Mythicist Defenders of Christian Orthodoxy

Mythicist Defenders of Christian Orthodoxy January 31, 2016

It never ceases to amaze me, when I talk to Jesus mythicists online, how eagerly they embrace and defend Christian orthodoxy. They do not accept that Christian orthodoxy is true, of course. But they accept that it gets the facts right – an odd stance for such so-called skeptics to accept uncritically, never mind do battle about. But they do indeed fight in defense of the claims of historic Christian (and often specifically Roman Catholic) orthodoxy, insisting that Jesus was God in our earliest sources, and that James the brother of Jesus was not in fact Jesus’ biological brother.

This is a perfect example, I think, of a phenomenon I have talked about before: switching sides in a debate, but not changing one’s mindset at a more fundamental (pun intended) level.

 

If someone moves from fundamentalist religion to fundamentalist atheism

 

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  • charlesburchfield

    Yes!

    • Giraffe-Junk

      No!

      • charlesburchfield

        no? (*|:D

        • Giraffe-Junk

          Yes!

  • Phil Ledgerwood

    I’ve thought about this a lot lately as I have some atheist friends who are very interested in talking about issues of faith. As part of our dialogue, I’ve read a lot of Sam Harris.

    It’s been interesting to me how similar Sam Harris is to a fundamentalist Baptist on virtually everything except whether or not the Bible is true:

    – Literal, plain readings of the Bible are the best
    – Anything not a literal, plain reading is liberalism that isn’t real Christianity
    – The 1950s called; they want their view of women back
    – Intense Islamaphobia

    There’s just something about the way of thinking.

    • Those aren’t the defining characteristics of either fundamentalist Baptism or New Atheism.

      • arcseconds

        Who is saying they are?

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        I didn’t say that. I said Sam Harris has some very similar views to fundamentalists. I said “Baptists,” but I could easily have used another fundy denomination. Whether all fundamentalists or all New Atheists have those views is irrelevant. I was talking specifically about Sam Harris.

    • arcseconds

      What do your friends think of the misogyny and the islamophobia?

      Edit: actually, I should ask what they think of Sam Harris. I guess I assumed that as you’re reading him they think there’s something of value there…

      • Phil Ledgerwood

        Yes, I’d say Sam Harris has probably been the primary influence on them. But their relationship isn’t slavish devotion. They’re not Harris fanboys per se, like he’s not above critique or worthy of uncritical acceptance.

        • arcseconds

          Frankly I have difficulty seeing the attraction… sure, he sometimes has something interesting to say, but there are plenty of people with interesting things to say who aren’t obvious bigots.

          And I dunno… when your entire schtick is promoting atheism on the basis of its rationality and superiority to religious forms of life, being so reflexively anti-religious, plus islamophobic (in a way that ends up being functionally racist, if it isn’t more thoroughly racist) — not of course separable from the anti-religious aspect —, plus the ridiculous misogyny… that kind of undermines your whole platform, doesn’t it?

          One thing that is interesting though, is what someone called Harris’s ‘crypto-vedantism’: he thinks of himself as a spiritual person, and wants to (re?)claim spirituality talk for atheists…

          • Phil Ledgerwood

            I totally agree with your assessment.

            I think that last bit is what makes him attractive, particularly to my friends. They come from Christian traditions and appreciate the morality and spiritual experiences, and Harris stakes his claim that you can still have all that.

  • What makes a “fundamentalist atheist” fundamentalist? Is this like a “fundamentalist Zeus non-believer”?

    And those convergences in opinion are coincidences. There’s nothing systemic about them.

    • They are not “coincidences.” They are not things they came up with independently. They are things which they learned from Christians, and which they choose to accept despite their being historically dubious claims, for the sole reason that accepting them seems to provide support for the axiom they are seeking to defend, namely the non-historicity of Jesus.

      • If you “choose to accept” something, you’re doing it wrong.

        “for the sole reason that accepting them seems to provide support for the
        axiom they are seeking to defend, namely the non-historicity of Jesus”

        -I strongly doubt this. Why be so uncharitable to those coming to different conclusions from you?

        • arcseconds

          Definitely the notion that James is not the brother of Jesus is something that’s accepted just because not accepting it would mean that Jesus existed.

        • Scott Paeth

          “Why be so uncharitable to those coming to different conclusions from you?”

          Experience.

