Gospels vs. the Perfect Miracle Claim

Gospels vs. the Perfect Miracle Claim August 17, 2019

Let’s create the most compelling miracle story possible. Here’s one.

I met Jesus yesterday. At first, I didn’t believe who he was, but he turned my lawn furniture from steel into gold. I just got back from a dealer who assayed the furniture, confirmed that it was solid gold, and bought it. Over 200 pounds of gold at $1389 per ounce works out to be close to $4.5 million.

Guess who’s a believer now!

Compare this story against the gospels

Would you buy this miracle story? I’m sure I’ve convinced no one, and yet, as miracle stories go, this one is pretty compelling. It certainly beats the gospel story. Compare the two:

  • Taking the claim at face value, the time from event to the first writing was one day, and the original witness documented the event. There was no chance for legendary accretion. Compare this to forty years and more of oral tradition with the gospels.
  • The time from original document to our oldest complete copy is zero days. Compare this to almost 300 years for the gospels. That’s a lot of time for copyist hanky-panky. (More on the time gap for New Testament manuscripts here and here.)
  • The cultural gulf to cross to understand my miracle claim is nonexistent—it’s written in modern English with a Western viewpoint. Compare this to our Greek copies of the gospels from around 350 CE, through which we must deduce the Jewish/Aramaic facts of the Jesus story from around 30 CE.
  • This story claims to be an eyewitness account. The argument for the gospels being eyewitness accounts is very tenuous.
  • It refers to Jesus, a well-known and widely accepted deity. Compare this to Christianity, which had to introduce Jesus as a new deity into a Jewish context. Ask a religious Jew today, and they will tell you that, no, Jesus wasn’t the messiah they were waiting for.

Have I convinced anyone in my gold lawn furniture story yet? If not, why is the gospel story more acceptable when I’ve beaten it on every point? It’s almost like evidence is just a smokescreen, and Christians believe for non-evidentiary reasons.

The Christian response

Let’s consider some responses from skeptical Christians. They might point to important elements of the gospel story: what about the terrified disciples who became confident after seeing Jesus, the conversions of former enemies Paul and James, or the empty tomb?

Okay, so you want a longer story? It’s hard to imagine that simply adding details and complications can make a story more believable, but I can give you that. Let’s suppose that the story were gospel-sized and included people who initially disbelieved but became convinced.

You say Jesus doesn’t make appearances like this anymore? Okay, make it some other deity—someone known or unknown. You pick.

You say that these claims are so recent that they demand evidence—photos, a check from the gold dealer, samples of the gold lawn furniture? Okay, then change the story to make the evidence inaccessible. Maybe now we imagine it taking place 200 years ago. It’s hard to imagine how making the story less verifiable makes it more credible, but I’m flexible. It’s just words on (virtual) paper—whatever additional objection you have, reshape the story to resolve the problem.

And yet if you were presented with this carefully sculpted story, you’d still be unconvinced. Why? What besides tradition or presuppositions of the rightness of the Christian position makes that more believable?

Example #2

Let’s approach this from another angle. Imagine that we’ve uncovered a cache of Chinese documents from 2000 years ago, rather like a Chinese Dead Sea Scrolls discovery. These documents claim miracles similar to those found in the gospels. Here are the remarkable facts of this find.

Christian response #2

Here again, the claims of our imaginary find trounce every equivalent Christian claim. But our Christian skeptic might have plausible responses.

  • These Chinese authors were lying, and they actually weren’t eyewitnesses. Maybe they even had an agenda. This is just words on paper, after all. Who knows if they’re true, especially if they’re unbelievable?
  • The authors were confused, mistaken, or sloppy in their reporting. We can’t guarantee that an author from prescientific China recorded the facts without bias. Perhaps they were constrained by their worldview and unconsciously shoehorned what they saw to fit what they thought they ought to see.
  • We can’t prove that the claims are wrong, but so what? That’s not where the burden lies. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and this story simply doesn’t have sufficiently compelling evidence.
  • Gee, I dunno. It’s an impressive story, but that’s all it is. This is implausible, unrepeatable evidence that can’t overturn what modern science tells us about how the world works.

This Christian skeptic sounds just like me. These are the same objections that I’d raise. So why not show this kind of skepticism for the Christian account?

The honest Christian must avoid the fallacy of special pleading—having a tough standard of evidence for historical claims from the other guy but a lower one for his own. “But you can’t ask for videos or newspaper accounts of events 2000 years ago” is true but irrelevant. It amounts to “I can’t provide adequate evidence, so you can’t hold that against me.”

Ah, but we do. In fact, we must.

Some Christians will point to Christianity’s popularity as evidence, but surely they can’t be saying that the #1 religion must be true. When the number of Muslims exceeds that of Christians, which is expected to happen at shortly after 2050, will they become a Muslim? Popularity doesn’t prove accuracy.

We need a consistently high bar of evidence for supernatural claims, both for foreign claims as well as those close to our heart.

If Christ has not been raised,
our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
— 1 Corinthians 15:14

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(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 7/23/15.)

Image from Tax Credits, CC license

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  • NS Alito

    Some Christians will point to Christianity’s popularity as evidence, but surely they can’t be saying that the #1 religion must be true. When the number of Muslims exceeds that of Christians, which is expected to happen at shortly after 2050, will they become a Muslim?

    Yabbut Islam is only widespread because of centuries of intimidation of a lot of people!

  • Rudy R

    “But you can’t ask for videos or newspaper accounts of events 2000 years ago”

    Yahweh waits patiently for millions of years through the human evolutionary process to give his most important message to save human souls during the infancy of writing, but he wasn’t patient enough to wait 2K more years to where evidence could be recorded using modern day science and historical methodologies.

  • JBSchmidt

    The basis is again, ignorant Christians. That the Christians for 2k yrs have been incapable of thinking through their own belief and thus you, the great conqueror of Christians, has this enlightenment to bring them.

    1) The earliest manuscript is from Mark dating to between 150 – 200 AD.
    2) With the complete lack of any narrative of the destruction of Israel, one would expect the originals to have been written before that. Especially considering your 2 previous voyages into fantasy that discuss Jesus prophesying about the end coming in a generation. Seems like if they had been written after the destruction, that would have been a perfect inclusion.
    3) If 1000’s of people had seen the transformation of your lawn furniture and could confirm or contradict the evidence; you story changes completely. Where are the contradictory stories from antiquity? If you wish to claim those were destroyed by early Christians, can you prove that?
    4) It is not about the #1 religion, rather if the story were false, why did it spread? Some religions, say Islam, were spread by the sword and can be explained because people were forced to believe. Other eastern religions were products of the culture. Christianity spread under the opposite circumstances. It was not a product of the larger culture and Christians believed even as the sword was put to their throats. People only do that with extraordinary events when they have extraordinary evidence. Those were Christians who either had witnessed the events or knew people who had. Paul, in one of his letters, tells the reader to go to Jerusalem and verify what he is saying.
    5) This includes spreading among non-Jews who would not have had even the OT. It spread among the pagans and the intellectual elite, even while there was the threat of death.

    Now produce a lawn chair story or Chinese story with all that going for it and maybe we will have to believe it.

    • 1) The earliest manuscript is from Mark dating to between 150 – 200 AD.

      A fragment, perhaps. I was referring to a complete New Testament.

      Which manuscript are you thinking of?

      2) With the complete lack of any narrative of the destruction of Israel, one would expect the originals to have been written before that.

      Perhaps. But John was written after the fall of Jerusalem, and it doesn’t talk about that.

      3) If 1000’s of people had seen the transformation of your lawn furniture and could confirm or contradict the evidence; you story changes completely.

      Agreed. Ditto for the gospel story.

      You’d think that the son of God would leave a wider wake in history.

      Where are the contradictory stories from antiquity?

      You mean stories contradicting the gospels? Your Christian forebears help out there with the many noncanonical gospels.

      If you’re talking about a point-by-point rebuttal of the Jesus claims, I know of nothing. Why do you ask? There’s nothing like that in my lawn furniture story, so you can’t be trying to match that up.

      I can’t imagine anyone would’ve been motivated to write such a document, and I’m certain that no one would’ve been motivated throughout the centuries to copy it so that we’d have it.

      I call this the naysayer hypothesis. I thrash it here:
      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/10/10-reasons-to-just-say-nay-to-the-naysayer-hypothesis-2/

      4) It is not about the #1 religion, rather if the story were false, why did it spread?

      Huh? Any story that has spread must be true? Is that your final answer.

      You’ve got a lot of religions that you’ve now made true that you need to explain away, and that’s just for starters.

      Some religions, say Islam, were spread by the sword and can be explained because people were forced to believe.

      I suspect that babies born in Muslim countries grow up to be Muslim. No swords necessary.

      People only do that with extraordinary events when they have extraordinary evidence.

      So let me get this straight. The year is 300, and there are lots of Christians who really believe their supernatural claims. They convince some of their neighbors to join up. They didn’t see any extraordinary events (though, of course, they have extraordinary tales to tell that don’t have any extraordinary evidence to support them).

      Paul, in one of his letters, tells the reader to go to Jerusalem and verify what he is saying.

      In 1 Cor. 15, he talks about 500 eyewitnesses to Jesus. I dismantle that argument here:
      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2014/04/500-eyewitnesses-to-the-risen-christ-9-reasons-why-its-not-likely/

      Now produce a lawn chair story or Chinese story with all that going for it and maybe we will have to believe it.

      Just did. Mine beats the Christian story on every historical point that is commonly raised by Christian apologists. You are apparently scratching your head trying to figure out how Christianity could’ve spread if it weren’t true at the beginning. Explain that for all the other religions, and I think you’ll be on your way.

      • JBSchmidt

        “I was referring to a complete New Testament.”

        That wasn’t stated.

        “But John was written after”

        Then you acknowledge the others were written prior. More importantly, John doesn’t include the words Matthew used.

        “You’d think that the son of God would leave a wider wake in history.”

        Umm. How much wider would you expect? His life has impacted nearly all of the West since his death and resurrection. Can you name a person with a greater impact?

        “I thrash it here:”

        Yawn. Proof?

        4) Your response is childish at best. You don’t actually address the larger point I make, rather erect strawman arguments. I’ll try again and see if you answer with fewer strawman arguments. — Again why did it spread under persecution? Unlike Islam, which spread across northern Africa, middle east and in to southern Europe via the sword; Christianity spread across the same region in the 1st century under threat of punishment. Why did it even get to 150CE, let alone 300? There was no effort of force to convert Christians and no government action to convert Christians; simply the word of those that had witnessed and those that had been on the receiving end of His miracles. So why did it spread? You must acknowledge that people would have known of the lie and took punishment anyway. Who does that?

        “In 1 Cor. 15”

        Again, your article offers nothing to disprove the statement. Just the rant of a man who needs justification for his belief.

        “Just did.”

        Wrong. The difference is that thousands saw the work of Christ and believed. You are choosing to start from an arbitrary point of 300CE, ignore 300yrs of Christian history and pretend to build an argument.

