How Decades of Oral Tradition Corrupted the Gospels

How Decades of Oral Tradition Corrupted the Gospels November 7, 2014

(See the first in this series of posts traveling the tortuous journey from 21st-century Western culture back to the original story of Jesus here.)

Imagine that the year is 50 CE and you are a merchant in Judea or Galilee. A traveler stops at your house and asks for lodging, and you comply. After dinner, you chat with your new acquaintance and mention that you have recently become a follower of the Jewish messiah, Jesus. He is unaware of Jesus and asks to hear more, and you tell the complete gospel story, from the birth of Jesus through his ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection. Your guest is excited by the story and eager to pass it on. He asks that you tell it again.

Instead, you ask him to tell the story so that you can correct any errors. He goes through the story twice, with you making corrections and adding bits to the story that you’d forgotten in the first telling.

You’ve now spent the entire night telling the powerful story, but you and your new friend agree that it was time well spent. He is on his way, and a week later the events are repeated, but this time your friend plays host to a traveler and the Good News is passed on to a new convert.

Imagine how long you would need to summarize the gospel story and how many times you’d need to correct yourself with, “Oh wait a minute—there was one more thing that came before” or “No, not Capernaum … I think it was Caesarea.” That confusing tale would be a lot for an initiate to remember, and yet this imaginary encounter was about as good as it got for passing on so complex a story. Consider other less perfect scenarios—getting fragments of the story from different people over months or years or having two believers arguing over details as they try to tell the story in tandem.

“And then Jesus healed the centurion’s slave—”

“No, no—that’s when he healed the daughter of Jairus! Or Gyrus, or something. And it wasn’t the centurion’s slave, it was his son. Or maybe his servant, I forget.”

(And so on.)

Christian response

Apologists appreciate the problem of oral history when they argue that the earliest gospel was written just 20 to 30 years after the resurrection instead historians’ typical estimate of 40 years, but this does little to resolve the problem.

Let’s give them that. Let’s assume just twenty years of oral history in a pre-scientific culture produced a story about the Creator of the Universe coming to earth. What certainty can we have that such a whopper is correct?

Christians and atheists can agree that the period of oral history is a concern, but what is rarely acknowledged is the translation that happened at the same time.

A modern parallel

To see this, first consider a different example. In response to the 1858 sightings of Mary at Lourdes, France by a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette, the local bishop investigated and concluded a year and a half later that the sightings were genuine. Bernadette and the bishop were from the same culture and spoke the same language.

The gospel story had a much more harrowing journey. Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic and came from a Jewish culture, but this isn’t where the gospel came from. Every book in the New Testament was written in Greek and came from a Greek culture. The story would have been heard in and (to some extent) adapted to a Greek context.

For example, imagine a gospel without the water-into-wine story. “Wait a minute,” the Greek listener might say. “The Oenotropae could change water into wine. If Jesus was god, couldn’t he do that as well?”

Or imagine a gospel without the healing miracles. “Asclepius was generous with his healing gifts and even raised the dead. Didn’t Jesus do anything like that?”

Or a gospel without the resurrection. “Dionysus was killed and then was reborn. You mean Jesus just died, and that was it?”

In fact, the earliest books in the Bible are Paul’s letters, which have almost nothing of the gospel story—no healings, no parables, no feeding the 5000, and no virgin birth. The Jesus of Paul performs no miracles, gives no Sermon on the Mount, has no public ministry, and gives no Great Commission. Might passage through Greek culture have added some of these elements?

Humans have a long history of adapting gods to their own culture—for example, the Greek god Heracles became Hercules when he was adopted by the Romans. Athena became Minerva, Poseidon became Neptune, Aphrodite became Venus, and Zeus became Jupiter. The Hebrews adopted the Mesopotamian flood story of Gilgamesh as well as the Sumerian water model of the cosmos.

We know how stories evolve in our own time. As Richard Carrier notes (video @ 26:00), the evolution of the Jesus story is like the evolution of the Roswell UFO Incident. A guy finds some sticks and Mylar in the desert, and this was interpreted as debris from a crashed spaceship. But within 30 years, the story had morphed. Now, a spaceship crashed in the desert, and the military autopsied the dead aliens and is reverse-engineering their advanced technology.

Spreading the Word in an oral culture

Let’s return to your telling the story to the new convert. How close was your version of the story to that in the New Testament? And how similar would the new guy’s telling of the story be to the one that you told him? How much variation is added with each retelling?

The gospel story was an oral tradition for four decades or more before finally being written down. That’s a lot of time for the story to evolve.

Christians may respond that by relying on writing, our memory skills have atrophied. In an oral culture like that in first-century Palestine, people became very good at memorization.

Yes, it’s possible that people memorized the Jesus story so that they could retell it the same as it was taught to them, but there is no reason to imagine that this was how it was passed along. Indeed, it’s wrong to assume that storytellers in an oral culture always wanted to repeat a story with perfect accuracy. We care about perfect accuracy because we come from a literate culture. Only because we have the standard of the written word do we assume that other cultures would want to approximate this unvarying message.

The theory of oral-formulaic composition argues instead that tales are often changed with the retelling to adapt to the audience or to imperfect memory. Any transcription of such a tale (like a single written version of the Iliad) would simply be a snapshot of a single telling, and you would deceive yourself if you imagined that this gives an accurate record of the story. This is seen in modern-day oral epic poetry in the Balkans and is guessed to be the structure of Homeric epic storytelling as well.

But this is a tangent. The gospel story wasn’t an epic poem, but rather a story passed from person to person. It changed with time, just like any story does.

The gossip fence is a better analog than Homer.

Read the first post in this series: What Did the Original Books of the Bible Say?

When a person is determined to believe something,

the very absurdity of the doctrine confirms them in their faith.
— Letters of Junius 12/19/1769

Photo credit: Wikimedia

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 7/23/12.)

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  • C.J. O’Brien

    There’s actually very little evidence of orality behind the gospels. Mark was written first and it’s a highly structured literary narrative. All of the changes found to Markan pericopes in Matthew and Luke are clearly literary, not the result of altered oral retellings. Which leaves John, seemingly the least viable candidate for identifying an oral substrate.

    It’s really just an assumption based on faulty generalizations about “oral cultures” and a failure to engage with the texts outside of traditional critical frameworks. Typically the oral and the written operate side by side, not sequentially in some imagined progression from oral traditions to literary canons. Also to note is that in an “oral culture” the literary is oral; texts were meant to be read aloud, so most “readers” would actually have been hearers.

    The assumption persists because it supports the standard picture of how an itinerant exorcist could have been transformed into a cosmic savior. But the actual evidence looked at without the baggage of centuries faith-based exegesis requires new perspectives, such as at least considering the idea that there was no itinerant exorcist in the first place and that the (imaginary) cosmic savior came first.

    Humans have a long history of adapting gods to their own culture—for
    example, the Greek god Heracles became Hercules when he was adopted by
    the Romans. Athena became Minerva, Poseidon became Neptune, Aphrodite
    became Venus, and Zeus became Jupiter.

    Syncretic identifications were made between Greek deities and pre-existing Roman divinities. All of the Roman gods you name there (except Hercules which amounts to a transliteration between a Greek name and its Latin equivalent) had long histories in Italy before those designations were made, and in most cases (Jupiter being the exception) the “fit” in terms of attributes was not all that close.
    What happened was the Romans adopted the Greek mythological tradition and assigned their native gods places in the tales. But it’s a mistake to conflate mythology with religious practice. Roman practices remained quite distinct.

    • Pofarmer

      Yes. I don’t know where I reD it,mor how it fot synthesized, but the Gospels din’t read like an oral story converted to Greek. They are Greek compositions, with Greek forms, Greek thought, Greek theology, blended with whatever it was Paul and others like him were teaching. If there was some ora tradition, it is other than what is in the Gospels.

    • Sure, let’s say they’re highly polished. So what? How does that dismiss 40 years of oral history plus tweaking by copyists afterwards?

      Your challenge isn’t to show how they might not be the result of legend but that they can’t be.

      • Pofarmer

        I dont’t think you can say that the can’t be the result of legend, but they certainly don’t have to be.

        • Right. All I’m saying is that the Christian position isn’t helped by saying, “Well, it might not’ve been legend.”

  • MNb

    ” Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic and came from a Jewish culture”
    The second part is very weak. Since Alexander the Great Jewish culture had been immensely influenced by Greek culture. No single jew could have escaped Greek influence 300 years later. This doesn’t affect your conclusion though – it rather reinforces it.

    • TheNuszAbides

      this is what i’d been led to understand while i was grappling with the implications of Jesus being a Greek name, and a small flurry of protestations such as “his real name would have been Yeshua! why scripture gotta be so inauthentic!” were countered with “sure, we can assume he would have an official rabbinical name, but that area was so Hellenized in those days…”

      • MNb

        Actually Jesus is a Roman name – Greek names end with -os.

        “that area was so Hellenized in those days…”
        That’s actually a bad and unnecessary point. Jesus didn’t write the Gospels himself. If the authors wrote Greek we should expect that they Hellenized Jesus’ name. That was common practice.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i was just relating the order in which i was presented with simplified perspectives. i don’t bat an eyelash at either of them today. was also near passing-out, otherwise i surely would’ve embellished at the time.

  • MR

    You don’t even need the stories changing from person to person. My mother tells stories about our lives from when I was a kid that have nothing to do with reality.

    She has these favorite stories that she’s told over and over through the years that have become more and more embellished to the point that they are unrecognizable. And the fascinating thing is that she herself believes them!

  • Kodie

    Once it has been written in a book, nobody should have a different version. There’s a 2000 year old tradition codified in a manual distributed more widely than any other manual, and it’s still not consistent from Christian to Christian, today, much less hundreds or thousands of years and miles apart. On one hand, you have modern Christians sunk into superstitious beliefs from another era, but they also understand it in a modern, fashionable way. They imagine pilgrims or Founding Fathers or Crusaders or African mission-converted Catholics sharing the same thread of belief, but they are far removed from the original, interpreted and perceived in the context of time, place, culture, and usefulness.

  • Pofarmer

    As an Aside, we just got done watching “Hercules” with Dwayne Johnson. I liked it, I also liked “Troy” with Brad Pit. I like how these movies are attempting to demythologize the old stories, and show the charachters as just men. I like how Hercules shows irreverence to the idea of Gods.

  • KarlUdy

    Yes, it’s possible that people memorized the Jesus story so that they could retell it the same as it was taught to them, but there is no reason to imagine that this was how it was passed along. Indeed, it’s wrong to assume that storytellers in an oral culture always wanted to repeat a story with perfect accuracy. We care about perfect accuracy because we come from a literate culture. Only because we have the standard of the written word do we assume that other cultures would want to approximate this unvarying message.

    You are right that it would be wrong to assume that storytellers in an oral culture always wanted to repeat a story with perfect accuracy.

    However, you are wrong to say that we only care about accuracy because we come from a literate culture.

    There are several examples of oral cultures where accuracy in retelling is extremely important, including some which do not tolerate a single mistake in over 600 lines of verse.

    • Pofarmer

      Early christianity was pretty much a peasant religion, and not very organized or centralized. What indications are there that there would have been some organized preistly class memorizing all these lines of Verse? In fact, Pauls letters indicate over and over that folks were worshipping with unapproved practices or preaching unnaproved beliefs. Your own book undermines your argument, especially since this would have been before the canonical Gospels.

      • MNb

        “In fact, Pauls letters indicate over and over …..”
        That’s why he wrote them.

    • Kodie

      Can you imagine Christianity in its infancy being treated so carefully and people not able to breathe a word of it until they were qualified as to memorizing scripture? I mean, imagine a religion being spread only in a formal classroom, and not letting the students speak of the lessons or repeat any of it until they passed the test. Can you really imagine this tiny little obscure tale being treated like it shouldn’t get into the wrong hands or allowed to be told if not entirely memorized? How is Jesus going to save people who have never heard of him because this story is too special to share? I mean, it’s the kind of myth people would talk about and not worry about formalities as you insist.

      And, what happened since then? Religion now has to be one of the most carelessly transferred types of information. Nobody cares if you get it, only if you believe it, and most Christians are inept at supporting their beliefs with literacy much less evidence. They do seem to rely mostly on memorizing the gist of certain arguments, and some of them know the bible inside and out but not too much else. Then you have Erwin who says nothing but references (not even quotes) the bible, because he doesn’t trust himself to relay information in his own words or maybe he doesn’t understand what it says and needs us to explain it to him? I don’t really know. What happened to your religion that it’s so easily misinterpreted, and so incapably relayed?

      How does it make any sense that a perfect being would “inspire” a story while relying on human error, mistranslating and miscommunicating, elaborating, embellishing, speaking without the standard of literacy and ease of print we have some time later than Jesus? If god can see the future, print would have been invented prior to Jesus, but as long as we’re on the topic, the bible is in print and still fails to grab most of the people on the planet as truth, and most of the people who can and have read it don’t agree on lots of it. What good is the oral tradition, and what good did god think humans were at getting this thing off the ground and maintained consistently? He could solve all of these problems so easily.

      • Good point. That is indeed ironic to imagine the ancients frantic about the oral story being word-for-word perfect (compared to what, I don’t know) when we today are obviously so flexible about what the Bible says.

        • KarlUdy

          Actually, when Paul talks about what he received, he passed on he is using exactly the same words that were used in a rabbinical school context to describe memorization, of which the closest our modern society comes to is an actor learning their lines in a play, or musicians learning to play in a concert.

          It’s all very well being incredulous, but it pays to check your facts first.

        • Good thing we have you to keep us honest, but I’m not sure how this changes things.

          What is there for Paul to memorize? He spoke to Jesus. That’s his authority.

          And even if memorization were key to Paul’s work, how does that help us with the decades of oral history. Show me that the story didn’t get passed from person to fallible person until it wound up in the gospels.

        • MR

          As it most certainly did.

        • KarlUdy

          What is there for Paul to memorize? He spoke to Jesus. That’s his authority.

          In 1 Corinthians Paul quotes from the Last Supper. He wasn’t there. How was he able to reproduce the conversation?

          Similarly in 1 Corinthians 15 (where Paul actually uses the “passed on” and “received” terminology) Paul goes on to recite an Aramaic summary of Jesus’ death and resurrection appearances. Again, aside from including himself at the end and a comment about how many of the witnesses were still alive, this clearly appears to be material that Paul has memorized and reproduced.

          And even if memorization were key to Paul’s work, how does that help us with the decades of oral history. Show me that the story didn’t get passed from person to fallible person until it wound up in the gospels.

          Your hypothesis requires the gospel story to go through many people and many changes before it is recorded. However, the face value evidence is that John was written by an eye-witness and Luke was written by someone who interviewed eye-witnesses. The period of time is not so great that eye-witnesses could no longer be found. It is therefore a perfectly resonable conclusion that the story did not go through the process of being corrupted in an oral gossip/urban legend mill but instead was recorded directly by eye-witnesses or those reporting eye-witness testimony.

        • this clearly appears to be material that Paul has memorized and reproduced.

          This is your point? That he memorized a couple of sentences? I was arguing that the entire gospel story wasn’t passed on by trained memorizers.

          However, the face value evidence is that John was written by an eye-witness and Luke was written by someone who interviewed eye-witnesses.

          It might’ve been like that. Your job is to show that it certainly was like that.

          The period of time is not so great that eye-witnesses could no longer be found.

          … and? You can find errors in the newspaper about events that happened yesterday. I don’t know what black magic you imagine will keep the story on track over 40 years of oral history, but it must be powerful.

          It is therefore a perfectly resonable conclusion that the story did not go through the process of being corrupted in an oral gossip/urban legend mill but instead was recorded directly by eye-witnesses or those reporting eye-witness testimony.

          Let’s make this clear. You’re saying that the gospel story might have been recorded correctly? That’s not much of a foundation to build this incredible story of yours.

    • How is this intolerance expressed? If I’m listening to a telling of the story, how do I tell if an error was made?

      • RichardSRussell

        The best example of this I’ve heard was in the story of Alex Haley, author of Roots, getting an orally transmitted genealogy from one of his distant African relatives, recounted generation after generation until they finally got to Kunta Kinte.

        If he’d gotten it wrong, of course, there’d be no way to check or verify it, and that’s probably why Jesus himself has 2 radically different genealogies in the gospels.

        Still, it’s not an impossible task, merely impressive because it’s such a daunting challenge.

        • Greg G.

          I think Luke deliberately changed Matthew’s genealogy because it was obviously wrong. Both agree from Abraham to David, a line that can be backed up by the Old Testament. Matthew 1:17 makes a big deal of their being 14 generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the Babylonian deportation, and fourteen generations from Babylon to Jesus. But according to the Old Testament, Matthew missed four generations, three from Jehoram to Uzziah, and he has Josiah as Jeconiah’s father, omitting Jehoiakim. .Also, Jeremiah 36:19-21 tells of a curse put on the offspring of Jeconiah, so Luke had reason to think Jesus could not be from Jeconiah’s lineage. Then there is the problem of there only being 13 generations from there to Jesus. Matthew must have counted Babylon as a generation.

          Luke traces the genealogy back to God being the first and Jesus being the 77th generation. His Abraham ancestors can be found in the Old Testament but it is hard to tell where he got Nathan’s descendants.

        • TheNuszAbides

          how clumsy of Luke to imply that God was generated!

      • Lark62

        I think there are some Scandinavian epic poems that were passed on that way. The people who knew the poems dedicated years to learning them from the elders. And they could not recite them if not mastered. Some native American tribes may have had similar traditions.

        However, given the large number of versions of every story and teaching, it is quite clear that nothing like this applies to the bible.

  • KarlUdy

    Christians and atheists can agree that the period of oral history is a concern, but what is rarely acknowledged is the translation that happened at the same time.

    The length of the period of oral history is not as important as you think. Eye-witnesses to Jesus were still alive 20, 30 and 40 years later whether the gospels were written at the earlier or later point. Studies show that memory is very accurate when recalling significant events in a person’s life. There is a lot of reason to believe that the gospels accurately preserve the testimony of eye-witnesses to Jesus.

    • Kodie

      “Studies show…” – citations please!

