Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Chapter 26 - What does it all mean?

Rather, "Chapter 26 - It means that we must continue doing research."

Let us pause for a moment and review the evidence that we have seen in the prior 25 chapters. I feel like this is what we've already been doing. If God exists, how do we explain all of the different things that we have seen? By realizing that, if God exists, none of these things would disprove God's existence. There is enough independent evidence that suggests that he does to make this meaningless.
  1. How do we explain the death of Neva Rogers? (see Chapter 1) Human negligence, violence, and sin.
  2. How do we explain the 39 houses that were destroyed on Pinecastle Street? (see Chapter 2) Natural disaster.
  3. How do we explain the death of Ranika? (see Chapter 4) Human incompetence.
  4. How do we explain the way that God ignores amputees? (see Chapter 5) God doesn't "ignore" amputees anymore than he ignores anyone whose prayers he refuses to answer positively.
  5. How do we explain the fact that Christians need health insurance? (see Chapter 6) Because Christians want to be able to productively function in society too.
  6. How do we explain the fact that you cannot move a mountain? (see Chapter 7) Because the verses in question are likely not literal, showing clear evidence of hyperbolic language.
  7. How do we explain the fact that bad things consistently happen to good people? (see Chapter 8) Because of human will, and therefore the tendency to sin. That's merely the way things are.
  8. How do we explain God's plan? (see Chapter 8) God's plan is not, and has never been, literally planning out every action that will take place, which would completely remove free will.
  9. How do we explain the fact that Christians who pray have exactly the same odds of winning in Las Vegas as people who don't pray? (see Chapter 9) Because God probably doesn't want to encourage and enable greed, or gambling.
  10. How do we explain the fact that so many people die on battlefields when all of them are praying? (see Chapter 10) Because people die in war. This shouldn't be incredibly surprising.
  11. How do we explain the fact that God is a huge proponent of slavery? (see Chapter 13) By pointing out that the type of slavery in the Old Testament is quite different from the concept of "slavery" that we are more familiar with in the Ancient Near East.
  12. How do we explain God's statement in Exodus 21:20 where he says, "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod... he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property." How can God encourage humans to beat other humans? (see Chapter 13) Because beating was a form of punishment in the ANE for both slaves and free people.
  13. How do we explain the fact that Exodus 21, where God is telling us it is OK to beat our slaves as long as we do not kill them, is the chapter that immediately follows Exodus 20, where God enumerates the Ten Commandments? Why would we hold up the Ten Commandments as the immutable and sacred word of God, while at the same time knowing that Exodus 21 is ridiculous? (see Chapter 13) Well, because we don't hold up Exodus 21 as ridiculous. We understand it by researching the historical context.
  14. How do we explain the fact that God demands animal and human sacrifice? (see Chapter 14) By pointing out that animal sacrifice has been observed in literally every culture, and by saying that God never "demanded" a human sacrifice.
  15. How do we explain God's hatred of women? (see Chapter 15) By pointing out that his "hatred of women" is imaginary, and that you're poorly interpreting scripture.
  16. How do we explain the fact that God massacres so many children in the Bible? (see Chapter 16) By pointing out the context of each event, showing the true motive and legitimate reason behind the actions, and recognizing when the Bible merely records something as having happened rather than God commanding it.
  17. How do we explain the fact that the Bible is so full of irrelevant, incorrect and useless material? (see Chapter 17) By pointing out that you are a decontextualized bigot who can't understand why if the meaning of something isn't immediately apparent, it it still isn't "irrelevant," etc.
  18. How do we explain the fact that the Bible tells us to kill all homosexuals? (see Chapter 17) By pointing out that this commandment was not given to "us," but to the people who signed on to the covenant, in order to keep the society from dying out, and by also explaining how it's not "homosexuals" who were ordered to be killed, but people who practiced homosexual activity. And believe me, there's a huge difference.
  19. How do we explain the fact that the Bible is supposedly inspired by an all-knowing being, yet the author of the Bible knows no more than the primitive men who wrote it? (see Chapter 17) Well, we would articulate that there's a great deal that appears to be prophetic knowledge in the Bible, but qualify that by saying that the Bible was still written by men.
  20. How do we explain the fact that Jesus never proved that he is God? (see Chapter 19) By asking you to define what you mean by "prove," since apparently walking on water, feeding five thousand or more people with a scrap lunch, and resurrecting from the dead after telling people it would happen wasn't enough.
  21. How do we explain the fact that Jesus has never appeared to anyone after his death? (see Chapter 20) By telling you about the five hundred people who are said to have seen Jesus after his death.
  22. How do we explain the fact that we have to eat Jesus' body and drink his blood? (see Chapter 21) By explaining the difference between literal cannibalism and ritualistic communion.
  23. How do we explain the fact that 10 million children die every year of simple things like starvation? (see Chapter 22) Human greed and apathy.
  24. How do we explain the fact that Jesus -- the all-powerful, prayer-answering creator of the universe -- needs your money? (see Chapter 24) By clearly postulating that God doesn't need a cent, but churches need money to pay the bills.
  25. How do we explain the fact that there are a billion Muslims who think that all the Christians are delusional, and there are two billion Christians who think all the Muslims are delusional? (see Chapter 25) By explaining that we don't actually think anyone is "delusional;" we merely believe that they are mistaken.
How do we answer all of these questions? With careful consideration and evidence.

Here is the thing that I would like to help you understand. If we assume that God exists, then each of these questions presents us with its own individual mystery. I don't see that as being true. None of these have been all that mysterious. I fairly easily answered every one of them. Each question creates a paradox that requires excuses, rationalizations and convoluted explanations. But none of my explanations were any of those. If you think they are, you must demonstrate it to be true rather than merely assert. These paradoxes and rationalizations are extremely uncomfortable because they make no sense. You're not thinking hard enough, then. If we assume that God exists, then God is ridiculous. Because you're not trying even remotely hard enough to understand God.

On the other hand, if we assume that God is imaginary, then all of these questions are very easy to answer. Our world makes complete sense. Actually, these questions may often become more difficult to understand, and the entire rest of the world becomes a huge absurdity.

What you realize, if you take the time to probe into your religion and think about it deeply, is that all of this evidence is telling you something important. It is telling you, clearly and concisely, that God is imaginary.
False, false, a hundred times false. There is so much more evidence outside of this essay here that demonstrates the existence of God.

If you are a Christian, I realize that your immediate reaction may be to completely ignore what you have read here and turn away from it. Rather than turning away, however, I would ask you to examine all of the evidence that you have seen in this book. I have, and you have come up empty. Think about the questions at the top of this page. Give your mind permission to understand what the evidence actually means. I urge you to do the same, then, and allow yourself to admit that you may be making a terrible mistake. Allow your brain to analyze your religion rationally. What you will find is that all of this evidence points in the same direction: God is imaginary. Most of it points in the direction of you being in huge error.

Reviewing the evidence

In this book we have looked at God from many different angles. What we have found is that there is no evidence for God's existence, except the creation of the universe out of nothing, the fine-tuning of the universe, the objective moral values we see in the world, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, the personal experience of literally billions of people, the logical absolutes that we use to even make these arguments, and the very ontology of God. God does not answer prayers except for the thousands upon thousands of prayers that even people within my inner circle of friends have uttered that have gone radically answered. God did not write the Bible except by inspiring it, which is different from dictation. God has not incarnated himself except in Christ Jesus, and the Holy Spirit which dwells within us. In other words, God is imaginary only if you don't really look around you.