        • Simon K

          I think it is a natural part of human thought processes: if I have a strong commitment to the truth of A, and if B implies A, I am inclined to believe B as a result. That is backwards from how inference is supposed to work, but humans are nowhere near as logical/rational as we like to think we are.

          And people of all kinds of different religious/philosophical/ideological perspectives think in this way. Many atheists think this way, but so too do many Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, you-name-it. It’s not exclusive to religious questions either, you’ll see the same process of reverse inference in political debate as well.

    • arcseconds

      You think biblical literalism independently emerged in both Christian fundamentalism and atheism?!

      • It’s not “biblical literalism”. James isn’t talking about that here, he’s talking about convergent interpretations of the biblical text.

        • arcseconds

          Biblical literalism is an interpretation of the biblical text, and both fundamentalist Christians and many of the most strident atheists critics have ‘converged’ on such a literalist reading.

          James explicitly mentions Jesus being read as being God. One could argue that this isn’t literally a literal reading of the text, but it is a fact that people who call themselves biblical literalists have this reading.

          Thinking that atheists have independently read the same texts and came away with the same notion that Jesus is God free from any influence of Christian readings is absurd.

    • John MacDonald

      I would be interested to hear Dr. McGrath’s thoughts as to whether someone who claims “I believe in the Christian God” has the same epistemological ground for his/her assertion as someone who claims “I believe in Zeus.”. The New Atheists seem to want to dismiss “God Talk” as being equivalent to talk about goblins or other magical creatures, and so we have yet to see an argument that demonstrates it is more likely than not that God doesn’t exist.

      • Scott Paeth

        Which is evidence that neo-atheists fundamentally misunderstand Christian God-talk.

        • John MacDonald

          For me to become an atheist, I would need to see a convincing argument that demonstrates that it is more likely than not that divine entities don’t exist. For me to become a theist, I would need to see a convincing argument that demonstrates that it is more likely than not that divine entities do exist. I have seen neither such arguments, so I remain a provisional agnostic.

          • Giraffe-Junk

            Well, I think if we are talking about the Christian God, there is evidence that more likely than not that the divine entities don’t exist. Let’s take a look at His Book. Is man made of Dirt? No. Is woman made from the rib of a man? No. Is the moon a little light? No, it is a reflector. Is there enough water to flood the Earth to the top of the mountains on Earth? No. Can a Wooden Ark the size of Noah’s, when measured using the Ancient Egyptian cubit, float? No. Are skyscrapers currently taller than the tower of Babel could have been? Yes. Can donkeys and serpents talk? No.
            Maybe these are parables that I just don’t seem to understand. Let’s take a look at this Omnipotent Being’s Moral values, surely those must be superior that human morals. Is it moral to kill everyone, save eight, in the largest genocide ever known? No. Is it moral to kill the first born, even though they have nothing to do with your disagreement? No. Is it moral to kill your neighbor for working on the Sabbath? No. Is it moral to allow a rapist to marry his victim, if the rapist agrees to pay the victim’s father an amount of silver? No.
            If you are talking about another God, I would have to take a look at what you are calling the evidence of It’s existence. But, I haven’t seen ANY evidence of ANY God. I see things that I don’t know the answer to and not knowing the answer isn’t God.

          • In response to the question, a lot depends on what one means by “the Christian God,” since there is no one Christian way of thinking about God. If one is a Christian panentheist or process theologian, who embraces mainstream science in its entirety, then that puts the viewpoint on a different footing in relation to our understanding of the phenomenon of lightning. If one is talking about the view of God as a personal being who is simply all the gods who were personified forces of nature rolled into one, then progress in explaining the phenomena thus personified does have an impact on the epistemological standing of the purported deity.

          • Giraffe-Junk

            So, what you are saying is that the contents of the Bible is balderdash, but you still believe. Believe in what? Surely it’s not the God of the Bible. If it’s not the God of the Bible, then where is your proof? Calling nature personified God, isn’t a God.

          • I take it you are new here? What exactly is it you are saying I “still believe” and why does it surprise you that I don’t believe in the God of the Bible, when I have argued here that no one does that, even among those who pretend to?

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/06/no-one-believes-that-the-god-of-the-bible-exists-anymore-from-the-archives.html

          • Giraffe-Junk

            Then without the believe in the Bible, why feign a believe in a God? Why defend [Defenders of] Christian Orthodoxy? What evidence do you have for it? Why not point out to people that they don’t have such belief and stop this nonsense of believing in a magical man in the sky and try to reason with people’s fears to stop them from committing atrocities against each other for their God that they don’t even believe in?

