The Truth Will Set You Free!

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Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Richard C. Miller. I am a rather rare commodity these days, a humanistic, atheistic scholar of New Testament and early Christian literature. Hello! At the kind invitation of John Loftus, I join the Debunking Christianity team proudly alongside Dr. David Madison and Dr. Hector Avalos.
I began my academic journey over 20 years ago as a Bible-believing, God-fearing orthodox evangelical. I had a "calling from the Lord” to train to become a pastor. I decided upfront, however, that, as I studied, I would follow the truths of careful research wherever they might lead, a decision that I now recognize as terminal to my Christian faith as I then knew it. I went off to Calvary Chapel Bible College, whence, before the end of a year, I was swiftly expelled as a “heretic”; CBC did not welcome “outside of the lines” thinkers at that time, I painfully learned. I went on to earn my Master of Divinity at Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology. There, despite the heavy theological constraints of the program, I realized that the Bible, as an anthology of ancient texts, contains a tremendous amount of diversity and disagreement on all manner of topics. This one realization irreversibly shattered my inerrantist effort to construct a “systematic theology” rooted in the Christian holy scriptures. There is no single, coherent Voice, no “God-voice” behind these writings. Consequently, Biola could only barely stand to graduate me, despite my exemplary honors standing. From there, my quest to know took me to the Ivy League schools, first to Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University. While completing my Master of Theology there, I explored other ways of talking about the Word of God (via reading the Swiss theologian Karl Barth et al.). I focused my study there in early Judaism and the New Testament, specifically apocalypticism in antiquity. Observing the patently whimsical diversity of such textual traditions, I comfortably concluded that documents of that genre were written and meant to be read as fictional in modality under a metanarrative of political and social subversion, i.e., as thinly veiled, asceticizing critiques of ancient society. Also, as part of my honest, truth-seeking deconstruction of faith while at Princeton, I began to acknowledge that not every deed or word ascribed to God, to Jesus, or to any of the array of other biblical heroes qualifies within any reasonable modern sense of morality or compassion. Most of what one finds in these texts simply reflects the various values and attitudes of the ancient Near East and the Levantine Mediterranean world, much as one may expect from any other ancient text. In my quest to find a context to study that yet further untethered my education from the powerful forces of Christian belief and tradition, I went on to graduate study at Yale University and the Yale University Divinity School. From there I would apply to Ph.D. programs. While at Yale, I studied ancient mythology, folklore, and sacred legend in the ancient Near East and classical antiquity, exploring the ways in which, if at all, these patterns may have arisen within the biblical texts. Here is where my Christian faith began most visibly to disintegrate, being replaced by a marvellously rich panorama of ancient tales referencing some of the deepest essential needs of the ancient human disposition. The biblical texts began variously to take their all-too-human place alongside the plethora of other significant literary works through the ages of human civilization. Having been admitted to various programs, I chose to return to California, to my place of origin, in order to complete my Ph.D. in transdisciplinary study between the New Testament and (other) Early Christian Literature and Classical Civilization(s) at the Claremont Graduate University School of Religion. I published my thesis with Routledge Books (Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity; 2015), a four-chapter monograph that carefully demonstrates what I had originally discovered while at Yale, namely that the so called “resurrection” tales in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles were not originally read by early Christians in a historical mode; these texts, rather, applied a quite popularly recognized trope of heroic exaltation (what I term the “translation fable"), a stock story pattern applied to a large list of other canonized, iconified figures in Mediterranean antiquity.
As one may surmise, my evangelical faith, indeed any kind of “faith” by modern Christian parlance, had in truth evaporated. While any (false) comforts regarding the fate of my soul were shipwrecked, as it were, I was left with a deeply satisfying understanding of the human condition and at long last with the answers to many of the most perplexing, problematic questions raised by the Christian religion. The truth has indeed set me free, free from what I now in retrospect can only best describe as a systematic delusion, the vandalism of my one most precious faculty as a member of this species, the human mind. In forthcoming blog articles here at Debunking Christianity, I look forward to sharing with you some of the most significant findings of my journey, facts and lines of careful thought that one does not readily encounter at the local Sunday school, a picture of earliest Christianity quite contrary to that presented in the faith-based rhetoric that sadly pervades churches and our modern society.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library

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“What do you think about the upheaval in Jesus studies?”