How do we know, for sure, that God does not answer prayers? As described in section 1, we simply pray and watch what happens. Odd. I tried that, and prayer worked. What we find is that nothing happens. No matter how many people pray, no matter how often they pray, no matter how sincerely they pray, no matter how worthy the prayer, nothing ever happens. Except for yesterday, when I prayed for something, and it happened. If we pray for anything that is impossible -- for example, regenerating an amputated limb or moving Mt. Everest to Newark, NJ -- it never happens. Except when people I know prayed for a blind person to receive sight, and they immediately were able to see. We all know that. The idea that "praying for impossible things means they won't happen" should theoretically be a no-brainer, if you think about it. If they're impossible, they are not possible to answer. If we pray for anything that is possible, the results of the prayer will unfold in exact accord with the normal laws of probability. Except the situation above, right? It is easy to demonstrate this fact. For example, if we ask 1,000 devout Christians to pray that a coin toss come up heads, and we then have all one thousand of the Christians flip a coin one time, about 500 of them will see their coins land tails. Have you tried this experiment, or are you merely assuming? If we repeat the experiment, the same thing will happen. Has this been proved, or are you making a guess? In every situation where we statistically analyze the effects of prayers, looking at both the success AND the failure of prayer, we find that prayer has zero effect. Not the case, as there are actual scientific studies that have determined that prayer has had a positive effect. That happens, always, because God is imaginary. Every time a Christian says, "The Lord answered my prayer," what we are seeing instead is a simple coincidence. Somehow I doubt that praying for a girl who is mute and deaf to receive her hearing and speech and having them both suddenly happen is "simple coincidence." Christians never talk about failed prayers, but if we look at all the prayers that fail as well as the prayers that work, a statistical analysis proves that God does not answer prayers. Christians do talk about "failed" prayers. I've heard stories of them all over. But it's usually to demonstrate how what we see as a "failure" ultimately worked out for good. See section 1 for details.

How do we know, for sure, that God did not write the Bible? As discussed in section 2, we simply read the Bible and note how uncomfortable it is in so many places. Being uncomfortable with it makes no logical claim on who the author is. We note that God is a huge proponent of slavery in the Bible, despite our absolute certainty as normal human beings that slavery is a moral abomination. The fact that we can be "absolutely certain" about a moral judgment implies that there are moral absolutes, and therefore that God exists. We note that God is a huge misogynist in the Bible, despite our certainty that misogyny is a moral abomination as well. How do we know this apart from a transcendent moral standard, Mr. Brain? We note that God kills huge numbers of babies and small children in the Bible, and we know that this is both an atrocity and horrifically disgusting. Etc. We note that God, who is supposed to be all-knowing, knows no more than the primitive men who actually wrote the Bible. And so on. Yes, merely repeating yourself ought to make it sink in. Anyone who takes the time to actually read the Bible rapidly reaches the conclusion that the Bible was written by primitive men, not by an all-knowing God. See section 2 for details.

How do we know, for sure, that Jesus was a normal human being? As described in section 3, we can ask this simple question: If a man were to proclaim himself to be the son of God today, what would we do? We would want to see incontrovertible proof. Jesus does not get a pass because he lived 2,000 years ago. We note the fact that none of Jesus' miracles left any lasting evidence. But what does that even mean? For example, even though Jesus proclaimed that anyone can move a mountain, we note that no one -- not even Jesus -- has moved a mountain. Likely because it was a hyperbolic statement, which would be quite clear if anyone else had said it. All of Jesus' miracles are either faith healings or magic tricks, and we all know that faith healers and magicians are frauds. Of course, that statement is so broad and vague, and unsupported, that we can dismiss it immediately. We also note that there is no evidence that Jesus is resurrected except for four early accounts, some by eyewitnesses of the event, a variety of creeds which can be dated back to within a few years of the event, and an unexplainable belief in a resurrection. Jesus could easily appear to each of us in the flesh to prove that he is resurrected, just as he did with Paul the mass murderer who ultimately went on to be responsible for spreading Christianity enough that it still exists today. Yet Jesus never does that because it is completely unnecessary. If he did, there would be thousands of videos floating around on the Web showing Jesus' appearances. There are thousands of videos floating around of miracles happening. Do you believe any of them? We note that Jesus says dozens of things in the Bible that are plainly wrong. Like? We note that even though Jesus is the all-powerful creator of the universe and promises to answer prayers, all of his churches depend on the money of mere mortals to support themselves, which is perfectly understandable given that Christians are not above the law. And so on. It is obvious that Jesus was a man like any other. See section 3 for details.

It is also interesting to note that, by proving any one of these things, we have automatically proven the other two. Are you serious? Do you really believe that by proving Jesus was just a man, we have proved that atheism is true? For example, once we know that the Bible was written by primitive men rather than God, then it is automatic that God does not answer prayers and that Jesus was a completely normal human being. Complete hogwash. Even if the Bible was indeed written by men, that says nothing about the reality of God. That is such a non sequitur. The Bible is the book that tells us about prayer and Jesus, so if the Bible is meaningless then prayer and Jesus are meaningless as well. I honestly don't see how someone could make such a grievous logical fallacy and not realize it. The fact is that we have proven all three things separately. Jesus is not God, the Bible is not the word of God, and God never answers prayers. These three things are true, therefore, both directly and by association. One hundred percent false. There is absolutely no logical connection between them.

Understanding your delusion

In this book there is a tremendous amount of evidence showing us that God is imaginary. You have just seen 25 chapters of good, solid, easily-digested evidence. It is good evidence, it is, it is, it IS good evidence! I'm going to keep saying it until you believe it. It's good evidence! It would be easy to present a hundred more chapters just like them. You tried to make fifty other proofs, but most of them are repeats of this website. The evidence is all around us, so why don't you believe in God?

On the other hand, there is no evidence showing that God is real. Broken record. Broken record. Broken record. A Christian can point to prayer, but it is easy to disprove the efficacy of prayer with statistical analysis (see Section 1). A Christian can point to the Bible, but it is easy to show the myriad problems with the Bible (see Section 2). There is no verifiable evidence for Christians to present. What about philosophical arguments, like the Kalam Cosmological Argument? You never address that here.

Is God real, or is he imaginary? At this point, we have our answer. We can look at all of this evidence and we can see that God is imaginary. Christianity is a delusion. Religion in general is a delusion. Sigh.

I understand that the word "delusion" is uncomfortable because it has strong connotations of mental illness. However, it is the correct word in the English language to use. No, it isn't. The dictionary defines "delusion" in the following way:

    A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence. [ref] But you left out the second half of the definition! What about the part that says, "especially as a symptom of mental illness?" You wouldn't want to insinuate that all Christians are mentally ill, would you?

    Would you?

When I say that religion is a delusion, I am not intending that in an insulting way or a derogatory way. Given the rest of the writing, you are. Instead, I am speaking to you as a friend would. I don't know about your social circle, but most of my friends wouldn't call me "delusional," or insinuate I have mental illness for holding a particular belief. My goal here is not to criticize you for your religious beliefs, but instead to help you to recover from your delusion. Yes, because I'm sick.

I know what you are thinking. If you are a Christian, you are thinking, "I am not delusional. Christ is the way, the truth and the life." What if I could show you your delusion? Haven't you been trying? What if I could hold up a mirror that would allow you to see your own delusion in the reflection? If you would like to clearly see how the delusion of Christianity works, please read Understanding Delusion. Basically, this essay says that because we apparently look at Muslims and think they're delusional, Christians are also delusional because we're just as wrong. But as usual, that isn't demonstrated.

All religion is delusion. With any luck you can see that now, and you can start down the road to recovery -- you can begin the process of healing that will free you from your own personal delusions. Stop calling me mentally ill.

What does it mean?

There are three reasons why it is important for us to speak honestly and openly about the delusion of religion:

  1. Religion truly is a delusion. That's not a reason to speak about it. You told me that there were three reasons for why we should speak about why religion is a delusion. One reason can't be "Because it's a delusion." That's the equivalent of me saying, "We should talk about the stupidity of socialists because they're stupid." By allowing this delusional behavior to persist unchallenged, we do ourselves damage. What damage?
  2. We currently have significant free-speech and free-thinking issues around religion, which means religious people have just as much free speech as you.
  3. It is time for us, as an intelligent species, to understand the reasons why human beings invent religions, and to begin addressing those reasons rationally rather than delusionally. Yes, we must remove religion so we can progress as a species. Because religion is holding us back. Pardon my skepticism.
Each of these points is important. Let's look at them one by one so that we can understand what they mean.

Reason #1: Religion truly is delusional
[It's important to speak about religion being a delusion because it's a delusion.]

Let's start by asking a question: Does it matter? In this book we have proven, conclusively, that God does not answer prayers, that God did not write the Bible and that Jesus is not God. I don't even have to say anything here. In other words, the God of popular religion is imaginary. But does it really matter? What difference does it make if half of the people in the United States want to believe in an imaginary being? What does it hurt?

Let's ignore the danger that can be found in the ashes of 9/11/2001, and the subsequent events in Afghanistan, Iraq, Madrid and London. There are many zealous and misguided Muslims who believe that, through Jihad, they must kill non-Muslims -- Christians and Jews in particular. Let's ignore that.
So now we're talking about Islam, not Christianity, or Jesus, or the Bible.

