Responding to “10 Myths About God”

Responding to “10 Myths About God” November 24, 2014

Christian mythsCredo House, an Oklahoma coffee shop and Christian ministry, made “10 Myths about God,” a video series that rejects ten Christian myths. I like rejecting myths about God, so let’s run through them and search for common ground.

Myth 1: Christianity is blind faith. We’re told that it’s a myth that Christianity is not warranted or reasoned. It doesn’t ask you to check your brain at the door. Remember that Jesus told us to love him with our heart, soul, and mind. In Isaiah, God says, “Let us reason together.” (I’ll use blue for the myth, green for the correction by the video, and black for my own comments.)

I will use reason to evaluate the remarkable claims of Christianity regardless, but it’s nice to see that the guys are on board. Things go a little off the rails when one of the hosts lampoons the idea of blind faith with this example: “It would be like someone telling you, ‘2 + 2 = 5; I know it doesn’t make any sense … but just have faith.’”

Which is precisely what Pastor Peter LaRuffa recently said for real: “If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.” As with Poe’s Law, you may not be able to make up a nutty Christian view that someone doesn’t embrace.

Another claim made in this first video is that God doesn’t do things in hiding. However, that’s not quite what Jesus said:

I praise you, Father … because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children (Matthew 11:25).

The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand” (Luke 8:10).

Paul also speaks of hidden mysteries:

We declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:7).

The message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known (Romans 16:25–6).

Finally, I’ll take exception to the comparison made between God and one’s spouse, that a spouse would welcome your wanting to learn more, and the same is true of God. But God is dramatically unlike a spouse on so many other critical points (a spouse reliably responds when you talk to them, clearly exists, doesn’t kill people) that there’s little reason to trust that he’s like a spouse on this point.

Myth 2: The Bible is a magic book. Don’t flip open the Bible, select a verse at random, and expect it to tell your fortune like a crystal ball.

This sounds like good advice, but I wonder then why they didn’t follow it when picking a new twelfth disciple after the death of Judas. To select between two candidates, “They cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias” (Acts 1:26).

Our hosts describe this wrong thinking: “It’s like God’s just wanting to send us tweets.” But I’d be surprised if these guys don’t infer God indirectly nudging them through everyday events—a beautiful sunset, say, or a random thought, or an unwanted accident.

We’re told that the Bible has dual authorship: it’s “fully from God and fully from Man.” But in what way is it fully from God? Is it protected from error? No, copies are full of errors, some deliberate, and our best guesses at the originals of some books contradict other books.

They say, “[The Bible] is not difficult to understand, but it does take work.” If by “understand,” you mean that there’s a single, consistent message available to the patient scholar, then explain the 42,000 denominations and the fact that Christian sects aren’t converging (more here and here).

This is yet another example where the Bible could do something supernatural, but its apologists say that, no, it can’t do that. It’s authored by God, and yet supernatural authorship is no more apparent than with the holy books of the Hindus or Muslims.

Myth 3: God wants us healthy and wealthy. God is like our biological father, and it’s natural to imagine that God wants the best for us and shows his anger when bad things happen.

Apparently, though, these “God is like a spouse/father/judge/whatever” analogies are like Play-Doh that can be shaped to support the apologetic argument of the moment. This time, God is not like a loving father who wants us to prosper and to instruct us plainly. No, God’s love must be inferred through life’s difficulties.

Remember how God allowed Satan to ruin Job’s life (Satan was God’s prosecuting attorney at this part of the story). Or how Paul imagined Jesus saying, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:8–10). Or the caution, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you” (1 Peter 4:12). God is apparently a tough-love kind of father.

But as with most arguments built on Bible verses, two can play that game. For starters, remember that Job was wealthy before God’s little project, and God made him doubly so afterwards. One message from this story seems to be that God may test you, but he’ll make it worth your while afterwards.

Preachers of the prosperity gospel use the very same Bible to make clear that God does want you healthy and wealthy.

No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (Mark 10:29–30).

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse . . . and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it (Malachi 3:10).

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it (John 14:14).

Our hosts tell us that God loves us dearly but will (for his own good reasons) put us through hard times, up to and including the death of our children.

This reminds me of a podcast from this same organization where they wrestled with the problem of a father who had lost his 20-ish son. Because the son was not “saved,” not only had the father lost a son, but his own theology put his son in torment in hell!

