Lied.htm

    • Glodson

      Look, this isn’t a lie. You just don’t believe hard enough.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      a believer can ask for anything through prayer and receive it

      Then why do Christian children starve?

      • Glodson

        That are not starving, in their soul. And isn’t that what it is really important?

        I’m asking you a question!

    • tumeyn

      Just last night my wife told my 8-year old daughter “If you don’t shut up I’m going to shoot you!”.

      I have two choices:
      1) I could take her literally and call the police and get her arrested.
      or
      2) I could understand the character of my wife and her INTENDED meaning.

      We all use “figures of speech” constantly in our dialog. If you read the bible with the mind of a 3rd grader, then yes, you’ll have a tough time understanding it and parts of it (like the ones you quote) will come off sounding rather absurd. But if you approach it as a great piece of literature and read it with the same sort of intelligence that you use to approach Shakespeare, Plato, or Hawthorne – then I think you’ll find that the majority (but not all) of the “insistencies” of the Bible will vanish.

      • Nate Frein

        No, not really. Because as literature, the Bible sucks. I mean, seriously sucks.
        Even approaching it as “literature” doesn’t deal with the fact that as a “moral guide”, the Bible is pretty atrocious.

        Unless, of course, you want to own slaves. Or own your wife. Or commit genocide. Cuz then it’s pretty cool.

      • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

        Oh. So the Bible must be read as literature.

        Which parts are literally true, and how can you tell them from the parts which aren’t? How about an easy one? Dead guy walking around. Truth, or literary device?

        • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

          Supplementary bonus question: If it’s not literally true, why is Jesus Christ a more valid subject of worship than James T. Kirk?

        • tumeyn

          ” How about an easy one? Dead guy walking around. Truth, or literary device?”

          Read the Gospels for yourself and make that determination. It isn’t terribly hard. Either it was a fable, it was legendary, it was a lie, or it was historical reportage. We make those kind of determinations all the time for historical documents. Very smart people have come to very different conclusions. I believe it is historical reportage. Here’s how I make that determination:
          1) The genre of “realistic prose fiction” was not invented until the 18th century. I think that rules out “fable”.
          2) Various authors report nearly the same thing with twists on the details (the gospels all differ in their details – but report the same general narrative). The seems to rule out direct a direct lie. It was have to have been a conspiracy between several authors. As I read the New Testament and learn about the lives (and deaths) of the major characters of the Gospels, I just can’t see it being a lie or conspiracy.
          3) There appears to be very good evidence that the Gospels (and Paul’s letters) were written quite early. Just 15-35 years after the events. This seems to rule out legendary.

          That leaves me with historical reportage. Yes, if I rule out “God” from the start, then of course they CAN’T be historical reportage. But I don’t make such a move. I start with the assumption that this universe does, indeed, have a creator. Having made that philosophical assumption, then the above seems perfectly logical to me.

          • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

            So if you start with that philosophical assumption, why aren’t you Muslim? The Koran is a book, it contains similar claims. In fact it contains some of the same claims.

          • Nate Frein

            The genre of “realistic prose fiction” was not invented until the 18th century. I think that rules out “fable”.

            Two words:

            Canterbury Tales.

            Someone flunked High School English…

          • Nate Frein

            The rest of your posits are equally crapulent.

          • tumeyn

            Zinc writes “So if you start with that philosophical assumption, why aren’t you Muslim?”

            Because I’ve looked into the historicity of the Koran and it doesn’t add up. The Koran claims that Jesus didn’t die on a cross. I think that is pretty well attested to by standard historical methods. The Koran is also written entirely by one author. The New Testament contains the account from the perspective of many people. A conspiracy was possible, but it would have to have been a massive conspiracy. Something I’m not willing to buy into.

            Canterbury tales was from the 14th century – still a long cry from ~50-100AD. Can you really read the Gospels and come to the conclusion that they were intended as fiction? Sure, the accounts may be FALSE – but the authors clearly INTENDED them to be read as history. That leaves either truth or deliberate lie. I say truth.

          • Glodson

            Point 3- Citation needed.

            Furthermore, it isn’t a question as to ruling out god form the start. It is about examining the evidence for god. Any god. That evidence is lacking, to say the least. Gods filled a need for early man, to help explain why something happened. It was linked to understanding the natural world. As our ancestors learned and grew, so did their concept of gods. We can see that tradition directly in the Bible. The Abrahamic god spoke of other gods as having a real existence early on. Look at the commandments. Have no other god before me. It was a command to keep YWHW at the head of the pact. Slowly this morphed into YWHW being the only god, but we see traditions of polytheism in the early books of the Bible.

            Now, let’s say you provide a citation that the they were written that early. That still doesn’t make them accurate. Histories are evaluated based on how well they mesh with the archeological record and other sources. One would think that other sources apart from the Christian traditions would mention someone as important as Jesus. Funny that we see scant mention of him, and the timing for many events are contradicted by other confirmed sources.