Let's ignore the ill effects of religion around the world over the last several decades. We have Muslims killing Christians (and vice versa) (vice versa? Not nearly as many, certainly), Jews killing Muslims (and vice versa), Protestants killing Catholics (and vice versa), Shiites killing Sunnis (and vice versa), white people killing black people (and vice versa), Republicans killing Democrats (and vice versa), National Socialists killing Jews (and not vice versa), Communists killing Christians (and not vice versa), etc., etc. All of it is completely pointless, because all human gods are imaginary. But let's ignore all of that killing and destruction. People will kill regardless of the motive, Mr. Brain.

Let's also ignore all of the insanity that religion has brought us through the ages -- the crusades, the witch hunts and all the rest, which has killed maybe a couple million people in the last two thousand years. Kind of like the atomic bomb, which killed a quarter of a million people in a single day. Let's ignore it because it's all water under the bridge.

Even in the United States -- a modern, advanced nation -- religion creates problems. The delusion created by Christianity is so extreme and so pervasive at the moment that we have Supreme Court justices and politicians who publicly claim that God handed down the Ten Commandments to us in the Bible (see chapter 13). These justices and politicians are speaking about a book that openly advocates slavery and misogyny along with many other notions that are beyond absurd. Yet no one can question their claims in public because it is far too dangerous (see next section for details).
Oh, please. You are questioning their claims in public.

To have otherwise intelligent Americans babbling on about an imaginary God like this is dangerous, if for no other reason than this one: If so many people are this delusional in the area of religion, it makes you wonder where else they harbor equally significant delusions in their thinking. He who asserts must prove. Demonstrate your case. In addition, religion in America is now actively restraining scientific research and social progress. If that's the most you can cry about, then religion can hardly be called "dangerous." The problem that American scientists are having with stem cells is just one of the many manifestations of the problem today. Well, if they really wanted to, they could go somewhere else to do their research.

There is also growing evidence that the delusion of religion may cause significant social dysfunction. Statistical research is revealing the problems that go with religious delusion. For example, a recent article in the Journal of Religion and Society points out that religion is correlated to the significant social difficulties that we can see in America:
    In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1-9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a "shining city on the hill" to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health. [ref]

    Yet even the Journal of Religion and Society admits that this correlation does not equal causation, and they still don't know if society is dysfunctional because of religion, or the society turns to religion because it is dysfunctional. Most studies that have this sort of conclusion opt for the latter option.

    Of course, you'd likely say that's only because of their fear of religious backlash.

The prevailing view is that religion is harmless even if it is delusional. Actually, the "prevailing view" is that religion is not a delusion. You're still a minority view, remember. That turns out not to be the case. America is the most religious country of those studied in the developed world. America also has the biggest problems in terms of things like homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion.

How ridiculous. What's so interesting about this study is that it ignores any evidence to the contrary. It puts America up as the Christian nation and compares it to "secular" nations like those in Europe, but of course ignores the "secular" nations that have incredibly high rates of abortion, STD rates, etc. New Zealand, for example, is 40% non-religious, and has one abortion for every two live births.

Religion is delusion. A planet full of delusional people is not healthy. And yet,
this is exactly what we have, and most religious people aren't murderous, or even remotely dangerous.

Reason #2: We must freely discuss the delusion of religion [It's important to speak about religion being a delusion because we must freely discuss the delusion of religion.]

Religion creates significant free-speech and free-thinking issues both here in the United States and around the world. Let me help you to understand what I mean when I say that, and offer a solution to the problem.

Let's imagine that any normal, intelligent American were to stand up in public today and say something like this: "I do not believe that an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God wrote the Bible or the Ten Commandments. The reason why I don't believe it is because the Bible openly advocates slavery and misogyny in both the Old and New Testaments. God could not love slavery or hate women." See section 2 for details on his statement.

Within seconds of making this honest, completely rational statement, that American will be branded as an atheist. Likely because most people don't make statements like that unless they're atheists.

In today's America, being branded as an atheist is poisonous. It is as poisonous as being branded during the McCarthy era in the 1950s. So people are being tried for being atheists? Imagine someone who has been branded as an atheist trying to run for public office in America today.
Like Pete Stark, the atheist congressman. I'm sure he's being routed out and tried for being an atheist, and I'm sure his constituency would never let him into office because of their bigoted ways. Oh wait. Many christians are so polarized and so sensitive right now that they will crush anyone with an opinion contrary to their own. Once branded as an atheist, the candidate is attacked in the public forum. Just like candidates are attacked for openly expressing views based on the Bible. Right? Just like people who are against gay marriage, irrespective of their actual views, are immediately branded religious fanatics or Christian fundamentalists.

Then look at the rest of the world. In many Islamic countries, women cannot freely choose how they dress, much less what they do, where they work or how they behave. They often cannot even drive a car. The repression of women's freedom in Islamic countries is well known, and ridiculous.
Okay, so make a website specifically addressing the problems of Islam. Don't blame "religion" for something that is the fault of "Islam."

There really is only one solution. It is time for Americans, both religious and non, to openly discuss the evidence showing that God is imaginary. Which we've been doing for a very long time. Let's stop hiding the discussion, or attacking it. Let's talk openly. Let us have an honest, open, rational, civil conversation about all of the evidence that we have seen in this book.
Okay. Let's have a public debate, just like hundreds upon hundreds of philosophers, authors, speakers, and other professionals are doing in front of audiences of thousands of people. Let's make documentaries that lampoon religion and show them in theaters and make millions of dollars, like Bill Maher. Let's be like George Carlin and be one of the most renowned comedians of all time, all the while belittling religion.

If we have that debate in an open forum, the majority of us will reach agreement that God is imaginary. Really? Does that line up with the actual post-debate surveys taken? Because you can go find the statistics of how many people thought the Christian won or the atheist won on almost every debate held on the subject. The reason why we will come to that conclusion is because the evidence, as presented in this book, overwhelmingly favors it.
Then why aren't thousands of people deconverting after attending debates about the existence of God? Why, for example, did Christopher Hitchens get absolutely spanked in his debate with William Lane Craig?

We must also recognize as a society that there is no such thing as an atheist. Funny, that's what Ray Comfort believes too. We must end the branding and the name-calling. Click here for details.
Because calling yourself a "Rational" is not branding or name-calling Christians as immediately irrational or insane.

Reason #3: Understanding why people create religions [This is the only one that remotely makes sense as a reason.]

What I am proposing to you in this book is both quite profound and quite baffling. It is this: Everything that we associate with religion is imaginary. God, the Bible, Jesus, the resurrection, prayer, the Ten Commandments, the creation story, your soul, everlasting life, heaven... every bit of it is the product of human imagination. The same goes for Allah, the Koran and so on. As a species we have believed all of this religious dogma for centuries, and most of us believe it today to some degree. And yet... it is all fiction. It is just as fictional as were the gods of the Egyptians, the Romans and the Aztecs. We have seen 25 chapters of clear, unambiguous evidence and all of it supports this conclusion. Clear and unambiguous...Broken record, broken record.

If it is so obvious that God is imaginary, then why might half of the American population profess belief in God? Interesting question. If the evidence is actually all around us, how is that millions of people aren't becoming atheists daily? We have asked this question throughout the book because the whole situation is profoundly strange. Why would we, as a species, create all of this mythology and nonsense over and over again through the millennia? We must do it for a reason.
Perhaps because there seems to be a lot of evidence of the supernatural, and humanity attempts to relate to it in some way through religion.

If we can understand the reasons and deal with them rationally rather than through the silliness and mythology that is religion, we actually can do ourselves a great deal of good.

There are two important reasons why humans fabricate all of our religions:
  1. People invent God as a way to cope with death. Many humans are terrified by death for some reason. They invent religion as a way to deal with their terror. How could this be true of Judaism, a religion that had no concrete afterlife concept?
  2. People invent God as a proxy for goodness. People want a way to promote "goodness" and eliminate "evil" in their societies. It's interesting that now you're putting "goodness" and "evil" in quotes, as if they're not legitimately real things, and yet when it suits your interest, you treat things as "moral abominations." In the past, inventing an imaginary God has been perceived to be one way to facilitate that process. Of course, this has nothing to do with Christianity, or at least why it was founded.
Death and goodness are important to people. They touch on fundamental human emotions. If we can separate death and goodness from the mythology of God so that we can understand them and work with them in a positive way, we can actually do something very helpful. We can create a rational world for ourselves that is focused on benefiting mankind. A utopia, if you will. Right? Except all of the attempts to create a secular, "rational" utopia have ended in the genocide of millions of people.