      • Pofarmer

        Exactly. Pretty much every study i’ve seen indicates people Think they accurately remember important events. Experience says, not so much.

    • Dys

      “Studies show that memory is very accurate when recalling significant events in a person’s life.”

      Actually, they don’t. The notion of so-called flashbulb memory has serious flaws. They’ve done studies involving such events, like those surrounding 9/11, and have found that recollection is just as flawed and inaccurate as other memories. In fact, flashbulb memories might be even more susceptible to change due to how often we replay them, think about them, and tell others about them. The brain doesn’t take pictures.

      http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-our-brains-make-memories-14466850/

    • The Naysayer hypothesis is quite a bad argument. Demolished here.

      Human memory is very unreliable (more in an upcoming post). One post on that subject is here.

      If your point is that the story might have been preserved over decades of oral history, OK. I’ll accept that. But that’s not your goal. Your goal is to show that it certainly was.

      • MR

        Another little anecdote about memory.

        Once I was alone in a friend’s backyard and found myself in the uncomfortable position of overhearing his neighbors arguing. They were a couple in their nineties, and the altercation ended with her yelling at her husband, “The difference is I can change, you can’t!”

        It was a sad, yet sweet story, that I recounted to my friend. He got a kick out of the story, and retold it in my presence several times in the following months.

        A couple years later, I had more or less forgotten about it when I was at a party where he told the story once again. The story had changed. He had added his own punchline and told it from a first person point of view as if he had been the one to overhear it. I pulled him aside later and said, “You know that I was the person who overheard that conversation, right? You weren’t even there.”

        He was indignant! No, he remembered clearly standing in the backyard listening to them fight. I pointed out some details of the incident that he had left out or that I hadn’t told him, and he was shocked to realize that I, in fact, had been the one to witness the event.

        What was obvious to me was that he loved the story so much that he had told and retold it many times, simplifying it, embellishing it in places, and ridding it of the middle man, me, to come up with a polished story that was sure to get a laugh. In the end, he ended up believing his own fish tale.

        This is one of the many problems of Christianity. Many of the tales have been told and retold because they make good stories. But stories, dare I say, evolve over time. The curse of writing is that these oral tales then get solidified and can be compared to other tellings of the same tale that don’t quite match up. The stories change, then get locked in, and when new information comes along, you can no longer change the tale to adapt to the new information. You end up with embarrassing inconsistencies. How did Judas die, what order was the creation, does or doesn’t God condone slavery and genocide, and countless other little problems which result in much hand waving and exhortations by Christians not to look behind the curtain.

        The truth is, even my story of that day is probably not a true account of what actually happened. In fact, I started to add that, after exclaiming that she could change, the wife stormed off into the house. I had to backspace over those words because I realized I couldn’t say for sure that that had indeed happened. But it would have been a great ending to the story.

        Can we really trust the memory of anyone who is out to tell us a good story? Stories that are oft repeated are vulnerable to change.

        • Great anecdote. Thanks for that.

          I plan a post on memory next week that will recount a similar story. Stay tuned.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “Can we really trust the memory of anyone who is out to tell us a good story?”

          let alone The ~Greatest~ Story Ever Told!

        • Lark62

          You can follow the embellishment from Mark to Luke and Matthew. Matthew knew Judean geography so corrected errors that Luke left in. With each gospel, the story was a little more interesting and elaborate. Yet John, written from a separate tradition, tells a completely different story.

          Was jesus crucified on passover or the day before passover?

          Was jesus’ attitude “take this cup from me” or “bring it on”?

          This is supposedly the single most important event in the history of mankind, and no one can agree on the few details that were remembered. And christians carefully don’t notice the errors, contradictions and gaps.

        • And christians carefully don’t notice the errors, contradictions and gaps.

          Worse, Christian professionals find rationalizations to give lay Christians a pat on the head. “You just go on believing. We’ll worry about finding a path through the facts so that God belief is maintained.”

        • MR

          Science adjusts its beliefs based on what’s observed
          Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
          —Tim Minchin

        • MR

          And christians carefully don’t notice the errors, contradictions and gaps.

          Nice. I like that.

        • Lark62

          One does have to work fairly hard not to see them.

        • Kodie

          When a Christian has a doubt, concern, or question about anything, who do they typically ask? I say this because I think more Christians may notice these errors than don’t, because when you point these things out to them, their rationalizations for the errors are all the same. When you argue with a Christian about a particular disjunction, their answers are all the same whitewash, and they expect us to buy it too.

      • primenumbers

        Just look at how naysayers works with Creationism. Creationists are told evolution is fact. They’re told repeatedly, with a great abundance of evidence, yet still their remain Creationists.

        Fact is people don’t want to be told they’re wrong, and don’t react well to being told they’re wrong. People don’t tend to fact check and will pass along stories without checking that the story is correct.

        Look at how the Gospel accounts redact each other and correct things, yet what does the believer do? They harmonize and rationalize the differences and don’t accept the corrections.

        And finally of course, we have no evidence of this supposedly corrective process occurring (outside the above mentioned redactions). You’re spot on right – you demolished it.

      • KarlUdy

        I am not using the naysayer hypothesis. My point in saying the eye-witnesses were still around at the time of the writing of the gospels is to point out that you cannot simply assume the gospel story went from the source to survive only through decades and multiple generations of oral tradition before being committed to writing. The eye-witnesses were still around to be a direct source for the written gospels.

        In bringing up the idea that human memory is very unreliable you are relying on your memory. Ironic.

        • You’re saying that the gospels might contain eyewitness testimony? Sure, it might. Not much on which to build support for a supernatural claim.

          I don’t follow your last point. Sure, human memory is unreliable. I don’t know what ironic error in my memory you think you’ve found, but that would simply underscore the point.

        • KarlUdy

          I don’t know what ironic error in my memory you think you’ve found, but that would simply underscore the point.

          I find it ironic that you rely on your memory to relay an argument that human memory is fallible.

        • Did my memory fail me? I guess that underscores the point.

    • Blizzard

      Yeah those stories are, like, totally believable dude. Awesome.

    • smrnda

      I’m not sure studies confirm that memories are accurate when recalling significant events. With ‘flashbulb memories’ (‘where were you when Kennedy was shot? Sept 11? Etc) studies indicate they aren’t so accurate. However, another issue is that they are kind of unique as memories go; people assume they will always remember, as opposed to ‘where i left my car keys.’

      Elizabeth Loftus has done some research on the unreliability of memory. Her work provides a counterpoint for the belief that if 1 person remembers wrong, the others will necessarily correct. A confident but wrong person my persuade others they are wrong.

      • TheNuszAbides

        watch out for people who dismiss Loftus out of hand because Ted Bundy’s defense could afford her expert testimony the first time he was in court.

    • Lark62

      Which explains why no one in America is ever convicted on faulty eye witness testimony. Not.

      Recent research has shown that people cannot consistently remember details, and something as simple as a cop saying “yes” under his breath when a suspect is identified in a line up changes “I can’t remember” to “this is the man without question.” Also, certainty increases over time even when the witness is dead wrong.

      • To your point about faulty memories, have you heard of the “What Jennifer Saw” project? I’ll be mentioning that in an upcoming blog post, so I’ll tell you more then if you don’t want to look it up now.

        • Lark62

          There is one test where people were asked to watch a 15 second video of 8 or so people in a circle tossing a basketball to each other. They were told to carefully count the number of tosses.

          Afterwards, they were asked about the man in the gorilla suit. Not one person noticed a man in a gorilla suit walk into the circle, pause, and walk away. He was present for half the video.

      • KarlUdy

        There is quite a body of research on memory. One of the key points is that people’s memory of events that were significant in their own life are generally remembered very accurately.

        There are many reasons eye-witness testimony in courtrooms is faulty – the number one would be outright lying.

  • exrelayman

    Yes, a good argument. Weakened perhaps a tad by the following:

    “Let’s give them that. Let’s assume just twenty years of oral history in a pre-scientific culture produced a story about the Creator of the Universe coming to earth.”

    but later:

    “The gospel story was an oral tradition for four decades or more before finally being written down.”

    Was this a wee slip or am I missing something?

    • I was talking about two things. “Even assuming twenty years …” was one idea, and “scholars say it was 40 years” is another.

      • exrelayman

        Sorry I was not sharp enough to catch that. Thanks for explaining.

  • RichardSRussell

    Here’s a little test you can give to any devotee of the game of telephone as practiced in ancient Palestine. Ask her or him to sit down and, without access to any reference materials, write down everything he or she remembers about the US presidential election of 1948. That was only 66 years ago, or about the length of time that had passed since the supposed Jesus was supposedly crucified and the time they finally realized that no, he wasn’t about to return momentarily, and maybe somebody had better write all this crap down.

    Chances are that the dominant memory most people have of that election — if they have any at all — is the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman”. What else could they dredge up? Issues? Speeches? VP candidates? Significant turning points?

    Remember, the first post-war presidential election was a major national event that went on continuously for months and months and had huge coverage in the press, on radio, on TV, and in everybody’s day-to-day conversations, not some obscure kerfuffle in an isolated backwater with hardly any eyewitnesses and zero mass media. It has tremendous advantages in the recollection department over anything having to do with Jesus.

    And how well do you suppose your interrogatee will do with this little test? How well did you do with it? Remember, it’s within the living memory of people you know. Before you double-check against authenticated sources, ask some of them to supplement your own recollections. See what you end up with.

    • Greg G.

      It was the first election without the incumbent running in 16 years. And Dewey won.

      • busterggi

        Continuing his winning streak from defeating the Spanish in 1898.

  • primenumbers

    Even talking of oral history gives the writing of the gospels too much credit. What we know is they were written much later from the events by anonymous people literate in Greek. There is no real evidence of an oral tradition preceding them, just a Christian assumption of one to bridge the time gap between the supposed events and their later recording. What “oral history” doesn’t explain is the way the gospels use Greek and OT literature (and some Josephus too) as the source material for their Jesus stories. If there was really an oral history, why the copying and outright invention?

    • Greg G.

      I think the human Jesus of the canonical gospels was a literary creation but some of the words attributed to him in the Gospel of Thomas may have come by oral transmission of Stoic sources and the Epistles.

      For example:

      Thomas 53
      His disciples said to Him, “Is circumcision beneficial or not?” He said to them, “If it were beneficial, their father would beget them already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable.

      sounds like it could have resulted from an oral transmission of:

      Romans 2:28-29
      “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.”

      Compare Thomas 85 with Romans 5:12-14, Thomas 87 with Galatians 5:24-25, Thomas 42 with 1 Corinthians 7:31, Thomas 48 and 106 with 1 Corinthians 13:2, and Thomas 28 with 1 Corinthians 15:34.

      • primenumbers

        That’s interesting. Perhaps indeed they’re orally transmitted from previous Christian works. That could certainly occur if the works were spoken of like that, or perhaps it’s a badly remembered quote from reading the text? Is there any way to really differentiate that from the corruptions of oral transmission??

        • Greg G.

          AIUI, most people back then were illierate so the literate person would read the document. The others could only pass on what they recalled and would have to wait a week or so to hear it again.

        • primenumbers

          Would the writer of the Gospel of Thomas be illiterate and be using a scribe though?

        • Greg G.

          Maybe it started with one literate person and his friends trying to remember all those sayings they heard over the years and assumed they came from Jesus.

          Or they may have been Gnostics and just collected wise sayings they imagined Jesus would have told them if he actually existed. They may have imagined any wisdom tey heard was sent to them from Jesus through any old sage.

          Or, as Robert M. Price argues, any Jesus quote worth repeating is worth making up and attributing it to Jesus.

        • MNb

          Maybe. Suddenly no need for evidence? Then we can argue as well that Batavians (proto-Dutch) were involved in the execution of Jesus. Maybe. Or that Romulus Augustulus escaped to Britain and became King Arthur. Maybe. Or that the nazi’s founded a base on Antarctica. Maybe.
          Or perhaps you like your double standard regarding evidence.

        • Greg G.

          Did you mistake those speculations for claims? There aren’t likely to be echoes of the oral transmissions still floating around. That goes for the oral history of Jesus, too.

        • MNb

          Did you miss the point? With speculations like that you can argue for everything and anything – even a Great Noah Flood. “There aren’t likely to be echoes of the necessary water floating around”. Before you get clever and mention the Law of Mass Conservation – with your “method” we can speculate that it somehow came from and disappeared in space. Why not? Prove it’s impossible.
          Good job, Greg G. You wouldn’t buy bs like this from John the Bigot. Now you pull it off yourself.
          It never seizes to amaze me how difficult it is for skeptics to apply their skepticism to their own pet theories. Also thanks btw for showing why I don’t have to take your hero the theologian and philosopher of religion Price too seriously. As always I rather stick to the data.

        • Greg G.

          I appreciate you keeping me on my toes.

          Primenumbers asked a question that I found interesting that I had never thought about at that level of detail. I’ve seen comments by primenumbers elsewhere and judge that person as very intelligent so I wanted to engage in a brainstorming session. Collaboration and feedback can spur more ideas.

          You are jumping to the critical phase too soon in the process.

          The evidence for the framework of my thinking can be found in these links.

          That the Gospel of Thomas preceded the Gospel of Mark:
          Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas (Part 1) and Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas (Part 2) both by Stevan Davies

          That the Gospel of Thomas was not derived from the Gospels
          Statistical Correlation Analysis of the Order of the Sayings in Thomas and in the Synoptics also by Stevan Davies

          The similarities of Thomas sayings to the ideas from the Epistles:
          Gospel of Thomas Parallels

          A collection of sources for Mark from various scholars:
          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price

          If the epistle authors were getting their ideas from the Gospel of Thomas or its sources, why aren’t any of the ideas attributed to Jesus by them as the gospel authors did? Their arguments would have been strengthened by it.

          The last link to Price has no source for most of Mark 4 and I thought the source for the last part of Mark 3 is weak. Those parts of Mark just happen to match the Sayings from the Gospel of Thomas in the first two Davies links. So the sources dovetail together like a jigsaw puzzle fit.

          Your critique is welcome for this framework.

        • Kodie

          Anyone who has ever read a bedtime story to a child who can’t read yet knows what the literate person does.

        • primenumbers

          Lots of options then, all somewhat reasonable. All the kinds of things that apologists would abuse with a “possibly therefore probably” fallacy as they pick whatever would suit their argument. Love “any Jesus quote worth repeating is worth making up and attributing it to Jesus” – that is exactly how people behave even today.

        • Greg G.

          Those were just speculations off the top of my head. Add some more if you have some ideas.

          That is not an accurate quote of Price but it is the gist of it. I have seen it in two different places and I think one of them was in one of his books while the other was either from a magazine article or an online essay.

          MNb critiqued my speculations for lack of evidence so I provided evidence for the framework I am coming rom here:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2014/11/how-decades-of-oral-tradition-corrupted-the-gospels/#comment-1684303196

        • primenumbers

          “That is not an accurate quote of Price but it is the gist of it. ” – oral history in the making 🙂 I’ll read your link thanks!

        • TheNuszAbides

          the plausibility of that is not so far from the plausibility of how Smith handled the first draft of the book of Mormon.

  • PiMan

    There wasn’t really an extended oral period of 20 years or more before anything was written down. The actual writing of the gospels began right away. There was indeed an oral period, simply because someone doesn’t come up with an epic book like that overnight. It took Jesus years to write and edit the narrative, with a little help from his friends. Huh?

    To be sure, Jesus survived the crucifixion and after he’d healed up got to writing a New Testament – the man had things to say. It took him a while to figure out how to sell his story to Jew and Gentile alike. But by anyone’s standards he did a bang up job, judging by the number of people who have called themselves Christians over the centuries.

    Jesus’ chief scribe was the Beloved Disciple, who was obviously Judas Iscariot. Then again, I fear I’ve veered just a tad off topic.

    • TheNuszAbides

      it’s always the beloved one…

      • PiMan

        Have to admit, it is pretty amazing that most people can’t figure out who the Beloved Disciple was. Just to hammer home the point, John 21 was added after John’s Gospel was supposedly finished. One of the ‘two other disciples’ was Judas Iscariot when he and Jesus showed up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Five of the lads had packed it in and had gone back to fishing – time to get them back on board!

    • MNb

      “It took Jesus years to write and edit the narrative.”
      Evidence?

      • PiMan

        Simply following through with the play. Surviving the crucifixion was by no means a sure thing, but the post ‘resurrection’ appearances were real events. In John 20:24-29, Jesus went out of his way to tell his apostles that he was still a real person in the doubting Thomas story. Jesus handpicked Paul when they met in Damascus because Paul was an educated man, and a Roman citizen. Jesus was a brilliant man, and not the sort to hide behind the scenes and not get involved. Besides, the book was his story.

        There is no doubt to me that Jesus would have had a major role in writing the gospels, and that took a long time. The Synoptic Gospels essentially told the same story, with subtle differences and word play depending on the target audience. The narrative stories are what worked best anyway, and what the masses wanted to hear. The stories could easily be remembered and passed on. Having survived his attempted execution, what would Jesus do next?,It seems to me he would write a book.

        • Jesus wrote a tale, and so you feel empowered to do the same?

          Maybe the gospels are just legend.

        • MNb

          “Simply following through with the play.”
          Just because you like the play? No? Then why would I? See, I like Greek mythology better. It has more understanding of human psychology. Why not simply follow through with that play? Or I like the theology of The Flying Spaghetti Monster best. For one thing it’s way easier to accommodate it with science. For another the FSM is a far more sympathetic entity than god, of which thanks to Trinity is part. So let’s follow the pastafarian play instead.

          “There is no doubt to me that Jesus would have had a major role in writing the gospels.”
          Just repeating this doesn’t make it any more credible.

        • PiMan

          Mnb: “Ah, thanks for giving me an excuse for being impolite. At least I’m never passive-aggressive. I’m just straightforwardly nasty.” Nah, say it ain’t so.

          Not to paint with an overly broad brush or nothin’, but this is what I call, “The Evidence!” argument. Rabid athIEst types tend to go to this one too early. When a 314 page tome isn’t presented as Evidence! within hours of making a simple statement (in this case the so called oral period), many an atheist slides into bezerker mode all too quickly.

        • Dys

          many an atheist slides into bezerker mode all too quickly.