          • Why do I defend people I don’t defend, and why don’t I point out things which I point out all the time on this blog?

            Are you a troll, or do you just have no idea what sort of blog you are commenting on?

          • Giraffe-Junk

            Enlighten me about this blog.

          • It is a blog like most others, inasmuch as someone who reads it will find out a great many things about what its author thinks. It has been around and consistently active for longer than most blogs. It has keyword and tag search functions that let you focus in on a particular topic that interests you.

          • arcseconds

            Why are you proposing a more literalistic understanding of scripture than Augustine had?

            To put it another way: why do you take your hermeneutic marching orders from Christian fundamentalists?

          • Giraffe-Junk

            How would you know if your interpretation of Christianity is correct?

          • arcseconds

            I’m not talking about my interpretation of Christianity, I’m talking about the interpretation that many Christians have of the Bible. And this interpretation doesn’t need to be correct, it just needs to be accepted as being a Christian one.

            In fact, as the Catholic Church is happy with the notion that the cosmos is billions of years old, and has never had a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible (notwithstanding a few instances where they have insisted on a literal interpretation), I’m quite confident that biblical literalism is not the interpretation that is even officially that for the majority of Christians, and never has been.

            A related question is what importance does a Christian have to give the Bible?

            You seem to be assuming (along with protestant fundamentalists) that it’s all important, but many Christians say it’s Christ they follow (the name is a clue), not the Bible. Plus several major denominations, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Anglican and Lutheran communions stress the importance of tradition and later revelation.

            Why are you so keen to march in ideological lock-step with protestant fundamentalism?

            Is it because it’s easier to dismiss?

          • Giraffe-Junk

            If the Bible isn’t true, how would you know Jesus existed (He didn’t)?
            “Why are you so keen to march in ideological lock-step with protestant fundamentalism?” Having been raised without religion, I don’t actually know what “protestant fundamentalism” is or if I am “lock-step” with it.
            “Is it because it’s easier to dismiss?” Actually your belief is easiest to dismiss, heck you don’t even have actual texts (since your own admission that the Bible is not true) to back up your claim.

          • arcseconds

            Are you normally of the persuasion that a text is either all true or all false?

            If you think this, then you probably need to learn a bit about the discipline of academic history.

            I’ve no idea where you’ve got your ideas about Christianity from if you don’t even know about protestant fundamentalism or what it believes.

            But by your own admission you know very little about the topic (and apparently have fallen for fundamentalist propaganda).

            So why are you writing so authoritatively on it?

            Rather than insisting that anyone who doesn’t meet your definition of Christianity (based apparently on little knowledge of the subject), wouldn’t it be better to say “I know nothing, but I’m keen to learn!” and ask some relevant questions about the topic?

            (Or, if you’re not keen to learn, at least have the sense to remain silent on the matter?)

          • Giraffe-Junk

            “Are you normally of the persuasion that a text is either all true or all false?” Absolutely not. I’m of the persuasion that if you call some text true and some false, you cannot know if what you think is true is ACTUALLY true and what you think is false is ACTUALLY false.
            Where did I get my idea from on Christianity? Good question. Simple answer, from Christians.
            How can someone who doesn’t believe in this “magic man of the sky” have fallen for “fundamentalist propaganda”.
            I write authoritatively on it, because I know for a fact that donkeys don’t talk, people didn’t cure leprosy 2000 years ago, etc. It’s easy to talk with authoritativeness when you know for a FACT that those things didn’t/couldn’t have occurred.
            Ah, but I do know a lot about the subject, I’ve actually read the bible twice, please see the paragraph above. Someone should never be silent on religious propaganda such as Mythicist Christianity (read Catholics who don’t actually believe the Bible – is this club similar to Jews for Jesus?)

          • arcseconds

            OK, but it seems you’ve assumed in reading the Bible that Christians must believe in all of it. Did some Christians tell you that? Well, fine, Christians are frequently wrong about their own history and have crude ideas about their own religion, but now you know better, right?

            You now know that Christians actually don’t read the Bible literally, not even the ones that say they do, and they never have read the Bible literally, and you’ll stop insisting on it, yes?