And Christians wonder what atheists could possibly find troublesome about Christianity …

The final insult from this video is the idea that living with pain and suffering makes us love God even more. Then what’s the difference between the Christian and a battered spouse? I mean, besides the fact that the abusing spouse actually exists?

Continue with Part 2.

We are the pure and chosen few
And all the rest are damned
There’s room enough in hell for you.

We don’t want heaven crammed.
— wisdom from the Plymouth Brethren,
as told by Christopher Hitchens

Photo credit: Boston Public Library

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  • MNb

    “living with pain and suffering makes us love God even more.”
    Never marry a christian ….. you’re in for a nasty treatment, because he/she wants you to make love god even more.

    • Pofarmer

      That was basically Mother Teresa’s gig. Suffering is good. No doctors, no triage, just come to us and suffer till you die.

      • A quote from Mother Teresa:

        One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, “You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus–a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you.” And she joined her hands together and said, “Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

        • arkenaten

          That must be polite speak for ”Mother T, please tell Jesus to go and frak himself.”

        • And the amazing thing is that she didn’t get it. Instead of this being a slap in the face that she is embarrassed about, she actually paraded the story in public.

        • Otto

          It’s a very Catholic mentality. People shouldn’t complain about pain and suffering because…Jesus suffered so stop your bitchin. It’s one of those things that seems sorta normal if you are in the culture…”Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering” and all that. I still don’t understand why she wouldn’t reduce the suffering since it was in her power to do so…she seemed to have a sadistic streak in her.

        • MNb

          Ah, the “bearing your cross nonsense”? This way of thinking is so alien to me that I never realized its extreme consequence.

        • Pofarmer

          It begins with the idea that we are all sinners, via the sin of Adam and Eve and their fall from grace. From their came disease and pain and death. So, since the pain and disease is because of our sin, we should just suck it up until God takes us. That’s why I oppose that theology so strongly. It’s a horribly, unnecessary, ignorant holdover, but the Catholic Church is so invested in it there’s no out.

        • MNb

          “So we should just suck it up”
          Like I wrote, this logic is alien to me. This is a non-sequitur in my eyes.

        • MNb

          Wow, that’s sick. Do you have a source?

        • 90Lew90

          Source? Straight from the horse’s mouth on video, here: An even better quote, especially in the light of her wholehearted embracement of masochism, is the one where she confides to her diary that she doesn’t even believe in God.

          “In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God and that he does not really exist.”

          Fucking twisted old fraudulent crow.

        • I hear that as a young woman she’d had a few ecstatic religious experiences, and she couldn’t get a repeat.

          Maybe if someone had given her some meth or crack, she could’ve had her powerful experience and we would’ve been spared her lifetime of sanctimonious nonsense.

        • 90Lew90

          Mother Teresa on crack. What a thought… LOL!

          “Geeve me a pipe and I’ll say three Hail Marys for you.”

          “On your knees, bitch. And make it a Rosary.”

        • Lightning Baltimore

          I’ve heard folks cite her loss of faith as testament to her piety . . . or something along those lines. Mind boggling!

        • I suppose the testament is that she could still be invested with so little evidence (and after begging God to give her some).

          I guess it’s that intermittent reinforcement thing. And maybe peer pressure.

        • Pofarmer

          After you’ve been a fraud for that long, how could you change? What other avenues did she ever have? I think about this, and the fact that she was opposing birth control in the most overpopulated horribly poor cities in the world. Just crazy, and much of my wifes family wants to deify her.

        • She said this at the National Prayer Breakfast (sponsored by the U.S. House and Senate) in 1994.

        • 90Lew90

          I always quietly fumed at my mother’s reaction when I was a kid and I’d hurt myself. Dad would tell me to “man up” or if I was whining, “Pack it in!” I didn’t mind that so much, maybe because it appealed to a sense of honour. But my mother would often tell me to “offer it up.” I didn’t have the words at the time but intuitively I understood that she was telling me to embrace the pain for Jesus. The onset of my atheism began early.

        • “Offer it up”? You mean offer it up to Jesus? Does that mean that you present your suffering to Jesus so he’ll be pleased with you?

        • 90Lew90

          Yeah. Or something. Can’t be sure but I do remember being less galled by being told to shut up and deal with it!

        • Pofarmer

          I think it’s generally taken to mean that Jesus will deal with it.

        • Ah, lay your troubles at the feet of Jesus, eh? He’s strong enough to carry your burden.