          Is this your defense mechanism when people start calling BS on the evidence-less assertions you’re making?

        • PiMan

          No defense mechanism. Simply an observation. If someone doesn’t give a books worth of evidence immediately, then some atheists go on the offensive all too quickly. I’ve seen it happen many times on Twitter. Btw, I’m not a Christian, I have no religion at all. In fact, religion is the worst concept ever devised on this planet.

          My original point was that I believe Jesus survived the crucifixion. That seems far more likely than he got beamed up to heaven and returned 3 or more times to see his followers. Having survived the crucifixion, he would likely have wanted to write about his ministry, so there was not really an extended oral period. The book that he worked on for years became the 4 gospels that made the final cut. Other writings like The Gospel of Thomas had no narrative and people prefer the story telling gospels to this day.

          As for Evidence! that people clamor for. Short of giving a line by line dissection of the entire New Testament (that would take a while), I’m just content to assume that Jesus carried on with the play / ruse / deception / long-con mostly in secret, behind the scenes. It was his book to write.

        • Dys

          In other words, you’re content to make assertions that aren’t really backed up by much more than your own speculation. You’re making assumptions based on what you want to believe, not what’s supported.

          And you’re ducking behind the “atheist berserker mode” excuse to get away from actually providing anything to back up your audacious claims. Long story short – your views are obviously on the fringe of biblical criticism, and you’re expecting to get away with glossing over the fact that you’ve failed to support your claims.

          Retreating to “I could support my claims, but I choose not to” is merely an admittance that your views don’t deserve serious consideration. Hitchens said it – “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

        • PiMan

          You’re making assumptions based on what you want to believe, not what’s supported.

          Not sure I get you there. Are you saying that it is supported that Jesus died on the cross, was resurrected by God and came back numerous times to see his followers? Because that makes far less sense to me.

          Just to switch gears. A far bigger question than any individual religion. What would constitute evidence of a god in your opinion?

        • Dys

          Not sure I get you there.

          You’re the one claiming that Jesus didn’t die and authored a book that was divided into four different gospels. You’ve provided no evidence to support this claim. I agree Jesus wasn’t resurrected, but there’s likewise no real indication that he was seen later by his followers.

          What would constitute evidence of a god in your opinion?

          A god that cared whether or not I believed in him would know what evidence it would take to convince me. That it hasn’t been presented means there’s no god that cares whether I believe in him or not, or there’s no god. Nothing I’ve been given by apologists so far has been compelling, and most of it seems to boil down to wishful thinking and claimed personal revelation.

        • PiMan

          In the Good News edition of the Bible I have, just the sub- headings alone in the last two chapters of John are: John 20: Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene; Jesus Appears to His Disciples; Jesus and Thomas; The Purpose of This Book. Then John 21: Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples; Jesus and Peter; Jesus and the Other Disciple. All written after the supposed resurrection. That is a lot of real indication(s) that he was seen later by his followers.

        • Dys

          Yep, there are stories claiming he appeared to his followers after his death. But the gospels aren’t histories, and aren’t meant to be. It’s mentioned that he dies in all four gospels as well.

          I don’t particularly care one way or the other, really, since it’s plain that whatever the truth was then, Jesus is dead now. But there really is no good basis to claim that Jesus wrote anything, let alone the gospel accounts.

        • PiMan

          Agree, Jesus is dead now. I’ll agree for the most part that the gospels are not meant to be histories. But Acts, written by the same person who wrote Luke, certainly was a historical record of what happened after the crucifixion.

          Barbara Thiering wrote a couple of books on the assumption that Jesus didn’t die when advertised.

        • MNb

          Yeah. Too bad that the standards for writing history back then were quite different from ours today.

        • Dys

          No, neither Luke nor Acts is a history in the modern sense of the word. And there is certainly a debate to be had on the historical reliability of Acts. It is hardly a settled matter. As with the rest of the bible, it is best classified as a work of historical fiction.

        • busterggi

          People still claim to see Elvis too.

        • PiMan

          True, those people are wrong. I’m more confident that Elvis died in 1977, than Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross circa 33 CE. That it’s written in the Bible that he did appear to his followers after the crucifixion is worthy of debate. For starters, who wrote the New Testament and when was it written.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA!
          Yeah, asking for something unconvenient like “evidence” makes athIEst (BWAHAHAHAHA! again – is your desire to look like a fool that huge?) types like me totally rabid.
          Thanks for not answering my questions, especially “why not the theology of The Flying Spaghetti Monster?” I’ll stick to that one. It makes my underbelly far more cozy than your made up stuff. If you call this “beserker mode” and whether you can stand it or not may oxide at my bottom, as we Dutch say.

        • What was he trying to say with “athIEst”? All that came to mind was IE = id est, but I don’t see how “in other words” fits the context.

        • Lark62

          I assumed it meant that the word “atheist” is so inherently offensive that the word cannot be spelled out. I could be wrong.

        • Could be. Like how some people say “G-d”?

        • PiMan

          Hello Bob. Agree, that one was a bit obscure. Just a reference to a Twitter handle of Godless Spellchecker. His gig is to go around correcting people’s spelling when they spell ‘athIEst’ incorrectly.

        • Ah–thanks for the clarification. If you type with Disqus, it highlights errors.

          (Including the word “Disqus” itself. You’d think that would be the first word in their dictionary.)

        • MNb

          I don’t really have an idea. The best I can think of – but it doesn’t make much sense either – is that a certain kind of christians deliberately type athiest to express their contempt. PiMan tried to do the same and stress it a bit. I wouldn’t know what else.

        • Kodie

          A certain kind of Christian can’t spell for shit and only remember “i before e except after c”. The word “theist” is not really a regular part of their vocabulary as Christian is (or whatever the name of their religion if it’s not Christianity).

        • PiMan

          Hi MNb, how’s things? “Straightforwardly nasty” was just one of your quotes from another posting. Why not the theology of the FSM indeed? Apart from the start of Commandment Number 7, I’ll agree wholeheartedly with this rest. It is absolutely fabulous to see that you are continuing this conversation in such a calm and mature manner. I’m starting to warm up to you already!

  • wladyslaw

    I see. At one time they were uncorrupted. right?

    • Wlad? The Wlad?

      Yes, the originals were uncorrupted as compared to the originals, kinda by definition.

      • Dys

        Although it should be mentioned that this doesn’t mean the uncorrupted originals accurately reported events.

        • Quite right. Step one is to get back to the originals (impossible). Step 2 is whether those originals were accurate history.

        • wlad

          Can’t say originals ARE corrupted–and say, by the way, they don’t exist, or impossible to get to.

        • If “corrupted” means “changed through copying,” then by definition the originals aren’t corrupted. My point is only that copies could be corrupted. Your goal is to show that they couldn’t have been.

          Because of this potential corruption, we can never be certain that we’ve gotten back to the originals (I’ve written several posts on this).

          Problem 2 is the oral tradition that preceded the original documents.

        • wlad

          Simply produce a copy earlier than the New Testament that’s different. Until then, don’t make claims of corruption.

        • Dys

          Of course, that door swings both ways, and you’re likewise incapable of claiming they aren’t corrupted.

          But the fact remains that the originals could have been corrupted to the versions we have now. That’s not a claim of corruption, that’s simply a fact. A claim of corruption would be an assertion that the copies we have are definitely corrupted. You’re confusing stating a possibility with making a claim.

        • wlad

          “How decades of oral tradition corrupted the gospels”

          Bob did NOT say “could possibly have been corrupted.”

        • Dys

          Bob’s previous comment, that you replied to:

          My point is only that copies could be corrupted.

          Not sure how you missed it. “Could be” is a statement of possibility, not a positive claim of corruption. Sure, it’s technically possible that the gospels were orally transmitted for a number of years and then set down to pen and paper with perfect accuracy, but it’s highly improbable and an unreasonable assumption. Especially when considered in light of the fact that we know there were late additions to the bible, some of the books are pseudonymously authored, and the contradictions in the stories.

          The article title itself is simply the most likely scenario, based on how stories were primarily transmitted at the time.

        • Not my burden, pal. That’s yours. I see that the copies might easily have been corrupted. My job is done.

          Your job is to show that that was impossible.

        • busterggi

          Will the Codex Vaticanis do? Its the oldest ‘complete’ bible and has numerous differences from any modern one.

        • MNb

          You could as well ask to directly observe the Big Bang or directly (fossils are indirect) observe the evolution from fish to mammal.

      • wlad

        I read a lot of atheist blogs, and a lot of Christian blogs.

        Christian sites generally discuss the virtues of their religion, and rarely devote much time to awfullness of atheism.

        Atheist sites generally discuss the awfullness of religion, and rarely the virtues of atheism. Your site is a prime example of this type of site.

        Imagine an atheist site that primarily talks about how wonderful atheism is!

        “as compared to the originals.”

        What originals?

        • Shed Bronze Age superstition and embrace reality!

          There–that’s how wonderful atheism is.

          What originals?

          Are we having the same conversation? The originals of the gospels and epistles in the NT.

        • Wlad

          Like I said, atheist sites just ridicule religion. WITHOUT ridiculing religion, Bob, please tell us what atheism has done for YOU.

        • Kodie

          There is nothing about the concept of atheism – perhaps you just don’t know what words mean, Wlad? – that isn’t against theism. That’s what the word means. How can you miss that? It is not a religion, and by the way, is your religion TRUE because it DOES THINGS FOR YOU? Everyone who has a religion would make a similar claim. Your religion has no virtues that cannot be attained without subordinating yourself to a fictional character. So your religion fails to be essential to living a good life. It only contributes to living a life based on fantasy.

        • wlad

          No, my religion is NOT true because it does things for me.

          My religion is true, and only because it is true can it “do things for me.”

        • Kodie

          It does not do anything positive for you as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

        • Pofarmer

          My religion is true, and only because it is true can it “do things for me.”

          how so?

        • wlad

          If there was ONE teaching of the Catholic Church that I found to be abhorrent to my reason or sense of ethics, I would leave Catholicism. If one teaching was suspect, all the teachings would be suspect, and so why believe.

          For example, the belief that apostates are to be killed ALONE would be enough for me to reject Islam. It would offend my sense of ethics.

          The Hindu belief of millions of gods offends my sense of reason, and alone would be enough to reject it.

          I have found no Catholic belief that is abhorrent to ethics or reason.

        • MR

          Ah good, then you have no objection to me rejecting Christianity on its belief that God commanded genocide, condoned slavery, rape and polygamy.

          I guess those don’t offend your sense of ethics.

        • Pofarmer

          The doctrine that we are all broken evil sinners does it for me. You realise the last heretic put to death by the,Catholic Church was in the 1850’s, right? You realize the Catholic Church instigated a war in Mexico at the turn of the 20th century over the issue of the state enforcing it’s sovereignty, right? You realize the doctrine of “the fall” has no basis in science or reality, right? Once again, just because a set of beliefs “improved” your life doesn’t make them true. Let’s talk about your Atheism some,more.

        • MR

          Yes, but I can rationalize those! It’s other religions that I find abhorrent and that offend my sense of ethics.

        • Pofarmer

          No cherry picking here, no siree l. We should thank him for throwing g object morals under the bus too.

        • wlad

          Pofarmer,
          Is it easier to be good. or is it easier to be bad?

          If children were not corrected for being bad, would they naturally turn out good?

          Did “evolution” really make being good harder? Why?

        • MNb

          “Is it easier to be good. or is it easier to be bad?”
          Excellent question. My compliments. Depends on the individu. For my female counterpart – a muslima – it is very easy to be good. I have to work hard for it and fail more often than I can forgive myself.

        • wlad

          Thank you for your honesty.
          I think very few children brought up without any correction over their years of development would turn out naturally good. It takes lots of work and heartache for both. , I have six kids,who turned out wonderfully. But it was an incredible amount of work.

          Why?

        • MNb

          Do you always provide the answers first and then ask the question?
          Additional answers I just gave above. “I think” is not nearly enough for anything.

        • Pofarmer

          You realise good and bad are subjective terms, right? Society values certain attributes and thinks others are harmful. We encourage those we think are valuable, and doscourage those we think are harmful. Your last question appears to be more nonsense.

        • Kodie

          You might realize what it means to be good often depends on culture. Children are socialized to belong to their culture and fit in with the customs. If all the grown-ups died one day and nothing but children 12 and under were left, they would eventually create social systems that worked. They would probably seem primitive to you. They don’t have the benefit of knowledge and experience, and develop these without guidance, so probably would not be as good as we can teach them now. It’s probable they would create their own religions worse than Christianity. Without adults around and having to fend for themselves, they would mature and rise to the occasion. At least I think so. Even though they are young, they could see that chaos would not take them very far, and their sense of making order might be quite strict. They might not all be “good” and they wouldn’t be all that “bad”. “Bad” is really whatever makes the system chaotic or unpleasant for the majority. You seem to think children are just selfish beings, being without the tools that give adults their tendencies toward the responsible end, but they are human animals and would cope and survive.

        • MNb

          “I have found no Catholic belief that is abhorrent to ethics or reason.”
          That tells us how lame your ethics and reason are.

        • wlad

          Ridicule does not address my point.

        • MNb

          I don’t ridicule you. I’m bloody serious. It’s my conclusion of what you just wrote.

        • I have found no Catholic belief that is abhorrent to ethics or reason.

          The Catholic Bible contains the Old Testament. The OT shows God demanding genocide and supporting slavery. Such a god is morally bankrupt. You should reject such a religion.

        • Pofarmer

          Atheism allowed me to see the world for what it is, too see people for what they are, to embrace what we know of the world. But, it’s not just me. Atheism, or, at least, the non-belief that God is in charge of everything, (aka methodological naturalism) has done an awful lot for you, too.

        • wlad

          I see. Te me, what “world” do you see now? How do you see people now? Tell me how you now embrace the world.

        • Rudy R

          For me, there was no “aha” moment where something I heard or read converted me to an atheist. My progression from being a Christian to an atheist was a long process. I first had my doubts in Confirmation School, where our pastor derided this girl’s honest questions. From there, it was, quite simply, getting more educated in the sciences. It was amazing to me how much we know that isn’t common knowledge and how the uneducated think they know something that they don’t know (one definition of faith)
          I see people the same now as I did before I was an atheist. It’s silly to think that, since we don’t believe in god’s laws, atheists will feel free to murder, steal, cheat, etc. I treat people the way I want to be treated. I don’t steal from people, because I don’t want to be stolen from. It was Confucius, not Jesus, who first preached the concept of The Golden Rule. It allows us to function as social animals and isn’t much more complicated than that.

        • PiMan

          Every religion has a version of The Golden Rule. Too bad the adherents of every religion don’t follow it. The world would be a far better place if they did.

        • MNb

          Atheists don’t need religion to understand, accept and apply The Golden Rule.

        • Pofarmer

          What world do I see now? I see a world which neither loves or hates us, a world moved by quantum forces inexorably with no hint of purpose either good or ill. I see a world which is our home. A pale blue dot amidst millions and billion of other dots, orbiting planets, and stars, and galaxies, an almost impossibly large Cosmos. How do I see people? I see people as advanced primates. Social, evolved animals, existing in complex social structures and societies and cities and civilizations which we built, which sometimes we are not all that adapted for. I see the force,of evolution in our similarities to, and,differences from, all the other life around us.

        • wlad

          Why are you here on this blog?!
          According to you, you have no purpose, I have no purpose, No good, no ill.

          According to you, it does NOT MATTER if I am delusional, or if you are delusional. Doesn’t matter if you exist or not, or if I exist or not.

          Why do you care so much about whether people believe in a god or not. It just ultimately does not matter. Right?

          But you posted a comment as if you cared. Why?

        • Pofarmer

          None of that has anything to do with anything I wrote, and is,theological,nonsense.

        • wlad

          Ridicule does not work as well as addressing the questions I asked.

        • Kodie

          Do you really think things only matter if they matter forever, and only then, if they matter to some extra-terrestrial supernatural deity? That’s really small-minded and hard to get along in this world with the rest of us that way. Too bad you are useless “down here” because your whole focus is on what matters to a fictional character “up there” and whatever happens after you die. That is crazy talk.

          Being realistic gets results. Being delusional means you’re just taking up space and getting in everyone’s way.

        • Pofarmer

          Look, just because the universe has no purpose, and it would be interesting if you could show it did, does not mean that I do not or cannot have a purpose. And it does matter if you are delusional, because that affects me and those I care about. I care because you wish to control me.

        • wlad

          “I care because you wish to control me.
          Show me in what comment I expressed that wish.

        • Pofarmer

          You don’t wish me ti abide by your moral rules and accept the Church’s “teachings”?

        • According to you, you have no purpose, I have no purpose,

          Who says this? Certainly not me, and I bet not Pofarmer.

        • MR

          If I may borrow from evolutionary theory, there are ultimate and proximate purposes.

          Mankind may have no ultimate purpose in this universe, that is, no purpose beyond this life; but there are many proximate purposes that we strive for.

          Purposes we strive for day to day, purposes that we hope to achieve within our lifetimes, and even purposes that we hope for our children and the rest of future mankind.

          We don’t require an afterlife to have desires, hopes and dreams. Our lives have purpose every single day. Even more so since life is so short.

          To quote Tim Minchin:

          I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
          I have one life, and it is short
          And unimportant
          But thanks to recent scientific advances
          I get to live twice as long
          As my great great great great uncleses and auntses.
          Twice as long to live this life of mine
          Twice as long to love this wife of mine
          Twice as many years of friends and wine

          We live here, now. Don’t muddy your here and now on the misguided belief of some ultimate purpose that doesn’t exist. Enjoy, live, love, laugh today.

        • wlad

          Bob, I would like to hear this from YOU , although there views are welcome.

        • Kodie

          If you want a private correspondence with Bob, I bet there is a way to email him. In my experience, Bob posts later at night (he is on the west coast US) and mid-morning. Looks like you have to wait about 10 hours.

        • wlad

          Thanks for the one up. But he just answered me two hours ago.

          Bob is the one posting the blog and making the claims. He should not avoid answering my questions.

        • Kodie

          He’s not avoiding your questions, but just so you know, they’re stupid questions. You remember this from last time.