In chapter 27 and chapter 28, we will talk about death and goodness. We need to understand the reasons why we fabricate our gods and then act on these reasons rationally.
I look forward to your attempts to grapple with explaining them in a naturalistic way.

Once we understand why we create religion, we can begin creating the social structures that will replace religion. The remainder of the book discusses this process.
Oh, joy.

© P-Dunn's Apologetics 2009. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chapter 25 - Reviewing the evidence about Jesus

Rather, "Chapter 25 - Trying and failing to redeem myself."

If we were to talk to a Christian about Jesus, the conversation might go something like this:

    Chris: You are completely wrong about Jesus. Jesus is Lord! Jesus is resurrected and Jesus sits on the right hand of God the father almighty!

    Bright: Oh, hey guys! Good to see you two again.

    Norm: Why do you believe that?

    Chris: I know it in my heart. I talk to Jesus every day. I have a loving, living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ!

    Bright: What about the fact that there's a great deal of evidence to support it, Chris? I think we should stop pretending that Norm isn't aware of these things.

    Norm: How do you know that Jesus is resurrected?

    Chris: It says so right in the Bible. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were real people. So was Paul. They have no reason to lie. They saw the resurrected Jesus.

    Norm: I understand what you are saying. The thing I would like to help you understand is that the Bible is full of problems. There is no reason why we should believe the Bible when it talks about the resurrection.

    Chris: The Bible is not full of problems!

    Norm: That is what we saw in Section 2. The Bible thinks that slavery is great, that women are to be hated, that people should be sacrificing animals and that God loved killing children. We can open the Bible to nearly any page and find nonsense. We know that the story of Noah is nothing but a story. And so on. There are problems with the Bible everywhere we look. Given all of these problems, there is no reason to trust anything the Bible says.

    Bright: Rather, it regulated a process far different from what you would call "slavery," it values women as precious children of God, and features God enacting judgment on individuals (saying nothing about God "loving" anything). Of course, you're right on one thing...It does say we should practice sacrifice. Just like every single other culture on the planet at one point.

    But even if all of those were true and espoused by the Bible, that still would not prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that Jesus isn't God. You're viewing the Bible as one monolithic source, which is an invalid way of viewing it. An apparent contradiction in Genesis and Second Kings doesn't discount that...

    Chris: Jesus is resurrected! Jesus is Lord!

    Bright: Thanks, Chris.

    Norm: Let's pray to Jesus and ask that he appear to us right now to settle this.

    Chris: He can't do that! Jesus can't appear to us!

    Norm: Why not?

    Chris: He cannot!

    Bright: Hold on now, Chris. Nobody said anything about "can't" here. After all, I have a friend that claims he did directly appear to her. My grandfather, in another case, says that God appeared to him in the form of an external, audible voice. What about them?

    Norm: But why?

    Chris: He's so busy doing everything God needs him to do! Plus, if he just appeared right here out of thin air, it would take away our free will. We would both KNOW that he exists. He can't do that!

    Norm: Then how was Jesus able to appear to Paul? How was Jesus able to appear to the 500 brethren? Why was it OK for them to KNOW that Jesus exists?

    Chris: That was different.

    Norm: Why?

    Bright: Because Paul was a mass murderer who was killing Christians, and if it weren't for Paul and that initial five hundred brethren, Christianity would have been relegated to the status of a cult religion that lasted maybe a few years and then died off forever.

    Chris: Jesus had only been dead a couple of days.

    Bright: Correct. And God doesn't need to do anything more than what he's already done for us, in actuality.

    Norm: Why does that matter to a timeless, omnipotent being?

    Chris: You are so wrong about this!

    Norm: OK, then let's pray to Jesus about anything. Let's ask Jesus to do anything for us right now. What we saw in Section 1 is that Jesus does not answer any prayers. Why don't we ask him to move a mountain for us?

    Bright: What's all this "Section" business? Are you quoting a book or something?

    Chris: You are so wrong.

    Norm: Why can't we pray to him right now? In Mark 11:24 Jesus' message is crystal clear: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." He says, "Ask, and you shall receive." In Luke 1:37: "For with God nothing will be impossible." Nothing is impossible through prayer. Why won't he respond to us if we pray to him right now?

    Chris: You are completely wrong. That is not how prayer works!

    Bright: Right. Prayer was never intended to be a gumball machine. There are a litany of valid reasons for why prayers are not answered by God.

    Norm: Here's another way to look at it. Why don't we take a vote? We take all six billion people on the planet and we ask them to vote on whether Jesus is God or not. Only two billion people on the planet are Christian, so the other four billion are going to vote against Jesus. For every Christian, there are two non-Christians who think you are delusional.

    Bright: What's your point, Norm?

    Chris: They are all wrong! If only they knew the Lord Jesus like I do!

    Norm: You are telling me that all one billion Muslims are wrong? They believe that Jesus was a man, not God. It says so right in the Koran [Koran 5:75].

    Chris: The Muslims are delusional!

    Norm: Those are fightin' words.

    Bright: ...Coming from a guy that believes 90% of the world's population is COMPLETELY wrong about something as fundamental as the existence of God, or the validity of spiritual experience.

    Chris: They are delusional! Everyone knows it! Jesus is Lord!

    Norm: So there are a billion Muslims who think that all the Christians are delusional. And there are two billion Christians who think all the Muslims are delusional. Would you consider, at least for a moment, the possibility that all three billion of you are delusional?

    Bright: But there are a billion people who describe themselves as non-religious. What if they are delusional?

    Chris: I am not delusional! Jesus Christ is our resurrected Lord! I talk to him every single day and he talks to me! And he answers my prayers!

    Norm: OK, then give me anything -- give me any evidence at all that shows me that Jesus exists.

    Chris: The Bible talks all about Jesus!

    Norm: So you think we should reinstate the slave trade? You think that Christians should hate women?

    Bright: You're ridiculous, Norm. Give up your childish reasoning and act like the adult you are.

    Chris: NO!

    Norm: Give me anything.

    Chris: I cannot. Jesus must remain hidden! If he were not hidden, we would all know that he exists. It would destroy faith.

    Norm: If Jesus must remain hidden, then how do you know that he exists?

The conversation can go on and on like this. See, not if you were actually talking to a theist. It's easy to make a conversation circular if you're the one talking on both sides.

To anyone who stands outside the Christian faith and looks at Jesus rationally, it is obvious that Jesus either was a complete myth who never existed at all, or was a normal human being who was turned into a myth after-the-fact. Only someone as arrogant as you would claim that such a thing is "obvious." I don't think it's "obviously" true that Muhammed was not a legitimate prophet. That takes serious argument to demonstrate. Yet, despite all the problems, contradictions and lack of evidence, a Christian will cling to Jesus. You will begin to understand why Christians do that in Chapter 27, but for now let's simply review the evidence that we have seen. Exactly what we need: psychoanalysis.

In this section of the book we have looked at Jesus from a number of different angles. False. You have looked at Jesus from a single angle: the atheistic view. What we have found is that Jesus was a human being just like you and me. Of course, this was determined merely by asking why he doesn't do miracles for every person ever. This is clearly not a valid way of finding anything out. We simply ask the questions that any normal person would ask of someone who claims to be God. For example:
  1. If Jesus is God, why did he never prove it in a meaningful way? Overturning the laws of nature and rising from the dead isn't "meaningful?" Why are none of his miracles visible today? How could any of them possibly be? We examined this question in chapter 19. And my response is here. Of the questions asked in this section of the book, this one is the most important. And when it's thrown out, so is the rest of your argument against Christ. It is important for this simple reason: If a man were to walk up to you today and state that he is God, you would want to see proof. Name one instance where Jesus "walked up to" someone, out of the blue, and said he was God. The proof would have to be obvious to everyone and scientifically irrefutable. Jesus is no different. Which is why he did such things as feed 5,000 people using a single lunch. Obvious, and scientifically irrefutable.