THIS IS THE QUESTION I WOULD so much like to pose to my Christian friends—to be met, I am sure, in most instances–with blank stares. “What upheaval?” Because they are not paying attention. In fact, the Jesus question has been removed from the exclusive domain of Bible scholars and ecclesiastical functionaries. Most New Testament scholars have been, and remain, committed to the Jesus faith. These are the folks who, in the words of one observer, “...still write books manufacturing and manicuring Jesus to look like they do.” Secular observers decided that this biased community could no longer be trusted to provide honest answers on who and what Jesus was. So you will find plenty of titles on this list by secular analysts who have opened up Jesus studies as never before—and exposed its faulty methodologies and conclusions, e.g., Richard Carrier, Robert Price, David Fitzgerald.

Of course, it’s not just Jesus; theism in general and Christianity in particular have been subjected to penetrating, withering critique. As I point out in the Introduction of my book, we are experiencing—and have been for some twenty years—an unprecedented atheist publishing surge. This has never happened before. Ever. There are about 250 titles on this list (click below). Some of the titles predate 2000; I have included them because they are classics in the deconstruction of Christianity, e.g. H. L. Mencken’s Treatise on the Gods (1932) and Charles Guignebert’s Jesus (1935). Not all of the authors cited here are atheists, but one thing that they do have in common is their conviction that the Christian brand of theism—no matter how successful it has been—has been falsified.

An Atheist Is An Agnostic Is An Atheist Is An Agnostic! Why Every Agnostic Should Become An Atheist

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We need a consistent definition of agnosticism that makes sense, so in what follows I offer one. We also need to recognize that all religion is localized religion, and as such, there is no such thing as religion but religions, just as there is no such thing as Christianity but Christianities.

Thomas Huxley invented the word "agnosticism" who defined it like this:
Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle... do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable. LINK.
But Bertrand Russell suggested a different definition:
An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not. The Agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or for denial. At the same time, an Agnostic may hold that the existence of God, though not impossible, is very improbable; he may even hold it so improbable that it is not worth considering in practice. In that case, he is not far removed from atheism. LINK.

Another God Before Us?

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An Evil Maker?

Those who insist that there must have been a creator don’t get to arbitrarily decide the nature of the creator, based on cherished theological traditions. It just cannot be that the problematic god of the Bible is the only candidate for The Maker of the Cosmos. So it’s not all that radical to urge Christians to consider other gods that may have created the Cosmos. It’s a bit narrow-minded to be exclusive on this issue. For the sake of argument, perhaps we might consider that a god indeed may have kicked things off. But, even so, we’d still have to be open-mindedness about what kind of god that was.

While a good god is considered a self-evident truth by Christians, nothing about the Cosmos mandates this conclusion. Joseph Daleiden has observed that, given the state of the world, it would be easier to prove a Devil than a god.[1] Is there anything that rules out an evil god as Creator? In fact—and how embarrassing is this for Christians?—many of them already believe in an evil god; those of the evangelical variety take Satan very seriously. As does Pope Francis, who employs a staff of exorcists. And Justice Scalia, good Catholic that he was, stingingly rebuked people who denied the reality of the devil. Jesus spoke of Satan (he even spoke to Satan), so what more could the Bible-believer want to prove Satan’s existence?

Throughout Western history Christians have credited Satan with enormous havoc and evil, positioning him as their god’s adversary and as a cunning, irresistible tempter of humans. Christians may protest that Satan is not a god, but that’s splitting hairs. They’re convinced that Satan is a being who can stand up to and hold his own against their god. That is de facto acknowledgment that Satan has supernatural powers; he must enjoy some rank as a god. So why would it be such a stretch to believe that the chief god of the Cosmos is evil—perhaps none other than Satan himself? Or that the Satan who gets so much airtime in the New Testament is his deputy?