        • “I was referring to a complete New Testament.”
          That wasn’t stated.

          And yet it was: “The time from original document to our oldest complete copy is zero days. Compare this to almost 300 years for the gospels.”

          “You’d think that the son of God would leave a wider wake in history.”
          Umm. How much wider would you expect?

          So wide that Alexander the Great would be trivial by comparison. The atheist has to explain this to you?

          His life has impacted nearly all of the West since his death and resurrection.

          No, the story/legend/mythology of his life has been important. During his life he, curiously, left no trace. No inscriptions, no writings, no magic.

          Yawn. Proof?

          Clicking a link is hard for you? That’s a shame.

          4) Your response is childish at best. You don’t actually address the larger point I make, rather erect strawman arguments. I’ll try again and see if you answer with fewer strawman arguments.

          You ignored my response. Too hot to handle? Your “if the story were false, why did it spread?” is childish. I simply took the idea for a test drive.

          Unlike Islam, which spread across northern Africa, middle east and in to southern Europe via the sword; Christianity spread across the same region in the 1st century under threat of punishment.

          Uh, excuse me? You’re saying that by the year 100, Christianity had the geography and the density of believers that Islam had? I need evidence of that.

          Why did it even get to 150CE, let alone 300?

          Why do you make me repeat myself? “You are apparently scratching your head trying to figure out how Christianity could’ve spread if it weren’t true at the beginning. Explain that for all the other religions, and I think you’ll be on your way.”

          There was no effort of force to convert Christians and no government action to convert Christians; simply the word of those that had witnessed and those that had been on the receiving end of His miracles. So why did it spread?

          No one cares unless you’re saying that this could only happen if the story were true. Since by 100 Christianity spread just like it does today, and there were no individual eyewitnesses, I’m missing the problem.

          You must acknowledge that people would have known of the lie and took punishment anyway.

          What lie? I never mentioned a lie.

          The difference is that thousands saw the work of Christ and believed.

          Proof?

        • Carol Lynn

          “No effort of force to convert Christians” – hahahhahhaha. Oh, my. I haven’t had such a good laugh in days. The entire spread of Christianity through Europe was one of force and coercion. Or are you seriously arguing that the entire populations of pagans who were mass baptized at the whim of their rulers (who wanted political advantage from Byzantium, who again were only Christian at the whim of their rulers) did so because they were sincerely convinced of Christianity claims? HAHAHAHAHA.

        • Good point. And then there were the religious wars like the 30 Years War to kill people who weren’t quite the right kind of Christian. Or the Albigensian Crusade that killed up to a million Cathars.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albigensian_Crusade

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          From which we got the famous (paraphrased) line uttered by a *Pope*, no less: “69Kill them all, ‘God’ will know his own.”

        • No, supposedly uttered by an abbot, Amaud Amaury, though it’s only “reported” later. Still, it does capture the spirit of their action.

        • Carol Lynn

          And all the laws that outlawed the practice of any other religion than Christianity. Those really meant it was all peace and light and people sincerely wanting to be Christian. Hahahaha

        • Ignorant Amos
        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Die for a Lie is so adorable.

        • Brian Davis

          I will thank you to not call my favorite metal band “adorable”.

        • Pofarmer

          Everybodies got to be a snowflake about something. Lol.

        • JBSchmidt

          “And yet it was”
          OK

          “So wide that Alexander the Great would be trivial by comparison.”
          By what standard. Can more people today tell you something about Alexander or Christ? Archaeological evidence, .Alexander wins. Shear impact on the globe, in nearly every nation across the entire span of time since his ascension, Christ. In the course of history, Christ does make Alexander look trivial.

          “the story/legend/mythology.”
          That’s your opinion.

          “During his life he, curiously, left no trace.”
          Are you saying he didn’t exist? Considering that 2k yrs later, you spend your life challenging his followers would stand against that statement.

          “Clicking a link is hard for you?”
          Actually, the link was easy. Wading through the layers of your word salad was more difficult. Your article included no proof. Just a dogma.

          “Your “if the story were false, why did it spread?” is childish.”
          Am I supposed to say ‘I’m rubber and you glue’ now?

          “You’re saying that by the year 100, Christianity had the geography and the density of believers that Islam had?
          First, that isn’t what I said. Second, do you want me to compare the population of Christianity and Islam in the year 100ce or after 100yrs of inception?

          “Explain that for all the other religions, and I think you’ll be on your way.”
          1) Islam spread by the sword. 2) Hinduism is a conglomeration of many religions, not one. Thus a true beginning doesn’t exist. It just incorporated those it came across and thus nothing really spread. Not started under persecution. 3) Buddhism is really more a way of life and was state sponsored within 200 yrs of inception. Also not started under persecution.

          If Islam was by the sword, Hinduism just incorporated you in and Buddhism promoting only a way of life; why did adults in the first century CE give up their beliefs and face possible persecution to follow Christ? It’s founding is unique among the top religions in the world and the question of ‘why’ needs to be part of the conversation. Or you can ignore it and continue with your dogma.

          “Proof?”
          Are you denying that thousands saw him? Or that thousands believed? Are there any historians that challenge or just you?

        • Greg G.

          By what standard. Can more people today tell you something about Alexander or Christ Mohamed? Archaeological evidence, .Alexander wins. Shear impact on the globe, in nearly every nation across the entire span of time since his ascension on a flying horse, Christ Mohamed. In the course of history, Christ Mohamed does make Alexander look trivial.

          We have evidence for what Alexander did. How do we believe Christianity and Islam at the same time? The parallel shows that people are prone to believe false religions so neither is a reliable comparison.

          “the story/legend/mythology.”
          That’s your opinion.

          The problem is a lack of evidence from you.

          “During his life he, curiously, left no trace.”
          Are you saying he didn’t exist? Considering that 2k yrs later, you spend your life challenging his followers would stand against that statement.

          If there were believers in Osiris, we would argue against them because of their lack of evidence and it would be about 4.5k years old. It was still around when Christianity was new and was already older than Christianity is now.

          “Your “if the story were false, why did it spread?” is childish.”
          Am I supposed to say ‘I’m rubber and you glue’ now?

          It would be a good time to offer evidence instead of making claims that are good for most any religion. Not doing so shows that your religion is just another baseless religion.

          1) Islam spread by the sword.

          Christianity did, too.

          2) Hinduism is a conglomeration of many religions, not one.

          Judaism borrows from many other ancient religions. Christianity developed out of Judaism by adopting Greek philosophies.

          3) Buddhism is really more a way of life and was state sponsored within 200 yrs of inception.

          Christians often say that Christianity is not a religion. It became the official religion of the Roman Empire in 323 AD, which is less than three hundred years after Paul wrote his first epistle.

          why did adults in the first century CE give up their beliefs and face possible persecution to follow Christ?

          People follow stupid religions. Why did the Heaven’s Gate bunch commit suicide? Because they believed stupid stuff.

          Are you denying that thousands saw him?

          Yes. Are you claiming that anyone saw him? You do not have a believable first hand account. 2 Peter 1:17-18 claims to have been there for Matthew’s version of the transfiguration, which is probably the most laughable claim in the NT.

        • MR

          If there were believers in Osiris….

          Actually, I was at Abydos in Egypt a few years ago and can attest that there are indeed believers in Osiris. I witnessed a group praying and worshiping there.

        • Greg G.

          There you go. Why doesn’t JBS believe their relgion since it is well over twice the age of Christianity?

        • richardrichard2013

          “why did adults in the first century CE give up their beliefs and face possible persecution to follow Christ?”

          in the torah, it is written to stone to death people who tell israel to worship gods yhwh never knew.

          now why would the jew start worshipping a different god and even to the point of willingly dying for that different god, if it was all bullshit?
          craigs argument about dying for your beliefs could be applied on the jews who left yhwh worship for other god worship and even willingly died under persecution.

          Dying for your belief is no evidence , what is evidence would be producing the body of jesus and the dead saints to show to the people that they really died for their evidence.

        • Greg G.

          Dying for your belief is no evidence , what is evidence would be producing the body of jesus and the dead saints to show to the people that they really died for their evidence.

          The last half of the following verse is about 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, where a woman and her seven sons were ordered by the king to try some bacon or pork chops. They refused so they cut off the arms and legs of each son and fried them alive.

          Hebrews 11:35 (NRSV)
          35 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.

          Then we have Paul and Peter in the New Testament saying that eating other meats is no big deal. So those seven sons and their mother died for a lie.

          2 Maccabees 7:1-42 (NRSV)
          1 It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. 2 One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”

          3 The king fell into a rage, and gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated. 4 These were heated immediately, and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on. 5 When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan. The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, saying, 6 “The Lord God is watching over us and in truth has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song that bore witness against the people to their faces, when he said, ‘And he will have compassion on his servants.’”

          7 After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport. They tore off the skin of his head with the hair, and asked him, “Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?” 8 He replied in the language of his ancestors and said to them, “No.” Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done. 9 And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”

          10 After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, 11 and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.” 12 As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

          13 After he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. 14 When he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!”

          15 Next they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him. 16 But he looked at the king, and said, “Because you have authority among mortals, though you also are mortal, you do what you please. But do not think that God has forsaken our people. 17 Keep on, and see how his mighty power will torture you and your descendants!”

          18 After him they brought forward the sixth. And when he was about to die, he said, “Do not deceive yourself in vain. For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our own God. Therefore astounding things have happened. 19 But do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God!”

          20 The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory. Although she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. 21 She encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors. Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to them, 22 “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. 23 Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.”

          24 Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone. The youngest brother being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words, but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his ancestors, and that he would take him for his Friend and entrust him with public affairs. 25 Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself. 26 After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son. 27 But, leaning close to him, she spoke in their native language as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant: “My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. 28 I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. And in the same way the human race came into being. 29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers.”

          30 While she was still speaking, the young man said, “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our ancestors through Moses. 31 But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God. 32 For we are suffering because of our own sins. 33 And if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants. 34 But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all mortals, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes, when you raise your hand against the children of heaven. 35 You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty, all-seeing God. 36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of ever-flowing life, under God’s covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. 37 I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our ancestors, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by trials and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, 38 and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”

          39 The king fell into a rage, and handled him worse than the others, being exasperated at his scorn. 40 So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord.

          41 Last of all, the mother died, after her sons.

          42 Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s founding is unique among the top religions in the world

          It’s really…….Not.

          You could actually read and learn.

          But I’m sure you won’t.

          Richard Carrier. Not the Impossible faith. Extensively footnoted. it’s an impressive work.

        • Susan

          It’s really…Not.

          He who makes the claim needs to support it.

          And he hasn’t.

          it’s an impressive work.

          Honestly, I haven’t read it. I have noticed that people who malign him don’t address his work. They just malign him.

          It sounds like Paul Bunyan. Maybe there was a hell of a lumberjack. Great, big strong guy. More likely, there were legends of lumberjacking feats based on really good lumberjacks from all over.

          When people create narratives and force them through sword and politics, I have no idea what was likely.