            Absolutely not. I’m of the persuasion that if you call some text true and some false, you cannot know if what you think is true is ACTUALLY true and what you think is false is ACTUALLY false.

            I’m not sure what you’re saying here.

            Historians usually think that historical texts do tell us something about history (so they’re partly true) but are biased to a greater or lesser extent and frequently unreliable and filled with things that are fictions or myths (so they’re partly false).

            Especially ancient history.

            Do you think they’re totally unable to tell the difference between things that are likely to be true and things which are likely to be false? So Caesar crossing the Rubicon isn’t any different from Romulus founding Rome: they’re both stories that appear in ancient texts and we can’t possibly tell whether one is more likely to have occurred than the other?

            Or are you just asserting that no historical claim is absolutely certain?

          • arcseconds

            How can someone who doesn’t believe in this “magic man of the sky” have fallen for “fundamentalist propaganda”.

            Yes, I wonder that a lot myself, but you’re living proof of the fact it does indeed occur!

    • charlesburchfield

      probably it’s black and white thinking and no gray areas allowed. also in my experience it’s peep’s inability empathize. another characteristic IMHO is the inability to be contradicted or critiqued & putting the one who is criticizing in the immediate category of enemy. (*|8-o

  • arcseconds

    The notion that a literal reading of the Bible is the only correct one is very widespread, though, it’s not just reactionary atheists and a few fundamentalist Christians that assume this.

    There’s a well-known phenomenon in the media where they defer to very conservative Christians as being representative of Christianity. This is never discussed, it’s just assumed that conservative Christians are the real Christians.

    Plus Christians of all stripes do point towards the Bible as being the holy scripture of the faith. In our society our default hermeneutic is a literal one. Someone relatively unfamiliar with Christianity can easily get the message that ‘believing the Bible’ is what being Christian is all about, and what could ‘believing the Bible’ mean but taking it literally?

    Especially given that some do take it literally, and the media hold them up to be the real true Christians!

    • I would dispute that any of the people who claim to take the Bible literally actually do so. That they have persuaded the media to grant them a consistency on this that they do not actually have is one of the most impressive PR moves in recent history.

      • arcseconds

        Well, yes, maybe I should have written ‘the notion that a literal reading of the Bible is the only correct one, and that’s what any Christian actually does, is very widespread… ‘. 🙂

        The fact that very conservative Protestants are taken as ‘proper Christians’ seems far more notable to me than them not being taken to task on their so-called literalism. The mainstream media so seldom offers anything like intelligent criticism of anything, and really that a minority of Christians think they read the Bible literally as opposed to actually reading it literally seems like the kind of distinction that would normally be lost on the media.

        Treating them as Christians without qualification and implicitly that every other Christian is somehow a bit fake is the impressive PR coup.

        Do you think it’s really the result of a deliberate move on the part of conservative, though? While some of them definitely do try to manipulate public opinion, on the whole they only seem competent at manipulating conservative Christians. I’m wondering whether it’s more the fact that the media has settled on it as an easy and saleable narrative.

        • I have no way of knowing how deliberate the move is, but there is certainly a long history of conservatives accusing others of “picking and choosing,” with the implication that they don’t do that themselves. And so my suspicion is yes.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, I meant do you think the media has wound up with this attitude as a result of a deliberate move by conservatives?

            It seems to me conservatives don’t really have that kind of influence over the media. I think the media equates Christians with conservative Christians because it’s an easy, saleable narrative, one that allows them to produce outrage-fodder (for both sides) of Christians protesting against gay people, etc.

            Fox kind of does embrace conservative Christianity in a funny sort of way, but it’s hard to believe it’s not ultimately also about outrage and drawing tribal boundaries, at at some level quite cynical.

          • I didn’t mean to suggest that conservative Christians bribed the media or something like that. I think they just repeated the claim often enough that the media began to follow suit.

          • arcseconds

            I’m not suggesting you were proposing a conspiracy theory, but rather a really successful marketing campaign in the literal meaning of the term: a deliberate strategy of well-placed ads, endorsement from media-friendly authority figures, astroturfed letter-writing campaigns, perhaps employing marketing firms and consultants for lots of money, etc…

            They’ve certainly pushed this line, but I’m of the opinion that the media went with it for their own purposes.

            Probably not consciously.