  2. If Jesus is God, and Jesus is resurrected, then why hasn't he appeared to you in the flesh to prove that he is resurrected? Because most of us really do not need him to. We examined this question in chapter 20. Click here. In order for the Apostles to believe in the resurrection, Jesus appeared to them. Because without a knowledge of the resurrected savior, Christianity would not exist today. In order for Paul to believe in the resurrection, Jesus appeared to him. Because without him, Christianity would not exist today, and there would have been a lot more Christians murdered by the terrorist himself. Why would Jesus, who is all-loving and timeless, think of you as any less important than Paul? It's not that we're less important. It's just that God doesn't need us to create a religion. The reason is because Jesus did not appear to anyone. Your conclusion does not logically follow.

  3. Why do we need to eat Jesus? We don't. It's a symbolic ritual that isn't required for anything. We examined this question in chapter 21. My response is here. We have Jesus -- the all-loving creator of the universe -- demanding that we ceremonially cannibalize his body and satanically drink his blood if we want to have "eternal life." No, communion is not required for any inheritance of eternal life. It's a reminder of his sacrifice, and nothing more. The source of this bizarre ritual is not Jesus. The ritual comes from primitive pagan religions that were common at the time. His source for this is The Da Vinci Code, interestingly enough.

  4. Why do so many children live in poverty, and why does Jesus misspeak so many times in the New Testament? In chapter 22 we examined a number of statements where Jesus is wrong. And in my response, we examined why you were mistaken, and why the amount of children in poverty do not effect the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Why would a perfect God write things in the Bible that are incorrect? A loaded question, isn't it?

  5. Why does Jesus need money from you every Sunday morning? In chapter 24 we examined this interesting paradox. There is absolutely nothing paradoxical about it. To call it a paradox is a grievous misstatement.

There are broader pieces of evidence as well. Like what? As pointed out in Section 1, Jesus does not answer prayers. As pointed out in Section 2, the Bible is provably the work of primitive men. And so on. If you've read anything up to this point on this blog, you'll know that neither of them are the case.

We can look at Jesus from several other angles and reach the same conclusion.

The biggest problem with Jesus

The biggest problem with Jesus is his incredible myopia. We can see that now looking back at him 2,000 years later. Why didn't Jesus use his omnipotence to actually do something magnificent and beautiful on earth rather than squandering his "power" as he does in the Bible? Again, how is
walking on water, feeding a huge crowd with virtually nothing, healing crippled people and curing disease by touching them, or rising from the dead, not magnificent or beautiful?

At the very least, Jesus could have transcribed passages into the Bible that would have ended sexism, racism and slavery forever. Hello: Jesus didn't "transcribe" anything in Scripture. We've been over this before. As the simplest example, think of all of the suffering that slavery has caused. As described in chapter 13, millions upon millions of people have suffered through the bondage and the remarkable brutality of slavery because Jesus and his Bible fully endorse slavery. "Fully endorse" is a meaningless concept given what Jesus actually says about slavery, and what kind of slavery it actually was back then. If Jesus had simply made a clear statement -- "Slavery is forbidden, free all the slaves" -- he could have prevented much of that suffering. Is it his job to prevent suffering, or ours? Yet he did nothing of the sort. He also never spoke about marijuana, or pedophilia, or lots and lots and lots of things. That doesn't make him evil. In the same way, Jesus could have chosen women to be six of his apostles and made several speeches on the topic of women's equality and he would have put a huge dent in sexism (see chapter 15).
Notice that the witnessess to Jesus's resurrection were women, and their testimony was not valid in court. The very fact that Mary Magdelene was considered a disciple, and that women could prophecy in church, should illustrate the point that Christianity was leaps and bounds ahead in terms of gender equality than its neighbors. Still today we see the effects of Jesus' shortsightedness in this area. Ironic, considering that most people regard Jesus's morality as far ahead of even contemporary models of morality.

At a larger level, if Jesus were God, he could have performed so many real miracles. You haven't even really diagnosed any of the real miracles he did perform. What business is it of yours to suggest something like this? He could have, for example, eliminated smallpox and a host of other diseases that science is busy eliminating today. And the fact that he did not proves absolutely nothing. Jesus could have given the people of Israel the knowledge that they would need to start a technological society and raise themselves above the primitive living conditions of the day. As mentioned in Chapter 17, Jesus could have taught the Israelites about metallurgy, chemistry, biology, physics, manufacturing, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc., etc., etc.
And all of it would have been meaningless and ineffective to the homeless peasant people he was talking to. He could have also taught them how to responsibly use these technologies to solve the problems of pollution and habitat destruction that so often accompany them today. He could have made clear statements to deter nuclear proliferation. Because "nuclear proliferation" means a heck of a lot to a first century Isrealite, and they totally would have considered that to be relevant enough to record in Scripture. He could have taught mankind to share wealth so that the immense problem of global poverty that we see today would have been solved long ago. He could have laid down a template for governance that would have ended monarchies, dictatorial regimes and warlords forever. Yes, we all know that governments specifically model their ideas after the Bible. He could have made his message so clear, and the proof of his godliness so obvious, that all six billion people on the planet would have aligned with him rather than fragmenting into dozens of bizarre and often warring factions. The problem is not that the message is unclear. The problem, as usual, is with you.

Jesus, if he actually were God, could have done so much. He could have prevented massive amounts of human suffering with his words and deeds. Instead, he did none of this. To any rational person, these problems make it painfully obvious that Jesus was a normal human being. No. Normal, rational people don't demand such actions out of Jesus, because he already did so much for us.

Jesus, the eternal torturer

Simply take a moment to think about the following statement:

    "Hello, my name is Jesus. I love you deeply. I have loved you since you were conceived in the womb and I will love you for all eternity. I died for you on the cross because I love you so much. I long to have a loving personal relationship with you. I will answer all of your prayers through my love. But if you do not get down on your knees and worship me, and if you do not EAT MY BODY and DRINK MY BLOOD, then I WILL INCINERATE YOU WITH UNIMAGINABLY TORTUOUS PAIN IN THE FIRES OF HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY BWAH HA HA HA HA HA!"

Yes, this is the central message of Christianity. My foot.

Think about this message. We have a being who, according to the Standard Model of God, embodies love. Yet, if you do not get down on your knees and worship him, you will be physically tortured for all eternity. No, not physical torture. Not even emotional "torture." The usage of terms like "fire" are clearly metaphors. What sort of love is that?

Imagine a human being who acted this way. Imagine that a human being for some reason "falls in love with you." This person sets up hidden cameras and begins tracking you everywhere you go every minute of every day. This person leaves a book on your doorstep that professes how much he loves you. But this person gives you a deadline and says, "If you do not begin to love me by my deadline, I will capture you and physically torture you in the most hideous ways." How would you describe such a person? We would call such a person a lunatic, and we would put such a person in prison for life. On a basic level, because no human has the right to demand love.

Asking Jesus to appear

Here is another way to prove it to yourself. Simply get down on your knees and pray to Jesus. Ask him to appear to you, in the flesh, just like he did to Paul (see chapter 20). Paul's vision was auditory, not visual. Ask Jesus to demonstrate to you, personally, that he is resurrected. When he appears, take your family camcorder and record the event for posterity. Frankly, if we're talking about "just like Paul," then I know someone who had a similar experience: my grandfather. But of course, you would dismiss this out of hand.

Of course, Jesus will not appear.

What Jesus says in John 14:12 is so clear:

    "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

You have asked for something in his name. You have even asked him to do something that he is clearly able to do. The Bible says that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people, so it should be no problem for him to appear to you.

Yet, predictably, Jesus will not appear. I don't really need Jesus to appear, though. Most people who you would want to pray this prayer do not.

Now I would ask you to examine it at a deeper level. Look at what is happening inside your mind right now. You have read the Bible and seen Jesus' clear statement: "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." It's also clear that there are a great number of things that have to happen before you can get to that place. He does not say, "I might do it." You have prayed for Jesus to appear and Jesus has ignored you.There are probably a thousand good reasons for why this occurs.