            Finally, let’s say I grant you that there’s a creator god. How does it follow that this creator god has anything to do with the Bible? Why not the Koran, or the Upanishads or the Eddas or the Shinto myths or the Avesta? The last one is particularly interesting as it is an example of the first known monotheistic religion, and the Magi are priests of that religion who do a crossover event with another religion, much more well known which borrowed many themes from this older religion.

            So even if there is a creator god, there’s some major missing steps linking this god to any holy work.

          • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

            I have never seen someone rise from the dead. You have never seen someone rise from the dead. Why do you find it reasonable to start with the assumption that the world does not work the way we see it to work all the time around us?

            Or to put it another way, if you’re willing to disregard the evidence of your own senses and your life experiences and the experiences of everyone around you, why do you choose to suddenly accept as factual four experiences from people that contradict things you’ve seen happen in your own life? If you’re willing (or even eager) to embrace the idea that human experience is fallible, what makes the human experiences depicted in the Bible more believable than your own?

          • Nate Frein

            No, Tumeyn. I read the bibles and I read the second century version of propaganda.

            And, Tumeyn? People have been telling and recording stories for thousands of years. The Bhagavad Gita predates the Bible.

          • tumeyn

            Citation for point #3 comes from Bart Ehrman, hardly a friend to Christians. He dates Paul’s letters to the 50′s, Mark to ~70, and the other gospels to 80-90.
            http://vridar.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/how-the-gospels-are-most-commonly-dated-and-why/
            Most scholars date them earlier than Ehrman. See:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel#Dating

            Even Richard Carrier dates Paul’s writings to 45-55AD.

      • Art Vandelay

        Yes, of course…all that shit with the talking snake and the apple and the disobedient woman? It’s just an allegory for the sinful nature of humans. Unfortunately, somebody still had to be literally tortured and crucified for it. Makes perfect sense.

      • Glodson

        Read the Bible as we would any other book? Okay, you are telling that to a bunch of atheists. We’ve done that. That’s easy. It is part of why many of us are actually atheists. We know it isn’t the truth. It is just a collection of myths and stories. No great revelation there.

        The problem is that when we read it as such, the need for worship and prayer and the church all vanish as well. If the story of Jesus isn’t literally true, why be Christian? If we can’t tell what actually happened and what was just a fable, why believe any of it? That’s the problem. This is the source of belief for the Christian faith. If parts aren’t true, then which parts are true? What evidence do we have that any of it is true? If the story of the resurrection isn’t true, why did I bother with being dunked into water by some guy before a gathering of people? If John the Baptist was just some crazy guy waterboarding people in the Jordan and not some prophet, why do we do it now? If the Jesus wasn’t the son of god, what’s the point?

        Can you not see the problem with your line of reasoning in this? This is the crux of the faith. Without it, being a Christian, doesn’t make sense. If parts are to be taken as poetic license, this leads to the natural question of which parts are to be taken literally? If none of it is to be taken literally, then why not get the same lessons from another book? There’s plenty of books with great moral lessons. Reducing the Bible to literature destroys the religious element.

        • tumeyn

          Glodson, I actually agree with most of what you said. If the key elements of the New Testament narrative are false, then you should just ignore the whole thing. If I start out as an atheist, then the account must necessarily be false. But if I start with an open mind that theism is POSSIBLE, then the accounts aren’t so far-fetched and are relatively well-supported by standard historical methods. (the same methods we use for determining any event in history)

          The biggest problem I have (and you guys will probably all agree with me), is that I don’t understand why things aren’t more clear. I think that the Christian faith is rational – but atheism is also rational. So why, if God exists, did he “set up” the system so that so much importance is placed on an event that happened 2000 years ago? I don’t have an answer. But, then again, there are lots of things about life that atheism doesn’t answer to my satisfaction either. There are major problems with either path. But here we are. We’ve got one shot – and I’m making the best decision I can. As you are.

          • Glodson

            My point is that we need to show what parts are true.

            I was a believer, but the problem is that there’s no good reason to believe. We can remove parts of the bible already. How do we know that there was a Mary? What other sources do we have to confirm that there was a Jewish mystic? If prayer doesn’t work as claimed in the Bible, what else is faulty?

            We can test these claims. By testing these claims, we can determine the truth. We can examine histories to see if others recorded key events in the Gospels. I know of no such confirmations. We can test the claims of Jesus to see if god will intervene based on our prayers. Tests done show that there’s no effect from prayer when healing the sick: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11761499 . And the STEP project was another comprehensive test which showed no effect, and there were even times when those prayed for got worse results than those who weren’t prayed for: http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/3_31STEP.html .