          Trouble is, when your troubles don’t go away, it must be your fault. You’re doing it wrong somehow. Couldn’t be Jesus.

        • Pofarmer

          What it generally does, in my experience, is just cause a whole lot of self doubt over which actions you should take, or if the actions that you did take were the correct ones.

        • Pofarmer

          My MIL and SIL’s do this when they are frustrated or something goes on “Just offer it up.” Makes me wanna slap em silly. Deal with it, geez.

      • Greg G.

        MT’s hospital did provide some basic care. They didn’t want the patients to die of starvation or something instead of what God was torturing them with. The hospital made sure the patients died of what they came in with. If a patient survived, it was a miracle!

        • Pofarmer

          Well, yes, they cleaned them up and fed them. The story that got me was the one in Christopher Hitchens documentary where they talked about a young boy coming in with a treatable kidney infection, that wound up dying. Apparently, one of the british health care officials published a study in the Lancet, detailing many more cases like this, where medical care in time would have saved someone, but it was never offered.

  • Pofarmer

    I can’t remember where I read it, but someone made the comment that you almost can’t Poe or strawman Christian religious beliefs, because, someone, somewhere, actually believes it.

    • Dys

      It’s basically Poe’s Law, funnily enough created on a Christian forum about creationism:

    • JT Rager

      Neil Carter has written about it multiple times, apparently. Here’s one post on Ex-Communications.

    • As I see it, Poe’s Law is when I make up some nutty Christian claims and then fool someone. Poe’s Law says that unless the fact that it’s a parody or joke is apparent, someone will believe it.

      The 2 + 2 = 5 thing above is a little different. Here, we have someone sketching out a belief. It doesn’t matter if it’s a nutty belief, a lampooned belief (this example), or whatever–someone will actually hold that belief.

      • Greg G.

        Is the video directed at non-believers or fellow Christians of the other 42,999 denominations?

        • I’m thinking it’s directed at the fellow Christians of the one correct denomination (whatever that is).

          The videos are infomercials for 10 longer lessons on DVD for $60.

  • Otto

    Myth 1: Christianity is blind faith. We’re told that it’s a myth that Christianity is not warranted or reasoned. It doesn’t ask you to check your brain at the door. Remember that Jesus told us to love him with our heart, soul, and mind. In Isaiah, God says, “Let us reason together.”


    Ummm…John 20:29

    Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

    Just. Not. Honest.

    • louis

      w/ respect what is not honest?

      • Otto

        It is not honest for them to claim Christian dogma does not ask to be believed on blind faith when this shows otherwise. I can’t count how many times this bible verse was preached to me as being a virtuous concept that people should strive towards.

        • And the more trusting your faith was (that is, the less evidence you demanded), the better.

        • Pofarmer

          I have had this thrown at me by none other than my wife when discussing things like miracles and Marian Apparitions and Saints in heaven, and transubstantiation and, hell, who knows what else. Just take it in FAITH! The more out there you get, the more impossible things you believe, the more faithful you are, and this mindset is encouraged by others in the church. It isn’t that people are accidentally deluding themselves, they are intentionally deluding themselves.

        • MNb

          “they are intentionally deluding themselves”
          That’s OK with me. I foster my own superstitious. However I don’t force them upon other people. What’s more, I admit my superstitions.
          I think I wrote it before – you should discuss Kierkegaard with your wife. This

          “Just take it in FAITH!”
          is what Kierkegaard himself advises as well.

          Obviously you and I can’t take that leap. That’s something your wife might accept.

        • Sounds like the White Queen. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed six impossible things before breakfast!”

        • Otto

          Have you wanted to ask her ..

          ‘If taking things on unfounded faith is such a good idea what other areas besides religion do you use it?’

          I know, probably not a good idea…just sayin.

        • Pofarmer

          Crazy thing is, she’s an RN. She’s had all kinds of biology and stuff, she should know critical thinking. Worst thing is, the hospital she works at got bought out by a Catholic Chain, and now it’s crucifixes all over the place and prayers over the loud speakers. Drives me up a fuckin wall. Plus they will no longer allow the Dr’s to do tubal ligation or vasectomies.

        • Otto

          I absolutely get it. My mother is very intelligent, logical and pretty skeptical (in other areas). And she is a devote Catholic despite being shunned by them earlier in life due to a divorce that she did not want…(but hey.. that doesn’t matter to the church). AND she is a huge feminist and still kowtows to them.