          When there is a problem cited about the historic methodology in the field of “history”… i.e. it doesn’t comply with general historical methods in other fields, and when people accuse people with academic degrees in history of being biased without showing how… they just accuse them… I grow bored and cynical.

          There may have been a preacher. But I have seen no historical support for that claim.

          I haven’t had this problem with Robin Hood. Nor Paul Bunyan.

        • Pofarmer

          He who makes the claim needs to support it.

          And he hasn’t.

          And they never do, do they?

          “Not the Impossible Faith” doesn’t have anything to do with Jesus. In fact, it was written before Carrier became a mythicist. It has to do, mainly, with the early spread of Christianity, and how that all started. It’s heavily, heavily footnoted. It’s been years now since I read it. But it shows how Christianity started and spread pretty much like any other religion. And, I think, my greatest takeaway from it is that it spread earliest and quickest away from any areas where any “fact” checking could be done, if that was even really a thing with regards to religions at that point and time.

        • Susan

          And they never do, do they?

          No. They don’t. Not yet, anyway.

          “Not the Impossible Faith” doesnt’ have anything to do with Jesus.

          I get that. I just have to admit that I haven’t read it. As much as I haveto admit that I haven’t read any bio of Joseph Smith. Nor of Mohammed.

          Not that I couldn’t learn (or be mislead) by doing so (depending on the sources),.

          Just that I can’t be arsed, and their historical existence says nothing about the supernatural claims.

          It’s just that I’m starting to notice that the field of historical claims about “Jesus” seems to be dominated by people who are committted to supernatural claims about “Jesus”.

          When asked for historical methodology on the subject, I am accused of being akin to a flat-earther. (Rather than being linked to historical support for the historical person.)

          I don’t care. Because even if historical support were provided for an actual person, I have no reason to believe the supernatural claims are any more valid than the claims of Joseph Smith (or than thousands of supernatural claims.)

          I think, my greatest takeaway from it is that it spread earliest and quickest away from any areas where any “fact” checking could be done, if that was even really a thing with regards to religions at that point and time.

          Sure.

          And even asking for fact-checking makes you a flat-earther.

          Asking about an itinerant preacher from a very long time ago, is just a fact-checking exercise. Something basic (but complicated , from a historian’s point of view) about a human being.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It’s just that I’m starting to notice that the field of historical claims about “Jesus” seems to be dominated by people who are committted to supernatural claims about “Jesus”.

          Hence the reason Raphael Lataster PhD wrote his book and asserts that those scholars with supernatural investment should have no skin in the game.

          https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Did-Not-Exist-Atheists-ebook/dp/B017YB4D82

          And what is left is the two efforts to support an historical Jesus existence by non-believers are a pair of non-scholarly clusterfucks.

        • Ignorant Amos

          it’s an impressive work.

          That’s my memory, it’s been a while, so a might crack it open again.

        • Ignorant Amos

          why did adults in the first century CE give up their beliefs and face possible persecution to follow Christ?

          Why do adult apostates from Islam risk almost certain genuine persecution and even death in the 21st century CE?

          While those that leave other religions may not face death for their move to disbelief, or even to a different religion, let’s not pretend there is no severe consequences or persecution to individuals who take the jump.

          By your logic, atheism is the true way to go in the 21st century. Since that’s how the trend is going today.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You pettifogging, goalpost moving sycophant of religion…

        • Lex Lata

          The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has grown from zero members to about 15 million in under 200 years, despite government persecution, cultural friction, forced migration, and more than a little violent conflict, especially during its first century of existence. Is it your position that this demographic success in the face of adversity, oppression, and opposition is evidence of the truth of The Book of Mormon, the miracle narrative about Moroni and the golden plates, etc.?

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Sorry Lex. JBSchmidt only responds to comments in which he believes he does have a good answer. Hysterical,… I know.

      • Ignorant Amos

        A shoulda read the whole thread before commenting. Coulda saved maself a bita time.

        • You run for 20 minutes on a treadmill and get nowhere, but it’s still a worthwhile use of your time.

    • Lex Lata

      Would you say you evaluate biblical miracle claims with the same level of skepticism you apply to pagan miracle claims of antiquity, or do you think you apply different standards of proof, depending on the religious tradition?

    • Anri

      1) At least some religious texts were written by the initial founder. Are they more, or less, believable than Christianity because of that?
      2) I honestly can’t tell what you’re trying to say here, sorry.
      3) Lots of people from all faiths have claimed to have witnessed miracles supporting – oddly enough – their own faiths. Is this a coincidence in every instance but the Christian ones?
      4) Many stories of folklore have spread.
      4a) Being of the opinion that Christianity was not spread by conquest and bloodshed demonstrates an extreme level of historical ignorance.
      5) If any other religions also spreads through many level of societies, must it also be believed? Islam, for example? Buddhism? If atheism ever becomes more popular than Christianity, will you reconvert? If not, why does what other people believe matter to your beliefs?

      For the record, I do think Christians are (generally) entirely capable of examining their beliefs. I also think they have been told that doing so is secondary to just having faith and accepting what they read and are told (mostly the latter) in spite of questioning, in spite of the evidence, in spite of doubt – that’s the essence of faith, yes?
      If faith is sufficient, why bother questioning?
      If it is not, are those that value faith above all else actually believers?

      You can’t have it both ways. Either Christianity is a matter of faith in things unseen and thus beyond human comprehension, in which case questioning beliefs is entirely irrelevant, or Christianity is an intellectual exercise based on reasoned argument and erudite scholarship, in which case faith-only fundamentalists aren’t actually Christian.
      Or, of course, you could try to claim both and thus declare Christianity essentially incoherent and self-contradictory.
      Your call.

      • Jim Jones

        > 1) At least some religious texts were written by the initial founder.Are they more, or less, believable than Christianity because of that?

        Which ones?

        • Michael Neville

          The Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith and Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard come immediately to mind.

        • Jim Jones

          Ah, OK. But not Bible books.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Bobby Henderson wrote “The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster”.

    • Michael Neville

      #4 Do you honestly think that Christianity wouldn’t be the major religion in Latin America if the Conquistadors hadn’t given it a little nudge?

      • mordred

        Or Europe. Christianity was one of the more successfull cults in the Roman Empire, but it only became the dominant religion after Constantine and his successors used their power to make it so.

        Later the converted Germanic leaders would order the babtism of their people, persecute non-Christians and spread the faith by conquest.

      • Pofarmer

        Little nudge. Lol.

    • Lark62

      500 people saw the gold lawn chairs.

    • Greg G.

      Paul, in one of his letters, tells the reader to go to Jerusalem and verify what he is saying.

      Where? In Acts 26, Paul testifies in Agrippa’s court and tries to use the Jews of Jerusalem as character witnesses that he is not crazy. But instead of appealing to those same Jews of Jerusalem to support the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, he gives his third contradictory rendition of Jesus appearing to him on the Road to Damascus, but this time, in a story written Greek of Paul presumably testifying in Aramaic, he quotes Jesus speaking Hebrew quoting the Greek god, Dionysus, as recorded in the Greek play Bacchae by Euripides.

      In Galatians 1 & 2, Paul discredits Cephas and James for being from the circumcision faction, then asking the Galatians who bewitched them before explaining the crucifixion as if the Galatians had been told that Jesus was not crucified. Instead of telling them that they could just ask James and Cephas, he starts quoting Old Testament verses and committing crimes against logic to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus must have been crucified.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Equally important is why should I care? Paul make a token gesture to people 100s of miles away (1,000s?) who had neither the the means or the motivation to properly investigate it, so what?

      • Lark62

        One possible scenario

        1. Wandering preacher in Palestine, a little bit famous. After his death, his followers start a small local cult.

        2. Dude in Greece wants to start his own mystety religion for fun and profit. Borrows the name of a semi famous wandering preacher from Palestine. Makes up everything else.

        3. Dude writes some letters as his cult grows.

        4. Cult followers in Palestine are pissed at someone usurping their Jewish wandering preacher. But they don’t have the marketing skills to fight back

        5. Various anonymous people write fan fiction, merging random bits from the Dude, the dead wandering preacher, other popular mystery religions and other sources.

        6. Voila. It’s all for realzies true.

        • 4. Which is similar to how the John the Baptist cult was subsumed into the Christian cult. They didn’t say that John was wrong, just that John worshipped Jesus, and you should, too.

        • Pofarmer

          On a similar note,. But not exactly.

          Read the book of Revelations as Ancient astrology. I can provide some links to this scenario from actual scholars. I think that this is actually the “base” story as it were. I mean, most religions at the time were Astrological or had Astrological themes, right? This Astrological religion gets taken to Rome, where it get’s historicized, and more or less brought back. This fits several things. They are finding 1st century Temples with zodiac wheels in the floors, for instance. It has long been held that the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome, far from Palestine. Why? I’m not sure that even the Gospel writers meant for it to be taken literally. It’s stories, based on older stories, that probably never had anyone at all at their center. This, to me, makes a lot more sense of the evidence we do have, as well as the evidence we lack, that there ever was a walking around dude.

        • Lark62

          12 disciples.

          The 12 disciples spent 3 freaking years with God Himself, but most of them are barely mentioned or remembered.

          But there were 12 of them, including Gemini Thomas the Twin.

          Zodiac? What Zodiac? (/s)

        • Greg G.

          Josephus describes the temple veil.

          Jewish Wars 5.5.4 excerpt
          … But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures.

        • Pofarmer

          I see you’ve been there. Lol. It also explains why all traces of, say, Mary, are lost. And Joseph. Joseph just drops out of the story? James the Brother of Jesus? Nowhere. etc, etc, ad infinitum. There are church’s named after the “disciples” but there really is no record of them. Paul doesn’t seem to know any disciples, only apostles, etc, etc.

        • Lark62

          I actually am beginning to think that there was a semi famous wandering preacher who died. Perhaps several.

          When Paul started his mystery cult for fun and profit he “borrowed” the name of that wandering preacher(s) without knowing much about him (them).

          Paul’s “Christianity” bears little resemblance to the teaching of apocalyptic Palestinian wandering preachers. Followers of the original cult were pissed. Later fan fiction tried to merge the two. All the mystery religion boxes were checked. Zodiac, virgin birth, walk on water, rise from the dead.

          It doesn’t take much to see how fake it is.

        • Pofarmer

          I dunno. If you read just the letters Paul considered “authentic” there is no wandering preacher required. It seems that there was a “savior” cult being preached out of Jerusalem by Cephas. At some point Paul latched onto this cult.

        • Doubting Thomas

          I believe the movie “Zeitgeist” went into extensive detail about the parallels between astrology and Christianity. It’s a shame given how much the rest of the movie has been discredited.

        • Pofarmer

          I’ve never seen the movie, but I believe you are correct. I was going off of the work of Bruce Molina, and stuff of his posted on Vridar.org.

        • Doubting Thomas

          Could you give any links? I did a search for him on vridar and nothing turns up.

        • Pofarmer

          Give me little bit. They re catalogued everything at vridar.