Frankly, the seriously defective god of the Bible would be a major disappointment as the Creator Deity. He is overtly and covertly evil, camouflaging his evil with talk of love. But an aggressively evil god would have to be a possibility.

This is an excerpt from David Madison’s book, 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, pp. 124-125

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[1] Joseph Daleiden, The Final Superstition: A Critical Evaluation of the Judeo-Christian Legacy (Prometheus Books, 1994), p. 136. 


My Blurb for Dr. David Madison's Book

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“If it looks and sounds like a fairy tale, it’s a fairy tale” (p. 184). So says David Madison, a biblically trained scholar, in an unequaled, educational, and entertaining counter-apologetics book that exposes ten of the toughest problems for the Christian faith as unworthy of thinking adults. Madison expertly presents a cumulative case against Christianity, which is the best way to compel childlike believers to abandon their make believe fantasies. While it’s written for pastors and their fleeced flock in the pew stalls, Christian philosophers should definitely pay heed since most of them are biblically illiterate, mindlessly defending the wacky doctrines derived from unevidenced ancient pre-scientific fairy tales. LINK.
As noted before we're pleased that Dr. Madison now writes for us here at Debunking Christianity.

The Gospel of John: Jesus on Steroids

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Theology Smothers History [by Dr. David Madison, a new team member here at DC.]

When I turn to the gospel of John, I always think of a famous insult that grew out of the bitter feud between Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellmann, which probably has never been equaled in the history of American letters. McCarthy said of Hellmann, during a TV interview with Dick Cavett in 1980, “Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.”

Maybe it’s not fair to say that every word John wrote was a lie, but why is it so tempting to say so? Indeed, Richard Carrier has remarked that John’s gospel is “a complete fabrication, of no historical value in discerning the historicity of Jesus.” [1] Carrier is blunt in pointing out, for example, that Lazarus is a character invented by John to play the role of Beloved Disciple (wholly unknown in the other three gospels): “John has clearly ‘inserted’ this figure into these stories he inherited from the Synoptics, and then claimed this new character as his ‘source’ who saw all these things (John. 21:24). In plain terms, that’s simply a lie.” [2]

As is the case with all theologians, John was confident that he wrote the truth, but his mind was riveted to a twisted extreme theology. More kindly it could be said that John wrote every word “under the influence”; he was inebriated by his exaggerated concept of Christ. The quote, “write drunk, edit sober” has gone viral as a Hemingway witticism, but sleuths have tracked it down to novelist Peter De Vries, one of whose characters (in the 1964 novel Reuben, Reuben) says: “Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation.”

John shows his sober side by providing a well-structured gospel, even though it is lopsided (chapters 1-12 cover three years, chapters 13-19 are about one day), but he was drunk on bad theology. He went far beyond the tales of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in his portrait of Jesus, which is saying a lot because these earlier three operated with heavy theological biases of their own. John wrote drunk in creating a leading man who was egregiously egotistical. It would be hard to come up with another character, fictional or otherwise, who is so full of himself.

Excerpt from David Madison's 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith (Tellectual Press, 2016), pp. 208-209.

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[1] Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 505.
[2] Ibid., p.505.

Faith is the Mother of All Cognitive Biases

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Is Life Really Absurd for the Atheist?