          I am lucky enough to have a wife that listened to my position when I finally let go of Christianity. She wasn’t in ‘neck deep’ whatsoever and it was still hard for her to let go and deal with my apostasy…but she did.

        • Otto

          I know these fine gentleman are aware of John 20:29 so for them to just ignore this verse and many like it is just complete dishonesty. I don’t know how any “thinking men and women” could take these two seriously.

          Then they go on to say ‘god doesn’t hide, he doesn’t send his son in secret, he doesn’t die in secret, he didn’t resurrect in secret’. Considering no one reported on Jesus outside of his tiny group (less than 99.99999% of the world’s population), even though he is said to have literally defied the laws of physics and biology…I would call that secretive.
          And of course that video ends with selling stuff…why wouldn’t it….

        • Pofarmer

          Well, not only the in secret stuff. In the Gospel of Mark, every time Jesus perform a miracle, he tells them to tell no one. The last scene in the short ending of Mark has the women running away and telling no one. It’s like the Author was trying to explain why nobody had heard the story.

        • Rudy R

          The Bible is like the The Golden Corral buffet line. Something in it for everyone to like. If there is a dish you don’t like, just pass right by it.

        • Greg G.

          The Bible doesn’t have a dessert bar with a chocolate fountain to coat marshmallows.

        • Kodie

          That would be heaven?

      • Kodie

        It is a marketing tactic, a shell game. It is made to seem reasonable to a gullible sort that the greater lack of evidence he can ignore, the better he is to god. I have also seen plenty of Christians use and fall for bad logic, salesman logic. Christians who might ask a question or two in doubt can be appeased by someone seeming to make a lot of sense, just like that product you see advertised in the middle of the night. You “logically” believe what you see, “let us reason together”, you become a participant in the ad, and you don’t look at it too deep and see the editing or the actors hired for testimonials, or listen to what they are actually saying. You are bombarded with a package that looks to you seamless and airtight. It’s designed that way to get you to buy it, and so is the bible, but you either have to be a Christian already to buy what they’re continuously selling you, or you have to be vulnerable to the message. In the middle of the night, when there’s nothing else going on, you believe you are going to do the extreme exercises every day and get in wicked awesome shape, or you are going to flip houses and get rich quick, or you are finally going to have the simple solution to erectile dysfunction, body hair, or a filthy home. You believe you are saved from eternal non-existence.

        • louis

          so true! been there done that and have to maintain! it’s kinda fun tho….

  • Greg G.

    The pastor is cherry-picking Isaiah.

    Isaiah 1:18-20 (NRSV)18 Come now, let us argue it out,    says the Lord:though your sins are like scarlet,    they shall be like snow;though they are red like crimson,    they shall become like wool.19 If you are willing and obedient,    you shall eat the good of the land;20 but if you refuse and rebel,    you shall be devoured by the sword;    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

    The “willing and obedient” part is “blind faith”. The “refuse and rebel” part is rejecting “blind faith”.

    The pastor seems to think the Bible is a magic book where he can take any sentence or phrase out of it to base an argument on.

    • Do you know much about the process of pesher? It’s the idea that you can go back in old scriptures and mine new meaning out of it, including meanings that would never have been apparent to the original audience. I’ve seen it in reference to the Qumran community, though Bob Price sees it applied more broadly.

      • Greg G.

        I know there are different types of pesher and it is like midrash with some fine distinctions. It seems to me that they are forms of Greek mimesis. Latin imitatio evolved from mimesis as well.

  • Mick

    …explain the 42,000 denominations…

    About ten years ago the usually quoted number was 35,000 different denominations. Now it has risen to 42,000.

    Is there a list of those 42,000 denominations? Can anyone name the additional 7,000 denominations that (apparently) appeared during the last ten years? Can anyone name even 70 of the latest denominations?

    I’m not disputing the figures, but I’ve never been able to get back to an original source, which shows how the figures were arrived at. Does anyone know the source?

    Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary says there were 45,000 denominations in mid-2014 (see item 41 at the link below) but not even a hint about where that figure comes from.

      • avalon

        Also of interest:

        “…the emergence of an estimated five new religions per day in different parts of the world.”

        The Routledge Companion to the Study of Religion

      • Mick

        Thanks, that’s the same item (41) I mentioned in my post above.