        • Pofarmer
        • Ignorant Amos

          Dude from Turkey is on holiday and hears a religious yarn from a geezer about the many messiah pretenders and steals it.

          The dude uses a popular name at the time for his yarns figure.

          Jesus means “the Lord saves”. Apparently it was 6th most popular name at the time.

          John Frum?

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      It is not about the #1 religion, rather if the story were false, why did it spread?

      Ask yourself the same about islam, mormonism or scientology and get back to me.

      Also, if you study the history, xtianity DIDN’T spread until it became the official religion and could be enforced with flame & sword.

      • Pofarmer

        Also, if you study the history, xtianity DIDN’T spread until it became
        the official religion and could be enforced with flame & sword.

        It actually did, although slowly. And it spread among those who were the least likely to check out the stories they were being told. Pagans far from Jerusalem. In Israel and Palestine it basically sputtered out and that tradition was basically lost. I’ve read that this was because the Jews already had an extensive, well documented belief system. Plus, they were the ones who would have most known that this was just another made up god story. It was such a small movement there that no one seems to have even noticed it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Apologies. It didn’t spread *rapidly* until it became a state religion.

        • Pofarmer

          No need to apologize. But yes, it grew faster after it was made mandatory.

        • Jim Jones

          > It didn’t spread *rapidly* until it became a state religion.

          At which point torture and murder could be added to deceit and fear.

    • 4) It is not about the #1 religion, rather if the story were false, why did it spread?

      Obviously because people believed it. There are lots of popular beliefs that are completely wrong, but we don’t always come to our beliefs by rational methods.

      Some religions, say Islam, were spread by the sword and can be explained because people were forced to believe

      Nobody can really be “forced” to believe something. If you think this is not the case, tell me how much force it would take to coerce you into believing that my cell phone is a tasty banana, and that eating it will give you powers like Superman?

    • Pofarmer

      1) So what?

      2) Why didn’t Gone with the Wind address WWI?

      3) Where are the contradictory stories about Hercules, or Dionysus or Mithras?

      4/5) is actually somewhat interesting. Carriers “Not the Impossible Faith” deals with this extensively. And it’s really interesting because Christianity DID spread initially in Pagan areas, at about the same rate the Mormonism has spread today. It spread among people who really couldn’t verify the stories they were being told, and really didn’t care, because it was a “faith” issue after all. Look at the locations of the Church’s Paul was supposedl writing to. This was in a time when the majority of people never made it over a few miles from home. They couldn’t verify it, and didn’t care. Oh, and Candida Moss has shown extensively that claims of Christian Persecution are greatly overblown.

    • Jim Jones

      > 1) The earliest manuscript is from Mark dating to between 150 – 200 AD.

      And I maintain about 350 CE, after Constantine died.

    • Jim Jones

      > 4) It is not about the #1 religion, rather if the story were false, why did it spread?

      Cassie Bernall.

      Also, the Solar Temple, Heaven’s Gate and Scientology.

    • Lark62

      After Constantine, Christians preserved everything everything that supported their version of christianity and the existence of Jesus.

      There are no contradictory reports, gospels, etc. for a reason.

      And even though they had total control over the narrative, the only evidence for the existence of Jesus are a couple forged paragraphs and several second century statements that “Christians exist.”

      There is nothing from the “thoudands” of people who supposedly witnessed these events. Nothing even from any of the 500 zombies.

    • Otto

      If 1000’s of people had seen the transformation…

      Give me an example of one first hand account of one person concerning the Christian claim of the resurrection…just one.

      You can’t

    • Greg G.

      Paul, in one of his letters, tells the reader to go to Jerusalem and verify what he is saying.

      I gave up waiting for your response. I did a word search for “Jerusalem” for all of the Pauline epistiles. Nowhere in these verses does Paul suggest that anyone go to Jerusalem. Perhaps you were thinking of something else.

      Romans 15:19 ESV
      by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;

      Romans 15:25 ESV
      At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.

      Romans 15:26 ESV
      For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.

      Romans 15:31 ESV
      that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

      1 Corinthians 16:3 ESV
      And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.

      Galatians 1:17 ESV
      nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

      Galatians 1:18 ESV
      Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days.

      Galatians 2:1 ESV
      Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me.

      Galatians 4:25 ESV
      Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

      Galatians 4:26 ESV
      But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Your knowledge on this subject is abysmal.

      1) The earliest manuscript is from Mark dating to between 150 – 200 AD.

      Strawman…try reading for comprehension…saves getting all that egg on yer face. Let me help.

      The time from original document to our oldest complete copy is zero days. Compare this to almost 300 years for the gospels.

      2) With the complete lack of any narrative of the destruction of Israel, one would expect the originals to have been written before that.

      Why? What destruction? When did that happen?

      An account of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour that doesn’t mention the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, isn’t indicative of when it was written.

      Especially considering your 2 previous voyages into fantasy that discuss Jesus prophesying about the end coming in a generation. Seems like if they had been written after the destruction, that would have been a perfect inclusion.

      Fantasy? Wise ta fuck up Schmidty boy.

      That Jesus in the story was prophesying impending doom is a widely held scholarly position that goes by the name of apocalypticism.

      As the Biblical scholar and Professor of Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, James Tabor writes…

      Did Jesus himself believe the ending was near?

      “There are certainly passages in the Gospels that make it clear that Jesus is anticipating an imminent moment of apocalypse. That the end is very near. Certainly the earliest Christians took away from his message the belief that his return would occur in their own life time. And in his final sermon to his disciples before his arrest, when he’s asked, “What are the signs of the end times?” He tells them about wars and conflict and wickedness and evil, that then ends with the promise, “All these things shall be fulfilled in your own time. So yes.” …

      It was a very serious issue for the early church because Christ after all said to his disciples, “This generation shall not pass away before all of these things have been fulfilled.” That’s a fairly explicit promise. And there’s considerable evidence that the early Christian church was rooted in an intense apocalyptic anticipation. That indeed the end could come, at any moment. And when the decades past, and the first generation did pass away and the Second Coming did not occur, Christianity went through a sort of major period of re-assessment. And what emerged from that I think was a reinterpretation of these apocalyptic texts, taking a much longer view of things, and in fact the early church as it becomes institutionalized in Rome discourages apocalyptic speculation. They viewed it as dangerous, and basically take the view that Christ’s kingdom will gradually unfold over time. There will be a culmination of righteousness at some point in the future. But we don’t know the precise details. So you can see a quite dramatic change in Christian theology from the very earliest Christians to the medieval church.”

      3) If 1000’s of people had seen the transformation of your lawn furniture and could confirm or contradict the evidence; you story changes completely.

      So if Bob added to his story that 1000’s of folk witnessed the event, you’d believe his story? Who were the 1000’s that witnessed the Resurrection? Or anything else in the NT Jesus yarn? Mormonism has better firsthand witness attestation, far better than that of the NT, why aren’t you a Mormon?

      Three witnesses (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris) declared an angel of God appeared to them and showed them the Book of Mormon plates and they heard the voice of the Lord pronounce that Joseph Smith’s translation had been accomplished “by the gift and power of God.” This experience took place in June 1829 near the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York. An additional eight witnesses (members of the Smith and Whitmer families)1 declared that Joseph Smith himself showed them the plates and allowed each to “heft” the ancient artifact and examine its engravings. Several others had direct experiences with the plates or otherwise witnessed Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon.

      Are you a Roman Catholic? If it’s about witnesses to miracles ya want. See the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

      Where are the contradictory stories from antiquity? If you wish to claim those were destroyed by early Christians, can you prove that?

      Why would you expect contradictory Christian texts to survive when even non-contradictory texts didn’t?

      The NT scholar Bart Ehrman, has written two books on the subject of the controversial scriptures. The contradictory stories were known as Christian heresies. Then there were the Pagan texts destroyed by Christians. Even Christian scholars admit it happened. The question remains why?

      4) It is not about the #1 religion, rather if the story were false, why did it spread?

      By that logic, any religion that spreads is not false. Do you not think your nonsense through before hitting the “post” button?

      Mormonism has spread at a comparable rate than that of Christianity. Is it false?

      Some religions, say Islam, were spread by the sword and can be explained because people were forced to believe.

      Yeah…that’s what happened at the end of the 4th century with Christianity. It got the sword and the Pagans were fucked. It’s called Christianization, you should read about it sometime.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianization

      Other eastern religions were products of the culture.

      What? Like early Christianity being a Jewish cult ya mean? An eastern religion being a product of the culture.

      Christianity spread under the opposite circumstances.

      Christianity only spread when it changed the rules to include the Gentiles ya looper.

      It was not a product of the larger culture and Christians believed even as the sword was put to their throats.

      Yeah, it really was a product of a larger culture, it even uses that once larger cultures holy book up to this day. Christians believed when persecuted means nothing to the veracity of the beliefs. Muslims are blowing themselves to smithereens daily, because of nonsense beliefs that you and I think are false. And as for the lying propaganda that Christers were widely and heavily persecuted by the Pagans…nope.

      Candida Moss has written a book about the myth, “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom”

      https://www.amazon.com/Myth-Persecution-Christians-Invented-Martyrdom/dp/0062104551

      Christers were persecuting fellow Christers with different beliefs during the first three centuries. There was persecution by the Romans, but not to the extent Christers would have us believe. Once the Christers got the power, they weren’t long in become the persecutors of others.

      People only do that with extraordinary events when they have extraordinary evidence.

      Absolute nonsense. Ever hear of a guy called Joseph Smith? Like I’ve already said, Muslims were prepared to die on the words of Muhammad, third hand words of Allah via an archangel at that. Bob has written a couple of articles on this subject starting at…

      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/08/who-would-die-for-a-lie/

      Those were Christians who either had witnessed the events or knew people who had.

      More ignorant unsupported nonsense. Nope, no evidence of such. The first dubious account of Christer persecution is by Nero in Rome, for arson. That is highly suspect to have taken place. The others are well after sometime between 109 -111 CE under Trajan and in what’s now Turkey. Not to witnesses of any events, or anyone who knew witnesses to events 80 years earlier hundreds of miles away.

      Paul, in one of his letters, tells the reader to go to Jerusalem and verify what he is saying.

      Waoh! You just love lying for Jesus. Paul himself didn’t go to Jerusalem on conversion to verify anything. When he eventually did, he mentions nowhere that he verified anything with any eyewitnesses. In fact, he specifically states he didn’t.

      5) This includes spreading among non-Jews who would not have had even the OT. It spread among the pagans and the intellectual elite, even while there was the threat of death.

      Where are you pulling this garbage from? There was no such a thing as the OT in Paul’s time ya idiot. There was no threat of death that you can demonstrate. The cult was insignificant in Paul’s time, estimated total numbers in the Roman Empire by scholars, puts the figures at 1,400 Christians in 50 CE, 1,960 Christians in 60 CE. They just weren’t noticed, that’s why no one was writing anything about them at the time, including threats of death ya Dime Bar.

      Many of us here have studied this stuff for years, your waffling crap won’t fly.