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In an interesting essay Taylor Carr argued, "Our condition is absurd whether God exists or not." I just happened to come across it while looking into existentialism again, having taught it as a philosophy instructor. His whipping boy is William Lane Craig with his contention that life is absurd without God. He contends "Craig under-appreciates the weight of absurdity - namely that he neglects a full treatment of the subject as it has been articulated in Camus, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard" since "absurdity of this sort does not undermine atheism, but recommends it, in that it reveals the absurdity of even life with God." For Craig's limited view of absurdity is
more of a mindset than a reality. It is a problem to be cured. The life of the atheist is absurd only in that she does not acknowledge God, and so has no claim to ultimate significance, purpose, and value. Absurdity on this view is practically a placeholder for irrationality. Craig says of the godless perspective that it is "utterly without reason." The absurd life is living with the irrational belief that we inhabit a godless universe.
By contrast Carr informs us "For Camus, the absurd is fundamental to who we are. Our consciousness is what separates us from the world, what gives rise to absurdity."
Camus finds significance only in accepting life on its own terms, which has everything to do with acknowledging its absurdity. In The Myth of Sisyphus (where Sisyphus is condemned to roll a rock uphill for eternity), Camus describes the absurd feeling as being divorced from one's life. We encounter a tragic divide between our desires for reality and reality as it really is, perhaps most of all in those humbling conscious moments of suffering and trauma. The desires we have for unity, purpose, and order clash with our experiences of a world that seems not to care about us, our dreams, or our plans. The absurdist finds herself a stranger adrift in a foreign world with no lights or illusions, unable to remember where she has come from and unaware of where she is heading. If she denies the absurd, she lives an inauthentic life, as if the world is so little different from her desires that the incongruities presented to her are not really incongruities at all.
Carr explains that
Camus' point is not just that the world has no seemingly in-built meaning to it, but that we, as the conscious and reasoning creatures we are, do not even belong to this world. The human condition is uniquely human in that we are consciously separated from the world in which we live. The same cognition that allows us to reason also isolates us from the rest of the universe...Seeing our condition as it is, seeing the absurdity of life, is not antithetical to happiness, it is, for Camus, paramount to happiness.

This Is What Indoctrination Looks Like!

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Football season and I'm loving it. Take a look at these Packer fans. They're raising their children to root for the Packers. This is what indoctrination looks like folks, only it's fun and harmless compared to some other types of indoctrination. Go Colts!

I Was On Dogma Debate with David Smalley

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My segment appears at the 50:35 mark. Enjoy. Link

All You Need to Know About Street Epistemology

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What's The Best Counter-Apologetics Book?

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I don't claim to know. Some people think they know though. Christians have been writing Apologetics books for a long long time that cover most all of the crucial issues. Atheist scholars have focused on writing single issue types of works. Very few atheist scholars (if any) have written a book covering most all the crucial issues. This one does that. In fact it's quite comprehensive covering issues not usually discussed. Do you have it in your library for reference? It is, after all, a reference work of 536 pages.

Daily Devotional 2: Road Rage Without Cars Or a Road

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I could write a daily devotional, well, advice for the day anyway. I now have a title in mind! So here's some more advice: Don't judge others based solely on one or two actions, or you'll probably judge them unfairly.

At a concert I went to there was a table in front of us where some guy was being a jerk by being rude.

When one guy got up from the table the jerk sat in his seat, which had a better view. So this guy's girlfriend, I'm supposing, got angry and went over to the jerk and got in his face, telling him in no uncertain terms to get out of that seat. Even jerks don't want to mess with an angry woman in front others. So begrudgingly jerk-guy moved back to his own seat. Her boyfriend once again claimed his seat.

She wasn't done with the jerk though. She left and came back. Then in a few minutes two police officers appeared, who were there to monitor the crowd. One reached into the back pocket of the jerk who was sitting down, and pulled out a small bottle of liquor from his back pocket. Then they unceremoniously escorted the jerk out of the place. For in these venues you cannot bring your own drinks. You have to buy them at the concession stand. She ratted him out, I'm sure of it. Payback is...shitty.

Some people behave badly under certain circumstances. Over-all that jerk may be a nice guy with family and friends who like him a great deal. The same goes for the girlfriend. What I witnessed was road rage, without cars, or a road. Who among us can say we haven't had a little bit of road rage? We're told road rage is fairly rampant right now. People have it. Lots of us on occasion. YOU have probably had it, and lived to tell the story!