            There’s a tested claim. Prayer didn’t help heal the sick. That’s a major idea from the New Testament. We know the universe wasn’t created in 6 days. We know there wasn’t a great global flood, nor could one even happen. We know that much of the Bible isn’t a reliable history, there’s no real evidence for Jewish slaves in Egypt. The first mention of Israel doesn’t appear until around 1100 BCE.

            If you want to believe, I can’t stop you. But I can say that reality flies in the face of our once shared religion. Like you said, we only got one shot at this life. I think that abandoning my former faith has been one of the best decisions I’ve made over the past several years. It has freed me up from outdated ideas about morality, and allowed me to stop feeling guilty over what a book written based off the oral traditions of bronze age nomads, and their mystic descendents.

          • Art Vandelay

            Well atheism doesn’t try to answer questions that you have about life. It’s not even a thing. Science attempts to answer a lot of questions you may have about how the universe works but you seem to be more interested in the “why”…correct? My guess is that you’re starting with the conclusion that there must be a “why.” It’s a meaningless question until you can determine that there actually is a purpose behind all of this.

          • Nate Frein

            What is rational about a religion that has no empirical evidence?

          • tumeyn

            Gladston writes: “We can examine histories to see if others recorded key events in the Gospels. I know of no such confirmations.”

            What about the death of James as recorded in Josephus?
            What about the death of Jesus as recorded by Josephus and Pliny?
            What about John the Baptist discussed rather extensively by Josephus?
            What about the famine in Jerusalem talked about in Acts and known from various records?
            What about the expulsion of Christians from Rome that is talked about in Acts and confirmed by Suetonius?
            What about the leaders: Pilate, Quirinius, Caiaphus, Gallio, and on and on. Many thought that these people were complete fiction until archeological records of each of these leaders has been unearthed over the past 150 years.
            What about town after town mentioned in the book of Acts that were thought to not exist – but then Sir William Ramsey uncovered many of them. (and became a Christian in the process)
            What about Clement, who writes a letter in 95AD reaffirming the basic gospel message.
            What about the Talmud (a contrary source in the least) that confirms the crucifixion?
            What about Paul (who even RICHARD CARRIER believes wrote in ~50AD) who claims that Jesus was a real person and really died and rose?

            Sure, there are reasons to deny the authenticity of the Bible. But don’t make such ridiculous claim that there is “no outside evidence” to support the New Testament. I’m not sure exactly what sort of evidence you would WANT. No video cameras were present to record the opening of the tomb. But then again, no video cameras were present when Julius Ceasar was assassinated either. At some point we trust the testimony of others. It seems to me that you discount the documents because of the presence of the supernatural elements – not because of historical reasons. That’s fine. But it is a presupposition that should be brought into the open.

          • Glodson

            First, it is Glodson. Don’t spell check my nym, it won’t work right.

            Second, the Gospels are commonly considered the Books of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. Those are the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament doesn’t have a name, as far as I know. There are other Gospels, the so-called Gnostic Gospels which were excluded from the Bible. So, we’ve restricted our talk here already to the direct witnesses of the life of Jesus. Paul is excluded. We are concerned with the actual existence of the Ministry and life of Jesus. I don’t doubt that Paul existed.

            With that in mind, we can dismiss any talk about anything outside the talk of the Gospels, as that was not what I referred to.

            Moving forward. The problem is that there’s some dispute over the Testimonium Flavianum, in which Joesphus writes on the death of Jesus. Some think it was a forgery. See this work for greater detail: http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2008/11/why-josephus-so-called-testimonium.html . Sorry, best I could find on short notice and online. There are print sources, but that would be hard to check if those books are not handy.

            Now Pilate, for example, did exist. We have evidence for him existing. But evidence of his existence is not evidence of the accuracy of the Gospels. In fact, one would expect him to exist as if he didn’t, the early Church would have a great deal of explaining to do as to why a key character in the story wasn’t actually real.

            What we need is a confirmation that the story of the Loafs and Fishes actually happened. Paul is a great wealth of information of the early Church, which did exist. But that is outside of the discussion of the Gospels. Our real concern is are the claims of Jesus’ divinity based in fact? For this to make sense, there had to be a Virgin Birth, several miracles, a near riot in Jerusalem, a crucifixion of the messiah, and his resurrection.

            Trusting the testimony of others can be great. We know that Caesar was assassinated. We don’t know all the details. Recorded histories are not entirely reliable in and of themselves. Take Josephus and his “Antiquities of the Jews.” This takes the claim of Herodotus that slaves built the pyramids and puts the ancient Hebrew people in that role. That’s where we get this notion from. Except it isn’t true. At all. Slaves didn’t build the pyramids, and we don’t see the Israelis, as a people, emerge in the records until around 1100 BCE. They first show up in a mention on the Merneptah Stele at about this time. As far as I know, that’s the first record of the people. And we see villages lacking pig bones appearing at about this time as well. What does this mean about the pyramids as the Merneptah Stele mentions the conquering of the Jewish people? Just that they couldn’t have built any pyramids. As those were built in the Old Kingdom, about 1500 before this Stele and this evidence of the Israelis existing. And there’s evidence that that the pyramids weren’t even built by slaves, but rather by people hired to do the building, based on the remains found in the smaller mastabas near the pyramids.