      ETA: Miracle of the Sun sentence.

  • Jim Jones

    I’ll have to see if I can come up with a simplified version of this.

  • skl

    When I saw your picture of the coin stacks of differing
    heights, I thought you were going to talk about the “good seeds” with some yielding
    30-fold, some 60-fold, and some 100-fold, and how this demonstrated how unequal
    a supposedly “omni-justice” god made its followers.

  • Scooter

    “I met Jesus yesterday.” I think I’ve seen this same Jesus who turns things into gold. I’ve seen him standing at the gambling casinos encouraging the poor man from casting his money into the pockets of the business. This Jesus promises everything for a little while then he disappears when everything is lost. He was attending those parties of the rich when Jeffrey Epstein was encouraged to fulfill his vile ambitions. I think I saw him smiling as they were carrying his body out of the prison. You know I might have passed your Jesus on the downtown street yesterday hovering over the drug addict who overdosed. It seems that your Jesus creates miracles that turn to dust. The real Jesus came that we might have abundant life.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      dafuq?

      Up your dosage.

  • Brian Davis

    If you wanted #1 to correspond better with Christianity then you wouldn’t have Jesus turn your lawn furniture into gold. You would have Jesus tell you to sell all of your lawn furniture and give the money to the poor. Then you tell poor people that the clear meaning of this is that they should send you money so you can acquire lots of lawn furniture.

  • Jim Dailey

    The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.
    G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

    • Ignorant Amos

      Evidence for them being what?

      See, the thing is, whose miracle claims do you disbelieve and why?

      • Jim Dailey

        Whose miracle claims do you believe, and why?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Ah, the auld evading the answer by dodging the question and shifting the burden routine.

          It’s your cited quote, back your play ya louse.

          That said…

          You’d have to define “miracle” first.

          As Chesterton appears to be using it, none of them…I don’t believe in “religious” miracles. Miracles that are ascribed to the supernatural are not accepted by a naturalist.

          Now, stop weaseling and let us all know the answer to my question so we can all pish ourselves laughing at yer nonsense.

    • Lex Lata

      Rather than “doctrine,” I’d say we endeavor to apply an intellectually consistent, probabilistic epistemology to miracle claims.

      Let’s talk through a couple of examples, if you’re game. First, as I’m sure you know, the Bible explicitly describes Joshua’s prayers stopping the sun in the sky (which I guess means the planet stopped rotating) for about a day at Gibeon. Do you believe that actually happened?

      • Jim Dailey

        Actually something far more contemporary to argue about would be Fátima, don’t you think?

        • Lex Lata

          That would be more contemporary, yes, but let’s start with a biblical example. Do you believe the Bible’s account of the sun stopping in the sky for about a day at Gibeon is true?

        • Jim Dailey

          I really don’t know much about Joshua and Gibeon.
          I’m happy to set up your response (going through why it would be scientifically impossible because of X and Y…. come to think of it, wasn’t this the argument put forth by Spencer’s Tracy in Inherit the Wind?)

          Anyway, sure, I believe it.

          Now, dazzle me with physics!

        • Lex Lata

          Liberal arts dude here. If you were expecting lectures on physics, you might want to brace yourself for grave disappointment. 🙂

          And there’s no need to get into that. We can certainly agree that the phenomenon described would be miraculous–utterly contrary to our experience, and to our understanding of the natural world generally and orbital mechanics specifically.

          Where we disagree is whether it happened. You believe that it did. I don’t. Rather, I think the Gideon miracle narrative is exceedingly more likely to be the product of human creativity and credulity, rather than a description of an astonishing real event.

          So now let’s think about the support there is justify the belief that the sun stopped in the sky (or the Earth stopped spinning, if one prefers) for a day. To the best of my knowledge, the only sort of evidence we have for this specific miracle is the account in the Book of Joshua itself. Do you agree, or can you think of other documentary or archaeological evidence that I’m missing?

        • Jim Dailey

          Liberal Arts? Then surely you have seen Inherit The Wind? If not, you’d probably like it. It’s anout the Scopes Monkey trial. It was filmed in the
          fifties (I think) so you have to get past fast talking guys with their pants up to their nipples, but it is a pretty good story.

          I really don’t know much about the Bible passage in question. Did the sun stopping help Joshua out in some big battle or something?

          I really don’t read the Bible as an historical or scientific book of record. However, I have found several accounts that ring true today. For example, the internet and the Tower of Babel have some scary resemblances.

          As far as the miracles cited in the Bible, well, since I see wisdom in the Bible, why would I doubt that particular part?

          The earth is full of weird things. We don’t understand a huge amount of what happens in Nature. So if some guy says “The sun stood still” I really don’t give it much thought. I would probably find the
          more interesting and useful things in the Joshua narrative (if i ever read it) to be why he needed a miracle in the first place.
          Sorry to disappoint!

        • Lex Lata

          Yes, I did see that movie years ago. And I’ve probably become one of those fast-talking old guys with nipple-pants, according to my kids.

          And no worries. There’s no disappointment here; most folks haven’t read the Bible carefully and in its entirety. If you’d like, we can ponder a miracle narrative that’s almost certainly more familiar to you–the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus.

          Do you believe that Moses actually liberated the fleeing Hebrews via a miraculous path through the Red Sea, which then closed in over and destroyed the pursuing Egyptians? And if so, is your belief supported by any documentary or archaeological evidence of that specific event beyond the account in Exodus itself?

        • Jim Dailey

          Ha ha! Well screw the kids! Their pants are all way too tight and too short (why does anyone need to see what cute socks you are wearing???). Dad pants rule!
          I think Moses definitely physically led them
          out of slavery, and that the army in pursuit met with some terrible catastrophe at a body of water. I have heard musings of some scientific evidence here and there, but really never paid attention. To me, the miracle was how Moses got a bunch of beaten down people to unite and face the unknown together, which can be more frightening than living in misery.

        • Susan

          I think Moses definitely physically led them
          out of slavery, and that the army in pursuit met with some terrible catastrophe at a body of water.

          You ignored Lex’s question.

          is your belief supported by any documentary or archaeological evidence of that specific event beyond the account in Exodus itself?

        • Lex Lata

          What you’ve just described isn’t what I asked about, and it isn’t miraculous. We know of real underdogs who’ve succeeded against apparently daunting odds, and of leaders who guided their people to new lands. Their accounts can make compelling history, but the acts of uniting, leading, migrating, conquering, and settling are in no way contrary to our experience and understanding of the operation of the natural world.

          So let’s try this example again. (Last time–any more will be bordering on harassment, by my reckoning.) My question was whether you believe the Red Sea miracle described in Exodus happened–waters parting to the sides, Hebrews walking across the sea floor, Egyptians getting Davy Jonesed–much as depicted in The Ten Commandments (speaking of man nipples). In other words, did the Red Sea miracle actually happen (per Jewish and Christian orthodoxy), or is it a fictional event (per the modern critical exegesis)?

          (In fairness, I’m happy to take the position it’s the latter, a product of human creativity and credulity, like the Gideon story and other miracle legends of antiquity.)

        • Jim Dailey

          I guess there are other examples of real underdogs in history that have overcome long odds, etc., but any in support of a belief in an immaterial being?

          As to the Hollywood version of the events at the Red Sea, I guess that’s about as likely as pharaohs assistant saying “Where’s your Messiah now, Moses?” (Best Edward G. Robinson line ever! 🙂 ). Like I said, I believe some catastrophe befell the pursuers – but it might look more like a series of incredibly unlucky events rather than Captain Nemo.

        • Lex Lata

          “I guess there are other examples of real underdogs in history that have overcome long odds, etc., but any in support of a belief in an immaterial being?” This is a bit of a digression, but Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Moroni come to mind. In any event, there’s nothing miraculous about the idea of a leader gathering an oppressed people to look for better prospects elsewhere.

          “Like I said, I believe some catastrophe befell the pursuers – but it might look more like a series of incredibly unlucky events rather than Captain Nemo.” Again, that’s not quite answering my question, and of course, just like migration, a mere catastrophe of some vague sort is not a miracle. Catastrophes happen with considerable frequency, entirely consistent with the way the natural world normally operates. So I still don’t know whether you credit the miraculous aspect of the Red Sea narrative.

          I won’t press you further, except to voice a frank suspicion that if your pastor or priest asked you whether the Red Sea miracle occurred as described in Exodus, my guess is that you’d have an easier time coming down clearly on one side. 🙂

          So let’s leave specific miracles behind. Would you agree with the following statement? “It’s entirely likely that miracles described in documents from antiquity occurred.”

        • Jim Dailey

          Well, I tend to try to contextualize the reported miracle. That is – the “parting of the Red Sea” occurring for the escaping Hebrews followed by an aquatic disaster for the pursuing Egyptians. The events themselves probably happened, and can probably be explained by natural causes, but the timing of the improbable events is really where the miracle takes place. So I would say I do believe the miracle took place.
          As to LDS – I would take a look
          at whatever miracle claims they make about their trip to Utah and decide if all the factors add up to a miracle.
          Someone once took Thomas Aquinas to see a levitating nun. Asked for his thoughts on the events, Aquinas said “I didn’t know nuns wore such large boots.”

          I have the same sort of view of miracle claims.

        • Pofarmer

          It’s fiction Jim.

        • Greg G.

          It’s fiction Jim.

          but not as we know it.

        • Otto

          It’s worse than that, he’s dead Jim…

        • al kimeea

          I heard Kelley’s voice when I read Pofarmer’s comment 🙂

        • Greg G.

          I have the same sort of view of miracle claims.

          But why accept the rest of the story? Egyptian archaeology shows no sign of large numbers of Israelites in that time and place. Israeli and Christian archaeology shows no sign of a large number of people in the Sinai during that time (and if the story were true, there should be lots of evidence), and Israeli archaeology shows no sign of a culture being replaced at that place and time. It shows sites had similar culture but some ate pigs and some did not. Why would one culture wipe out another culture because of an objection to the culture, then adopt that culture?

          From the Wikipedia article on Sargon of Akkad https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad

          Birth legend

          A Neo-Assyrian text from the 7th century BC purporting to be Sargon’s autobiography asserts that the great king was the illegitimate son of a priestess. Only the beginning of the text (the first two columns) is known, from the fragments of three manuscripts. The first fragments were discovered as early as 1850.[54]

          Sargon’s birth and his early childhood are described thus:

          “My mother was a high priestess, my father I knew not. The brothers of my father loved the hills. My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates. My high priestess mother conceived me, in secret she bore me. She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed my lid. She cast me into the river which rose over me. The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, took me as his son and reared me. Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener. While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me her love, and for four and … years I exercised kingship.”
          Similarities between the Sargon Birth Legend and other infant birth exposures in ancient literature, including Moses, Karna, and Oedipus, were noted by psychoanalyst Otto Rank in 1909.[55] The legend was also studied in detail by Brian Lewis, and compared with many different examples of the infant birth exposure motif found in European and Asian folktales. He discusses a possible archetype form, giving particular attention to the Sargon legend and the account of the birth of Moses.[7] Joseph Campbell has also made such comparisons.[56]

          Sargon is also one of the many suggestions for the identity or inspiration for the biblical Nimrod. Ewing William (1910) suggested Sargon based on his unification of the Babylonians and the Neo-Assyrian birth legend.[57] Yigal Levin (2002) suggested that Nimrod was a recollection of Sargon and his grandson Naram-Sin, with the name “Nimrod” derived from the latter.[58]

          A few hours ago, I read that the first five books of the Old Testament were written in 6th century Hebrew, which would be consistent with the period of the Exile, when the most literate Hebrews had access to Babylonian texts.