        • wlad

          When you can’t argue a point, simply call it stupid.

        • Kodie

          Your question is coming from a place of prejudice and delusion. It is not a valid question. Do you like that better, “sir”?

        • wlad

          When you can’t argue the point, call it prejudicional and delusional. Call it any name you want. I would like you to answer the point, not resort to name-calling.

        • Kodie

          How am I supposed to respond to your nonsense if it’s nonsense?

        • MNb

          Before you make a point, make sure it’s solidly grounded. Before you ask a question, make sure it makes sense.

        • Already done.

          But who cares? My focus is first on what is true. Whether a view is useful or not is a very different issue.

        • If you can’t see the value in liberation from Bronze Age superstitions and the awe and wonder that embracing science gives, then there’s no point in continuing this interrogation.

        • MNb

          Why should atheism do anything for me?

        • wlad

          If being an atheist has done nothing positive for you, then why be one, and try to convince others to be one?

        • Kodie

          It’s not a religion, you dope. How can I believe a religion if I’m not convinced that it is true?????? That is why I’m an atheist, a non-believer. I don’t believe in god so what else should I do about that, force myself stupid?

          Why do you persist in this line of questions when you don’t fucking understand anything, jeez. It’s nonsense. You comprehend from prejudice and arrogance. That’s not a cop-out, that’s a criticism of your fucking stupid question.

        • MNb

          Because there is no god.
          I never try to convince others to be one. My female counterpart is a muslima.

        • Wlad

          C’mom Bob! If the originals are the gospels and epistles in the NT, and they are corrupted, then by definition they can’t be originals. If there are no uncorrupted originals, the word “corruption? has absolutely no meaning.

        • Kodie

          Read it again, carefully.

        • Jeez–what a moron.

          The originals are (obviously) the documents that we’ve lost. We have only copies. No, you moron, the documents in the Bible you hold in your hand are not originals, are not a copy of originals, and wasn’t translated from originals.

        • wlad

          When you cannot argue the point, call names.

          If you do not have the originals, all you can say is that you do not have the originals, and therefore CANNOT claim they were corrupted.

          You are free to hypothesize all you want.

        • … or, I can argue the point and call names.

          Pro tip: reread your stuff and what you’re responding to before you click Post. Yeah, I obviously know that, without the originals, I can’t claim they were corrupted. I never did. (Go back and reread to make sure I’m correct. You know how atheists like to lie.)

          I said that the original may have been corrupted. And now the ball’s in your court. Your daunting task is to prove that they couldn’t have been.

          Go.

        • wlad

          If someone doubts that Shakespeare wrote his poems, it would be the doubter’s responsibility to offer proof that Shakespeare didn’t write a particular poem.

        • And if someone doubts that Wlad saw a unicorn, it’s the doubter’s responsibility to prove it?

        • wlad

          There is absolutely no historical record or claim of any kind that Wlad saw a unicorn. No need to doubt it.

        • And Wlad has thrown in the towel! That certainly was quick.

          Wlad: if you want to jump back in the ring, respond to the actual issue.

        • MNb

          There is no historical record of the original Gospels either. Man, you’re a moron indeed – you just have refuted your own argument.

        • wlad

          It may not be Shakespeare’s poem, but the task is for thfe doubter.

        • MNb

          Do we have evidence that Shakespeare lived? That he wrote poems? Yes. So to debunk such a claim we need evidence.
          The big fun is that the originals of poems sometimes got lost as well. Surprise – that can be reason for doubt.

        • Pofarmer

          Look, we know tht text was added to the Gospels and the Epistles at later dates? Why, because we have earlier versions that lack certain passages. See, the long ending of Mark and the “woman caught in adultery” for just two instances. We are not claiming anything, we KNOW that there are differences in manuscripts of nearly the same age. Reading some Bart Ehrman would be beneficial for you.

        • MNb

          “Jeez–what a moron.”
          Ah – BobS losing his patience. I’m amused.

        • Kodie

          The awfulness of religion is a primary reason to gather and discuss things. Religion is not only awful, it’s delusional as well as pervasive in our culture. Maybe you don’t know what the prefix “a-” means.

        • MR

          Delusional. That says so much to me. Religion is a kind of madness. To cast off that delusion and see the world for what it is. To be restored to health. Who wouldn’t want that?

          I sometimes ask Christians, if God in fact does not exist, would they not want to know that? Never do I get a straight answer. They’re almost incapable of even considering it as a hypothesis. That speaks to me of cognitive dissonance: Delusion

        • wlad

          I suppose for the sake of hypothesis I could consider that gravity or love does not exist. Why consider it?

        • MR

          If gravity or love were an illusion, I would want to know. Would you want to know if God does not in fact exist?

        • wlad

          MR
          Love is not an illusion. You and I KNOW without a shadow of a doubt that love exists.

          But MR, you can’t PROVE that you love anyone, or that anyone loves you.

          You just know.

        • MR

          Hmm, funny that I wouldn’t go so far myself as to say that love exists, for all your certainty that I know without a shadow of a doubt that it does. We’d have to tease out what you mean by love, and what you mean by love existing.

          But, that still doesn’t answer the question as to whether you would want to know if love, gravity, whatever, did not actually exist. And, more importantly, it avoids the question: Would you want to know if God does not in fact exist?

        • wlad

          I know without a shadow of a doubt that my wife and children love me.

          Would I want to entertain the idea that perhaps love does not exist and that they really do not love me?

          Absolutely not. Why? Why? Why would I?

          And if somebody could actually prove to me that love does not exist (they can’t), I would choose to live as if love existed and it was true.

          Wouldn’t you? Or would you then decide to live as if love did not exist? Imagine that world!

        • MR

          Well, again, we have to see if we agree on what “love” is, and if we have the same definition for it “existing.”

          The question, I think, still remains as to whether you would want to know if it didn’t exist. I say, I think, because, “Would I want to entertain the idea that perhaps love does not exist and that they do not love me,” is not exactly an answer to the question, “Would you want to know if love does not exist?” Much less an answer to the question, “Would you want to know if God, in fact, does not exist.” Which goes back to my original comment to Kody about how I never get a straight answer to that question from Christians.

          I just want to thank you for thrice beautifully proving my point.

        • wlad

          When my children and wife say they love me, I don’t check if we mean , the same thing, or the definition of “exist.”

          I just know.

        • MR

          You know, it’s so weird, I think Disqus must be broken or something. You engaged me in this conversation in response to my statement to Kodie about how Christians avoid answering the question, “Would you want to know if God does not in fact exist?” and yet, I still don’t have an answer to that question.

          I am looking forward to discussing the whole “love” issue with you, but I want to get this other little Disqus glitch settled.

          I know. Let me try. Can someone ask me that question, and we’ll see if I can answer it without evasion. Better yet, can someone please ask me the question in both the negative form and the affirmative form, and we’ll see if I can respond with a simple yes or no.

          Thanks, guys. I really hope we can work out this Disqus glitch.

        • wlad

          Would you want to know if God exists?

          Or are you so committed to your belief that you are happy as you are.

        • MR

          Hmm, can’t follow instructions, either. Here let me help you:

          Hey, MR,

          Would you want to know if God in fact does not exist?
          Would you want to know if God in fact does exist?

          Looking forward to your response.

          Why, my answer to those questions are:

          Yes and yes.

          Now tell me. Why is this so hard for a Christian to answer?

          Would you want to know if God in fact does not exist?

        • wlad

          Yes, I would like to know if God does not exist.

          There is no ethical system in the world that is better in expressing how life should be lived than those in Catholicism.

          If I found out God did not exist, I still would have to choose a value system that makes the best sense to me–what is good and bad.

          And it would definitely be Catholic values.

        • Kodie

          It might surprise you that a person can be atheist, not believe there is a god, but adhere to Catholic values by choice. As you say, it is an ethical system. To me, it’s not the most ethical system, but that’s all religions are – ethical systems attached to a belief that this system came from a deity and/or pleases that deity for you to adhere to it. Atheists do adopt ethical systems as well. Your problem is you think of atheism as a rejection of values, because you associate having these values with there being a god and following the ethical system handed to you by that god. That’s not what atheism is.

        • MR

          Oh, man, when I became an atheist the first thing I did was to become an alcoholic, take to drugs, rock and roll, sex every night—you name it!

          Ok, ok, I exaggerate. Around the time I became an atheist I started getting interested in gardening (it’s very cathartic), got a cat, developed my own manifesto of ethical guidelines, contributed to charities instead of tithing, looked for places to volunteer (thinking of helping out at the Mormon church Family History Center nearby because I’m interested in genealogy), continued to love my family, do things with my friends, continued to vote and open doors for little old ladies and visit them in the nursing homes, studied the Bible even more than when I did when I was a believer, etc., etc. Really, not much changed…, except…, about that time I became the Scone King. I make an awesome scone, because, you know, that’s what atheism does to you.

        • Kodie

          When I became an atheist, I stopped making scones altogether.

        • MR

          Less competition. Thanks. 😉

        • MNb

          “got a cat”
          Ah, conclusive proof. You hedonist.

          When I became an unbeliever I started listening to Highway Star for instance:

          “Nobody gonna take my car, I’m gonna race it to the ground
          nobody gonna beat my car, it’s gonna break the speed of sound”

          Until today I don’t have a driver’s licence.

        • MR

          Finally. You answered the question. I am so proud of you. You’re my first. Cigarette?

          So then, without God, you would still keep your values?

          That’s another good step. You’re learning to divorce your values from God belief. It’s a step toward understanding that human values have nothing to do with God. I’m very proud of you.

        • adam

          how is Original Sin, the mass murder of The Flood, the mass murder of the Cannanites and merciless eternal TORTURE
          the ‘best’ ethical system in the world?

          The results are the Crusades, The Inquisitions, witch burnings and the spread of HIV in Africa.

          There just HAS to be a better ethical system than that.

        • MR

          Yeah, I liked where he expressed:

          If there was ONE teaching of the Catholic Church that I found to be abhorrent to my reason or sense of ethics, I would leave Catholicism. If one teaching was suspect, all the teachings would be suspect, and so why believe.

          Let the justifications begin!

        • Pofarmer

          Add neglecting children and the sick to your list.

        • adam

          Or not neglecting little children – pedophilia

          Let’s watch wlad DANCE around justifying the EVIL of the Catholic Church and its’ ‘value system’.

        • MR

          No. He promised if there were just ONE thing he found abhorrent he would leave Catholicism. He promised. I’m sure he’s a man of his word.

        • adam

          Yes, of course, after all – he has absolute morals

        • Pofarmer

          He already through absolute morality under the bus.

        • MR

          Doesn’t look good, does it? Either he doesn’t find those things abhorrent, or the cognitive dissonance is working its magic.

        • MNb

          Don’t tell me you’re surprised. I would be very disappointed.

        • MR

          Oh, no, I’d have bet good money it was all bullshit. Religion does that to people.

        • Kodie

          In case you don’t know, Wlad has a history here, and he doesn’t find those things abhorrent. It’s obvious now why he feels so strongly about abortion – his personal experience has become his cause. I think before patheos changed over to disqus, the most popular threads were ranked on the right column, and I think two of the top 5 were abortion threads that went a million rounds each with wlad. After having tried to pinpoint exactly when to look, I have a hunch it is early 2013, but reading a thread that wlad hasn’t come up in yet.

        • MR

          Ah, good to know.

          Abortion: My favorite religious cause never mentioned in the Bible.

        • Kodie

          What “belief”???? Theism is belief, atheism is absence of belief. No belief. If there is evidence of god, then that’s your job to show it. Are you going to show evidence for god, or are you going to imagine atheism as being a lot of things it’s not and never claimed to be?

        • Would you want to know if God didn’t exist?

        • MNb

          No, you don’t. The moment your wife tells you “I hate you”, shows dislike on her face when she sees you, doesn’t want to get near to you and starts removing your stuff out of your bedroom you know she doesn’t love you.
          But she doesn’t. Hopefully for you she does all kinds of things that tell you she loves you. I know my female counterpart does – everytime I am with her.

        • Why talk about love? That’s not the topic. Let’s talk about whether God exists or not.

        • MNb

          You can use capitals as much as you like, but the word proof doesn’t mean much to me. I prefer evidence. Guess what? I’m totally as capable of providing evidence for gravity as providing evidence to my better half (she actually believes!) that I love her. There are four means: telling her, body language, facial expressions and behaviour.
          For your god that is not posssible at all.

        • wlad

          I see. No one has ever falsely fooled their partner into believing that they really loved them.

        • MNb

          I see. You don’t get what I write. I never argued that any evidence guarantees 100% certainty. On the contrary, I exactly prefer the word evidence because it doesn’t – unlike proof.

        • Kodie

          God is in the same realm as fairies and leprechauns and Santa Claus. Would you want to delude yourself that those were real if you already understood them to be fantasy characters?

        • Pofarmer

          Well, you could consider that they don’t exist, but it can ddemonstrated that they do………..d

        • w

          No, any demonstration you can come up with I can come up with a plausible alternative.

        • Pofarmer

          So, what’s a plausible alternative to gravity existing?

        • wlad

          Leaving the awfulness of religion and embracing atheism seems to be a good thing to you, no?
          How are you a better person now that you are an atheist?

        • Kodie

          I never embraced the delusion of theism in the first place because it was so obviously a fantasy. Are you trying to imply that atheism is a religion?

        • wlad

          No, atheism is not a religion. But you must believe that your are BETTER for being an atheist. If atheists are not any better than Christians, why all the fuss? Why this post?

        • MR

          So freeing oneself from a delusion is not bettering oneself. Got it.

        • wlad

          I was an atheist for 15 years, and then lived my life as if all that I learned growing up as a Christian was a delusion. I lived as if the sexual revolution was a good thing–freed from all, that puritanical nonsense, and suffered the horrible consequences of that delusion.

          I humbly left that delusion, and am now a happily married believing man.

        • MR

          Good for you. But, it doesn’t take being a Christian to avoid those things or to be a happily married person.

        • Pofarmer

          Polls say the most religious are the LEAST likely to stay,married. Atheists and Catholics are tied least likely to get divorced.f

        • Pofarmer

          “lived as if the sexual revolution was a good thing–freed from all, that puritanical nonsense, and suffered the horrible consequences of that delusion.”

          So, let’s talk about that………

        • Kodie

          Are you attempting to extrapolate that because you felt out of control and empty or whatever, that the rest of us must? Christianity is one way of filling you with whatever it is you feel you lack, but it is not only not the only way, it’s not even the best way.

        • Pofarmer

          It sounds to me like you embraced hedonism, not atheism. It sounds to me like you were not properly taught responsibility and accountability and that actions have consequences.

        • MR

          It doesn’t take being an atheist to fall into those traps, I know plenty of Christians who did, too. It probably has more to do with being young and horny rather than being an atheist. It’s easy to look back when you’re older and wiser and try to claim that Christianity saved you. We forget the power of our hormones back then.

        • MNb

          Ah, one of the advantage of teaching teens. Every day I see the hormones fly through the classrooms.

        • Kodie

          It does sound to me that Wlad was properly taught that responsibility and accountability were qualities of having a religion. If you’ve noticed, religions like to steal concepts and present them as if they invented it or you can’t get it any place but theirs, like “family values,” “love,” “patriotism,” “marriage,” “morality,” etc. One of religion’s major features is that of responsibility and accountability to one’s parents and to god. Since religion advertises itself as being the source of many essential qualities of humanity, and markets itself continually to its members of the dangers of giving up the beliefs, it actually seems to me that Wlad threw the baby out with the bathwater there. He rejected everything he associated with the religion he was raised in, and it took him nowhere. When he was ready to turn his life around and acquire those qualities eventually, all he ever knew was religion, so that’s where he went to get them.

        • Pofarmer

          I don’t think wlad actually understands what atheism is.

        • Kodie

          I think the problem with most religious people not understanding what atheism is is because religions are sold as a package deal. Their assumption is that we have made the same mistakes – denying the rules of the religion because they’re inconvenient, or disliking the people (the congregation, i.e. the “religion”) and not considering the values. Imagine you took a cooking class and everyone in the class was an asshole. So you decide only assholes know how to cook, so you starve to death in protest. Only that cooking class is church, so you decide religious people are all assholes and you don’t want to be one of them, so you walk away, and that’s how you come to decide there is no god. Churches just teach a lot of bullshit including what it will mean to walk away, what will happen to you, and plenty of testimonies, I’m sure, like wlad’s. It is quite normal as a teen or young adult to be some kind of rebellious know-it-all, don’t-need-no-authority kind of person… and obviously with that kind of attitude, one is bound to make a lot of bad choices.

          Swirling about aimlessly and failing at life, one reverts to the “package deal,” the church, because we all know there’s just no other way to grow up or change or settle down. Wlad said himself that he decided his own personal choice was not to have sex so freely and carelessly after a pregnancy scare, and that he didn’t think he was free to make that decision for himself without the package deal of Catholicism. Isn’t that fucking stupid?

        • Pofarmer

          Early brainwashing is what it is.

        • Dys

          Atheism is descriptive, not proscriptive.

        • w

          Then why do they think Christianity is bad?

        • Pofarmer

          Because it leads to erroneous conclusions and bad outcomes.

        • wlad

          .It is therefore prosprictive

        • Pofarmer

          It attempts to be descriptive and proscriptive.

        • Dys

          Quite often it’s from experience. The religion also continues to negatively influence politics and society. An unfortunate number of Americans ignorantly accept creationism, and also falsely believe the US is a Christian nation. They mistakenly believe that not getting special treatment by the government constitutes persecution. There are plenty of reasons why atheists criticize Christianity. But there is no intrinsic motive in atheism to condemn or attack Christianity.

          Atheism has no tenets, creed, or dogma. It simply describes someone who does not believe in gods. In short, it isn’t possible to do anything because of atheism, because there is no impetus to it.

        • MNb

          If you are humble than Stalin was as well.

          http://www.geschiedenis.nl/art/uploads/image/st/stalin1.jpg

        • Did your sexual libertineism cause problems? If so, then you see why atheists and Christians would want to avoid those actions.

          I prefer to believe true things. How about you?