Even though Jesus did not appear, and even though Jesus says to you quite clearly in the Bible that he will, look at how you deal with this setback. Do you draw the obvious conclusion from the evidence? Yes, because the evidence is not contingent on whether or not Jesus appears to me. Even if he doesn't, the rest of the evidence is still there. If you are a Christian, then probably not. Wrong. Instead, in your mind, you are coming up with a thousand rationalizations to explain why Jesus did not appear:
  1. It is not his will - Which is not a rationalization, but a valid reason.
  2. He doesn't have time
  3. He may appear, but it will be in the afterlife
  4. I didn't pray the right way - You're right, we probably don't.
  5. I am not worthy - You're right. We are not.
  6. I do not have enough faith - You're right. We don't.
  7. I cannot test the Lord- Etc.
  8. Jesus only appeared to the apostles
  9. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, and is no longer appearing on earth
  10. Jesus is actually all around me, but I cannot see him
  11. It is not part of Jesus' plan for me
  12. Jesus will not appear in the flesh, but instead will appear by rearranging the dust motes in the air. But it is not dusty enough here.
  13. Jesus will appear in my dreams
  14. Jesus is here -- I can feel him in my heart
  15. And on and on and on...
You are an expert at creating rationalizations like these. It is not your place to say that any of those are "rationalizations." You, who deliberately distorts Scripture to make your convoluted arguments; you, who refuses to adequately examine any of Jesus's miracles directly; you, who does not even consider the possibility of God having a legitimate reason for not appearing. You have to be, because Jesus constantly lets you down. The reason why you are an expert is because you have been creating rationalizations like this for Jesus your entire life. Jesus has disappointed you so many times that you expect to be disappointed. That is why creating this list of rationalizations is so easy and so natural for you. If you were raised like this, then I feel for you, man. Most Christians would never say anything like this.

But here is the more interesting thing. Let's say that there is some legitimate reason that Jesus did not appear to you. Ooh, finally trying to consider the opposition. For example, it turns out that you happened to be wearing blue jeans as you prayed, and Jesus does not like the color blue. I guess we're not actually going to try, then. The fact is that the resurrected Jesus has not ever appeared to anyone. Unproven assumption that goes contrary to the evidence. Zero people are worthy, or we would see the video clips for sale at Christian book stores. There are hundreds of videos of miracles on YouTube. Do you believe any of them?

It is easy to imagine how a Christian would respond to this experiment:

    Chris: Of course Jesus would not appear to you -- that would take away your free will. And if you video taped it, it would take away the free wills of everyone else.

    Norm: So Jesus can appear to no one, is that correct?

    Chris: Yes, that is correct. That is why the resurrected Jesus does not appear today.

    Bright: This is where your argument falls, Chris. It's not that he "can't" appear to anyone. It's that he has valid reasons for not doing so, and it is not needed anymore.

    Norm: Then how did Jesus prove that he was resurrected?

    Chris: By appearing to people, of course. How else would we know that Jesus was resurrected?

It is a circle of absurdity. The only way for Jesus to prove that he was resurrected was to appear to people, and that was OK, but for Jesus to appear to you is impossible.

The reason why Jesus does not appear to you has nothing to do with your free will. It has to do with the fact that Jesus appeared to no one.

The evidence of Jesus

Another way to prove to yourself that Jesus does not exist is to ask yourself this simple question:

    Is there any evidence that Jesus exists today?

As you think about this simple question, you will realize that there is not. Hmm. Strange, I came to the opposite conclusion. Everything else that you believe in has left behind some sort of evidence that proves its existence. But with Jesus there is nothing except five hundred witnesses who claim to have seen him alive after he was crucified, a long trail of disciples that were willing to die for what would have been a lie otherwise, a religion that has withstood the test of time, and billions of people who claim to experience Jesus as a reality in their lives. There is no physical evidence of his existence. There is also no physical evidence of the laws of logic or mathematics. There is no miraculous evidence -- it is very strange, but not a single one of Jesus' miracles left behind any physical evidence for us to see today. You still have not really specified how this would be possible with the miracles Jesus performed. There is no prayer evidence. Except for that time when a close friend of mine prayed in Jesus's name for a deaf and mute woman to receive her sight and power of speech, and immediately afterwards, she heard and spoke for the first time in twenty years. No matter how much we pray to Jesus, nothing ever happens (see section 1). Eh? There is, quite simply, zero evidence to prove that Jesus exists today. Hold your ears if you want. Suit yourself.

A devout Christian would point out that there is the Bible -- God's perfect word. Yes, there is the Bible. The Bible talks all about Jesus. It predicts Jesus' coming (see chapter 23) and then tells us about Jesus' time on earth.

But this same Bible also tells us that slavery is great, that women should be hated, that animal and human sacrifice is necessary, and that massacring babies and small children is one of God's favorite pastimes (see Section 2 for details). We don't believe the Bible when it talks about slavery, misogyny, etc. Why would we believe the Bible when it talks about Jesus? Because the logic that one morally objectionable passage proves the entire book is morally objectionable is completely, 100% flawed.

Understanding the evidence

There are two options with Jesus. Either Jesus is God, or Jesus was a regular human being. Or, that Jesus was insane. You would have to be to carry on such a ministry and really believe you were God. When you look at all of the evidence, which of these two options seems more likely to you?

If you are a Christian, and if you have believed all your life that Jesus is resurrected and Jesus is God, all that I would ask you to do is take a few moments to look at all of this evidence.

I have. It conclusively shows that Jesus was God, and he rose from the dead. All the attempts you have made to show otherwise have failed.

See also chapter 27 to understand where your beliefs about Jesus may be coming from. I look forward to this.

© P-Dunn's Apologetics 2009. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Chapter 24 - Why does Jesus need your money?

Rather, "Chapter 24 - Are you being willfully ignorant again?"

Imagine hearing this advertisement on the radio one day:

    "Hello. My name is Jesus, and I am God. I am the all-powerful creator of the universe. I created everything that you see before you -- the galaxies and stars in the heavens; the oceans, the mountains and the plains of earth; the sun and the moon and the skies; along with every living thing on the planet. I created you personally, and I gave you your unique soul. I created everything!

    Mr. Brain, would you actually be convinced by this sort of medium of communication? If you actually heard this radio message, would you (or even any Christians) actually believe it was Jesus coming over the radio waves?

    Everything of value on earth I created. I buried thousands of tons of gold in mines around the planet. I placed billions of gallons of oil under the sands in the Middle East. I created the millions of carets of diamonds being mined in South Africa.

    And I will answer your prayers. Pray to me for anything and I will hear and answer your prayers. I say it in dozens of places in the Bible, but I like the way I say it in Mark 11:24 the best: "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." Anything you need -- money, love, happiness, you name it -- I am here to provide it for you. If you're just tuning in to this refutation, please check my earlier responses to this sort of argumentation.

    Now, there is just one thing I need in return. I need your money. See, if anyone actually was convinced beforehand, they wouldn't be anymore. I need lots of your money. The Bible specifies that you send me ten percent of your gross income, but think of that as a starting point. Feel free to give more! When they pass the offering plate at church, be sure to give generously!

    Because even though I created the universe and everything in it, and even though I will give you everything you ask for in prayer, I can't give a cent to any church, ever.

    So, please give generously at your place of worship today! I thank you for your support!"

This is what every church tells you every Sunday morning when they pass the plate. Jesus is the all-powerful creator of the universe and everything in it, he will answer all of your prayers, but he has no money. The question is not whether God has any money. The question is whether the church has money. I (sort of) appreciate your feeble attempt to make this essay literarily interesting, but the fact remains that God is not the one who needs our money.

Why don't the ministers and deacons of the church gather together every Sunday morning and pray for Jesus to deposit $1,000,000 in gold bars in the offering plate? Why doesn't Jesus answer their prayers? Why do they have to beg for money from mere mortals when there is an immortal, all-powerful God who should provide anything they ask for?

Because, aside from the fact that prayer simply doesn't work like that, money really isn't the point of tithing. The point is for humans to make a sacrifice of what they have and dedicate it to the Lord. The point is for us to show to God that he is worth more to us than our money, seeing as he said to us that "no one can serve two masters." If God merely gave everyone the money so no one would have to tithe, that would not only go against Biblical commandments to tithe, but also would defeat the purpose of it altogether.

how would the deacons and ministers explain all of this extra money to people who keep an eye on church spending? I feel like the explanation "God did it" wouldn't satisfy many outside observers. And why would any one church need that much money anyway? A million dollars every week? Within a few years, they'd have more money than many corporations. And then, you'd likely accuse them of all sorts of financial misdeeds. And doesn't Jesus talk more about money (usually negatively) than anything else in his entire ministry, based on whats recorded in Scripture?

The reason why Jesus needs lots of your money every Sunday morning should be obvious to you at this point. Jesus doesn't need a cent of my money. Churches do, though. Churches need money to run the air conditioning, keep the electricity on, pay the staff and pastors, feed people at their events, put on events in the first place, donate to missions and other charitable endeavors, etc. This is basic economics, Mr. Brain. Christians don't operate by different economic rules than other people.