            Going back to what I was saying before, it seems to me that there’s something ‘natural’ about biblical literalism in our society. I’ve known a lot of non-religious people who have simply assumed that Christians are supposed to believe everything in the Bible. While the media encourages this, I don’t think they’re doing all or even most of the work there. Partly I think this because most of them weren’t Americans, and most hadn’t lived in America, but rather in other Western countries where religion is not so politically at the fore, and where American-style protestantism is less well known.

            I wonder whether it’s as simple as knowing (on the basis of exposure to Christians, or memories from childhood church attendance) that Christians believe in crazy things like the resurrection and the virgin birth. And how do they know those things? The Bible tells them! Therefore they just believe everything that’s in the Bible.

            Also, I think we’ve got a tendency to pick up any myth, and suppose that the originating culture believed that in the same way we believe our science text-books.

            The other thing that I think that plays into this is this notion of authenticity that we have: that to do something properly is to do how it was originally done. This is applied far wider than religion. The ‘originalist’ interpretations of the Constitution of the USA are another example, but you can also find this in Western attitudes towards martial arts (apparently to the befuddlement of some Chinese masters) and even classical music.

          • It would be a very interesting study to look at whether media in other countries and languages give voice to the idea that being a religious person means believing and/or doing everything in one’s sacred texts. I suspect that it might not be there in non-English language journalism and reporting, since there is less direct influence of American fundamentalism’s rhetoric about these matters. But either way, it would be interesting to find out, and might be illuminating. If I ever come across a student who is majoring in both religion and journalism, I might suggest it as a topic for an independent study or an honor’s thesis.

      • RbtRgus

        I don’t think anybody takes the bible literally. I have not heard anyone advocating death to apostates, homosexuals and unruly children.

    • Giraffe-Junk

      You would think an omnipotent Being would ensure that everyone knew the meaning He was trying to get across. If the Bible isn’t to be taken literally then no one would know the “correct” interpretation. As God knows humans to be fallible and could misinterpret His Word, knowing that this misinterpretation would lead to eternal torment, that makes this God malevolent. A malevolent God is not worthy of worship.

      If one takes God’s Word as literal, then we know it to not be true.

      • RbtRgus

        He is either a bumbling buffoon or a total a$$hole, for the reasons you mention.

      • charlesburchfield

        yer post is the example of b/w thinking IMHO (*|:D

        • Giraffe-Junk

          My post has nothing to do with black or white thinking, my post has everything to do with how this God said He is in HIS OWN BOOK.

          • charlesburchfield

            okay buddy write your own book! I love you and the God that loves me loves you too! *{|:D

          • Do you really not get that the claim that “God said..in his own book” is a claim that conservative religionists make, not something that is a natural deduction from the literary compilation in question?

      • arcseconds

        It’s odd that you should think that God wrote the Bible, or eternal torment is at stake, or that Christians are somehow obliged to believe these things.

        This is yet more of what James is complaining about: atheists (or people otherwise anitpathetic towards Christianity) assuming that the ‘biblical literalism’ (which is by no means literal) is the ‘correct’ reading of the Bible, along with all the non-biblical things incorporated into that viewpoint.

        • Giraffe-Junk

          Christianity is paramount on the ideology that God inspired man to write the Bible, thus He wrote it “through” humans. If you don’t believe the Bible to be that inspired word, then you’ve made up a new God and a new religion that parallels Christianity in many aspects, but has no basis in believing that this God even exists as you don’t even believe His Book to be His inspired Word. Even if eternal torment isn’t at stake, why would a malevolent Being create people knowing they would never be at His side?

          • That view of inspiration, and that centrality of focus on the Bible, is a relatively recent development, quite obviously post-Reformation for anyone who knows the history of biblicism or literacy, never mind the history of Christianity.

          • Giraffe-Junk

            And by recent development you mean like the last 400 years since King James Bible and possibly the last 3000 years from the Torah, right? And although the average person didn’t read the Torah, it was orally taught and passed down.

          • As someone who works primarily on the first century of Christian literature and history, post-Enlightenment developments most certainly are recent.

            While the Torah may have existed 2,500 years ago (and some of its sources just possibly as much as 3,000, although that is far from clear), ancient Israelite religion was not book-focused but rather focused on sacrificial worship, and in royal circles, on prophetic figures believed to serve as ambassadors for God. 3,000 years ago, ancient Israelite religion was not even monotheistic yet.

          • arcseconds

            In fact it only became book-focused after the destruction of the temple. And the early Rabbinical tradition was frequently notably not literalistic, and certainly not ‘sola scriptura’.