            Testimony can be good, but it can easily lead us astray if we don’t question the sources and look for something concert. To bring this back around, I cannot prove or disprove some of the claims in the Gospel. I can’t show that Jesus didn’t bring back Lazarus from the dead. I can’t show that the Loafs and Fish miracle didn’t happen. I can test some of his claims. Like the ones outlined about the functionality of prayer. As noted above, those fail the tests. There’s no effect. Which puts serious doubt on the other claims.

            And finally, as someone who follows the sciences, I always consider the null hypothesis first. What evidence do I have that Jesus came back from the dead? I’ve got the Bible, and that’s about it. I am not claiming that nothing in the Gospels happened, I am claiming that I have no evidence for the supernatural events to have any real existence. Without those, religion doesn’t make sense.

          • tumeyn

            Glodson,
            Sorry about the name mixup.
            I am confused about your attempt to keep a discussion of Acts and Paul outside of a discussion of the gospels. This is a step that no historian would ever make when trying to determine the accuracy of a text. Luke was the author of Acts. If Acts is proved to be unreliable, then the gospel account falls with it. Likewise, if Acts can be proved reliable, then this is a major piece of evidence in favor of the historicity of Luke. Likewise, virtually every historian agrees on the authenticity of the main Pauline books. Pauls writings are a MAJOR piece of evidence for the historicity of Jesus. Why should you exclude them from your analysis?

            That would be like me asking you to discuss the historicity of Josephus’s “Against Apion” but but not letting you reference his contemporaries or even his “Jewish Antiquities”.

            I’m well aware of the controversy around the Testimonium Flavianum. While almost everyone agrees that some of it was a forgery, almost everyone agrees that much of it was actually written by Josephus. Only a couple of phrases are thought to have been inserted. Moreover, Jesus is again mentioned in the narrative about James.

            You write “Now Pilate, for example, did exist. We have evidence for him existing. But evidence of his existence is not evidence of the accuracy of the Gospels.”
            No? Then how do we determine the historicity of ANY historical documents? If we wanted to see if Josephus was a reliable source, we would spot-check what we could confirm from other narratives. If he is accurate in what we can test, then we make the leap to believe that he is accurate in those things we cannot test.
            Sure, I can’t corroborate the supernatural aspects of the New Testament. But on those things that I *can* corroborate, the New Testament comes out quite well. In other words, the Gospel accounts are not PROVABLE – but they are FALSIFIABLE. And so far, they have not been falsified by archaeology or known history.

          • sqlrob

            If you approach theism with an open mind, why Christianity? Why not Judaism, Egyptian Mythology, Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology… All have the equivalent support. There’s evidence that there actually was an oracle at Delphi that breathed vapors and had visions. Are you going to convert? If not, why not?

            There is evidence of London. Therefore Voldemort from Harry Potter exists.
            Abe Lincoln existed, therefore he was a vampire hunter.

          • Glodson

            @ sqlrob

            I tried getting through platform 9 3/4, only to find a concussion. Still, I think you are right about Voldemort despite this. I am sure there’s a logic reason, it must be because I’m not a True Wizard and just a muggle. So I’ll take the rest of the story at face value even though my testing directly falsified a claim and I see no other evidence for Voldemort. That’s logic.

          • Kodie

            The accounts are far-fetched enough to move from considering theism to becoming an atheist. You assume an atheist has a mindset of denying theism without really understanding or thinking about it or reading the literature to decide for themselves, with the proverbial “open mind” to discard it as junk. You are saying of course an atheist would have a prejudice and refuse to believe it. That’s not true. We believe all kinds of amazing things that seem unbelievable to theists in fact. With the proverbial open mind, we can believe science because it can be demonstrated. Some of that shit is whack if you think about it, who could believe! And it’s true anyway. Why don’t theists keep an open mind and sometimes consider the possibility that there isn’t a god and everything they read about him is horseshit?

  • Glodson

    There’s no need for confusion. I deliberately chose the books that chronicle the life and ministry of Jesus. The other books, outside of Revelations, are a history of the Church itself. Those can be decent for source for a history of the church, and what it meant. The Gospels are defined as the first four books of the New Testament. As such, Acts it outside the discussion parameters. We are trying to get at the heart of what the Christian faith was based on: the divinity and resurrection of Jesus. As such, the Acts falls outside this discussion as it is a history of the church itself. I know the early church had some existence, but that’s not what I’m disputing. I’m disputing the notion that there’s proof for a divine Jesus outside the Bible.