        • wladyslaw

          Sexual libertineism?
          I lived as if every sexual act did not have to be open to life. I lived as if I did not have to be committed to a person for life to have a sexual relationship. I lived as if love did not have to ALWAYS be a basis for a sexual relationship, but that a mutually satisfying sexual consensual relationship was sometimes OK, for fun. And we used birth control.

          Is that sexual libertinism?

          If you make that judgment, you must have an idea of proper sexual ethics, of unlibertine sexual ethics.

          What are they, Bob?

        • Kodie

          I am better than you. We have established that you are a horrible person some months back – stupider, less compassionate, etc. But for the real answer, “which is better for me personally” is not something that should matter when figuring out what is true.

        • MR

          Excellent point, Kodie, thank you.

        • wlad

          Kodie, you have such a gift for discussion, tact, and humility.

        • MNb

          Yup – you don’t.

        • Kodie

          But we’ve already discussed how your beliefs have made you a horrible person. Believing something that’s not true and making yourself a slave to it contributes to some harmful decisions. Sure, you sleep well at night, but the world is no better off having you and people like you in it. Why are we here, talking about what’s wrong with religion? It’s the people. You affect others in a negative way.

        • MNb

          You are the one who is casting the first stone, with your own pride.

        • MNb

          “you must believe that your are BETTER for being an atheist”
          Because you say so, based on your limited imagination? I don’t think so.

          “If atheists are not any better than Christians, why all the fuss? Why this post?”
          Three letters, one word. Begins with an f, ends with an n. Plus the (sure, very small) chance to learn something. I wouldn’t know why that should be your concern. Unless you’re still as arrogant as a couple of months ago.

          Why are you here? Why do you write your comments? According to your own logic there is only one reason: because you think you’re better.
          Go figure. It’s an attitude I never have noticed with BobS. One reason I like him so much is that he also endures it when I get nasty on him. Just ask him about Robert Price and Jesusmythology. And you are supposed to be a humble christian. Well, you are not.

        • wlad

          That may be your reason. Dawkins, Harris, PZ Meyer, et alia, are very serious.

        • Pofarmer

          And why does that bother ypu so?

        • MNb

          That’s their problem, not mine. Moreover I don’t like either Dawkins or Harris. PZ is most fun when he debunks creationism.
          Thanks for not answering my questions. I’m happy to repeat them:

          Why are you here? Why do you write your comments? According to your own logic there is only one reason: because you think you’re better.

          You humble? Then Stalins was too.

        • wlad

          I am neither humble (pride is one of my vices) , nor am I
          better than you.
          I do believe that there is an INHERENT purpose in life, that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, and that every life has an inherent meaning–not a meaning that you or I create, but an inherent meaning. Every person, Stephen Hawkins or the child dying from Ebola in Africa is now and eternally important. God created you and me and has a personal love for us.
          I’m not better. The truth is better.

        • Pofarmer

          So, what is that inherent purpose you speak of?

        • wladyslaw

          That you and I are not just a collection of accidental molecules in a purposeless universe , but individually–you, Pofarmer– created by a loving PERSON to love each other and to- love Him. Having created us, he gave us a plan how to best live that life of love. His laws are not arbitrary decrees–He knows how His creation prospers. Henry Ford’s rules for car maintenance are not arbitrary–he tells us to change the oil for the good of the car, not just to be bossy.

          And that after living this life of loving each other in this life, we will continue the life of love for eternity with Him.

        • Kodie

          Why do you believe this? It is wishful thinking, but you have no reason to believe it’s really true.

        • wlad

          I have sincerely lived as an atheist, and I have sincerely lived as a believer ,and have chosen to believe.
          Check my discussion with Bob on my “hedonism.”

        • Kodie

          Wlad, you’re just a typical evasive Christian. I already read about your sexual adventures after rejecting the rules of the religion of your upbringing. Acknowledge anything but stop referring to one section of a thread in which you had a conversation with Bob. You log in as guest and it’s not as easy as you think to search and search for your older comments. I read them and I am referring to them here, but you do not have the courtesy to answer questions when they are asked. You’re being such a dick just like last time, no use talking to you if you’re going to ignore what I say and pretend I said something else. You came here with an agenda that’s not even close to the topic.

          How is that “better”? Didn’t you finish saying what you wanted to say all the old times you were here?

        • MNb

          Good for you. Shrug.

        • Pofarmer

          Was that supposed to be in some way convincing? Our purpose is to be the plaything of some cosmic diety?

        • wlad

          I simply told you what I believed. You can choose to believe it, or not believe, and live as if it is not true.

        • Pofarmer

          Thank you.

        • MNb

          Then I must repeat my questions again.

          Why are you here? Why do you write your comments?

          You say that there is a purpose for everything. You refusing to answer these questions casts serious doubt on it – you don’t even seem to know what the purpose is of your presence on BobS’ blog. Still you ask me – which doesn’t make any sense – about the purposes of other atheists!
          Yeah, you have some serious superbia issues indeed. Why don’t work on them first and then come back? That might raise the rather sad level of the discussion you inspire enormously.

        • wlad

          I came on this site to challenge Bob on his assertion that the gospels were corrupted. Bob and others commented on my observations, attacked some of my comments. I responded.

          Back and forth.

          I imagine he doesn’t just want folks on his site who only say right on, but question his post.

        • Kodie

          I don’t really know what happened to the rest of that topic. Oh, here it is:

          Bob says

          Wlad? The Wlad?

          Yes, the originals were uncorrupted as compared to the originals, kinda by definition.

          And Wlad’s direct answer to that comment was:

          I read a lot of atheist blogs, and a lot of Christian blogs.

          Christian sites generally discuss the virtues of their religion, and rarely devote much time to awfullness of atheism.

          Atheist sites generally discuss the awfullness of religion, and rarely the virtues of atheism. Your site is a prime example of this type of site.

          Imagine an atheist site that primarily talks about how wonderful atheism is!

          “as compared to the originals.”

          What originals?

          That seems to be that you are lying about coming here to post on the actual topic.

        • Pofarmer

          I think you have a tenuous grasp on the concept of truth.

        • wlad

          And you, of course, have a strong grasp on the concept of truth.

          If you say so.

        • Pofarmer

          Your idea of truth involves myriad unprovable theological assumptions, interlaced with some that are provably wrong or untrue.

        • wlad

          “provable wrong.”
          Such as…

        • Pofarmer

          The Fall, for starters.

        • MNb

          Well, you have written quite a lot that may serve as evidence for Pofarmer’s statement and nothing to contradict it. But you are still invited to show Po and me wrong. That’s how it works on this blog. But if you don’t you shouldn’t blame us for sticking to our opinions, whether you call them biases or not.

        • adam

          God created you and me and has a personal love for us.

          Then YOUR idea of ‘love’ is different from:

          love noun ˈləv
          : a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
          Merriam Webster

        • wlad

          That FEELING of liking or caring (Merriam Webster’s definition of affection) is not the love that is able to lay down one’s life for another, to take care of a hateful, drug addicted son, or care for years for an ALS parent.

          Love is a decision. Feelings come and go.

        • adam

          NOPE love IS an EMOTION

          And EXACTLY enough to the love that is able to lay down one’s life for another, to take care
          of a hateful, drug addicted son, or care for years for an ALS parent.

        • wlad

          Emotions by definition are fickle.

          “She’s emotional” does not convey steadfastness.
          Don’t believe me?

          Show me one person who always feels happy, no matter what–sickness, loss of a beloved one, etc.

        • adam

          Sorry, you were over my head for a bit.

          I get it now…
          God’s ‘love’ is fickle, sometimes he is a great provider and and at other times a psychopathic abuser, but it is still ‘love’

          Even ‘god’ can’t always feel happy….no matter what.

        • MNb

          Thanks again for not answering my questions.

          “Why are you here? Why do you write your comments?”

          “I do believe”

          Just that? You believe? Well, I don’t. I can argue for it. You haven’t tried to argue for your position – you only gave a personal testimony that doesn’t make any sense to me. So I can just shrug off what you believe.

        • But you must believe that your are BETTER for being an atheist.

          Believing in true things is its own reward.

          Do you only believe in things because they’re pleasing? Or because those beliefs have value?

        • wlad

          Because they have value.

          I assume you believe the same.

          Your values are just better– more true, right?

        • Believing in true things is its own reward.

        • wlad

          True.
          Does your truth of atheism have the same value as my truth of theism, or a better value, or of a worse value?

          Is truth better than untruth?

          If atheism is true, and theism is false, than is atheism not better than theism.

        • MNb

          Like I wrote above, in the same sense that 1,9 + 1,8 = 4 is better than 1,9 + 1,8 = 3. Any problem with this?

        • wlad

          Not just different, but how are you better?

        • Pofarmer

          You realize you are making a fallacious argument here right?

        • MR

          I’m sorry, Po, is there another kind of Christian argument?

        • Pofarmer

          Good point.

        • wlad

          Atheists DO believe that they are better than Christians. They are more “rational, less delusional, less bigoted, more tolerant, less right wing fanatics, more progressive.” and on and on.

          Just admit it.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s not your argument here. Your Argument has Been that,religion, Apparently catholicism, Has Had Good Results For you, Therefore It Must Be true.

        • wlad

          No. When I was as atheist, I bought into the sexual revolution. Sex could be just fun! It did not HAVE to have anything to do with babies!
          So I really enjoyed it.
          Until a woman came to me and thought she was pregnant, although she was using birth control.
          I knew I could not kill my child if it was true.
          I did not love this woman. I did not want to spend the rest of my life with her. I did not want to be a father.

          What the hell was I doing having sex, I stopped immediately, vowing to have sex only when I was ready to be a father, when I was committed to the woman for life.
          Everybody said what I was doing was fine. Just abort it.

          The only people in the whole world that said you should only have sex if you are committed for life in marriage, and that every sex act had to be open to life, were Catholics.

          So the Catholics were right on that issue. I started to explore the rest of the teachings, found them to be true, and returned to my faith

        • Pofarmer

          So, the Catholics were right because they agreed with you, because you had been taught it as a child. Like I Said, you were never an Atheist, you were a hedonist. And if you were an Atheist, you weren’t one for intellectual reasons, like Bob, and many other atheist bloggers, you were one for emotional reasons. That is one reason you are making 100% emotional arguments.

          “and that every sex act had to be open to life, were Catholics.”

          More bad doctrine. Sex in humans really isn’t just about procreation, that doctrine is reducing humans to animals, regardless of what the church preaches. There os a very good book aboit it called “Sex and God.”

          See, when I searched the teaching of the Catholic Church more carefully, I found only ignorant and superstitious nonsense, certainly not truth.

        • wlad

          A true Scotsman fallacy. If a Christian leaves his faith, he never was a true believer. If an atheist becomes a believer, he never was a true atheist. Right? No true atheist could ever become a believer. No true believer could ever become a believer. I disagree

        • Pofarmer

          Nice catch, but I’m only partially making a no true scotsman. Where you an intellectual atheist, or were you an atheist because you wanted to have a good time?

        • wlad

          What does atheism have to do with having a good time?

          I absolutely rejected what I thought was the Church’s absurd, bronze age morality (as Bob calls it)–that sex was dirty, that it was for procreation only, that even looking at a girl with lust sent me to hell, and if it was so wrong about sex, it was wrong about hell and heaven and going to Mass,and everything else.

          It was difficult to go back and examine all the other beliefs and accept them, after I realized how right they were about sex. But I did, and here I am.

        • Dys

          You do understand that your personal, subjective experience doesn’t constitute evidence of anything to anyone else, right? Additionally, you admit to having committed a fallacy in your reasoning above. Just as true in part does not entail true in whole, false in part does not entail false in whole. I’ve no desire to get into a debate on sexuality (and Christianity’s rather myopic views on it), but the bible does manage to get a few things correct – it did manage to make the correct call on murder, stealing, and lying. It also managed to get a somewhat flawed version of the golden rule in there. The bible being wrong on other matters obviously doesn’t mean it got those things wrong. Just as the few things it managed to get right do not, in any way, mean it got everything right.

        • MR

          I suppose you find it ethical that a being would bring billions of people into existence—who never asked to be born—knowing that by doing so he would ultimately be condemning them to eternal torture. I see.

        • Pofarmer

          Like I said, you embraced hedonism. They aren’t right aboit sex, or much if anything else, but as a “true believer” you are going to buy, at this point, whatever they are trying to sell you.

        • Pofarmer

          Disagreeing with the Catholic Churchs teachings does not make one an Atheist. If you were raised devout Catholic, this is probably nearly impossible for you to comprehend.

        • wladyslaw

          I assume when you say you you are an atheist, I don’t try to psychologize your reasons for it, and accept it at face value.
          When I say I was an atheist, I expect the same courtesy.

        • Pofarmer

          I have dealt with enough Catholics , to know not to accept anything at face value. You have yet to provide a reason to change that policy. You don’t espoused any notion of what atheism entails, only hedonism, and possibly nihilism.

        • wlad

          OK OK,
          It seems most of you folks say over and over and over, that ALL atheism is not believing in gods.

          For fifteen years I did not believe in gods. What else does atheism entail?

        • Kodie

          It’s actually your concept of atheism that attempts to attribute additional qualities to it. Why else would you bolt back to a religious doctrine you were raised with after a pregnancy scare rather than apply common sense and your own rational approach to this problem? You don’t have to be Catholic to decide you don’t want to have sex with anything that moves. You’re the one who is trying to figure out what is better about atheism when atheism is not a moral system – that doesn’t mean atheists can’t adopt moral systems. Believing in a god means you are latching on to a fantasy and if that fantasy figure decrees you do X, you will not question its “wisdom” as it has not failed you in the past. You are the one who is deliberately obtuse about what atheism is and what it isn’t.

          Good for you, you denied god’s rules in favor of pleasing yourself, but that’s not “atheism”. Only the part where you do not believe in god is atheism, and how you behave is not. If you chose not to believe in god because you disagreed with the rules of the church is still not atheism. If you believe in god but are rebelling against god’s rules, that is not atheism. If you left the church to pursue your selfish needs, that is not the same reason the rest of us left the church or never joined it to begin with. YOU are the one making false attributions and associations out of a misapprehension of atheism, keep repeating the same clueless questions and judging which is “better” – clearly living as though god didn’t exist didn’t work for you because you panicked and did not know how else to handle a general problem. But don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re as helpless as you and don’t have to pretend god does exist just to get our shit together.

        • wlad

          Wow!
          I did not know all the rules to becoming a proper atheist!

          Where are they posted, so that I can spot one, and judge if one is or is not an atheist, like you are judging.

        • Kodie

          Way to be an illiterate condescending douche, Wlad. Most of the rest of us do not need the shelter of religion to stay out of trouble, and if we do get into trouble, we deal with it without having a superstitious knee-jerk reaction. That’s what happens when you are rational, and when you are irrational, you consider this fantasy the only source of controlling yourself or dealing with problems.

          I do not doubt you were an atheist. I just think you are the one filling that label with all your own baggage, and continue to do so rather than open up and listen to the dialogue. How does that make you “better”?

        • wlad

          I see. The proper response to an unwanted pregnancy is…
          abortion…
          and then continue to have sex without a necessary commitment to a woman for life, as long as one practices birth control faithfully/!

          And abort the child if it fails.

          I am sure that you don’t believe that a person must be committed for life to have sex. Correct me if I am wrong

          Stopping behavior that leads to unwanted pregnancy is the “proper” rational choice that I made.

        • Kodie

          You made it for yourself, and apparently you need the consent of your imaginary friend to follow these rules. I mean, apparently you do not agree with the rule and only follow it because god said to do it, and because you got “results” that were positive (in your very own personal assessment), that they must be magical rules and that everyone has to follow them. If I could prove there was no god to you, would you go back to your old ways or would you still do what’s best for you?

        • wlad

          No, I stopped having sex outside marriage the DAY the woman came to me with the possibility of being pregnant.

          No outside deity forced . The “I will never have an abortion” forced me to change my behavior. Didn’t need God for that decision.

          Reality forced me to examine my moral life.

          Later, I realized that NOBODY outside the Catholic Church taught what I have found to be true. Intrigued, I started examining other beliefs of the Church, and after several years, came back

        • MNb

          So you agree that vasectomy is bad – perhaps even a mortal sin? How did reality force you to examine your morals in this specific case?

        • Kodie

          So you basically went for the religion that agreed with your personal feelings. I keep saying you didn’t need any religion to know these things for yourself. You had a bad experience and you made a decision. Why do you keep saying that this decision requires adopting a religion, why do you keep ignoring when I say that it obviously doesn’t? People do what’s best for themselves, and they do not all agree with you. You sought external validation for your personal choices, and the rest of us do not need that to do just fine, and make rational, reality-based decisions about our own futures.

        • MNb

          Behaviour that leads to unwanted pregnancies is a pretty good example of hedonism. The one time it happened to me I corrected it the very next day.
          So thanks for confirming what Pofarmer wrote above:

          “You then decided to become hedonistic, at least where sex was involved.”
          See, me trying to be a moral person always have thought it my obligation as a man to participate actively in avoiding unwanted pregnancies. As one consequence I underwent vasectomy more than 15 years ago. Your church doesn’t really like that. So from your very own story we have

          1. When you claimed to be an atheist you didn’t care about contraceptives;
          2. Your church teaches something false and according to your own statement above this means we cannot trust anything your church teaches.

          http://www.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu349.htm
          http://catholicfaith.co.uk/morals.html

          When will you leave the RCC?

        • Pofarmer

          All I get is that you decided not to follow the teachings of the Catholic church. You then decided to become hedonistic, at least where sex was involved. You don’t seem to have embraced any of the intellectual arguments for atheism, nor realized that anything goes is not a proper moral code.

        • wlad

          I have never believed anything goes is a proper moral code as an atheist.
          Hedonist? Check my discussion with Bob on this post on my sexuality as an atheist.
          I don’t understand your argument about intellectual atheism.

          If a Moslem left his religion because of its treatment of women and became a non-believer, is his new found atheism suspect if he didn’t come to it through intellectual argumentation?

        • Pofarmer

          he·don·ism
          ˈhēdəˌnizəm,ˈhedənˌizəm/
          noun
          noun: hedonism
          the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.synonyms:self-indulgence, pleasure-seeking, self-gratification,

        • wlad

          Check my discussion with Bob on how Iived out my sexuality, and please indicated clearly where you think I was hedonistic, or lived out my sexuality differently from you.