          But even Sargon’s story might be based on older legends.

          Why believe any of those stories when the evidence says they did not happen and it appears the stories are based on older legends?

          Matthew’s story of Jesus’ nativity appears to be based on the Moses story but not directly from Exodus but from Antiquities of the Jews. In Exodus, the pharaoh was worried about the population size of the Israelites and was having the boy babies culled to reduce the population explosion. Josephus said the pharaoh feared a prophecy about a boy baby. Josephus also had Moses father receive a warning in a dream but the Exodus account has nothing about that. (Remember that Josephus took the Hebrew prophecy of a world ruler rising in Judea and told Vespasian that the prophecy was about him, and Vespasian must have been amused enough to spare Josephus’ life, but Vespasian soon became the Emperor of Rome, so Josephus adds prophecy he likely made up to many accounts). Josephus also had Herod the Great kill his son over some prophecy from the Pharisees. Matthew has Jesus and family go to Egypt so he can come from Egypt like Moses.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Someone once took Thomas Aquinas to see a levitating nun. Asked for his thoughts on the events, Aquinas said “I didn’t know nuns wore such large boots.”

          All that says to me is that Aquinas knew that weird phenomena have rational explanations.

          Yeah…I was at Strange Notions” and have read some Longnecker too.

          Thomas’ response to the flying nun shows us the proper response to the supernatural. Faced with apparitions of Mary? Incorrupt bodies of saints? Inner locutions? the gift of bi-location? Eucharistic miracles? Reading souls? Speaking in tongues, miraculous healings? Fatima? Flying nuns? We should just shrug and say, “Hmm. That’s interesting. I’m not surprised. Weird things happen.”

          The thing is, never in the history of human beings has the eventual explanation for a “weird thing” ever been the supernatural. Never, nil, nought, nip, zip, zilch, zero…not once. The gaps for gods is ever decreasing. So I have a reasonable expectation based on prior probability that explanations for weird things in the future will not be the supernatural.

          As to Aquinas…

          But at the end of his life he had a mystical experience. He never said what he saw, but he did, from that point on, not write another word and said, “All that I have written seems like so much straw to me compared to what I have seen.”

          One wonders why?

          A better Aquinas story is the one about the “Flying Cow”…

          His friends once played a trick on him, because he was so trusting and innocent: “Look! Out the window! There is a flying cow!” St. Thomas looked, and they all burst into laughter. He calmly and dryly replied, “I would rather believe that the cow is flying than that my friends would lie to me!”

          Trusting and innocent my arse…more like nieve, if he didn’t realise Christers lie through their eye-teeth.

        • Lex Lata

          Okay, thanks. So let’s think about the evidence we have for the Red Sea miracle. To the best of my knowledge, the only specific support for belief in the parting of the Red Sea is the account in Exodus itself. And for us, that’s essentially a translation of copies of copies (etc.) of a book of unknown authorship that the majority of scholars agree was put to papyrus in roughly its current form several centuries after the events described would’ve occurred.

          Does that sound right, or do you disagree with any of that?

        • Jim Dailey

          Not so sure about the several centuries. I read somewhere it was two, but, your point is taken.

          You know this blog did a whole series on the Exodus myth, yes?

        • Greg G.

          Not so sure about the several centuries. I read somewhere it was two, but, your point is taken.

          Two centuries after it didn’t happen? It is a fictional story. The evidence shows there was never large numbers of Jews in Egypt so there was no Exodus so no Moses who led the Exodus.

        • MR

          About six centuries after it didn’t happen.

          Also no kingdoms of Arad, or of the Amorites, or the Edomites, who all supposedly caused so much trouble for the Israelites in the time period of the supposed Exodus. They rewrote history to include places that existed later.

          It would be like us saying that the Spanish conquistadores ventured into North America and fought against the Americans and Canadians.

          (Edit to add first sentence and minor changes.)

        • Lex Lata

          My understanding is that the consensus is in the four-to-seven range, but for our purposes, whether it’s two or four or eight doesn’t really matter.

          (And I don’t recall Bob covering Exodus specifically, but I’m not surprised that he has.)

          Now, let’s switch gears and think about an ancient miracle that I imagine is even less familiar to you than the Gideon story from Joshua. In his Histories, Herodotus describes the Greek gods intervening to save the holy city of Delphi from marauding Persians. (Book 8, ch. 36-38.) Speaking through his oracle, Apollo reassures the Delphians that they need not worry about the sacred treasure being plundered. Apollo’s martial relics move of their own accord, lighting and falling mountaintops smite the invaders as they near the temple of Athena, and two giant heroes appear to pursue and slay the panicked Persians.

          I don’t believe this miraculous account of Delphi being saved by the intervention of the Greek gods. Do you?

        • Jim Dailey

          I believe something miraculous happened allowing the Greeks to defend against the invading Persians. What Herodotus means by lightning, giants, etc. is unclear to me.
          I assume there is evidence supporting the overall narrative of Persians attacking in overwhelming numbers and Delphi surviving.

          Herodotus’ method of recording history gets the same criticism as the Bible – no? That is, he puts a narrative around historical events, and certain of his “facts” have either no evidence, or countermanding evidence? However, also from what I understand, it is a pretty fulsome account of the history at the time, and the best source document modern historians have for trying to initially assemble their narrative of ancient events?

        • Ignorant Amos

          I believe something miraculous happened allowing the Greeks to defend against the invading Persians.

          But not supernatural miraculous their gods sent though, amarite?

          What Herodotus means by lightning, giants, etc. is unclear to me.

          He means supernatural their gods sent. It says it right there in the comment ffs.

          I assume there is evidence supporting the overall narrative of Persians attacking in overwhelming numbers and Delphi surviving.

          So, nothing miraculous after all?

          Herodotus’ method of recording history gets the same criticism as the Bible – no?

          That the supernatural gets expunged? Absolutely. I think that’s the point. Hence the bit in Lex’s comment…

          “I don’t believe this miraculous account of Delphi being saved by the intervention of the Greek gods. Do you?”

          Not got that yet?

          That is, he puts a narrative around historical events, and certain of his “facts” have either no evidence, or countermanding evidence?

          You are being disingenuous or trying to weasel and obfuscate. The comparison is to supernatural god actions.

          However, also from what I understand, it is a pretty fulsome account of the history at the time, and the best source document modern historians have for trying to initially assemble their narrative of ancient events?

          Parsed of all the woo-woo by the historians, yeah. Do that with the buybull, would ya be happy with the result? No chance.

          You are being dishonest. Either “miracles” are nothing more than yet unexplained natural phenomena, or they are supernatural god actions. You want to apply the former to non-YahwehJesus miracle claims, while the later to YahwehJesus claims.

          You are being a hypocrite.

          But then we knew that would be the case.

        • MR

          You are being disingenuous or trying to weasel and obfuscate.

          Yes.

          So funny. “Maybe they won’t notice.”

          For those of you who may be having doubts, notice the use of this tactic. Ask yourselves if you would be this dishonest.

        • Lex Lata

          Historians don’t uncritically accept Herodotus at face value, to be sure, but he is nevertheless a valued source of information about the Persian Wars and the 5th century Hellenic world.

          Yes, there is substantial evidence the Persians had significant but ultimately temporary successes when invading Greece. Plenty of cities survived and/or recovered–including Delphi, which you can visit today. (Incidentally, the Delphi rescue miracle described by Herodotus wasn’t decisive in the context of the larger Greco-Persian conflict.)

          What do you mean when you say “something miraculous” happened? The account in Herodotus has a couple of puzzling bits, I’d agree, but the basics are clear. Apollo reassured the Delphians through his oracle he would protect the sacred site, and then lightning and falling peaks from Mount Parnassus struck the Persians just as they approached, destroying many and scattering the rest. Do you believe the Greek gods like Apollo intervened to save Delphi? If not, what “something miraculous” occurred?

        • Jim Dailey

          Sorry for being brief, but I am in a bit of a hurry –
          When inexplicable natural forces (I assume that the “falling peaks” etc., can be explained as natural phenomena somehow) to alter the course of history (since it was noted by Herodotus I assume it had some significance) and when somebody predicted that enormous forces would provide aid, then I would say “Miracle? Sure, why not?”
          Apollo? No. I believe in one eternal God.

        • Ignorant Amos

          So you have one set of rules for one claim, but apply a different set of rules for the other. With no reasoning whatsoever.

          You’ve just lost the argument. Game over.

        • Lex Lata

          What do you think the source of the miracle was, if not Apollo & Co.?

          (And to be fair, again, I think there was no miracle, and that Herodotus was passing along (or possibly creating, although I doubt that) a legendary account that developed among the Greeks.)

        • Jim Dailey

          If there was a miracle (and I appreciate your skepticism on the matter) the supernatural intervention would have come from God. Do you think
          I believe God would not intervene because the Delphi’s did not recognize Him?

        • epeeist

          What are the properties of your god and what are those of Apollo? If they are different in any way then they cannot be the same god.

          So, argument, backing and warrant that your god is synonymous with Apollo.

        • ildi

          Do you think I believe God would not intervene because the Delphi’s did not recognize Him?

          Per your own doctrine Yahweh would be more smitey than anything, since they’re praying to the wrong god. Oh, wait, they weren’t Yahweh’s chosen people so he probably didn’t care? This was in pre-trinity times, after all…

        • Ignorant Amos

          This ignorance of his own holy book is flabbergasting.

          The Lord Jealous smote 50,070 of his own chosen, because a few of them looked at the Arc of the Covenant when the Philistines gave it back.

          He thinks the same entity was also helping idol worshipping Pagans against other idol worshipping Pagans…no way JealousJesus of the book was having any of that shite.

          Jim Dailey will assert any fudged crap, rather than be honest.

        • Lex Lata

          No, I don’t really have preconceptions about your thinking here.

          Now, there’s absolutely nothing about God intervening at Delphi in the Bible. And the same goes for the one record we do have for this purported miracle, which clearly attributes the preservation of the center of Greek religion to the gods it honored. In other words, you’ve fashioned a version of this miracle that is contrary to the record.

          So to sum up, you think it’s less likely that Herodotus was passing along a legend than that a God-caused miracle occurred and was misattributed by Herodotus and the other Greeks to the wrong gods?

        • Jim Dailey

          Assuming Herodotus more or less reported facts – although in a narrative form – I have no good reason to doubt Herodotus that something inexplicable occurred.
          I think he mistakenly attributed it to Apollo – yes.