If you're really trying to make an argument for the non-existence of God by saying "Well, God doesn't put $1,000,000 in our offering plates every Sunday, so he must not actually exist," then you need to seriously rethink your education.

© P-Dunn's Apologetics 2009. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Donate to P-Dunn's Apologetics?

If you clicked this link, you're wondering why you should donate to a blog like this. So what about Brain Is Ignorant, or any one of my blogs, deserves your financial support? Why in the world should you donate?
  1. Donating any amount is an expression of appreciation for what I've done, a "thank you" for all of the time and effort it has taken me so far. This is a ministry that I've run for almost three years now. I began contributing to Brain Is Ignorant in July of 2006, and it has been an ongoing effort. I've worked a lot of hours and hopefully saved you the trouble.

  2. As you can see, it is still not finished. And it will never be finished. I think that what I've done here will be a continuing effort: continually rewriting and re-evaluating what I have already put forth. And that's not just on the blog! I have a YouTube channel that is also used for apologetics, and continuing that is a goal of mine as well. Your contribution will encourage me that people really are interested in what I've done, and really do want me to continue this effort.

  3. Your contribution will allow me to purchase more resources to make better responses to atheistic arguments. I have an extensive Amazon Wish List for books about Christianity, many of which are in relation to atheism, and I can't get any of them without money.

Thank you for taking the time to consider donating to P-Dunn's Apologetics. I'm not a non-profit organization, and you won't be tax exempt; I'm just a (broke) college student trying to make it. Anything you give me will be very much appreciated, especially in such a time as this.

Thank you again,
Patrick Dunnevant

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chapter 23 - Was Jesus' coming Prophesized?

Rather, "Chapter 23 - Did you really just say 'prophesized?'"

In the eyes of Christians, one of the things that irrefutably proves that Jesus is God is the fact that Jesus fulfilled many prophesies from the Old Testament. For example, if you look at the Web site for the Campus Crusade for Christ, you find this paragraph:

More than 300 prophecies like this were made in the Old Testament and then fulfilled through Jesus' life, death and resurrection. The chances of one person fulfilling a mere 8 of these prophecies are 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. For one person to fulfill 48 of these prophecies, the number becomes staggering--1 chance in 10 to the 157th power (1 with 157 zeros after it). Add to that the 250 other prophecies and it becomes impossible for any other person except Jesus to ever fit that particular sequence of time and events. [ref]

300 certainly is a huge number of prophesies, and Christians put a lot of stock in them.

However, the "prophesies" that Jesus fulfilled are odd. According to whom, exactly? They are a collection of rather strange, oblique references scattered throughout the Old Testament. Strange? Oblique? Where are you getting these words from? People have grabbed onto them as somehow indicative of something having to do with Jesus, although it is not clear why they do that. With some, maybe. With others, it's pretty clear. Let me show you several of them so that you can see what I mean.
Why thank you, Mr. Brain.

Example 1

Here is a complete chapter from the book of Isaiah so that you have plenty of context: So you've suddenly realized the benefit of reading things in context? Or is this only when its convenient for your case?

Isaiah chapter 7:
    1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.

    2 Now the house of David was told, "Aram has allied itself with Ephraim"; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

    3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman's Field. 4 Say to him, 'Be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood-because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 "Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it." 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

    " 'It will not take place,
    it will not happen,
    8 for the head of Aram is Damascus,
    and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
    Within sixty-five years
    Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
    9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
    and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son.
    If you do not stand firm in your faith,
    you will not stand at all.' "

    10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights."

    12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test."

    13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah-he will bring the king of Assyria."

    18 In that day the Lord will whistle for flies from the distant streams of Egypt and for bees from the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle in the steep ravines and in the crevices in the rocks, on all the thornbushes and at all the water holes. 20 In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River-the king of Assyria-to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also. 21 In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, he will have curds to eat. All who remain in the land will eat curds and honey. 23 In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns. 24 Men will go there with bow and arrow, for the land will be covered with briers and thorns. 25 As for all the hills once cultivated by the hoe, you will no longer go there for fear of the briers and thorns; they will become places where cattle are turned loose and where sheep run.

That's a lot of stuff. So you look at it. You read it closely. You read it again. You read it again in a different translation. You read a commentary on this passage. You read another commentary on this passage. You look up words in the original language that you don't understand. You read about this passage from a historical perspective. It is pretty dense, I realize, and much of it is completely nonsensical (see chapter 17 on irrelevant material in the Bible). Any further comment about material being "nonsensical" or "irrelevant" will be ignored, for this reason: such a comment betrays a petulant chronocentricism, a very basic ignorance of the Bible, and a lack of desire to actually understand anything we say. I will make you a wager that you cannot get halfway through it without your eyes glazing over, but try to muscle through it and read the entire thing. If you really wanted to get the meaning of the passage, you would complete the rest of what I said too. In there is an important prophecy of Jesus' life. Can you see it? It is in verse 14. The sentence is:
    14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
According to Christians, this sentence prophesizes that Jesus will be born of a virgin mother. And also, Immanuel means "God with us," which seems to be very indicative of God himself showing up. That is one of the 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that prove that Jesus is the son of God.

You have the context of the entire chapter -- do you see anything here that indicates we are talking about Jesus? Well, yes. The child in question would be born of a virgin, called "God with us," he will always choose good over evil, and he will come at a time where Israel needs redemption and salvation. Then there are all the other "prophesies" in this same chapter -- the flies and the bees, the curds and honey, the razor from across the river, the cow and the goats, the briers and thorns, etc. What is the relationship between curds and honey and Jesus?
It shows that this child would grow up like any normal child; he would eat the same food as everyone else, not eating some sort of divine food.

Example 2

Here is another example. In the book of Hosea, chapter 11, there is an important prophecy about Jesus. This is the entire chapter so you have plenty of context:
    1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Ba'als, and burning incense to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught E'phraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one, who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me. 6 The sword shall rage against their cities, consume the bars of their gates, and devour them in their fortresses. 7 My people are bent on turning away from me; so they are appointed to the yoke, and none shall remove it. 8 How can I give you up, O E'phraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! How can I make you like Admah! How can I treat you like Zeboi'im! My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. 9 I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy E'phraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy. 10 They shall go after the LORD, he will roar like a lion; yea, he will roar, and his sons shall come trembling from the west; 11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will return them to their homes, says the LORD. 12 E'phraim has encompassed me with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah is still known by God, and is faithful to the Holy One.
So you look at it. You read it. You read it again. Etc. Once again you notice that the material is completely nonsensical (see chapter 17). In there is an important prophecy of Jesus' life. It is in verse 1. This is supposedly the prophecy that Jesus will be called out of Egypt after God sends him there to avoid the murder of thousands of babies (see chapter 16).

You have the context of the entire chapter -- do you see anything that indicates we are talking about Jesus besides the random pair of words "my son"? Well, it's actually "Out of Egypt I called my son." Even verse 2 is nonsensical. How? It is a statement that people sacrificed to idols. They either did, or didn't. Nothing is nonsensical about saying they did. There are all the other "prophesies" in this same chapter -- the Ba'als, the incense, E'phraim, the bands of love, the return to the land of Egypt, the kingdom of Assyria, the sword, the yoke, Admah, Zeboi'Im, the lion, the birds, the doves of Assyria and so on. Many of those you just mentioned are not prophecies, but just normal statements. Are you merely assuming that literally every sentence in the book is called a prophecy by Christians? What is the relationship between all of this random material and Jesus?
Well, it's all once again talking about how God loves Israel and wants to provide salvation and redemption for them.

Example 3

In Zechariah Chapter 9, there is a prophesy that Jesus will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here is the context and the verse:
    1 The word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrach and will rest upon Damascus- for the eyes of men and all the tribes of Israel are on the Lord - 2 and upon Hamath too, which borders on it, and upon Tyre and Sidon, though they are very skillful. 3 Tyre has built herself a stronghold; she has heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets. 4 But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire. 5 Ashkelon will see it and fear; Gaza will writhe in agony, and Ekron too, for her hope will wither. Gaza will lose her king and Ashkelon will be deserted. 6 Foreigners will occupy Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. 7 I will take the blood from their mouths, the forbidden food from between their teeth. Those who are left will belong to our God and become leaders in Judah, and Ekron will be like the Jebusites. 8 But I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch. 9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you. 13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow and fill it with Ephraim. I will rouse your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and make you like a warrior's sword.
Once again you notice that this material from the Bible is totally irrelevant and nonsensical (see chapter 17). The prophesy is verse 9. Most would say it continues on from there, too. Do you see anything in there that says we are talking about Jesus? I am beginning to wonder if you are expecting a literal, "This is talking about Jesus" to be there...Some sort of Biblical footnote. Verse 8 is also interesting in light of Hitler. Then make your case. What does "house," "my people," and "overrun" mean in the context of this passage and its original language?