        • Pofarmer

          Why do you think you didn’t?

        • MNb

          You were the one who connected the sexual revolution with atheism, not us.

        • Kodie

          “I don’t believe in god” is not a logical conclusion of “my religion is unfair to women”. You can be critical of standards of a religion while believing it is true – that is what most religious people do when they try to reconcile something of their beliefs they disagree with, i.e. “god has his reasons” or whatever. Your narrow idea of atheism is that it’s a rejection of the rules of a religion. We do spend a lot of time critical of the rules in fact, but that is not what makes us atheists. If there were a god and we understood these to be the rules, how could we say because we disagree with those rules that there is no god? I disagree with my mother’s rules, therefore my mother doesn’t exist? I could run away from home and never contact her again, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe she exists. And if things go poorly for me on my own, it doesn’t mean that she was right, or her way was the only way to be. You are looking at it this way – you met up with a failure in your life, a wake-up call, and reverted to the only think you know in your life where rules come from, and decided this was true because you adopted the rules.

          Anyway, the problem most of us have with the rules of a religion are more like a reaction to the mysterious fictional authority from whom you take these rules, and because he is reckoned to be some “ultimate” judge of your behavior, you slavishly follow these rules without question, and wonder how anyone could live without these rules – you are conflating rules with the imaginary source of those rules. We’re not criticizing the rules simply because we don’t like them, we are criticizing the amazing foolishness of following them when you can’t show evidence that they came from anywhere but people – ancient backwards people. You had too much loveless, non-procreative sex for your preference eventually, and swung back to another extreme, you ran as fast as you could to a religious system of safety because you cannot trust yourself to know how to act, you don’t trust what you want, to set goals and to behave according to those goals without the mandate from a deity. What other stupid decisions and rules are you going to follow simply because you now trust only your imaginary friend to tell you what to do? We don’t just dislike the rules, we dislike the slavish adherence to rules for reasons you and your fellow theists have yet to provide evidence for.

          So, if a Moslem left his religion because of its treatment of women, they are just as likely to find another religious belief that “sits well” with their own preferences, and just like you, think these rules are real based on them coming from some supernatural authority rather than a community of people and their customary way of living.

        • Pofarmer

          Holy cow.

        • wlad

          Go to an ex-moslem blogging site, and see that atheism is usually their first response when they are able to reflect on the problems of their religion.

        • Kodie

          Holy shit wlad. Upon examining the rules and structure of one’s religion, one may conclude that those rules do not come from a fucking deity in the fucking sky. But it is not a direct route from “my religion is unfair to women” to “then that must mean there is no god”. It really sounds like that’s the direct route you took, and why you were so easily scared right back into it deeply, but it does not follow logically. But you refuse to acknowledge or listen, you have not changed, and your religion seems to make you an evasive ignorant illiterate thick-skulled nonsensical dipshit.

          How is that “better”? You’re obviously not “better”. All you’re doing differently now is not accidentally knocking up someone you didn’t want to knock up. But you seem to make radical moves, can you say it wasn’t your religious upbringing that drove you to excessive bed-hopping with strangers? You didn’t like the rules, therefore there’s no god. That’s the only way you could live with yourself, but it does not logically follow.

        • MNb

          My ex-wife has changed from islam to some pretty liberal form of christianity. The younger sister of my female counterpart has changed from islam to hardcore seventh day adventism (or pentecostalism, I’m not entirely sure) to a more liberal version of christianity. Those changes obviously had a few things to do with the problems of those religions.

        • MNb

          The problem here is that YOU associate your atheism with the sexual revolution of the 60’s and YOU claim that your atheism had miserable consequences and YOU turn this into a general statement that applies to all mankind.
          I have never been baptized. I have never had free sex either. The one time a partner of mine (and I had a relationship) threatened to become pregnant I brought her to a doctor for Emergency contraception. So YOUR story of conversion does not make any sense to me. I don’t even care if you lie or not.

        • wlad

          Where in any of my comments did I say that my experience of atheist misery applies to all mankind? I just shared what I experienced, and not once hinted that atheists are miserable.

          The essence of the sexual revolution was that sex did not have to necessarily involve babies, and could be enjoyed for its own sake if proper precautions were taken. And if babies were no longer in the picture, sex outside of marriage was OK.

          I accepted that logical train of thought. And I imagine that most atheists would not have too much e problem with that line of thinking, but I could be wrong.

        • Kodie

          Wow, you were careless and irresponsible and you were shocked so you returned to religion? Why? I mean, can’t you just resolve something you want to resolve, as a solution to the problem? You turned to Catholicism for something you figured out on your own and resolved without any help from anyone? What a sucker!

        • So you were reckless. And how does the atheism fit in? As has been made clear to you, atheism says nothing about ethics.

        • wladyslaw

          No, I was not reckless. We used birth control. Half of the million abortions each year are done on people who were on birth control .
          Since I stopped believing in God and the Catholic teaching on sexuality–that EVERY sexual act has to be open to life–something most Protestants don’t even believe– and in a committed relationship for life, WHO was to tell me that I couldn’t have a consensual “recreational” sexual relationship with somebody I did not love, and was not planning to marry.
          Do you believe that consensual sex with someone I don’t love and don’t plan to marry, but we enjoy each other sexually and use birth control, is wrong and reckless?
          Do we have to love each other? Plan to marry?

          Where was I reckless?

        • OK, I guess you weren’t. Thanks for clearing that up.

        • MNb

          No. I won’t admit anything. I am no more rational. I have done and said too many irrational things in my life. I have too ofted deluded myself. I have met too many believers who were less bigoted and more tolerant than me. I have met left wing christians with very progressive ideas and right wing atheists who I detest. And on and on.

          Thanks wlad, for showing candidly your own prejudices – about atheists like me.
          Now just admit it. Maybe I’m going to like you after all.

        • wlad

          I finally got it. Atheism and theism are equally good, or equally bad, or equally blah. Nothing inherent in religion or atheism that’s better or worse?

          Then why do atheist bloggers continue to want to convince theists to leave theism?

        • Pofarmer

          Why would you want someone to Leave Hinduism? Why do you want us to accept your Catholic views?

        • wlad

          A million gods doesn’t bother you. It does me.

        • Pofarmer

          Well there you go. Why would you want someone to leave Mormonism?

        • wlad

          Mormons now have the internet and can find out for themselves what kind of man Joseph Smith was and how God dictated on Golden Tablets his truth in perfect Kings English and how Jesus will return somewhere in the United States, and that the early Indigenous Indians were really Israelites and so forth.
          Mormons are wonderful people, but just check their beliefs.

        • MR

          Now replace Mormon with Catholic.

        • Dys

          It’s amazing how ridiculous the beliefs of religions other than your own seem, isn’t it? Turn that skepticism to traditional Christianity, and it fares a little better than Mormonism, but only because it’s farther removed from the modern era. But the claims still aren’t believable or reasonably supported.

          But you didn’t actually answer the question posed to you. Why would someone want to leave Mormonism?

        • wlad

          The Indigenous Indians were not Israelites. If a religion has one false teaching, it cannot be trusted on any teaching.

        • Dys

          Great. Then according to you, I’m being perfectly reasonable in rejecting Christianity. It is immoral to own other people as property. The bible doesn’t have a problem with the concept, and endorses it.

        • Kodie

          Why do you give Catholicism a pass?

        • adam

          The idea of the crusade corresponds to a political conception which was realized in Christendom only from the eleventh to the fifteenth century; this supposes a union
          of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the popes. All crusades were announced by preaching. After pronouncing a solemn vow, each warrior received a cross from the hands of the pope or his legates, and was thenceforth considered a soldier of the Church. Crusaders were also granted indulgences and temporal privileges, such as exemption from civil jurisdiction, inviolability of persons or lands, etc. Of all these wars undertaken in the name of Christendom, the most important were the Eastern Crusades, which are the only ones treated in this article. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04543c.htm

          So is MASS MURDER a false teaching or just a mimicking of an EVIL monster ‘god’?

        • MNb

          Exactly! And yours teaches Original Sin, due to Adam and Eve. That’s as false a teaching as the Golden Plates of the Mormons.
          Thanks, wlad.

        • wlad

          I see.

          Why is it so hard to raise good kids and so easy to raise brats?

          Did evolution screw up?

          Being virtuous is better for society than badness.

          But being consistently virtuous is hard work, slacking off and being bad is much easier.

          Why?

        • Kodie

          Do you ever think what you’re teaching your daughter is going to lead to bad results? Weren’t you raised in a similar home and ran away to fuck anyone that moved? How are you training your daughter not to rebel against these rules that you’re attempting to ingrain in her? And if there’s a god, why don’t people just know? I thought this morality shit was written on our hearts, then why do parents have to work so hard to impress their children with these artificial rules? I mean, does religion ever screw up? You learned it good enough to reject it in favor of self-serving pleasure, how do you know your daughter isn’t going to do the same thing?

        • Wow–nutty stuff.

          Speaking of which, have you read your own Bible?

        • Pofarmer

          And yet, on another thread, right now, we have a Mormon arguing the truth of the Golden Tablets.

        • Kodie

          Seems like an arbitrary preference you have.

        • adam

          Yet I am guess that 3 does not.

          What is the MAGIC number of ‘gods’ that make it credible?

        • wlad

          Please quote Catholic theology (perhaps from the Catholic Catheism) what it teaches about the Trinity to be able to accurately criticize it.

        • adam

          237
          The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the
          “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they
          are revealed by God”….blah blah blah But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a
          mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith
          before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit

          Typical propagandic BS.

          The picture spells it out in easy english, so that everyone can understand what it means and call bull-shit – Bull Shit.

          What is the MAGIC number of ‘gods’ that make it credible?

        • wlad

          “Blah, blah, blah, typical propaganda BS
          Ridicule, or sound argument…?

        • adam

          The Catholic CHURCH says it is a MYSTERY.

          The TRUE mystery is WHY anyone would believe this CREATION of trinity BY THE CHURCH…

          So it is the ‘church’ who is ridiculing it’s believers.

        • wlad

          No bunch of people trying to invent a religion and want people to take them seriously would come up with something as “ridiculous” as the Trinity.

          But…

          Jesus, in His teaching, revealed that He and the Father and the Holy Spirit are One.

          His followers did not cherry pick His teachings. They accepted His teaching on love and His teaching on His divinity and relationship to the Father and the Spirit.

          They gave the name Trinity for this relationship

        • adam

          And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

          So Jesus declares that he is NOT ‘God’, but separate.

          So like I said, BS

          THREE ‘gods’ if you count the ‘holy’ ghost

        • Pofarmer

          “No bunch of people trying to invent a religion and want people to take
          them seriously would come up with something as “ridiculous” as the
          Trinity.”

          It took hundreds of years to come up with it.

        • wlad

          The belief that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit was one was taught from day one. Nobody questioned it for three hundred years, Around 300AD some schismatics started teaching that this was not really true, that Jesus was not really God, and caused a lot of confusion.Whom to believe? The Church called a Council and formally declared the official doctrine, and at that Council called it the Trinity. All the Church Councils were called because some people started teaching new doctrines and the church then had to declare the official doctrine.

        • Kodie

          So in fact a bunch of people trying to invent a religion and wanted people to take them seriously came up with something as ridiculous as the trinity.

        • MNb

          Ask them. I only answered for myself. Since when is it my responsibility what atheist bloggers (or other people) want or not want? Am I a god or something? I don’t really know why BobS writes what he writes. I suspect that he enjoys it very much. I usually enjoy what he writes. If he has other reasons, well, I don’t really care – except that I learn sometimes a few new things.

        • Dys

          Don’t conflate theism with religion – they’re not the same thing. Theism is merely belief in a god or gods. By itself it still tells you nothing. Like atheism, it is a single stance on a single subject.

          why do atheist bloggers continue to want to convince theists to leave theism

          Because no one is just a theist, just as no one is just an atheist. It’s not possible. And there are plenty of negative aspects attached to the various forms of theism, especially Christianity when it comes to the US.

        • Every atheist is a better person than every Christian? Who says that? I mean, besides you.

        • MR

          A shaming tactic.

          An atheist who is more rational than a Christian is better at being more rational than that Christian. Is he a better person? You’d have to make that judgement on an individual basis.

          A Christian who is less bigoted than an atheist is better at being less bigoted than that atheist. Is he a better person? You’d have to make that judgement on an individual basis.

          Whining that all atheists think they are somehow better than all Christians comes across sounding like an inferiority complex. “Mom always liked you better!”

        • wladyslaw

          Atheism is better than Christianity, right? You know, more rational, less delusional, etc.?

        • Dys

          Atheism is just not believing in gods. Anything else isn’t atheism. Your comparison is a non-sequitur.

        • wlad

          OK OK,
          Not believing in gods is better than believing in gods. More rational, less delusional, etc.

        • Dys

          It’s a more reasonable conclusion given the lack of evidence for the existence of any gods. But being an atheist doesn’t mean a person is any more rational or less delusional. You’re still making the same error. Atheism isn’t a worldview or an ideology.

        • wlad

          More reasonable sounds awfully close to more rational.

        • Kodie

          If following your religion, you must believe red is blue, why would that be true? You might ask “where did this screwy rule come from, it’s obviously wrong,” or you might be slavishly adherent to the rules no matter what because you have given yourself no choice but to obey some fictional authority. Maybe the rules of your religion say “it’s bad to kill other people,” and you might ask “why would I need a deity to think of that for me?” or you might conflate the rules of your religion with morality itself. So here you have some rule that makes sense with or without a deity, and if you assume you need that deity to follow that rule, you are likely to believe what they say when they come up with red is blue. You’ve given up the prerogative to disagree with any rules as long as you believe your deity is real and all rules that come from that deity supercede your own sensibilities, as you did when you reverted to Catholicism to tell you how and when to have sex after your pregnancy scare.

          You have not addressed any of my posts or others’ posts where we point out to you that you are free to make a standard of your own sexuality and limit yourself from here on out to only procreative sex in a loving relationship. YOUR problem is that because that works for you, and because you had a dangerous situation when you were living outside of these limits, that you think GOD MADE THAT RULE, and so you slavishly follow a bunch of dumb-ass red is blue rules because it’s just part of the package. Then you also think we have to live like you and make the same decisions as you do, because “god said that’s what sex is for,” and you are judging the rest of us because you are unable to cope without it. It is more reasonable to take a cautious approach to sexuality if you want different results and fewer unpleasant surprises, for yourself. It is not reasonable to decide for the rest of us what is “better” because you can’t conceive how that standard works unless it has a divine origin. Now see how many stupid things you think because you assume a divine origin without any evidence. It is more reasonable to take situations as they come and cope with them, and not adopt the excess baggage of irrational dogma that comes along with believing rules that “work” for you have to have a divine origin.

          You don’t seem to acknowledge that people can make good decisions for themselves outside of a religious structure. You seem to keep projecting your flaws and inability to cope to the rest of us. God was not sending you a message, it just seems an extreme way of coping with an unpleasant and unplanned surprise is to snap out of it via a religion. Prove god exists first.

        • wlad

          If Catholicism said “red is blue” I world leave it.

          I didn’t come back to Catholicism ONLY because of my experience with the possible pregnancy. But it started the journey back.

          You see–the only people in the whole world who said that every sexual act has to be open to life, and in the context of a committed relationship–were Catholics. Not Protestants, not Buddhists, not Moslems, not atheists.

          And that’s the only moral teaching in the world that addressed my situation was the Catholic position. I was practicing birth control–and still faced possible pregnancy. As long as I was having sex with birth control (outside of getting snipped), I would always have the chance of facing an unwanted pregnancy, and an abortion, something I knew I would never do.

          Only sex open to life in a life-long committed relationship
          would work for me.

          Wow, only the Catholic position made sense . No other position removed abortion as a probability. Maybe it wasn’t so screwed about sexuality as I had come to believe..

          I wondered WHY they taught what they did. I checked and It made sense.
          I wondered if other Catholic teachings made sense too.

          So I examined other teachings. It didn’t come easy. But after years of examination and realizing that I basically had no further problem with Catholicism, I returned to it.

        • MNb

          “If Catholicism said “red is blue” I world leave it.”
          Then leave.

          http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/336357.Ignatius_of_Loyola

          “What seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines.”

          But of course you won’t leave. So thanks for showing us once again how belief leads to intellectual dishonesty.

        • wlad

          After reflecting on the red is blue statement, I realized that my remark was not accurate.

          The Church only speaks infallibly on matters of doctrine and morals. And in ALL matters of doctrine and morals, I will follow the Church, no matter personal leaning.
          On matters of science, sports, colors, etc., it is not infallible, and does not demand submission.

          I think Leah Libresco, a former atheist, recently became a Catholic. She had some questions on the matter of same sex attraction, but decided to submit to the Church even if she did no fully understand. Only on question of morals and doctrine.

          Not every single possible moral problem has been decided.
          For instance:

          On the matter of what is the moral stand of what to do with extra frozen embryos–let them die or implant them through insemination, theologians are studying the issue, and are free to give their opinions. Once the Church makes a definitive decision, I will follow their decision.

        • Pofarmer

          Rendering yourself brainless. Nice.

        • wlad

          I see. Everyone uses his brains to create his own meaning and his own moral system, and then follows it.

          How convenient.

          No chance for creating a bad moral system–it’s only valid for the person creating his own moral system, right?

          And who’s to judge somebody else’s moral by your own.

          What’s right for you does not necessarily mean it’s right for me, right?

        • Pofarmer

          Here’s the problem, when what you judge as right for you, adversely affects me, then I get to have a say in it, O.k?

        • wlad

          Just to be clear, I certainly was not saying that I thought creating one’s own morality was OK, and was sarcastic in saying what’s right for you is not necessarily right for me.

          I obviously believe in objective morality–there is not a morality for you that’s different from a morality for me. Rape is always wrong for everybody–no exceptions for the drunken rowdy frat boy.

          Did you know that recently a judge in England freed a muslim rapist of a 13 year old girl because the PakistanI (I think) claimed that sex with a 13 year old was not wrong in his country. No, rape is wrong for everybody, and the Pakistani should not have a say in it.