We should not judge people based solely on one or two incidents, apart from serious heinous crimes which have no excuses in our society. While it's certainly a piece of who someone is, people are almost always more than any one particular incident. To judge someone from such a limited knowledge base is to be unfair with them. They may turn out to be as we judge them, but we can't say until we know them better.

Don't judge others based solely on one or two actions, or you'll probably judge them unfairly.

Somewhat along the same lines read what David Smalley wrote: What’s Killing The Atheist Movement? Thoughts?

An Update On William Lane Craig's Policy Not To Debate Me

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A friend emailed reasonablefaith.org:

I'd love to watch Dr Craig debate John W Loftus. Do you know if he has any plans to?

Best,

Joshua

The response from the Executive Director at Reasonable Faith is below:

Faith is Superfluous and Unnecessary

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If faith is involved in everything we claim to know then some things we know have very little faith involved, while other things we claim to know are heavily saturated in faith. Faith would be superfluous at that point and unnecessary. For we could say it differently, saying that some things we know have a very high degree of probability to them, while other things we claim to know have a very low degree of probability to them. Faith represents nothing except the acknowledgement that someone is believing something that has a low degree of probability to it and yet calling it knowledge. If we thought exclusively in terms of the probabilities then by depending on faith for knowledge whenever the probabilities are low is an abdication of intellectual responsibility.

Hemant Mehta's take down of David Barton the liar:

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LINK. I mentioned a related case in an early comment.

To Have Faith Is To Lack Evidence. It's To Pretend To Know Something You Don't Actually Know!

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John Appleton, an educated and respectful Christian on Facebook said, "For me to believe [that Jesus didn't exist] takes more faith than to believe that Jesus is who he said he was."

I want readers to think about how the word "faith" functions in his sentence, irrespective of the issue being discussed. Tacitly John acknowledges the word has to do with the lack of evidence. Norman Geisler's book "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" does the same thing. Don't tell me faith is trusting God's Word, or God. The way the word is typically used is to be uttered whenever there is a lack of evidence. If faith is trust then I don't have any reason to trust faith anyway.

Faith is a cognitive bias to be avoided if anyone wants to know the truth.

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Here's a discussion starter for the above quotation:

My Latest Book "Unapologetic" Is Going To Print Today!

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My new book is being sent off to be printed today! The following clip from "The Wrath of Khan" expresses my thoughts as I ponder its impact:



No violence is intended. It's purely metaphorical. We do battle against ideas though. It should be available by the 1st of November. Various online bookstores will have it along with an ebook and maybe an audible version. Below are all the blurbs received for it:

Quote of the Day, by Robert G. Ingersoll

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Most nations, at the time the Old Testament was written, believed in slavery, polygamy, wars of extermination, and religious persecution; and it is not wonderful that the book contained nothing contrary to such belief. The fact that it was in exact accord with the morality of its time proves that it was not the product of any being superior to man.

“The inspired writers” upheld or established slavery, countenanced polygamy, commanded wars of extermination, and ordered the slaughter of women and babes. In these respects they were precisely like the uninspired savages by whom they were surrounded.

They also taught and commanded religious persecution as a duty, and visited the most trivial offences with the punishment of death. In these particulars they were in exact accord with their barbarian neighbors.

They were utterly ignorant of geology and astronomy, and knew no more of what had happened than of what would happen; and, so far as accuracy is concerned, their history and prophecy were about equal; in other words, they were just as ignorant as those who lived and died in nature’s night.

The Final Cover of My Next Book

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Final cover! I thought it's about time my photo was put on one of my books, so here 'tis.