    As such, why would I take the word of Paul, who never met Jesus in the flesh, at face value? He doesn’t record what I’m interested in. What Jesus would have done, and what proof there of the existence of a Jewish mystic named Jesus. Paul’s writings are more about what his teachings meant, and how they are to be applied. So, again, why would I be interested in that? How does that have any bearing on whether or not there was a Jesus? If we are just taking accounts like that at their face value, I could conclude that Zeus existed because of the Iliad and the discovery of Troy.

    All I said was that we know that Pilate existed. We can check and get a decent idea of what he did. We can’t say for certain that everything recorded happened as recorded. Hell, Philo of Alexandria lived in Judea, lived in Jerusalem at the time of Pilate. He wrote much taking Pilate to task. Never felt the need to mention any of the events of the Bible. Seneca, another historian at the time, recorded nothing of the life of Jesus, who was said to be a major figure at the time. This was troubling enough that the early church foraged a correspondence between him and Paul. Pliny the Younger only mentions Christians, who existed, but not Christ. We can pick out many more that only make a tangential mention of Christ, but no one actually going much further than that. One would think his miracles would make for bigger news.

    What we have here is a figure that is mentioned in his holy books, and then the next best reference occurs about 100 years after his death. In books that repeat what his believers claim. We have a known figure who records events at the time of Jesus’ death, and yet doesn’t mention any of it. At all. We have a forgery done in the name of Josephus, a figure I have shown to not be an entirely accurate historian. Hell, most early ones weren’t that accurate. Herodotus is both the father of history and the father of lies.

    Now, I will go even further down the rabbit hole hole. We have problems with the Gospels themselves. There are geographical errors in Mark, indicating that the author might not have ever set foot in the Palestine, or have any idea about what the country was like: http://www.bismikaallahuma.org/archives/2005/geographical-errors-within-the-new-testament/ . And Mark seems to be a foundation for the rest of our stories about Jesus: http://rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm#1 . There’s other issues as well. Luke claims that Jesus was born when there was tax census in Luke 2:1-4. That didn’t happen until 77 CE. Worse, in that same set of verses in the King James version, Cyrenius is mentioned as the governor of Syria. That didn’t happen until around 6 CE. Speaking of Joesphus, he fails to mention the “slaughter of the innocents” as recorded in Matthew 2:16-18, despite having some serious hatred for Herod. No one else mentions it either, you think someone would notice something like that. How about the three hour eclipse? No one else mentions that. And a three hour long, localized eclipse would be a major deal. It is also impossible. The longest a Solar eclipse can be observed for a spot is about 9 minutes. Give or take some time. With no one else mentioning this, or the fact that the Sun stood still for about 3 hours, or the impact this would have on the Earth-Sun-Moon system, we can show that didn’t happen at all.

    And we haven’t even begun to discuss the inconsistencies between the Luke and Matthew which when backed up by other historical records put the birth of Christ at around 6 CE and 6 BCE. That’s a problem.

    So, we have a narrative not supported by outside sources, and several areas where it cannot be true. We have the supernatural in it, much like the 3 hour eclipse, which can be shown to be false, and still not mentioned anywhere. Acts is more a history of the early Church, and the other source is Paul who never actually met the guy. And who repeats the traditions laid out in the Gospel. And we have the failure of prayer to work as claimed in the book. This is a real problem.

    There, I’ve falsified a number of parts of the Gospel. And I’m not even a historian. When we start pulling the strings of Matthew, Luke, Mark, and John to see the fabric fall apart, it is hard to say that Jesus even had a real existence, let alone take the supernatural aspects at face value. Why would we take these accounts seriously when other religions have tales that involve the supernatural? Why are these dismissed as myths and yet the Gospels get a free ride?

    • tumeyn

      Glodson,
      I agree that Acts is about the early church – not about Christ. But if you seem to miss the point that the author of Acts WROTE THE BOOK OF LUKE. If you want to learn something about the character, integrity, and attention to detail that an author uses – then read his other works. We do that all the time. Luke was a reliable historian in the book of Acts (it is VERY well attested by archeology and ancient history) and therefore I place greater trust in the account he writes in his Gospel.

      You write: “As such, why would I take the word of Paul, who never met Jesus in the flesh, at face value? He doesn’t record what I’m interested in.”
      No? He claims to have met with Peter, James and the other apostles. He claims that from his research (of the first-hand witnesses) that Jesus really did exist and rise from the dead. Again, you seem to make this move to exclude Paul out of convenience. This is not the way we would approach ANY other historical question.

      I appreciate what you are saying about Philo and Seneca. But we have to be careful about arguments from silence. Marco Polo never mentions the great wall of China in his work. Herodotus and Thucydides never mention Rome. Ulysses Grant does not, in his two volumes of memoirs, mention the Emancipation Proclamation. There are LOTS of reasons that people neglect to mention particular people or places.