        I know there are plenty of sources saying there are 35,000, 42,000, or 45,000 different denominations, but I am trying to find out how the data was collected and by whom.

        I’d also be interested in seeing a list of names of denominations (They do have names?). I haven’t seen a list of even one hundred different denominations, let alone 42,000.

        Maybe the figures are based on a survey, but who conducted the survey?

        Again, I don’t really doubt the figures, but I’d just love to be able to quote a respectable (and ORIGINAL) source.

        • Pofarmer

          I think where you get into all the different denominations is with the independent churches. there is an independent pentecostal, independent christian, at least 3 different methodist churches, a couple of “bible churches”, seventh day adventist. etc in my little town.

        • I agree with Pofarmer. Any independent church is counted as a denomination, I’m guessing.

        • Mick

          These are the possibilities:

          (1) Somebody compiled a list of all the denominations and counted 42,000 of them. (Unlikely)

          (2) Somebody conducted a survey and extrapolated the results to give us 42,000 denominations. (But who conducted the actual survey? Where are the original results?)

          (3) Ten years ago somebody guessed there was 35,000 denominations with 2 new denominations appearing every day so that gives us 42,000 denominations in 2014. (But who made the original guess? Was the guess based on recorded data or just invented on the spot?)

          As I’ve said before, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 42,000 denominations, but I would love to see the original source for that number.

          At the moment the 42,000 figure seems to have as much evidence behind it as the claim that Einstein once said we use only ten percent of our brain. The number gets passed from one person to another, but nobody can get back to the original statement.

        • The source of the article is given on the first page. If this is that big a deal to you, contact them and get the backup information.

        • Mick

          It’s not a big deal. I was just wondering, that’s all.

          I did find this:
          (my bolding)
          The sources used in this database were so numerous and diverse (often a different one for each number in a
          table) that it has proved impossible to insert them or document them in either the text or the tables. The
          current total of books on Christianity exceeds 5 million distinct and separate titles. In most cases, the most
          authoritative sources, published or unpublished, were available to this book and so were used. Most of the
          materials collected for this survey, however, relate to original and previously unpublished enquiries. A large majority of the data came from field work, unpublished reports, and private communications from the collaborators listed after our title page.

        • Sounds like they’re admitting that it’s just an educated guess. That’s a helpful link, thanks.

  • Pofarmer

    Middle boy comes home tonight, 8th grade Catholic school. “I don’t want to go to school tommorrow.” “Why not?” This goes on for a while. “They are making us write a paper on our calling to be priests.” Me. Just make something up and be creative and have fun.” Him, “I’m not good at that.” (He’s not.) Me, “Then just lie.” Him “I don’t like to lie.” (well, gotta respect that.) Me “Well, then tell them how you really feel.” Him evil grin and hem hawing around. Oh the joys of having a secular kid in a school that has gone religiously nutso.

    • It’s a pain having challenges not imposed on the other kids. But yeah, an honest response sounds like a good opportunity.

      • Pofarmer

        The silver lining in all this, is that it has let me talk to my kids about evidence based thinking and why you should believe what you believe.

        • 90Lew90

          How did it go? I think that’s a great opportunity for a subversive assignment if you could get him to elaborate on how his calling to be a priest is only marginally less strong than his calling to boil his own testicles. Reminds me of the time I was set an essay in Primary 7 (I was 10) with the title “Who I’d Like to be When I Grow Up”. Having just come to rather admire one Freddy Kruger after getting over the trauma of A Nightmare On Elm Street, I chose him.

          “My mother (who was a nun) was raped by a hundred maniacs…”.

          My unmarried teacher, a gentle old sort who always personally made sure us boys were ok in the changing rooms when we went to the swimming pool, and who had failed in his attempt at the priesthood, called my mother in, thinking I was some sort of devil’s child. Chuckle. I was a right little shit at times.

        • Pofarmer

          dunno how it went. They left after school for my wife’s family. Won’t see him till tomorrow afternoon.

        • TheNuszAbides

          updates please! 🙂

        • Pofarmer

          He said he “told them how he felt”
          Apparently haven’t gotten grades back yet.

    • Otto

      As a former Catholic school 8th grader myself…I would really like to read his paper.

      And I know they wouldn’t have wanted to read papers from my group…

      It is another piece of evidence that the Catholic church is getting desperate…heck they were getting desperate 30+ yrs ago when I was in 8th grade.