More Advanced Praise for My Upcoming Book "Unapologetic"

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In this powerful book, former preacher and veteran scholar John Loftus demands to know why so much time and energy is still being wasted analyzing and debating fringe details of a thing no one has yet shown to be real. This passionate, hard-hitting, and important book will enlighten and inspire readers to think in new ways about an old battleground of thought. It’s clear that Loftus is running out of patience when it comes to the faithful but he certainly has not run out of steam.
--Guy Harrison, author of Good Thinking: What You Need to Know to be Smarter, Safer, Wealthier, and Wiser and 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian. He's not the only one to say such things. So do others, for which I am extremely grateful:

Dr. Paul Copan and I Are Publishing On The Same Topics

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Paul Copan is the President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. We both studied under William Lane Craig and earned masters degrees at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS). He earned a M.A. at TEDS, whereas since I had already earned two masters degrees prior to enrolling at TEDS (MA and M.Div degrees at Lincoln Christian University) I earned a Th.M at TEDS. Then we both enrolled in Marquette University for Doctoral work. He earned his PhD there, whereas I was two classes and one dissertation short of doing so. Life interrupted me when my father learned he had cancer, so I took a ministry near him hoping to return to school, which didn't happen.

Well as it turns out, we are both publishing machines. He for a ridiculous set of evangelical beliefs, while I debunk what he and his cohorts defend. Recently we are publishing books in the same area. He's publishing a book titled, A Little Book for New Philosophers: Why and How to Study Philosophy. He announced that book on Facebook, so I announced mine, and got into a "discussion" with a Carrie Hunter. *Sheesh* Such ignorance.

Then Paul announced another book of his on Facebook titled, Dictionary of Christianity and Science: The Definitive Reference for the Intersection of Christian Faith and Contemporary Science, and so I announced mine, and got into a "discussion" with Kris Key. *Sheesh* I'll copy and paste that "discussion" below for your comments. How would you respond to Kris? How would you rate my responses? There are a lot of issues there to discuss. Enjoy. I've linked to this so he might be interested enough to check it out. At the end he tells who he is. You'll notice I did not respond to his irrelevant personal attacks.

My Blurb for Dr. Karen Garst's Newly Released Book "Women Beyond Belief" And More

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Why would anyone embrace a male-dominated religion in today’s world, or any religion for that matter? Specifically, why would women embrace the religion of their male oppressors? Given the stories told in this wonderful tell-all book they shouldn’t. It’s one of the main reasons I argue against the Christian faith. I bid all readers to follow the reasoning and examples of the authors in this book. Their stories are quite revealing and fascinating. Highly recommended! --John W. Loftus.
I encourage my readers to check out Dr. Garst’s blog at www.faithlessfeminist.com and to order this excellent book, now available on Amazon and other online stores.
Reading the Bible is like playing the game of telephone: One person whispers a sentence to another person. The second person whispers it to a third, and then the third person to the fourth, and so on. By the end the original message has been garbled and often bears little resemblance to the sentence announced by the last person. “I haven’t got a gun,” for example, can end up as “I have bought a bun.” But in the biblical game of telephone, the original message is further garbled by the time that has passed between the life of Jesus and the time the New Testament was written, the foreign culture that filtered the message of the biblical writers, and the human fallibility of those who chose the books of the Bible and designated them asthe inspired word of God.

Philosophy of Religion's Focus is Wrongheaded

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Imagine university classes that take seriously the Mormon conception of a god who has a body with a plethora of wives living on the planet Koleb. Can you imagine atheist philosophers of religion bothering to teach such classes? I can't. Wouldn't doing so be to give those beliefs legitimacy in their own right? Now imagine an internet atheist who publishes the latest argument on behalf of this god, saying "Here's a new argument for the Mormon god I just discovered." Isn't this also silly? My guess is we wouldn't take atheists seriously who did these things, just as we wouldn't take seriously the arguments themselves. Why should we take any atheist seriously who thinks there is a good argument for the Mormon god? Why should we not transfer this same line of thinking to the Abrahamic gods?; or the Norse gods?; or the Greek gods?; or the Egyptian gods...? I think we should, thus destroying the philosophy of religion in the process. Yes, I'm serious. To read a more complete account of this see here.