      “One would think his miracles would make for bigger news.” – Really? Most miracles were conducted in the presence of just a few people. For the bigger miracles, like the feeding of the 5000, it isn’t clear that anyone other that the disciples knew that a miracle had even taken place. Then he was killed. Everyone thought that was the end. Then a few hundred people claim to see the guy alive again. Why is that big news? The odd beliefs of a few hundred people? But it makes complete sense that CHRISTIANS would be mentioned specifically by the ancient historians because it seems that this belief spread like wildfire. Within just 10-15 years there were bodies of Christians scattered across the ancient world from Rome to Greece to Asia Minor.

      “We have a forgery done in the name of Josephus” – virtually no one disputes that Josephus’s writings discuss Jesus. The debate is over the exact WORDING of how they discuss Jesus.

      “There are geographical errors in Mark, indicating that the author might not have ever set foot in the Palestine”
      The two major points that the author of your link makes are:
      1) Bethany and Bethphage are mentioned in reverse order
      2) Jesus goes from Tyre through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee.
      The first one is rather comical because Bethany and Bethphage are generally thought to be only a few hundred meters apart and most likely were thought of as a single town (much like Dallas/Fort Worth or Tampa/St. Petersburg).
      The second one is actually good evidence that the author DID know what he was talking about. For Jesus to go from Tyre directly to the sea of Galilee would have taken him over a significant mountain range with no access to water. (remember – they are ON FOOT in a dessert region) By going up toward Sidon, he was able to pick up the major road leading down to the Sea of Galilee that followed the Jordan River – level walking and access to water. Longer mileage, but easier on the legs and much safer.

      Now, think for a moment about the sheer number of geographic details mentioned in Mark. Here’s a list: Land of Judea, river Jordan, Nazareth, Galilee, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Jerusalem, Idumea, Tyre, Sidon, country of the Gadarenes, Bethsaida, Gennesaret, Syrophoenicia, Decapolis, Dalmanutha, Caesarea Philippi, Bethphage, Bethany, mount of Olives, Gethsemane, and Golgotha. These are really places. He talks about these about 20-30 years after the events in the correct context – BEFORE THE DAYS OF GOOGLE. This is pretty astounding, actually.

      As for your claim that Luke says that “Cyrenius is mentioned as the governor of Syria. That didn’t happen until around 6 CE.” Well, first it has been pointed out that there are different translations of Luke 2:2 (ie “before” or “during” the reign of Quirinius) that easily accommodate what we know of history. Alternatively, many have suggested based on a Latin inscription found in 1764 that Quirinius was actually governor of Syria twice. Either way, this is not a “major blunder” and doesn’t undermine Luke’s credibility in any way.

      Second, the “slaughter of the innocents” would hardly have been noted by Josephus considering that Bethlehem only had, at best, a few hundred residents and the “slaughter” was likely only 5-10 babies. Hardly historically noteworthy.

      And no one mentions the three hour eclipse? What about Phlegon of Tralles and Thallus? See the Wikepedia article on “Crucifixion darkness” for details.

      One interesting comment you make. You say that Paul “repeats the traditions laid out in the Gospel” This is actually great – because Paul is know EVEN BY RICHARD CARRIER to have written his letters in 45-55AD. If Paul is well aware of the Gospels, that means that they must have arisen very, very early – consistent with the Christian viewpoint of being written by eyewitnesses.

      “There, I’ve falsified a number of parts of the Gospel.”
      No, not at all. By the way, I am *not* defending inerrancy of the Bible. I’m defending their general reliability and historicity.

      • Glodson

        Let me try this again. I’m ignoring Acts because it isn’t not apart of the Gospel. If I were talking about problems with the plot of the Lord of the Rings, I wouldn’t care what the Silmarillion said even though they are by the same author. I don’t care what Acts said. We are talking about the belief in Christ, not the believe in an early Christian Church. One I know existed, one I doubt had any existence at all let alone a divine existence.

        And here’s a meta point for you. When you randomly capitalize parts of a sentence, it makes you look like an old man shouting at kids on his lawn. Don’t do that. It will have the effect of making people take you less seriously.

        Okay, let’s talk about Acts. What evidence do you have for the accuracy of Acts? Let’s say you provide this, as I’m going to skip to the end, how does that prove the supernatural aspects of Jesus? And let’s not even start on the problems of Acts: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/acts/intro.html . Not a grea way to prove your religion. “Hey, the history of my religion as recorded in our holy book is proof for our religion!”

        Yes, in the days before Google, but still mapped out and well traveled. Those sound like poor rationalizations, and not at all the first hand account of someone who traveled the land himself. Or even the second hand account. Again, this is a flaw in the narrative. We can dismiss it, but it is still there. One would expect the holy book of god to be better fact checked, as this is the kind of thing that creates doubt.