            While scripture became very important and nominally elevated to the highest status, sometimes not clearly distinguished from G-d, the functional locus of the religion (at least according to the rabbis themselves) was the communual understanding of the rabbis.

          • arcseconds

            Well, the author of Two Timothy (who identifies himself as Paul. Not God.) tells us that all scripture is inspired, but he probably means the Hebrew Bible.

            But what does it mean for something to be ‘inspired’? If we say ‘The Flying Dutchman was inspired by the fjords of Norway’, we don’t mean the fjords wrote the opera!

            That the Bible was written by people, not God, is quite a common understanding among Christians.

            Your assertion that it somehow becomes a different religion once you say that again is something a fundamentalist would say.

            Without an argument, it remains just an assertion, of course. A fundamentalist at least believes that is how God understands things, so at least in their heads this makes a degree of sense, but what basis could an atheist have for saying this?

          • Giraffe-Junk

            So, that brings us to this, if God inspired the Bible, but parts are not true (and some parts are), what parts are true? The parts of Jesus? How would you ever know? You saying so is only your assertion.
            In this religion, does everyone go to Heaven? Only a select few? No one? Why do people get to go to Heaven? Is it because they believe in Jesus? Did God already know who wouldn’t go to Heaven? If He does, He’s malevolent, if He doesn’t, He’s not omnipotent and not worthy of the title God.
            You say it’s Christianity, but if you don’t believe in parts of the Bible (the parts that are inconvenient?) Why did you choose to not believe those parts? If science is your deciding factor, of what is true and isn’t true in the Bible, then not knowing an answer isn’t God. So what parts of the Bible are true? Jesus walking on water, healing the dead, curing leprosy? If this Jesus couldn’t preform miracles, then he isn’t the Jesus in the Bible, thus you have made up a new religion that has nothing what-so-ever to do with Christianity.

          • Ian

            See, this is exactly the point. You sound like a fundie. It is the fundamentalist theology that says a) the bible is the ultimate authority, b) if it isn’t correct in any aspect, then the whole of Christianity is undermined, c) if any interpretation is admitted, then all interpretations would be valid, and so nothing can be trusted.

            That pattern is relatively new, and has been deliberately fed you by a characteristically American conservatism. Its success in persuading people that it is the only valid Christianity (and thus the vast majority of Christians now and through history were clearly doing it wrong) is staggeringly successful. So successful that worrying numbers of atheists can’t conceive of any kind of Christianity not defined by conservative American evangelicalism. I’ve heard atheists tell me that Catholicism, with its rejection of Sola Scriptura, isn’t real Christianity, a line that could be right out of a Southern Baptist sermon.

            There’s a good historical case for saying that any theology that starts with the bible being The Word of God, and the ultimate authority, is not recognisably Christian for what has historically constituted Christian orthodoxy.

          • Giraffe-Junk

            So, is that a yes or no, seems like you know that it’s a catch 22 and don’t want to answer. But, better than that, you never answer which parts of the Bible are true and which parts aren’t true and how you know.

          • Ian

            What a strange response. Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no? I was pointing out why the premise of your question was incorrect and you respond by insisting I answer it in the original terms (even though I wasn’t responding to a yes / no question even in your own terms). Can you not see that is a exactly a fundie move?

            When everyone is saying the same thing to you, including other atheists (like me), isn’t it perhaps time to take a deep breath and try to work out what is being said and why?

          • arcseconds

            I say it’s Christianity because biblical literalism has never been the hermeneutics of any Christian sect. That includes the ones who say that’s what they’re doing!

            So far from me creating some alternative Christianity in my head, that is exactly what you are doing: you have created a notional Christianity that reads the bible literally in your head, and are trying to insist that anyone who doesn’t measure up to this notion somehow isn’t a real Christian.

            If your concept excludes basically every Christian ever, maybe the problem is with your concept, and not with Christians?

            Again, it seems you have fallen prey to fundamentalist propaganda. I’m not sure why it’s so important for you to believe this stuff given that you’re apparently not a Christian yourself, but it’s obviously going to take a while to remove this cultic programming from you, and I can only hope to help you begin this process.

            It does depend a lot on you, though. Are you actually prepared to learn something about Christianity, or do you prefer to stay in the thrall of a fundamentalist fiction?