Quote of the Day From My Book "Unapologetic"

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In Philosophy of Religion (PoR) one finds very little to count as a success. In fact, in PoR there aren’t any successes. Not one of the many PoR arguments of the distant past is accepted as put forth in its original form by modern philosophers of religion. This includes anything from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Descartes or the lot of them. All of the previous arguments in PoR lacked some important distinction, or failed to handle future objections adequately or needed to be revised due to the discovery of new evidence. So in order to understand the current state of PoR budding philosophers of religion must study its failures, because that’s all they’ve got to study! The whole discipline is a failure. Why then is it important to study Descartes if we want to gain knowledge about matters of fact? It has some minimal historical value to it, sure. But the PoR has never produced a fact. LINK.

Course at Marquette Discusses The End of Biblical Studies

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The End of Biblical Studies continues to be taken seriously in graduate courses in biblical studies. One example is at Marquette University, a Catholic institution where Dr. Julian Hills, a highly respected New Testament scholar, is teaching a course on New Testament Method. Here is the course description:

“In 1973, a young Walter Wink wrote, ‘Historical biblical criticism is bankrupt’ (The Bible in Human Transformation, p. 1). More recently a new young firebrand, Hector Avalos, has published a book announcing The End of Biblical Studies (2007) as an academic discipline with any sort of integrity — suggesting that scholars employ ‘a variety of flawed and specious techniques that are aimed at maintaining the illusion that the Bible is still relevant in today's world’ (cover blurb).

This course will be, I hope, a vigorous re-affirmation of the necessity and the rich fruit of appropriate method, or methods, in biblical studies. Of course, we shall want to hear what Wink and Avalos have to say; but not in a purely defensive posture. Instead, we shall examine a host of first-rate examples of biblical criticism well employed, and each student will write several exegetical papers that will correspond to the best canons of scholarly research and writing. In addition, we shall discuss the role of biblical studies in the academy (say, in a religious or secular university setting) and in the service of the Church.”


Most Atheists Just Talk to Themselves

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I've found it to be the case that most atheists just talk to themselves, as most Christians just talk to themselves. I can't back those statements up with any scientific polls, I know. But it seems true for all I know. If true, I have one answer as to why this is true. When people identify with a group, any group, they want to influence that group and want the recognition of that group. So atheists write about issues of concern to atheists and Christians write about issues of concern to Christians. There will always be fewer people reaching out to others because of this. Your thoughts please. *People have recently told me they cannot comment here, and I don't know what to do about it*

Brand Over Brain & Religion Over Brain

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The Ted Radio Hour on NPR is really good! I heard this program recently on the Brand Over Brain. There were some startling findings. We can be fooled, all of us, about which products are the best ones for the best price. We can be convinced that drinking an average cup of coffee is the best glass of coffee we ever drank. It's called branding. I think this hits religious beliefs hard, very hard. It's because one's own adopted religion was branded as having more value than the other religions in the world. Just like that cup of coffee, with branding people can come to believe their own religion is the best one in the world, the true one. The antidote to this cognitive bias is for young adults who leave the homes of their parents to demand hard cold objective sufficient evidence for what they were indoctrinated to believe. It's to take the Outsider Test for Faith.

Dr. David Madison's New Book

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Dr. David Madison is part of a growing wave of openly atheist biblical scholars, and a signatory of The Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies.
As a former believer, he knows how believers think. As an academically trained biblical scholar (PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University), he knows how to detect the defects of apologetic arguments.
Dr. Madison now has published Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why you Should Ditch the Faith that provides a good survey of the basic problems with Christian belief. I highly recommend it.
Here is the published description.
 “An all-powerful God who permits unspeakable horrors and sent a Son who threatened more to come, forever, to those who don’t believe in him. An inspired holy book that turns out to be full of archaic nonsense, moral failures, and contradictions. A world of disagreement not just between Christians and other religions, but within Christianity itself. Blood sacrifice and a tale of the walking dead as the very foundation of faith. These are just a few aspects of Ten very Tough Problems that David Madison describes in this wonderfully deep yet humorous dismantling of his former faith. Combining rigorous scholarship with engaging personal reflections and refreshing wit, he offers understanding and even some laughs while walking with readers past the gravestones of Christian thought and belief.”