        Oh, so the issue is just a translation problem with “Cyrenius?” What’s the proper translation for th Gospels? What are other issues we get wrong thanks to translation? We aren’t talking about just any book. This is a book that will cause people to sin if they get it wrong. This is the cornerstone of faith. Can you not see the problem if there’s a translation error? And that sounds like a dodge. We are to take these books at face value concerning the resurrection, which is the focal point, but these details that are apart of the narrative are just minor quibbles?

        Let’s get back the the Slaughter of the Innocents. No extra-biblical account, and it only happens in one book of the Gospel. Why should we take that at face value? When we are discussing an 2000-ish year old text, why should any of it be taken at face value? It is just as easy that those events didn’t occur.

        Like your picking of different historical recordings. We don’t need Grant to record the Emancipation Proclamation as it is recorded by numerous other sources. Marco Polo isn’t the only source we have for the history of China, and the wall is actually there. Rome is discussed by others, and Herodotus had a purpose for writing what he did. And we have writings from Rome itself. A pattern is emerging here. We have a ministry of a Jewish Mystic that goes unrecorded by any source outside the bible which caused a near riot in Jerusalem, a major city, who was punished in an extraordinary event that is not consistent with the punishments at that time. And no one else mentions this. It could have happened, but we are concerned with collaborating evidence. It isn’t that a handful of contemporaries didn’t mention Christ, it is that none of them mentioned Christ, expect maybe Josephus, and only incidentally. And we have no real evidence for him outside the Gospels. Look at the pattern above, items weren’t mentioned but we have tons of evidence for their existing from other sources.

        Finally, even if I grant that the slaughter could have happened, and maybe it was just a translation error for Cyrenius, what about the other errors I mentioned? Like the tax census not existing until around 70 CE? Which brings me to the three hour eclipse. I didn’t think you would bring that one up, as that right there is a testable and supernatural element. Phlegon of Tralles is a person from the second century CE. So… not a great first hand witness. Now let’s get to the meat of this.

        Here we have something we can show to have never happened. It is impossible. Period. Why? When did Jesus get crucified? Passover. When does Passover occur? During a full moon. What do we need for an eclipse? A new moon. For a solar eclipse, we need a new moon, which can’t happen during Passover. So, not observed, and not possible. Unless God moved the Moon into the path of the sunlight over Jerusalem, and then moved it back. He would have to, or this would play havoc with the Saros cycle. And since orbital patterns require the Earth to move, and the Moon to move, this would have been very bad. The Earth would have had to have been tidally locked with the Sun and the Moon would have had to have been tidally locked with the Earth. This is in violation of the Conservation of Angular Momentum. Not possible. The Earth would have stopped rotating. Which is very bad considering the speed at which the equator rotates. Devastatingly bad. And the Orbit of the Moon would had to have stopped. Since it wasn’t moving, there was no lateral movement to offset the attraction of the Earth, which would have pulled the Moon down unto the Earth.

        These are extraordinary events. And you cite a guy who wrote in the second century CE as proof for it. Right there, I could have just jumped to this point to dismiss your entire post out of hand. Here’s a large scale miracle that would have been impossible to explain otherwise. Confirmation of this would require all the atheists here to completely rethink their take on god. And no proof of it. Like I said, a guy who could not have been alive to see it is not proof.

        We have prayer that fails the test, as laid out by Jesus. I’ve shown that. We have this eclipse that could not have happened, and not happened as claimed in the Gospel even if it did. I’ve shown that. So even if I elect to ignore the problem with taking the the Gospels as historical reportage as deeply flawed, even if I grant there was a man we can call Jesus, the issue is that there’s no reason to assume he’s divine. That’s the fatal flaw. Even if I’m wrong, even if I am dead wrong, and there really was a ministry by a man named Jesus, this doesn’t mean any miracles occurred. No one else mentions any of them, which is the crux of the proof of the man’s divinity. So why should any of us consider him more than a man?

        And I don’t get your obsession with Acts. I’ll explain this one last time. I am not interested at all in them. I’m not interested in Paul. I’m interested in the life of Jesus as recorded by his disciples. The people who are supposedly primary sources for our knowledge of him. This is the discussion. This is much like when I have to discuss Evolution with people who constantly want to bring in Abiogenesis, or the Big Bang. While they can be fruitful topics in their own rights, I don’t care in the context of this discussion. If we have a problem with the Gospels, we have a problem with the existence of Jesus. And we have a major problem with the Gospels. Apart from internal inconsistencies, apart from the errors, there’s no proof for the claims.

        Why do we take the miracles which we cannot observe at face value? Why don’t we consider the accounts of Homer to be true? Or the legends of other peoples? Many of them have a basis on history, and historical figures. If the bible isn’t inerrant, how do I know that Jesus was the son of god? If I don’t know that, why even be Christian?