        • Lex Lata

          Is there any sort of reasonably discoverable documentary or archaeological evidence that could persuade you Apollo intervened as described? (For instance, two or three other written accounts from the 5th and 4th centuries BCE that align with Herodotus’ description, or bas relief images depicting Apollo’s involvement.)

        • Jim Dailey

          Hi Lex – I really cannot imagine anything that would persuade me that the Greeks weren’t simply mistaken about the source of the miracle.

        • Greg G.

          I really cannot imagine anything that would persuade me that the Greeks weren’t simply mistaken about the source of the miracle.

          Persian Wars Timeline
          https://www.ancient.eu/timeline/Persian_Wars/
          after 492 BC

          Probable Occasion When Each Psalm Was Composed
          https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/parallel/paral18.cfm
          Psalm 77 written after 593 539 BC
          (Their reasoning is suspect, citing Daniel as a source but the date isn’t far off as the Torah is written in 6th century BC Hebrew and the Psalm 77 author would have to know the stories from that.)

          So you have a chapter from the Bible lamenting that God was not doing miracles for the Jews but you are willing to accept that God was doing miracles for the Greeks a few decades later.

          Edit: The 593 BC date appears to be a typo on the Blue Letter Bible site. Every other reference to that verse has 539 BC.

        • Lex Lata

          Okay. That’s roughly my position regarding whether a miracle occurred at all. By my reckoning, the records of antiquity are riddled with accounts of miracles, signs, wonders, demigods, etc. that reflect our species’ capacity for imagination, exaggeration, motivated reasoning, pareidolia, storytelling, and, more often than we like to admit, plain old lying. The odds of any given miracle story being true are exceedingly lower than the odds of it being a product of human creativity and credulity. (So low as to be indistinguishable from 0%, as a practical matter. I’m gonna need a heckuva lot more than an ancient story to conclude that the Earth stopped spinning on its axis for a day.)

          Your skepticism seems to take a far looser and yet more selective form. Accounts of ancient miracles are credible to you, it seems, but only to the extent you can somehow reconcile them with orthodox Christian monotheistic doctrine–even when doing so contradicts the stated experience of the people who recorded the narratives. So while the countless peoples of antiquity–the Assyrians, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Celts, Egyptians, Etuscans, Franks, Goths, Greeks, Harappans, Hittites, Huns, Kushites, Mayas, Minoans, Olmecs, Parthians, Persians, Phoenicians, Romans, Sumerians, etc.–purported to have experienced supernatural, miraculous occurrences, every single one them got the divine cause wrong. Except, somehow, the Hebrews. They alone nailed it. 🙂 You can probably see how I wouldn’t find that likely.

        • Jim Dailey

          I think you have summed it up pretty accurately.

          I do appreciate your skepticism on the matter. People certainly do make mistakes. We agree on that.

        • Greg G.

          Have you never read Psalm 77? The psalmist recalls the miracles God used to do for Moses and Aaron but laments that the miracles are no longer done. But the tales of Moses never happened. Those are fictional stories of fictional miracles of a fictional character. The psalmist couldn’t figure out why miracles never happened because he was led to believe that miracles happened by the scriptures he was reading.

          It is the 21st Century, dude.

        • Kodie

          One of the natural phenomena that can explain these things is that humans can describe an event that never happened. Another phenomenon would be why would anyone do that?? Selling.

        • Ignorant Amos

          “Where’s your Messiah now, Moses?” (Best Edward G. Robinson line ever! 🙂 ).

          Except Edward G. Robinson never said it, as it wasn’t his line.

        • Greg G.

          Every Time Someone Says ‘Moses’ in The Ten Commandments

          https://youtu.be/UVwZoCiaQ4w

        • Ignorant Amos

          Billy Crystal said the line that has now been misattributed to Edward G. Robinson. Robinson is a hero of Crystals.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0Qcv3YV4aA

        • Greg G.

          That must be why Billy Crystal kept popping up in the Google suggestions.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It just goes ta show how a trope can take hold. Like Bogart never saying “Play it again, Sam”.

          But repeating nonsense has never been a problem for Catholics.

        • Zeta

          JD: “I really don’t know much about Joshua and Gibeon.”
          JD: “I really don’t know much about the Bible passage in question. Did the sun stopping help Joshua out in some big battle or something?”

          Why pretend? Is that a natural part of your character? Digging escape routes first in case you find yourself in a tight corner?

          You are not new here. From your past postings, it is obvious that you are a liar just like numerous other Christian liars. You tend to spew vile garbage from your big foul mouth. You are frivolous and not interested in any intelligent argument. I hope you have repented.

        • Jim Dailey

          Let me know when you come up with something intelligent.

        • Zeta

          Let me quote an “intelligent” comment from you (from about 4 years ago):

          Before all you jackass knee-jerk fucktards start screaming like monkeys and throwing feces, be advised that there are plenty of atheists whose arguments I deeply respect. Check out Strange Notions if you want hard-core philosophical difference. But the crap peddled here is mental pablum, fit only for people who had a hard time getting through the 8th grade, and have an axe to grind with God because they didn’t get a bike they REALLY REALLY prayed for.
          But whatever, enjoy yourselves here and compliment yourselves for actually getting all the way through a two paragraph argument. It keeps you from annoying everyone in public I suppose.

          Yeah, this is a sample of Christian/Catholic “intelligent” argument from your foul mouth.

        • Lex Lata

          Hmm. I guess it’s safe to say he wasn’t quoting Chesterton.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Strange Notions?

          Bwaaaahahaha!

          The place that bannehammered a whole raft of atheists and thousands of comments in a cull like the Night of the Long Knives. Mostly because their comments were making a pigs arse of the religious side of the debate.

        • MR

          Nice

        • Ignorant Amos
        • You are being evasive.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Then surely you have seen Inherit The Wind?

          A 60’s movie about a 20’s court trial in backward Tennessee about the teaching of evolution in schools? What’s your point?

          Try and get a bit more up to date, it’s no wonder you are so thick.

          The funny thing about you citing that movie is that you seem to have failed to recognise the purpose and message it portrays.

          Inherit the Wind is a parable that fictionalizes the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial as a means to discuss McCarthyism. Written in response to the chilling effect of the McCarthy era investigations on intellectual discourse, the film (like the play) is critical of creationism.

        • “As far as the miracles cited in the Bible, well, since I see wisdom in the Bible, why would I doubt that particular part?”

          “If I believe X is true and Y is in the same book as X, then I should also believe Y is true.” That’s your approach. Irrational. Instead you should examine X and Y independently and use evidence and logic to judge them.

        • Zeta

          It is very surprising that, in this day and age, there are still supposedly educated people who believe such ancient nonsense.

          What would happen if the Earth stopped spinning?
          https://image.gsfc.nasa.gov/poetry/ask/q1168.html

          If the Earth stopped spinning suddenly, the atmosphere would still be in motion with the Earth’s original 1100 mile per hour rotation speed at the equator. All of the land masses would be scoured clean of anything not attached to bedrock. This means rocks, topsoil, trees, buildings, your pet dog, and so on, would be swept away into the atmosphere.

          Maybe you believe that the Earth does not spin and the Sun moves around a stationary Earth?

          Were you home-schooled by science-deniers or science ignorant teachers?

        • MR

          Even Thomas Jefferson understood that, but I think there is much that people will do to salvage their faith. Lex is doing an excellent job of exposing that kind of thinking.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I really don’t know much about Joshua and Gibeon.

          Figures.

          Anyway, sure, I believe it.

          And Mo rode a flying horse? Nah, that’s nonsense isn’t it? Bwaaaaahahaha!

        • Ignorant Amos

          Really?

          The Miracle of the Sun?

          Talk about being gullible.

          That a loada ballix is easily explained.

          So what really happened at Fátima? What did the thousands of reporters and witnesses see? We can start by noting that we know for certain what did not happen: The sun did not really dance in the sky. We know this because, of course, everyone on Earth is under the same sun, and if the closest dying star to us suddenly began doing celestial gymnastics a few billion other people would surely have reported it. It’s really not something that anyone else could have failed to notice.

          This suggests that the experience was something else. In his book, Nickell suggested that the crowd saw a sundog, a patch of light that sometimes appears beside the sun. Sundogs are stationary, however, so that doesn’t explain why people thought they saw the sun moving. So perhaps the “sun dance” appeared in the minds and perceptions of those pilgrims present — not in the skies above them. There must, therefore, be a psychological explanation, and indeed we can find one: an optical illusion caused by thousands of people looking up at the sky, hoping, expecting, and even praying for some sign from God. It is of course dangerous to stare directly at the sun, and to avoid permanently damaging their eyesight, those at Fátima that day were looking up in the sky around the sun, which, if you do it long enough, can give the illusion of the sun moving as the eye muscles tire.

          The fact that different people experienced different things — or nothing at all — is also strong evidence of a psychological explanation. No one suggests that those who reported seeing the Miracle of the Sun — or any other miracles at Fátima or elsewhere — are lying or hoaxing. Instead they very likely experienced what they claimed to, though that experience took place mostly in their minds.

          https://www.livescience.com/29290-fatima-miracle.html

        • Jim Dailey

          Ok. But how do you explain the atheists and secular government officials and journalists who saw the sun dance? Surely they were not hoping to see something?

        • Ignorant Amos

          Whaaa? You think those three types of folk are not susceptible to optical illusions too?

        • Otto

          How do you explain that only some people there saw anything and the vast majority of people around the world saw nothing extraordinary? As explained in Amos’ post this points to a psychological explanation, not a physical or supernatural one. What reason is there to think otherwise?

        • ildi

          But how do you explain the atheists and secular government officials and journalists who saw the sun dance?

          Citation needed.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yeah…apparently secular individuals did witness the phenomenon. At least according to Catholic sources anyway.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun#De_Marchi_accounts

          But then what does it matter?

          I find myself quoting Fr. Dwight Longnecker twice in the one day ffs.

          Everyone said they saw the same thing. Everyone was so frightened they screamed and ran for their lives. Clearly something happened, what was it?

          Well no Longnecker, not everyone, that’s you being another lying Catholic, again.

          Longnecker has a very convoluted way to explain what he believes happened.

          https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2017/05/08/fatima-and-the-atheists/

          Talk about abusing William of Ockham.

        • ildi

          I looked at the wiki page also, and it appears for the Catholic source the eyewitnesses weren’t interviewed until 30 years later. As far as I can tell, only one journalist was actually on site, and this is how he summarized what he saw:

          And, when I no longer imagined that I was seeing anything more impressive than that noisy but peaceful multitude animated by the same obsessive idea and moved by the same powerful yearning, what did I see on that occasion in the shrubland of Fatima that was truly extraordinary? I saw the rain cease to fall at the predicted time; I saw the dense mass of clouds break up and the Sun—a disc of opaque silver—appear at full zenith and begin a violent and convulsive dance, which a great number of people imagined to be a serpentine dance, so beautiful and resplendent were the colors successively adorning the solar surface…

          Miracle, as the people shouted; natural phenomenon, as the wise say? I don’t profess to know right now, but only to affirm to you what I saw… The rest is with Science and with the Church…

          https://www.bluearmy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Episode-8_Newspaper-reports-from-Fatima-1917.pdf

        • Ignorant Amos

          Aye, colour me skeptical.