          Some moral laws are enforced by law–like rape is always wrong– and obviously all of us have a say in how laws are enforced. But the wrongness or rightness of an act is not negotiable. Rape is wrong for me, for the Russian, for the Indigenous Indian, for the Pakistani, no matter what their culture says.

        • Pofarmer

          Look dude, you just torpedoed your own argument, from within your own argument. Nicely done.

        • wlad

          I don’t have the slightest idea what you mean. Don’t just state your opinion. Argue it

        • Pofarmer

          You are arguing for objective reality, and then note the difference in morals between Pakistani Muslims and their host culture. Morality is culturally driven, and changes with time.

        • wlad

          I was saying the COMPLETE opposite of what you just said.

          I was saying that cultural differences in morality do NOT trump objective morality. The Pakistani is wrong, no matter what his culture says. Would you tell the Pakistani that it’s OK for him to have sex with a thirteen year old because his culture says it’s OK. Fine for you to rape, but not for me?!

          Rape is always wrong, no matter the cultures. Rape always hurts the woman.

        • Pofarmer

          God commands rape in the bible, so it must not always be bad, eh?

        • Rape is always wrong, no matter the cultures.

          I agree. Everyone here agrees. But that makes it a shared moral value, not a transcendentally-grounded or absolute one. If you say that there are objective moral truths (true, whether anyone believes them or not), you’ve got a lot of provin’ to do.

        • Kodie

          But do you ask why rape is always wrong? Most people can agree with the concept but not the definition, by the way. Rape is wrong because it imposes one’s will on another person forcefully. There are lots of situations where it is wrong but not illegal to impose one’s will on another person forcefully, but forcing women to stay pregnant is another issue. You would impose your will on another person forcefully, and not think there is anything wrong with it. You justify such an act even though you know it is wrong – you just think it is less wrong. In some cultures, including in the US, rape is theoretically always wrong, but there is a failure to communicate just when one is over the line that people do tend to excuse the rapist or blame the victim for the situation in which the rape occurred. Even if rape is always wrong, it seems like most of the culture accepts a lot of instances of rape as per their personal interested-bystander’s opinion as “not really rape.”

          Let’s say in the far distant but not that distant past, if a husband had sex with his wife, it could never be considered as a rape. After all, he owns her and can do whatever he wants whenever he wants to. Her identity as a human being in her own right was not considered. So would you say rape is always wrong? It is still taking us as a society a very long time to work out all these instances and have empathy for victims. Empathy is how we progress and clarify what we mean when we agree that something is wrong. Is it wrong when ducks rape other ducks? How can we enforce what ducks do? We can really only apply our moral decisions to ourselves, not to ducks, so that is hardly objective.

          The problem with your morality is that you say things are right or they are wrong based on nothing. You don’t explore why something you think is right does not feel good to another person. You don’t explore why something you think is wrong is just fine with another person. You simply want there to be a list and follow slavishly to that list rather than use your critical thinking skills. It is not wrong to be gay – who does it hurt? It doesn’t hurt you. It doesn’t hurt the gay people. It is wrong to enslave someone because it hurts them. You can acknowledge that, it just seems like you don’t.

        • Kodie

          Of course there is a chance of creating a bad moral system. You nearly knocked up a woman carelessly and selfishly with no plans to marry her and all plans to force her to go through with the pregnancy even if that wasn’t her choice. There is not a thing wrong with abortion that isn’t associated with a superstition about ending a human life. The immorality of caring more for a speck of tissue than the woman you fucked is something I feel free to judge.

          What’s right for me is not going to be right for you, but your moral system is derived from a group of people making decisions for other people, not god. “God” is a rumor you heard. When you harm me or someone else because you think “god” backs you, then I can certainly say that’s fucked up, wlad.

        • MNb

          So you don’t put your money where you mouth is, but prefer to dishonestly wriggle out. The church may say that red is blue and you stay, no matter what you said in the past. Thanks. That gives exactly zero credibility about what you wrote about your own atheist past.

          “Only on question of morals and doctrine.”
          As I showed elsewhere on this page the RCC says that vasectomy is a mortal sin, despite it being a very effective way to avoid unwanted pregnancies, something that according to you played a major role in your conversion. So at one hand you condemn what I have done, because some ignorant hacks reading a badly outdated book say so. At the other hand you think it important to avoid unwanted pregnancies, exactly what I have done with my vasectormy.
          That’s inconsistent.
          Inconsistencies are not true.
          Something in your belief system is not true.
          You still should leave.
          But of course you will weasle out again. Because you’re intellectually dishonest.

        • wlad

          I have never heard anyone change their comment in the middle of an exchange except Bob, and I give him credit. If I was wrong, I admit it, and will change if the criticism is valid, or if I realize that I said something stupid. Wouldn’t you, but I suppose you never say anything stupid, and wouldn’t have to change what you say.

          The crux of the Church’s teaching on sexuality is this:
          Every sexual act has to be open to life–not necessarily result in life, but ALWAYS be open to it.

          Anything that interferes with that openness to life–condoms, the pill, iud, vasectomy, sterilization, is seriously wrong.

          Since the homosexual act is never open to life, it is also seriously wrong.

          All the teachings on sex are consistent with the main one and are coherent–every sexual act has to be open to life.

          Since the faithful Catholic lives his sexual life always open to life, there is no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy, He always know it is possible, and accepts one if a child comes.

          A Catholic does not have to have as many children as possible.

          For good reasons. a Catholic can choose to limit his children. A Catholic many choose not to have sex during a woman’s fertile time. He is doing nothing to frustrate life the sexual act. He is not mandated to have sex always
          If he has sex during the infertile time, he is still open to
          life, and accepts a child if one comes.

        • Kodie

          That’s a superstitious pile of bullshit right there. Is it seriously wrong to use a calendar and a thermometer to lower the chances of pregnancy? Every sexual act does not need to be open to life – technology addresses this very long-existing problem. Marriage itself addresses this problem, and is actually a form of birth control, not in the sense of preventing pregnancy, but of creating an economic system inside of which to have sex and be financially stable enough to raise any children that occur. Marriage is just one way, and it’s not for everyone, maybe not now, maybe not ever, but religion does not own sex and dictate what it may be used for. Your term is “seriously wrong” because it does not meet the catholic criteria, but rationally we can discard the catholic criteria as being a bunch of superstitious bullshit. Not you, you solved a problem you were having and became a catholic to confirm your own instincts and preferences, regardless of whether it was true. You just needed a daddy to give you permission when you can have sex, and now you are trying to infect the rest of us with your delusion. You do it your way, the rest of us can do it our way – that doesn’t necessarily exclude marriage or procreation, but being modern humans, it’s simply not practical to be sidelined with endless pregnancies as it is to avoid having sex just because “god says”.

        • wlad

          Please read my comment carefully before commenting on it.

          I NEVER said it was seriously wrong to use a calendar and thermometer to lower the chance of pregnancy

          I said it was OK to not have sex during the infertile period to lower the chance of pregnancy. (One determines the fertile time by various means–mucous, temperature, calendar)

          Please don’t misrepresent my comment.

        • Kodie

          I’m not the one who misrepresented you. You’re the one who thinks tracking and avoiding fertility by artificial means of calendars and thermometers is quite a lot different than using a physical barrier.

          Grow up, you’re superstitious.

        • wlad

          Where did I say that? WHERE did I say that!

          I said it was OK to limit pregnancies by not having sex during infertle times. How does one determine infertile times–by thermometer, mucous, calendar.

          A physical barrier MAKES the sexual act not open to life.

          A thermometer, mucous testing, calendar does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to make the sexual act infertile and not open to life.

          It simply tells me when the woman is infertile.

          So Kodie, where did I say that?

        • Kodie

          You can’t follow the shiny red bouncing ball, can you? You just said it. You just said that using artificial means is fine, but other artificial means is going against god. YOU JUST FUCKING SAID IT. You’re not open to procreation if you are avoiding fertile days on the fucking calendar. How is that different than using a condom? In both instances, one can foresee the potential for creating an obligation that you don’t want, it’s just that one is honest and one is lying to god.

        • wlad

          I NEVER said that using some artificial means to make the sexual act infertile is fine and some are not.

          The condom RENDERS the sexual act infertile.

          The mucous testing, thermometer, calendar do NO SUCH THING. They merely tell whether the woman if fertile or not. The sexual act in infertile times is exactly the same as in infertile time for one using natural family plannning.

          The sexual act with a condom is very different than one without.

          One person wants to lose weight. He uses a computer to determine that it is best to not to eat breakfast everyday. He skips breakfast and loses weight.

          The second person also wants to lose weight. But he does not want to miss his delicious morning breakfast. So he eats his breakfast, but then takes a pill to regurgitate the breakfast. He loses weight,

          Both have the SAME goal. Both lose weight.

          The second one is considered a sicko, and I think you and I would say that is a wrong way to lose weigh, but fine to abstain.

        • Kodie

          You’re in denial, bub. Also, are you really going to use eating for an example here? Skipping meals is not healthy. Skipping having sex during fertile periods so you can fuck like bunnies at infertile times to avoid procreating is fooling yourself that doing this stupid little dance is any more “moral” than using a condom. It is not natural, it is artificial. It is used to avoid procreation, meaning one has plenty of sex when one is not really really sincerely open to pregnancy. LYING TO JESUS. The church says it’s ok, so you think it’s ok, but you are lying to yourself and you are lying to Jesus.

        • Kodie

          Submitting to a doctrine one does not agree with fully or does not understand, and only hopes to get the bullshit answer the church provides in reconciling one’s emotional instinct with what they say is “bad” or “good” is NOT BETTER. It is a superstition. What if someone told you that you had to carry a lucky penny for the rest of your life or you would suffer dire consequences? You do not understand how the penny works in your life, they just say that it does, and you believe it – that’s exactly like submitting to the church, submitting your intellect for their propaganda to appease your conflicts. Believing there is a god but not really caring what the answers are before you submit just makes you vulnerable to group think. You seem to think the answers they give you to make you stop asking questions come from somewhere divine – only if up the pope’s ass is considered “somewhere divine”.

          All he is doing, all anyone is doing, is contemplating a problem and brainstorming a bullshit answer so you stop asking questions, and if it feeds your fear of death and judgment, all the better. They want to keep you. How much money have you given them so far, wlad?

        • Kodie

          You came to a valid decision based on your own life experiences but you needed a religion to validate you? That’s what I’m trying to say. You seem to say that you searched high and low for a religious dogma that would confirm your own choices for you, and chose one because it agreed with you. That’s not how the rest of us seek the truth. The rest of us don’t have to agree and reach the same conclusions, but you are here to bully people to conform to your beliefs because you think they come from a divine place, so in order to be “better” at life, we need to stop being atheists and adopt your moral system, as if it’s the only one or the right one for everybody. It didn’t come from god, and it’s wrong about a lot of other stuff. There is no need to go all in when you are obviously capable of reaching a valid solution for yourself without them.

        • Without Malice

          The idea that every sexual act must be open to the possibility of a pregnancy and that unless it is it is an evil act is one of the most idiotic ideas to ever come out of a deranged minds of the fools who came up with most Catholic doctrine. It’s so damn stupid that most Catholics don’t even follow it. And FYI, Jesus said that looking on a woman and lusting after her is the same as adultery – which makes all men adulterers – implying that the intent of the heart is the same as the actual act. Therefore for you to have sex when you think you are not fertile is the same as using any other means of birth control, for in your heart you are sincerely hoping to have sex without becoming pregnant. If you want to believe this idiotic nonsense, that’s your business, but don’t try to say that it somehow makes sense or that what you’re doing is somehow more moral than using birth control because all you’re doing is making yourself look stupid.
          It is also Catholic doctrine that Jesus was born of a virgin – just like all the pagan god/men – and that 100% of his humanity was obtained from his mother. Now, it is an indisputable fact that no woman carries the Y-gene that codes for maleness and that, therefore, neither Jesus or anyone else born to a virgin could be anything but a woman, a clone of the mother. This presents you with a conundrum: since doctrine states that Jesus got 100% of his humanity from his mother, then it cannot be that God did anything to alter the fact that he would be a women if he was indeed born of a virgin. So either Jesus was not born of a virgin or he did not get 100% of his humanity from his mother or else he was a woman in drag.. Which one of these contradictory doctrines are you willing to give up? Of course I don’t expect you to even think about giving up either one since you are obviously an unthinking autobot who will just echo whatever the church tells you to believe without giving it an once of thought.

        • “If you want to believe this idiotic nonsense, that’s your business”

          I don’t even mind if he proclaims it with every avenue of free speech that he has. Where I draw the line is when he wants to impose his own view of things on the rest of the country by law.

        • Pofarmer

          “It’s so damn stupid that most Catholics don’t even follow it.”

          Unfortunately, you’d be surprised.

        • Without Malice

          Over 90% of Catholic women use birth control and over 80% say that it is morally acceptable and that the church is wrong in prohibiting it.

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, I know, but you’d be surprised how many women use it, and then the church guilts and guilts and guilts them about it, and they speak out against it as parents.

        • Dys

          I think you’re still not getting it. Yes, atheism is, in my opinion, a far more rational and reasonable conclusion than theism. That does not, however, say anything about any other issue, nor does it mean that an atheist is an overall more rational or reasonable person.

          You’re trying to take a single conclusion on a single issue and extrapolate from there to say atheists are all smug elitists. As I’ve pointed out, however, that’s a fallacious non-sequitur. You’re trying to make atheism a worldview. It isn’t.

        • wlad

          Seeing the world radically differently than most people in history is NOT a worldview!?

          Never said atheists are smug elitists.

          Unless their atheism is a just an neat intellectual exercize, it certainly affects their life, how they create their morals (no ready made morals), how they approach death, etc.

          I would say that more atheists support gay marriage than believers, for instance.

          Atheism matters. Belief matters.

          All the atheist blogs blog as if it really mattered.

          All the religious blogs blog as if really mattered.

          Neither have one absolute position.

          But both affect actual lives, not just be an intellectual position.

        • Dys

          Seeing the world radically differently than most people in history is NOT a worldview!?

          I shouldn’t have to inform you of this again, but here goes: atheism is a single stance on a single subject. It’s not a worldview. Theism isn’t either. There are atheistic worldviews and theistic worldviews, but neither atheism or theism are worldviews themselves.

          Never said atheists are smug elitists.

          It certainly seems implied by the insinuations you’re making.

          it certainly affects their life, how they create their morals

          Sure, atheism informs a worldview. But it isn’t one by itself.

          But both affect actual lives, not just be an intellectual position

          It is an intellectual position, and it informs a person’s worldview.

        • MNb

          That still has preciously little to do with the question “what is better”.

        • wlad

          I think all, or most atheists think that atheism is far more rational and reasonable than theism. Otherwise they would be theists.

          That’s all I was trying to say.

          I suppose when atheists say atheism is far more rational and reasonable than theism, they don’t necessarily say atheism is better.

          But it sure sounds like it.

        • Kodie

          That is not very precise. I don’t choose atheism. I don’t believe in god, how can I be anything else but an atheist? I have not been convinced by anyone that there are any gods, how can I be anything but an atheist? But the arguments and so-called “evidence” for gods is fucking irrational, so by default, if I find it lacking in logic and rationality, then I can be nothing but an atheist. Of course it seems more rational than being a theist, because you have no evidence that you can share, it all comes down to faith as they say. If you find that ok, how can I try to change your mind? You didn’t come here to have your mind changed, but you also didn’t leave theism for logical reasons. We cannot therefore impose “rationality” as a necessary requirement for atheism.

          You are the one trying to impose your illogical reasons for abandoning your faith on the rest of us, and rather than choose to listen and learn, you ask stupid fucking irrelevant and narrowly, religiously defined types of questions and disregard the answers to them.

        • MNb

          Note that you have changed the meaning of the word “better” here.
          Do we agree that 1,9 + 1,8 = 4 is better than 1,9 + 1,8 = 3 ? In that sense I think that not believing in gods is better than believing in gods. But hey, I’m human. I err. So we’ll have to discuss the method of research, the evidence and the arguments.

        • MNb

          As for me I wouldn’t know – I never have been a theist. I even never have been baptized. I’m just an atheist who likes to get nasty now and then. Disclaimer: daily life is totally different. The question how to become a better person is a crucial one there. But on internet not really.

        • Dys

          Imagine an atheist site that primarily talks about how wonderful atheism is!

          The mistake you’re making is operating under the assumption that atheism is the opposite of Christianity, Islam, etc. It isn’t. It’s the opposite of theism. And like theism, atheism is not a worldview, a philosophy, an ideology, or any type of system. It’s a conclusion reached by applying skepticism to religious claims.

        • wlad

          Fine. If you are a skeptic, be a skeptic. Why then does Bob, and Dawkings and Sam Harris go to such great length to convince others to leave their faith. They must believe it would be better! Otherwise leave them alone!

          I want to know why it makes their life better.

          If not, why bother?

        • Dys

          Why then does Bob, and Dawkings and Sam Harris go to such great length to convince others to leave their faith.

          They’ve all answered this question in their own way numerous times.

          Basically, believing things for inadequate or illogical reasons generally leads to accepting other things that aren’t reasonable. They are operating under the general impression that believing things that are true is better than not. It is undeniable that people make bad and harmful decisions based on bad information and beliefs all the time. We currently have Congressmen who think global warming won’t cause any problems because God wouldn’t let that happen. That’s an idiotic and dangerous belief.

          You also have plenty of religious people, especially Christians, trying to get special treatment for their religious views by the government in spite of the separation of church and state doctrine. You have people voting to have their religious beliefs enforced on the rest of the state, country, etc. That’s where all the nonsensical personhood amendments come from.

          That’s why.

        • MNb

          “Why then does Bob, and Dawkings and Sam Harris”
          Ask them. As for me, I’m a pessimist in this respect. I don’t try to convince anyone on internet. I don’t think I’m capable of it. It wouldn’t especially please me either if I succeeded.

          “Otherwise leave them alone!”
          Non-sequitur. They come here. Hence they are asking for not being left alone. When have had enough they leave. Then I leave them alone indeed. I’m not haunting them or something.