          • Giraffe-Junk

            That’s correct, if you make up which parts are and aren’t true regarding Christianity you couldn’t possibly know if this God approves of it. Is Jesus the Son of God? If He isn’t the Son capable of doing miracles, then was He a prophet? If so we have a term for that it’s called Islam, unless you don’t believe Mohammad was also a prophet. Maybe the term you are looking for is Atheistic Jewish.

          • arcseconds

            I’m not making anything up, and nor am I looking for a term.

            I’m trying to educate someone who is apparently ignorant about Christianity, hermeneutics, and history.

            Why is it so important to you to draw tight boundaries around what counts as Christianity? Again, this seems like the interest of a Christian fundamentalist. But it’s difficult to see why an atheist would be so interested in this. What’s it to you whether someone calls themselves Christian or not, or whether some other Christian tries to deny them the term?

            You don’t think perhaps Muslims and Jews might not appreciate having people who celebrate Mass and venerate Jesus Christ and have little interest in Mohammed or the Covenant being lumped in with them?

          • Giraffe-Junk

            I’m not trying to “draw tight boundaries around what counts as Christianity?” I was informed by the people here that they believe some parts of the Bible and don’t believe other parts. I asked how they came to know which parts were true and what parts are not true. I was informed that Jesus didn’t do miracles (in not so many words) and from this basis one can tell that the people relaying this information don’t believe in Jesus. One of the principal belief systems in Christianity is that the Savior Jesus Christ performed miracles to prove that He was the Son of God. If the Jesus that the people believe in didn’t perform these miracles, then He is not the Jesus of the Bible, but another Jesus. Thus belief in a Jesus, other than the Biblical Jesus is a different religion.

          • arcseconds

            Again, you know nothing about this subject. Yet you seem extremely sure about what counts as a different religion. How is this different to a creationist wandering into a biology blog and telling the biologists all about how ‘kinds’ work and how they are doing biology all wrong?

            And why is it so important to you, that you continue to insist on your own opinions, formed in ignorance, rather than accept the account given to you by professionals in the subject? What’s it to you if there are Christians who don’t believe in a miracle-doing Jesus?

            Normally we don’t think that different beliefs mean the beliefs are about a different thing. For example, if you think the capital of New York State is New York city, that doesn’t mean you’re thinking about a different New York state than someone who thinks the capital is Albany.

            The alternative is that you don’t really have false beliefs about anything real. Instead you’re always believing in things that don’t exist, like the New York State that has New York city as its capital.

            That is a highly confusing, and confused, way of seeing the relationship among properties, beliefs, and things.

      • Steven Waling

        Maybe God naively thought it would be read by adults, with creative imaginations, not dunderheaded literal-minded children… How wrong He was… (Course I don’t really believe that God wrote the Bible, but if he did I think he’d expect us to use the brains he’s said to have given us…)

  • ex nihilo

    You confused me. I don’t know anyone who is a Jesus mythicist who defends Christian orthodoxy.

    • Yeah have never met a Jesus mythicist who claims that Jesus was thought to be God from the beginning, or that he had no biological siblings?

      • ex nihilo

        No. The Jesus mythicists I know believe Jesus never existed in reality- that he is the product of fables influenced by other fables of gods, messiahs and resurrections, that were later believed by masses. How can that belief be associated with a claim that he was ‘God from the beginning, or had no biological siblings’?

        • I don’t think you understood the post. The point is that mythicists say that these beliefs are found in our earliest Christian sources. They join conservative Christians in claiming that Jesus is already depicted as divine in our earliest sources, and they join Roman Catholics in strenuously trying to avoid the more natural meaning of references to Jesus’ brother(s). The point is not that they actually accept those doctrines as true, the point is that they uncritically accept them as though they were accurate statements about what the earliest Christian sources say.

  • Mark

    I take it you’ve read e.g. Denys Turner “How to be an Atheist”, which wittily develops this theme for ‘new atheism’ (rather than mythicism) http://pdfsr.com/pdf/turner-how-to-be-an-atheist and similarly in “Apophaticism, idolatry and the claims of reason” http://www.thedivineconspiracy.org/Z5254M.pdf with a pretty brilliant passage around pp 14-16. It couldn’t express more perfectly my own experience, in any case.