          Catholics lie. Even if it’s by omission.

          Particularly the important caveat…

          Miracle, as the people shouted; natural phenomenon, as the wise say? I don’t profess to know right now, but only to affirm to you what I saw… The rest is with Science and with the Church…

          Pious fraud knows no boundaries.

          Although the Longnecker article admits…

          Believers and atheists agree that the sun did not literally and physically crash to earth. Some atheists will continue to propose a mass hallucination. Others are honest enough to be mystified by the events at Fatima, and admit that it was some sort of psychic phenomena for which we do not yet have an explanation.

          Believers will ask, “Why not accept the most obvious explanation: A power greater than nature interrupted the natural order. The term for a power greater than nature is God, and the term for such an interruption is ‘miracle’.”

          He tries to rescue the imaginary event.

          Longnecker is an incredulous liar in other parts of his OP.

          It matters not what anyone thinks they saw, nor their credentials, but what the actual phenomena was that they witnessed. It wasn’t supernatural.

          The “evidence” for the Loch Ness Monster is far superior.

          The list of professional folk that claim to have seen the Loch Ness Monster is most impressive. Official sightings include a religious cleric, a police inspector, an army officer, the aristocracy, a member of parliament, a doctor, a bus load of 27 people…and even a saint.

          http://www.loch-ness.com/eyewitnesses.html

          A letter requesting advice on the best way to protect the imaginary beast was sent by the Chief Constable to the Secretary of State at Whitehall.

          https://www.scottisharchivesforschools.org/naturalScotland/Images/680Images/HH000100588-00031–680p.gif

          Similar can be said of the UFO phenomenon too.

          Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies and was convinced Harry Houdini had real supernatural magical power, disregarding Houdini’s insistence to the contrary.

          Conan Doyle was fascinated with Houdini’s ability and praised his apparent supernatural power. Although Houdini emphasized his anti-Spiritualist views and constantly told him that his magic was based on intense physical training, carefully planned trickery, and showmanship, Conan Doyle refused to believe that Houdini lacked any actual supernatural powers. He insisted that some form of paranormal force influenced Houdini and caused him to be capable of genuine magic.

          Even very smart folk can be gullible, stupid and believe in nonsense.

        • ildi

          What’s interesting, also, is that the bit I quoted from the link is from a letter Avelino de Almeida wrote twenty years later:

          (Letter to someone who asks for an unsuspicious testimony)

          Breaking a silence of more than twenty years and with the invocation of remote and fond remembrance of the times in which we coexisted in fraternal camaraderie, and illuminated by common faith and strengthened by identical purposes, you write to me so that I might tell you, sincerely and in detail, about what I saw and heard in the shrubland of Fatima, when the news of celestial apparitions brought together in that desolate wilderness dozens of thousands of people impelled more by a thirst for the supernatural, I believe, than by a mere curiosity or fear of fraud…

          However, if you read the translation of the article that was published by Almeida at the time in the O Seculo, the tone is very different. I don’t know if it’s a language barrier or a translation thing, but he doesn’t write like somebody who has just experienced a vision, and he doesn’t actually ever seem to say he did. For example:

          The hour advances and oversees this multitude, which dispassionate calculations of educated persons immune to mystical influences compute to be thirty or forty thousand people… The miraculous manifestation, the announced visible sign is about to produce itself – many pilgrims assert… And then a spectacle makes itself present, unique and unbelievable to anyone not a witness to it. From the summit of the road, where cars congregate and many hundreds of people remain whose valor became scarce in venturing upon muddy earth, the entire immense multitude is seen turning towards the sun, which presents itself free from the clouds, in its zenith. The star resembles a plate of opaque silver and it is possible to stare at the disc without the most minimal effort. It doesn’t burn; it doesn’t blind. It may be said to be an eclipse in progress. But a colossal uproar suddenly arises, and the spectators that are closest are heard to yell:

          Miracle, miracle! A marvel! A marvel!

          To the amazed eyes of those people, whose attitude transports us to biblical times and who, pale with astonishment and with heads uncovered, face the blue sky, the sun trembled, the sun had never-before-seen brusque movements beyond all cosmic laws – the sun “danced”, according to the typical expression of the peasants. Perched on the step of the public bus from Torres Novas, an elderly man whose stature and physiognomy, at the same time sweet and strong-willed, reminiscent of Paul Déroulède, facing the sun, recites the Creed in a clamorous voice from beginning to end. I ask who he is and they tell me he is Mr. João Maria Amado de Melo Ramalho da Cunha Vasconcelos.

        • Pofarmer

          That’s a whole lotta gullible stupid right there.

        • a r tompkins

          notice Longnecker does not enable commenting on his posts. poseur.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Doesn’t like his articles being probed.

        • Pofarmer

          First blog I was ever banned from. He didn’t like people asking hard questions. He’s a big beleiver in Fall Theology, and that’s one of my pet peeves. He doesn’t like having it pointed out that it’s simply nonsense.

        • MR

          Phttt. Protestants never buy Catholic miracles and Catholics scoff at Protestants’. You can’t even get people who already believe in miracles to believe the miracles.

    • Otto

      So the religion has good evidence, but the people who reject that spurious evidence are doing so because of an agenda.

      What a dimwit

    • a r tompkins

      dude, dude, dude… these are fables. these are things we want to believe because we all want to believe there is something beyond our own deaths (that involves us), when in fact there is not a particle of evidence to the contrary. And these fables can be useful devices to explain things we don’t yet have scientific explanations for, like why human childbirth is usually so painful (to the female – a woman allowed herself to be deceived by a talking snake yada yada), or why seashells are found on mountain tops (there was a great flood yada yada).

      T Paine in his essay “Age of Reason” opens with these remarks, and that’s really all that needs to be said:
      “Every national church or religion has established itself by
      pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain
      individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus
      Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet, as if
      the way to God was not open to every man alike.

      Each of those churches show certain books, which they call
      revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was
      given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their
      word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their
      word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of
      those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I
      disbelieve them all.

      As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I
      proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the
      word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something
      communicated immediately from God to man.

      No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a
      communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case,
      that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed
      to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells
      it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so
      on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation
      to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently
      they are not obliged to believe it.

      It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a
      revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in
      writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication —
      after this, it is only an account of something which that person says
      was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to
      believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same
      manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word
      for it that it was made to him.

      When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two
      tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged
      to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his
      telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some
      historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of
      divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any
      man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself,
      without having recourse to supernatural intervention.”

    • a r tompkins

      dude, dude, dude… these are fables. these are things we want
      to believe because we all want to believe there is something beyond our
      own deaths (that involves us), when in fact there is not a particle of
      evidence to the contrary. And these fables can be useful devices to
      explain things we don’t yet have scientific explanations for, like why
      human childbirth is usually so painful (to the female – a woman allowed
      herself to be deceived by a talking snake yada yada), or why seashells
      are found on mountain tops (there was a great flood yada yada).

      T Paine in his essay “Age of Reason” opens with these remarks, and that’s really all that needs to be said:
      “Every national church or religion has established itself by
      pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain
      individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus
      Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet, as if
      the way to God was not open to every man alike.

      Each of those churches show certain books, which they call
      revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was
      given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their
      word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their
      word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of
      those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I
      disbelieve them all.

      As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I
      proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the
      word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something
      communicated immediately from God to man.

      No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a
      communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case,
      that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed
      to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells
      it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so
      on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation
      to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently
      they are not obliged to believe it.

      It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a
      revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in
      writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication —
      after this, it is only an account of something which that person says
      was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to
      believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same
      manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word
      for it that it was made to him.

      When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two
      tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged
      to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his
      telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some
      historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of
      divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any
      man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself,
      without having recourse to supernatural intervention.”

  • Ignorant Amos

    Ohhhps…beat me to it.

  • Another good essay, Bob! All rational points.

    I like this nearly perfect miracle:
    “A man or woman claims to be God. This claimant is invited and comes to a high school gymnasium which has been prepared by magicians and engineers to be “trick proof” to the greatest extent possible. The claimant is asked to and then stands at the center of a circle of observers and four audio-video cameras recording from different angles. The observers consist of theists, atheists, agnostics, scientists, magicians, and me and you. The claimant is requested to and then actually brings back to life a human corpse just by touching it. The corpse had been dead for three days or more as verified by objective tests and three physicians. After resurrection the human being then stays alive for three days or more as verified by objective tests and the same physicians. All observers agree that a miracle has occurred.”

    • a r tompkins

      I’d ask Penn and Teller to be there too; they’re experts in fraud detection. And even then, I subscribe to Thomas Paine’s position: A witnessed miracle, or revelation,.is a miracle to no-one other than the person(s) who were actually there. After that it is hearsay and nothing more. If gods want you to believe in miracles, they can be sure to make one for you to enjoy. They *are* gods, after all.

      • If P&T were there, that would be great.

        I don’t think I agree with Thomas Paine’s position, as you have described it. Events occur whether there are people to witness them or not or whether the event would be natural or supernatural. I think Paine is talking about the threshold for believing that a miracle has occurred, and I think his threshold is too high. I would believe that the event I described had occurred if the AV recording showed it and if all the witnesses produced independent and prompt written reports demonstrating a great consensus of description. Given that, I would not have to be there in order to believe the miracle did occur.

        Of course the stories about Jesus’ alleged resurrection do not come close to meeting this threshold.

        • a r tompkins

          I don’t know if Thomas Paine or his generation had AV equipment in the sense you mean. I wasn’t there then, so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it.

          And his point that if gods are good enough to reveal themselves directly to some people, then they are capable, and probably should, reveal themselves to all people. If they are fair gods that is.

        • AT1: I don’t know if Thomas Paine or his generation had AV equipment in the sense you mean. I wasn’t there then, so I don’t know for sure, but I doubt it.

          GW1: Yes, I doubt it also. That raises an important point – the threshold for belief in a miracle for rational thinking people may change over time. In Paine’s era this threshold may have been only the second of the two criteria I mentioned – the kind of written reports specified. Before the era of writing the threshold may have been consensus in oral reports. However, I think the two-criteria threshold I mentioned is appropriate for our era. So, I wouldn’t need to be there, especially if Penn and Teller were there.

          AT1: And his point that if gods are good enough to reveal themselves directly to some people, then they are capable, and probably should, reveal themselves to all people. If they are fair gods that is.

          GW1: I do agree with that point. If God did exist, he would reveal himself to all persons since he would be omnipotent and perfectly moral. This has not happened. So, God does not exist. (I think that, unfortunately, Paine believed in a deist god.)

    • That’d be impressive.

      • It certainly would be. I’d probably require a second ‘Biblical” miracle before I’d become a believer.