          “If not, why bother?”
          I don’t bother. I have fun. And sometimes I learn something, even from christians. I have never learned anything from you though.

        • where is Wlad’s blog?

        • MNb

          Ah shit – I confused him temporarily with someone else. Then I removed this remark in several posts, but forgot this one. Sorry.

        • So there’s no Wlad’s blog? There is a god!

        • MNb

          Atheism is not wonderful. To make your worldview wonderful you need a lot more than just “there is no god”. And like everything atheism can be perverted and corrupted as well. Atheism perfectly can be combined with misogyny, islamophobia (many fans of Geert Wilders are atheists) and plain racism.

        • wlad

          So why become an atheist? Atheist bloggers blog because they think they have something better to offer (not something worse),
          So why?

        • Pofarmer

          Why become an atheist? Because reality is good?

        • Kodie

          Atheists bloggers blog because they have arguments against theism. What else do you think atheism should offer? I don’t understand why you keep asking such a nonsense question.

        • MNb

          Because there is no god of course.

  • Hey, everyone. Patheos has implemented automatic page breaks every 500 words or so across all blogs. I guess the idea is that longer posts will be a bit more manageable. Any thoughts?

    I’m asking for an additional button, a “Show on 1 page” button. Would that be a help?

    • Pofarmer

      Having disqus actually work o my browsers would be a help.

      • What browser(s) do you use? PC or Mac? And what is the problem?

        Do you mostly use a phone?

        • Pofarmer

          PC, ipad and samsung Galaxy phone. I just updated the ipad and disqus crashes the browser whenever you try to open your comments from an article page. On the Galaxy, it just periodically crashes the browser. Halfway through a comment and “Error.”

        • Patheos is one of the more compute-intensive sites I go to. I can imagine it’d be tough on a mobile platform.

          You could always try to contact the webmaster at the Contact link at the bottom of the page.

        • 90Lew90

          Definitely push for a one-page option. Why make your readers jump through hoops? Decent online publishers figured this out ages ago. If a piece is manageable I can take it in one go. I don’t want to be made to jump through three hoops to read a piece I’m interested in so Patheos can charge American Express more for ad hits.

          [Edit: Or however the scam works.]

        • With luck, you’ll just have to click the “Make it 1 page” button. Not sure if multi-page views are an experiment or if they’re here to stay.

    • MR

      I like the idea of a show on one page.

    • Kodie

      I like one page. You already break up a lot of your topics over several days. When I see an article that is more than 2 pages long, I start to lose interest in finishing it. If it’s all on one page, I can see how long it is before I start reading it.

      • OK, thanks for the feedback, everyone. This is an active topic of conversation between Patheos atheists and The Overlord.

        • wtfwjtd

          One page is definitely my preference, page loads are always an unnecessary waste of time to me.

    • OK, the page break thing was a tragic and short-lived experiment. The Overlords got an earful, and posts are now back to a single page.

      Keep calm and carry on.

  • wtfwjtd

    Great article Bob, you make a good case to show that there would be considerable bias to improving the story with each re-telling, rather than attempting to preserve the tale as-is. I like your laundry list of “miracles” that have been added for each culture–and I recall yet another one from reading Robert Price, the calming of the storm was to cater to the segment of the story audience that embraced the exploits of Poseidon. All this is clear evidence of evolution, and not a faithful or accurate re-telling. And, for the Christian, why not improve the tale, if it gets more people to believe it? Just look at some of the Christians that visit your blog here, they are literally willing to say anything, whether true or not, in attempt to defend their beliefs. Why would Christians from 2,000 years ago be any different?

    • Good point. Our own Christian commenters show the enthusiasm for the story, regardless, that might’ve been common among 1st century Christians.

  • Daniel Wainfleet

    In non-literate societies, story-telling is like music. A performance. Mozart was a renowned improviser, as was J.S. Bach.

  • Jeffrey Vernon

    Given that all the writings of the early church figures – papias, clement, origen and so on – are only available in versions from centuries after they allegedly lived, what is the earliest datable event in church history? Can we say that anything happened before Nicaea? People called Christians turn up here and there in roman and byzantine sources, though we don’t know what they believed, and scraps of NT papyrus appear in the 2nd/3rd century. BUt apostolic fathers? Bishops of Rome?

    • Rudy R

      In lieu of the many contradictions between eyewitnesses in the Darren Wilson grand jury, is there any dispute that eye witness accounts, absent other corroborating evidence, is unreliable? Sixty plus witnesses couldn’t agree on the key points of the investigation, in just a span of 3 months, but we are expected to believe that the Gospels, written by unknown authors, got it completely right, documenting oral history of Jesus’ miracles, crucifixion and resurrection that happened 30 years prior.

      • Jeffrey Vernon

        I’m sure you can anticipate the objections to this kind of reasoning. Stories begin to circulate in a single version after, say, 140, about a figure said to have been born in the time of Herod. Other versions appear. In time, the new religion is adopted by Constantine, and the officials all have a conference in Nicaea. Between 400 and 1000, officials produce writings on church doctrine that they ascribe to earlier authors. I can’t see any difficulty in the NT witnesses all agreeing, especially when they are the sole source for the story in the first place.

        I am less interested in ‘who wrote the gospels’ than in the emergence of the church. Its early history seems hard to trace, for all that church tradition gives names and dates to 2nd century bishops.

      • Excellent modern-day example, thanks.

    • That’s a good point that is often forgotten. When we say, “Clement said …” we’re using a copy of Clement (or a copy of what someone else said that Clement said). That paper trail is important to keep in mind.

      We only know what Papias said about Mark being the author of the gospel of Mark from writings of Eusebius, and that only from a 5th-century translation of his work. That makes for a pretty tenuous chain, which apologists often ignore.

  • 0nly This

    Mark’s gospel is a literary fiction through and through. His Jesus character appears full grown out of nowhere, is baptized, takes on disciples, teaches, works miracles, runs afoul of the authorities, is tried, crucified, dies, is buried – and simply vanishes. Paul had already accounted for post-resurrection appearances in his epistles, obviating any need for Mark to do so as well. Instead, he has three women encounter a young man inside his Jesus’ empty tomb who tells them he has risen, after which they run away terrified, conveniently telling no one.
    Mark’s gospel is a tale cut off at both ends, open to mythic possibilities.

  • Thomas Goodnow

    For the interested, there is a rebuttal here: http://www.deeperwatersapologetics.com/?p=10305

    • I’m away from my desk for a few weeks and can’t reply. Perhaps later.

      Can you summarize?

      • MR

        Looks to me like he just hasn’t perused your blog enough. Most of that stuff has been hashed and rehashed.

      • BlackMamba44

        I read it and I’m convinced. You suck, Bob.

        Haha! JK!

        Here’s the final paragraph:

        “In the end, we conclude that there is no reason to take Bob seriously on this topic. He has not taken modern scholarship seriously and instead relied on Wikipedia and Richard Carrier. In turn, he is not going to be taken seriously. Why respond to this then? Because sadly some people do take this seriously so it is necessary to have something for them.

        Hopefully, Bob will crack open a book next time.”

        Nothing new to report. 🙂

        • Joe

          The courtesans reply, never heard that before!

        • Michael Neville

          Joe, that’s the Courtier’s Reply. Courtesans are a different profession.

        • Otto

          I have seen the movie the Corsican Brothers…does that count?

        • MR

          Courtesan, courtier…, s’all the same. Now, Corsican….

        • Joe

          A similar profession, just a different position(s).

        • MR

          No doubt there is overlap.

      • Dys

        I got bored so I read it….my summary:

        The author spends way too much time whining about using Wikipedia and Richard Carrier as sources, primarily because the author doesn’t like them. He also does a hand wave of Carrier for not working at an accredited institution, as if that dismisses his expertise.

        His points are:

        1. Jesus was a public speaker so he told the same stories a lot.
        2. A lot of Jesus’s stories were aphorisms, so they were easy to remember.
        3. Same point as #2, only with parables.
        4. Memorization was more important back then.
        5. Tries to talk about flashbulb memories, but the author is ignorant of the fact that flashbulb memories are just as susceptible to mistaken recollection as regular memories, if not more so.

        He rambles on a bit on those topics, but it doesn’t really add up to much beyond bitching about sources and imagining that oral tradition back then didn’t engage in embellishments.

        He closes by saying you should rely more on the academic consensus instead of Carrier, and that you should “crack open a book next time”.

        • Thanks for the summary.

          Sounds like lots of confidence backed up by not much.

        • Greg G.

          That is how I saw it. He has his narrative that aligns with his religion and with scholars whose job depend on sticking within the bounds of that narrative.

        • MR

          Seemed to me like he was trying to denigrate Bob while using Bob to drum up traffic on his own site. Poor guy doesn’t seem to get many comments. A more gracious spirit, and I might have actually engaged him on his site.

          Bob’s had several posts about memories, as I recall, and we’ve certainly discussed that extensively in comments. I know I’ve given my own anecdotes.

          His tactic seems to be to poison the well (Bob, Wikipedia), but I find it ironic that he admonishes Bob to “crack open a book” (clearly Bob has), when he himself doesn’t seem to have “cracked open a book” to see what the other side has to say about these topics.

        • Thomas Goodnow

          His website has extensive reviews of books he disagrees with, and he obviously has read a lot outside of “Christian books”. It is a chronic problem, of course. Many Christians never read anything not written by a Christian (and even then, only the “right kind” of Christian author) just as many skeptics haven’t read anything they disagree with, especially anything likely to be difficult, that has tried to deal with the best arguments from their opponents, and that has been in conversation with opponents rather than just supporters (“The Death of Expertise” deals with a lot of this, actually).

          I’m not sure how site traffic is relevant (see “The Death of Expertise”!), but I appreciate that it looks bad on Patheos if your not Patreon royalty or similar.

        • MR

          I’m glad you corrected the record on Bob’s reading habits.

        • Thomas Goodnow

          Bob is better than most, actually, but the literature is immense. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years and in grad school for 5, and have only barely scratched the surface. It is somewhat unfair of Peters to expect Bob to be up on the social world of the Bible, a research area which is only about 20 years old.

        • MR

          Being up on the social world of Greek mythology doesn’t mean the Greek gods exist. The literature of science is immense, too. Have you read all the literature there is to read on memory? It was a cheap shot on your part, and I see you didn’t correct your slam in your original article. What a douche.

        • Thomas Goodnow

          I’m not sure either of us is on the right thread, or perhaps tone is not carrying well in this thread; certainly didn’t mean to cause any offense (is the “slam” in another thread?).

          I do retain the right to walk away feeling justified if someone else starts going straight for the insult-o-matic, however 😉

        • MR

          Oh, no worries; that was the intent. Your original blog post set the tone. I think Bob has more than addressed the issues you raised. You might want to peruse his site more.

        • Otto

          1. But the only reports of this are anonymous and their origins unknown.
          2. See #1
          3. See #1
          4. See #1 (funny how no one remembered)

        • Thomas Goodnow

          If no one remembered, how did they wind up with the attributions they have?

        • Greg G.

          Anything that was worth remembering as a quotation is worth falsely attributing it as a quotation.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash by Robert M. Price cites multiple scholars work, each looking at certain types of Markan text, that collectively account for over 90% of Mark having literary sources that are not actually about Jesus. He shows that the Central Section of Luke is topically modeled on Deuteronomy.

          The Epistle of James barely mentions Jesus and never quotes him, yet much of Jesus’ words in Matthew, especially the Sermon on the Mount, are topics covered by James.

          The early epistles do not corroborate the gospels. They are about a heavenly Jesus, who may have been around centuries earlier but only known by a new interpretation of the “hidden mysteries”. Everything about Jesus in the early epistles can be found in the Old Testament. They are not referring to a first century person.

        • Otto

          Early Church tradition, which screams of reliability.

        • Thomas Goodnow

          There are actually a number of good reasons to not like Carrier and Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a great introductory source on non-controversial topics. If you want to know the melting point of sodium or the details of the Battle of Waterloo, it’s great. If you want to know about vaccines or Muhammad or Newt Gingrich, it’s terrible. I don’t think this is controversial itself; the book he cites (“The Death of Expertise”) should be required reading for anyone making an argument on the internet that is trying to be more sophisticated than “ya know, I just really feel this is, like, super-important”. If you’re just preaching to the choir, Wikipedia’s great. If you’re actually trying to use it to convince someone coming in who’s critical of your position, it will tend to be dismissed. Carrier is a bit better, but if you’re going to be skeptical about Jesus, you’d be better off with Spong or Boyd or Crossan or Ehrman or even Reza Aslan. I appreciate that these are often “not skeptical enough” for patheos-style atheists, but you gotta work with what you have rather than what you wish you have.

        • Dys

          If you want to know about vaccines or Muhammad or Newt Gingrich, it’s terrible.

          That’s severely overstating the case. Wikipedia is fine for general information, and it does contain perfectly fine information on all those topics. Granted, reading Wikipedia won’t make anyone an expert on those topics, but the same can be said about the Battle of Waterloo, which you were apparently fine with.

          If you’re just preaching to the choir, Wikipedia’s great. If you’re actually trying to use it to convince someone coming in who’s critical of your position, it will tend to be dismissed.

          Which is also the reason why Christians who resort to simply repeating bible verses to “prove” their point don’t realize they’re wasting their time. And I suspect the same is true of your “evidence” for heaven…it might be compelling if you already accept its existence, but it’s probably not going to mean squat to someone who doesn’t.

          My point is that the author doesn’t actually bother to do any real work – he doesn’t bring up the opinions of other scholars or anything else. He just whines about Bob’s sources without being bothered to propose a real alternative.

          And then to further undermine himself, he commits the same error he accuses Bob of, by waxing ignorantly on so-called flashbulb memories, mistaking memory vividness for memory accuracy.

          Someone could write an articulate, well reasoned response to Bob’s post, but the fact of the matter is that ain’t it.

      • Thomas Goodnow

        Essentially, he calls into quetstion whether your version of how the Jesus story was transmitted is accurate. Specifically, he argues that it was mostly carried on in group settings (not between individuals) where memorization and memory recall was both valued and common, citing a couple people (see the reply to Otto) who have done research into the social world of the New Testament where such issues are addressed. He is critical of your mention of science and high Christology as irrelevancies. Given the social world of the New Testament,, he does not see your concerns about Paul’s lack of mention of details of Jesus life as relevant, and isn’t as concerned as you are that the New Testament be inerrant if it is to be believable.

        If it had to be summarized in one sentence, it would be “Bob has substituted a just-so story for the transmission of Gospel material that supports his agenda rather than dealing with actual scholarly treatments of this rather massive topic.”

        • Thanks for the summary. I doubt that there’d be much benefit in my response.

    • Otto

      I didn’t get any farther than where he said people had far better memories 2000 years ago…really? And that was tested how?

      • Thomas Goodnow

        It’s a reference to work in the social world of the New Testament, from people like Byrskog (Story as History) and Boyd (Cynic Sage or Son of God) and Vansin a (Oral Tradition as History). The short answer is “it was tested in that people lived in an oral culture where reading was rare and paper expensive, and where having a reliable and expansive memory was considered virtuous and drilled into people from a young age.” In effect, it’s the exact opposite of today, where I don’t need to remember anything because my phone is an auxiliary brain.

        • Greg G.

          In effect, it’s the exact opposite of today, where I don’t need to remember anything because my phone is an auxiliary brain.

          Every time the phone gets a software update, I have to figure out a new way to access my auxiliary memory, it seems.

  • Russell Dowsett

    Was there any ” story ” of Jesus to tell before Mark?

    • Greg G.

      Josephus tells us that the Jews undertook the fight with Rome due to a prophecy in their writings that the Messiah would come and rule the world. Apparently they thought it would be during their generation. He also says that during the Jerusalem siege, those inside the city were rallied by this hope. Josephus used the prophecy that the world leader was to come from Judea and attributed it to Vespasian who was in Judea when he captured Josephus. Vespasian did become the emperor of Rome.

      Paul also thought the Messiah would come during his generation as he uses the first person plural for those who would be alive when the Messiah came and the third person plural for the dead.

      Paul and the other epistles discuss Jesus but everything they tell is information from the Old Testament except for some of the forgeries: 1 Timothy which seems to draw from Luke, 2 Peter which seems to draw from Matthew, and Colossians which may draw from Hebrews.

      So the Jews in Judea seem to have believed a prophecy and the proto-Christians also thought the coming Messiah may have lived sometime between David and Isaiah.

      Mark uses Aramaic terms and Latin terms. He usually explains the Aramaic but never explains the Latin so we can infer that Mark was writing for Romans and placed the Jesus character earlier in the first century.

      • Russell Dowsett

        Thanks Greg that was interesting, by “story” I meant actual earthly biographical details, you know the ones that Bart (Erhman) seems to think were being spread around the empire, orally but failed to show up in any document written earlier than gMark. I am really interested in hearing arguments supportive of oral tradition to hear what they base their arguments on.

        • Greg G.

          Most of gMark is pretty much accounted for from literary sources. About all that is left are the sayings from the end of chapter 3 to near the end of chapter 4. But those might have been taken from a Stoic or Cynic source lost to us.

          Half the names of the disciples in gMark seem to be taken from Josephus’ Jewish Wars mostly from the names of the fathers used to identify active participants in the war. Half the remaining are Jesus’ main sidekicks who were named in Galatians 2:9. That leaves Andrew, Thaddeus, and Thomas as the only disciples that are not accounted for from literature available by the year 80 or so.

          I think aMark borrowed the spit miracles from Vespasian propaganda.

          Matthew puts a lot of words in Jesus’ mouth that coincide with topics found in the Epistle of James and there are a lot of Greek phrases in the words of Matthew’s Jesus and in James. But James’ arguments would have been a lot stronger if he had a “Jesus said” in them, but he barely mentions Jesus.

          Luke departs from Mark’s account of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem (Luke 10:1-18:14) by following along the topics of Moses trip to Jerusalem in Deuteronomy.

          Since so much of the gospels can be accounted for by literary sources that have survived to this day, it seems not likely that the parts not accounted for come from oral traditions.

          Nobody ever considered a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court until Mark Twain wrote the story. It seems to be the same with Jesus. Nobody thought of him as a first century person until Mark put him in that era.