        • tumeyn

          Glodson,
          Great discussion – thanks for your well thought-out and reasoned replies. I love conversations like this – I always learn something new. I’d love to continue the conversation by email if you are interested. You can contact me at “Threeredshirts (at) yahoo”.

          (Also thanks for the comment about capitalization. I wish there was a bold function in posts, so capitalization was the best I could do. Looking back on it, I agree I was rather annoying with my usage of it.)

          • Glodson

            Well, this is as good as time as any for this test. I believe that html works here. If I’m wrong, I’ll look foolish. To add emphasis, try using the code for bold letters, like this. Italics are useful as well, such as this. This one is a bit longer but can be worth it. I don’t always use it because I’m lazy and hate typing it out, but links can be made as well.

            And then you can blockquote someone. It looks like this.

            This is a blockquote

            If this all works, I’ll reply with instructions on how to do such coding. If it doesn’t work, well, these codes work on other blogs.

            Now, if you take anything else from our conversation, it should be this: read every account of history critically. The older histories are wildly inaccurate. Even modern ones have a bias, or slant. People often write them for a reason. From Herodotus to modern scholars, the authors of histories tend to have a point. Modern scholars tend to have a higher standard, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a reason for what they are writing. Question the source, question what you’ve read and heard.

            Now let’s see how foolish I look with my impromptu html lesson.

          • Glodson

            Well, this is as good as time as any for this test. I believe that html works here. If I’m wrong, I’ll look foolish. To add emphasis, try using the code for bold letters, like this. Italics are useful as well, such as this. This one is a bit longer but can be worth it. I don’t always use it because I’m lazy and hate typing it out, but links can be made as well.

            And then you can blockquote someone. It looks like this.

            This is a blockquote

            If this all works, I’ll reply with instructions on how to do such coding. If it doesn’t work, well, these codes work on other blogs.

            Now, if you take anything else from our conversation, it should be this: read every account of history critically. The older histories are wildly inaccurate. Even modern ones have a bias, or slant. People often write them for a reason. From Herodotus to modern scholars, the authors of histories tend to have a point. Modern scholars tend to have a higher standard, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a reason for what they are writing. Question the source, question what you’ve read and heard.

            Now let’s see how foolish I look with my impromptu html lesson.

          • Glodson

            Sorry about the double post. I made a mistake in my coding, which happens. Look at the second one first.

            Anyways, how to do that: first the codes( I don’t know how much you know) are really just tags. Put them between these: No spaces at the front or back.

            Bold is done with the strong tag. Words here. Like that. I won’t do the others like this. Italics is done with a simple i. The link is done with a href=”website here” then comes the name of the link you want and then it ends with an /a

            And the blockquote uses the odd word blockquote. That should help if you feel the need to add to a message. Just check. I made a stupid mistake in my first posting, and you saw what happened.

  • Bystander

    We seem to have gotten off the whole “approach [the Bible] as a great piece of literature” bit. There’s a distinct feature of the category called “literature”, namely — it’s fictional. Maybe you could clarify why, as a Christian, you are calling the Bible fictional?

  • Kodie

    Regarding prayer for things like warm floors – I have literally heard people thank god for something not necessarily socks but in that same area of ordinary fixes to ordinary problems. Thank god we all don’t have to suffer and god inspired one guy long ago to invent foot coverings and all the people since then to improve the structure, design, and quality of socks, manufacture them cheaply in sweatshop conditions, and sell them in packages of 6 for less than $10.

    But curse the Phantom Sock Thief of the dryer!

    • Glodson

      Now did they actually say a prayer in thanks, or was it just a statement like “thank god for socks.” I ask because as a god-hatin’, satan-lovin’ atheist, sometimes I still say “thank god” when I don’t mean it.

      I get to lie and blaspheme, at the same time! It is truly a miracle.

      • Kodie

        I invoke god and Jesus all the time as well. I mean, though, it is part of our vocabulary. I guess I’m not saying that people get down on their knees and praise the lord there are socks but that people even atheists like you or me relate good things happening, even in an expression, to god. I don’t know if this makes god more or less … what word am I thinking of. I watch tv and characters might say something assuming god is real and it’s not part of the plot to interrupt them. Expressions come from usage and usage is still common. I don’t know the name of the guy who invented socks, and when I think about it that way, god is another way to say “I don’t know” especially when you want to act like you do know. At some point in the pretty distant past, I tried to formulate (at length) a thing called “god” to mean everything at every time (but not a person who contains all things and time, knowledge, or concern, i.e. the universe). Maybe I don’t know who invented socks but someone knows, and just like “Not Me” in the Family Circus comic strip, it definitely was someone in the category of everything at every time.


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