  • Gakusei Don

    Mythicist Brian Flemming, in his awful “God who wasn’t there” movie, noted his problem with Christians who don’t take the Bible literally. He says (around 34 mins into the movie):

    “And if [the Bible] is wrong, what the hell is moderate Christianity? Jesus was only sort of the son of God? He only somewhat rose from the dead? Your eternal soul is at stake, but you shouldn’t make a big deal out of it? Moderate Christianity makes no sense. Is it any wonder that so many people choose the Christian leaders who actually have the courage of their convictions?”

    If you didn’t know that the above was said by a mythicist and atheist, you’d think you were reading the words of a fundamentalist Christian. Indeed, a fundamentalist Christian reviewer, who had slammed the movie for its erroneous content, noted Flemming’s comment above and called it a comment of “merit”, saying approvingly “I couldn’t agree more”.

  • Gakusei Don

    There is also the example of Sam Harris as well, who talks about Muslims “who don’t take their faith seriously”. From here: http://weeklysift.com/2014/10/13/sam-harris-and-the-orientalization-of-islam/

    “There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims, who don’t take the faith seriously, who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS, and we need to defend these people, prop them up, and let them reform their faith.”

    Such an odd wording: “nominal Muslims” who “don’t take the faith seriously”. Does anyone doubt that this is a view shared by extremist Muslims as well?

  • Gakusei Don

    One last one from Sam Harris. From his website: http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/chapter-one

    “The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled…

    “Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance—and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism. The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts. By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God’s law. By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.”

    So remember, you Christian moderates: by not living to the letter of the texts, you are betraying faith and reason equally! Sam Harris has spoken. (Nice to know that he is concerned about the purity of faith.)

    • Ian

      And when Jesus failed to uphold the letter of the law and fully submit, he was betraying faith and reason equally too.

      It does baffle me how much fundies have won the PR battle to be accepted as the ‘default’ – for something that’s only just over 100 years old, and is still a small minority of world christendom, that’s impressive.

  • I see this a lot from (eg) Reddit atheists who are still maintaining that you have to believe all of the Bible or none of it, that ‘cherry picking’ from scripture proves you don’t really believe it.

    They’re using this to argue for atheism now, but it’s a line they no doubt learned from their conservative Baptist pastors in childhood.

    • Giraffe-Junk

      So, if you don’t believe in “all of the Bible”, how do you know what parts to believe? I wasn’t raised in ANY religion, so I’ve NEVER had a pastor tell me ANYTHING in childhood.

      • charlesburchfield

        you don’t have to believe any of it IMHO, but since you are here, you might want to try to keep an open mind while you study it & consider which parts are interesting TO YOU. peeps onna progressive christian blogs generally have exprienced years of study & fellowship & some, like me, have come away w a new groove on it. Personally I think christianity has bc quite the dog & pony shows that have tried to pass as faith based religion that requires belief in the nonsense of inerrant literal interpretations & what amounts to bible worship idolitry. my take on it now is the bible is harmless & even helpful when it’s a letter of introduction to jesus whom I love! (*|:D

        • Giraffe-Junk

          “my take on it now is the bible is harmless & even helpful when it’s a letter of introduction to jesus whom I love!” Guess the part about Jesus (whom is God) who loves to kill EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON PLANET EARTH, save eight, is just good old fashion harmless fun.

      • Same way you decide what parts to believe in any book. Pretty much all books are wrong about something.

        • Giraffe-Junk

          I decided that since some parts were false (i.e. the moon isn’t a little light, but a reflector. man isn’t made of dirt and women aren’t made from the rib of a man [their lack of X Chromosome proves that]) and that I wouldn’t know if the other parts were true, it was ALL FICTION. Just like I decided that Harry Potter was ALL FICTION.

          • In other words, you read something in a library, and decided that since you started in the mythology section, the whole collection must be works in the same genre.

          • Giraffe-Junk

            Oh, no not at all, I read the Bible front to back, twice and realized that the stuff in it wasn’t true, thus it IS fiction.

            Did Jesus rise from the dead? Can a man walk on water?

          • Your problem is that, like the religious fundamentalists who trained you to think this way, you are working with only two categories – pure truth, and pure fiction – and so you cannot do justice to the fact that human literature covers a wide range across the spectrum between those two poles – and pretty much never makes it all the way to the “pure truth” end of the spectrum.

  • If I followed that logic, and I hope I didn’t, it’d be preferable to move from heroin addict to methadone addict rather than swing way over to the fundamentally “clean and sober” end of the spectrum…?