Example 4

In Micah Chapter 5 verse 2 there is a "prophesy" that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem:
    1 Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel. 2 But you, O Bethlehem Eph'rathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. 3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. 5 And this shall be peace, when the Assyrian comes into our land and treads upon our soil, that we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men; 6 they shall rule the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod with the drawn sword; and they shall deliver us from the Assyrian when he comes into our land and treads within our border.
Look at all the other stuff around this "prophecy." There is the wall, the siege, the rod, the cheek, the flock, the Assyrians, the seven shepherds, the eight princes, the Nimrods, the sword, and so on. Once again all of this material is irrelevant and nonsensical (see Chapter 17). Not if you're reading this realizing that this is all talking about a future messiah, coming to provide salvation and redemption for the Jews.

There is something else that you may notice in this passage. Look at this phrase: "with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel." Let's say that, at some point in the Gospels, Pontius Pilate had struck Jesus with a rod on the cheek. If that had happened, then Micah 5:1 would be a prophecy about Jesus' coming. Notice, then, that Jesus was flogged for a long time prior to his execution. So this criterion is essentially fulfilled. Where are the Christians saying this is a prophecy? Since Jesus is never struck on the cheek with a rod in the New Testament, this "prophecy" is never mentioned. Not only are you resulting to mere conjecture here, you're also somehow contorting the Bible to make it seem like literally every verse is a prophecy. How is this true? Seems like, in the context of this passage, that it is referring to the fact that the ruler of Israel at the time may have been attacked by the forces. Once you understand that, you completely understand the "300 prophecies of Jesus." So by quoting four examples, saying "These are strange and there's a lot of material that I don't think applies," you have somehow discredited an additional two hundred and ninety-six prophecies?

This "rod and cheek" phenomenon is where the "prophecies" of Jesus are coming from. The Old Testament contains thousands and thousands of words, most of them total nonsense. You're a bigotted idiot, Mr. Brain. Out of those thousands of words, you are going to get some that happen to match up with the New Testament accounts of Jesus in some obscure way. However, you are going to get thousands more, like the rod and the cheek, the curds and the honey, the razor from across the river, the Nimrods and all the rest, that do not. Are these prophecies? If you look for the ones that do happen to randomly match up and completely ignore the thousands and thousands that do not, you can claim that the Old Testament "prophesizes" the coming of Jesus. The argument you're trying to make here is noble, but it falls dramatically short. The whole Bible isn't just a prophecy about Jesus. The books prophecy about a lot of different subjects. Go audit even one Old Testament course, or read even a single book about Old Testament prophecy, and you would realize that. Any normal person, on the other hand, sees it all as gibberish. Any correspondence is complete coincidence.
So you're a completely unbiased interpreter, aren't you?

In chapter 17 of this book we discussed the amount of nonsense in the Bible. In all of the quotes that you have seen around these prophecies, do you find that you are left in amazement at the word of the Lord? Am I supposed to? Or have you found it all to be completely meaningless to you? Sigh. Why, if the Bible and these "prophecies" are the word of the Lord, is book filled to the brim with such meaningless, useless, ridiculous nonsense?
I will respond by quoting what I said in chapter 17:

"I've never seen such cultural snobbery, such petty self centeredness, such abject anti-intellectualism, or ridiculous stupidity. Who in the world are you, of all people, to say that certain things in a book written thousands of years ago are "useless" or "irrelevant?" Has it occurred to you in the slightest that when it was written down, these events and regulations meant literally the world to people? Have you ever considered that, to the Isrealites, these books made up probably the sole written record of the history of their people, and they spent years memorizing every single word so that they could base their lives around it?

"This is exactly the reason why the new atheists are chastised: because of their complete hypocrisy."

Here is one last thing to consider. No one would care about these "prophecies" in the Old Testament if Jesus had actually proven that he is God. Since Jesus did not prove that he is God (see chapter 19), Christians have to fall back on the "prophecies" because this is all they've got. What a laugh. Jesus provided more than enough proof that he's God. Your attempt to refute that has been miserable. Since any normal person can see that the prophecies are completely meaningless, this is a very sad place for a Christian to be.
Don't patronize me, Mr. Brain. You're not in any position to.

Reaching a conclusion

If you are a Christian, you have heard the following statement over and over again: "Jesus' coming was prophesized hundreds of times in the Old Testament, centuries before Jesus' birth! The ONLY way that could have happened is if God wrote the Bible and if Jesus were sent by God! The chances of one man fulfilling all of these prophecies together are infinitesimally small -- Jesus MUST be God!" You've heard it so many times you've simply taken it on faith.
Says who? You're merely assuming.

But have you ever actually taken the time to read the Bible and check out these "prophesies"? Yes. Have you ever looked at the context around them as we have here? Yes. Have you ever noticed that the "prophecies" are scattered far and wide throughout the Old Testament [as we would expect] without a single thing tying them together [except the New Testament and Jesus's life, of course] and absolutely nothing indicating that they point to Jesus [except Jesus's life and the New Testament, of course]? Have you ever noticed that there are thousands of other prophesies -- like the rod and the cheek, the bees and the curd, the seven shepherds, the eight princes, the Nimrods, the doves of Assyria, the razors from across the river, etc., etc., etc. -- that never came to pass?
How do you know they never came to pass? Have you looked at extra-Biblical history? Have you looked at the actual history in the Bible and seen if it matched up?

If you read all of the examples in this chapter, and especially if you read the material in the Bible surrounding the "prophecies", I believe that you will understand two things. First, the "prophecies" that "prove" that Jesus is God are irrelevant and meaningless. Any unbiased observer can see that. No need to pretend we don't have biases, Mr. Brain. Jesus' coming was never "prophesized" in the Bible. The word you're looking for is "prophesied." Why should I think you're a credible source if you don't even know the correct term? These prophesies are as random and arbitrary as your horoscope in the newspaper -- so vague and diffused among so much irrelevant material that they are completely meaningless. Let's see about that later.

The second thing you will see is a reiteration of chapter 17 -- much of the Bible is irrelevant to us today. Since God is all-knowing and timeless, it is difficult to understand why that would be unless we assume that God had nothing to do with the Bible. Again...Nothing to say except, "You're wrong."

All right, Mr. Brain. Let's look at the Suffering Servant passage, one you seemed to completely ignore in your diagnosis of prophecies. Tell me if this is "random," or "arbitrary," or "irrelevant," or "nonsense." We'll provide the entire passage for context. Tell me that Isaiah 53 doesn't sound like Jesus:

1 Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

11 After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied ;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

So what can we infer about this person?
  1. He was hated by a lot of people. Jesus was hated by lots of people.
  2. He was rejected by men. Jesus was even rejected by his own family.
  3. He took up our infirmities and sorrows. Jesus felt our pains, and healed people.
  4. He was marked and afflicted by God. Jesus was transfigured.
  5. He was "pierced for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities." Jesus was crucified for our sins.
  6. His punishment "brought us peace." Jesus's death brings us forgivenesss.
  7. By his wounds, we are healed. Jesus's death brings us healing from sin.
  8. He did not resist his punishment. Jesus did not speak in his defense at the trial.
  9. He did not have any descendants. Jesus never had any kids.
  10. He was given a grave with the wicked, "with the rich." Jesus was buried by a rich man, killed amongst theives.
  11. He had done no violence or deceit. Jesus never sinned.
  12. God made him a "guilt offering." Jesus died as a guilt offering for our sins.
  13. He will see the "light of life" after his soul suffers. Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven.
  14. By his knowledge, his servants will justify many. His disciples and followers carried on his mission and now we have a religion in his name.
  15. He poured out his life unto death, numbered as a transgressor, bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the other transgressors. That's Jesus.
So, Mr. Brain? What about that chapter? Fifteen clear indications of Jesus from this passage, and that's just from me reading it. Is this irrelevant or nonsensical?

© P-Dunn's Apologetics 2009. All rights reserved.