August 2, 2007

Anyone who has ever visited an atheist discussion forum will know that there are plenty of atheists and “freethinkers” who take it as a given that Jesus didn’t really exist, that he is a composite figure created from a patchwork of earlier mythology, and so on. If you ask a professional historian whether Jesus existed, however, you will never receive an answer other than “yes”.Given that history is all about probabilities, how can historians be so certain? The answer lies… Read more

August 2, 2007

One of the biggest challenges students seem to face is identifying reputable sources of information. This is particularly true when they are using their favorite resource, the internet, but the problem does not disappear in those few instances when some few bright sparks among them actually enter a library. One suggestion I make (apart from choosing books published in the past half a century – I’m surprised how often students have chosen as their main source a relevant book from… Read more

July 31, 2007

Someone on Yahoo! Answers asked the following questions:1. Why do you believe in God?2. What’s the difference between Naive’ and Blind trust and Faith?3. Is it possible that religion is just a way for people to deal with lifeand non of it’s really even true?4. Is there really any such thing as pure and whole truth?I decided they seemed like interesting and sincere questions, so I answered them. Here’s what I wrote:1. I believe in God because that term, as… Read more

July 30, 2007

Last night I watched the movie Deja Vu, which explores a time-travel scenario and the usual questions of whether we can change the past, and what happens if we do or even try. The film explicitly raises questions of ‘spirituality’, and one character even suggests that the past cannot be changed because ‘God has made up his mind about it already’. Yet the film is somewhat unique in raising the ethical issue of whether to intervene to change the past… Read more

July 29, 2007

Am I the only person getting tired of hearing the views, arguments and evidence of opposing viewpoints dismissed with phrases like “you are just saying that because you are a secular evolutionist” or “that just goes to show how biased the media is”. The latter, of course, is equally asserted by both sides – which I take to be a positive sign in terms of what the media is doing, but rather dismaying in terms of the filter that so… Read more

July 28, 2007

He brought the universe into existence, was instrumental in providing the spark that produced life on our world, and will be there when our universe fades into nothingness once more. He forgives his enemies, and yet fights for good and stands against evil, defeating even the devil. When his enemies killed him, he appeared again alive, although changed in appearance. Although things can seem pretty desperate at times, he is always there, watching over us, ready to intervene, even at… Read more

July 28, 2007

Anyone who has ever worked on the Fourth Gospel and/or the scholarship of Rudolf Bultmann will have heard of the Mandaeans, at least in passing. They are a group who became known as “St. John Christians”, but this is a misnomer since they are not Christians and view John the Baptist positively but not Jesus. While there is still some uncertainty about whether they could possible be a genuine offshoot of John the Baptist’s movement, since all their extant writings… Read more

July 27, 2007

The topic of the Pope and evolution seems to have gotten a lot of people’s attention! There are ongoing discussions around the web in the press and on blogs. A few I’ve come across so far include the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog, the Free Republic, and I’ve tried to get a discussion going on Topix. A comment on my last blog entry also raised the question of whether the Pope’s statement leaves room for or perhaps even mirrors Intelligent Design…. Read more

July 27, 2007

There is a wonderful little article in the New York Post drawing attention to a recent statement by the Pope. He points out how problematic it is when the current debates present creation and evolution “as if they were alternatives that are exclusive – whoever believes in the creator could not believe in evolution, and whoever asserts belief in evolution would have to disbelieve in God…This contrast is an absurdity, because there are many scientific tests in favor of evolution,… Read more

July 26, 2007

I’ve gotten up to the next-to-last episode of the last series of Dr. Who – I just have the finale to watch. In the episode “Utopia” the Doctor takes a visit to the year 100 trillion, towards the end of the universe as it approaches heat death. Humans (who still, implausibly, look just like we do today) are still managing to survive.I found myself thinking again about a scenario with a time machine that I discussed once before on my… Read more

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