How can you be sure??

63644_395455507213908_780197593_n The sentiment that I find expressed the most when someone finds out I am not a Bible believing Christian is usually a query into how I can be so sure that it’s not true. It’s not always put quite that way, but there is sort of a smug assurance on the part of the Christian that I’m just not getting the message. It’s as if I’m taking some sort of shot in the dark, with awesome and terrible consequences at stake. Most people take a lot of things on faith. They don’t run around and investigate every news story themselves…or check and make sure the score of the game is exactly as reported. They haven’t tested scientific theories or modern technology to make sure the books are correct. They either believe it or they don’t…other people, it’s presumed smarter people, do the hard work. So in turning to religion they get it, they totally respond to the idea of faith in the unseen. It’s a puzzle to them why I seem to have confidence that they are wrong…is there something I know that they don’t?

First, let’s answer the question…can I know for sure that there isn’t a God (super-being, creator of the universe)? The answer is no. As with most things there is always a percentage involved. I am 90% sure of it, but I can not prove it. The next question is where I trip up a lot of people….do I know for certain that the New Testament story of Jesus, his atoning death and resurrection, and claims made by later Christians that he was a god and that my personal salvation hinges on whether or not I believe this are NOT TRUE? The answer is emphatically…YES. I can and do know that with certainty! It’s not a guess on my part, or some evil agenda to reject a Biblical God. I know it because I have learned how to use critical thinking, logic, and deductive reasoning to study the problem and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion with an almost 100% certainty.

The New Testament is a lot of things…repository of early Christian sayings, apocalyptic myth, a collection of Pagan and Jewish ideas…but it is not some eternal TRUTH. The fact is clear when one studies the books of the New Testament that it is filled with inaccuracies and contradictions, as well as sections borrowed from other sources of the time. This does not point to the hand of God, but very human hands were involved in the crafting of the Jesus myth. That is not to say that a human Jesus did not exist, but the miracle working god-man of the Christian Bible did not. The contradictions and logical inconsistencies are not imaginary, nor are they regarding unimportant details. They cancel out whatever truth there is to be found as surely as an unreliable witness presents testimony that is often thrown out of court.

But often enough I have been challenged, as if I am to be spooked with the threat of Hell (an idea that does not originate in the Bible), “Are you sure?” The answer is still, and will remain, yes…

Follow Up Q

458692_384591108300348_348754969_o

Follow up Q I received recently…

You are right again the bible holds some sort of spell over me. I  guess its because  of the fear of Hell and its control over so very many people. I wish i did not feel  this way but i was raised to believe in this book to be the word of God even though so many things in it made me question him. Like the hatred for women. The bible can almost be read like a horror book.  Some things are inspiring in it but not all. I guess hard evidence to disprove it always helps someone like myself and many others in the same boat. Can you elaborate more on this – “If someone delves into the OTHER writings and traditions during Biblical times it becomes quite clear…it was altogether rather EASY to script Scripture?”

A:

Salutations…sure I’ll elaborate. Many believers think that the Bible is a “special” book, in the sense that they think it’s ideas just floated down from heaven. But when you read similar documents from the NT era, it’s quite clear that the ideas were universal…the writers of the NT were just borrowing them and refashioning them to fit their own myth. Same with the OT, the Jews borrowed many of the stories from other cultures…early on the Canaanites and later the Babylonians contributed major themes to scripture. There is a book called 101 Myths of the Bible that links up a lot of OT mythology with those of other cultures of the era.

As far as looking to science to “PROVE” the Bible is not the Word of God…are you aware there are many many contradictions in the Bible? Isn’t that proof enough?? If it were the Word of God wouldn’t it stand the test??? Why would God allow his book to be open to such ridicule and debate? Whenever you smell somethings not right…a phone call saying you won a trip to Florida, a letter saying you won some money…shouldn’t you verify that the details are legitimate before putting your faith in these things?? If it walks, talks, sounds, looks like, and in general behaves in an untrustworthy manner…you are dealing with a fraud.

The Bible is MAN’S ATTEMPT TO KNOW THE UNKNOWABLE! Man has forever felt that he was a victim of fate and circumstance, tossed about and torn by nature. The quest to have knowledge of the gods is a way of controlling one’s own fears and feelings of helplessness. Why Evangelical Christianity has been so popular is that it provides SIMPLE ANSWERS to a populace that requires them to calm their paranoia and give them a sense of purpose in a chaotic world.

If God really communicates with mankind, why did he not share with us the real reason people get sick…viruses and germs…and how to perform easy tasks to prevent the spread of horrific diseases?? During the Great Plague, people flocked to Church to pray, it did no good. Ministers of the Christian faith promoted all sorts of nonsense regarding illnesses. It took science, only recently in history, to provide the clues. Think of all the heartache and horror caused by people just not washing their hands before treating a wound. During NT times people were convinced that demons caused sickness. Tragic. No, if there is a God, he does not communicate with us. Every holy book ever written is so much dust in the wind. All of us would like to feel we had a do-over…a fresh start…a way to wipe away our past sins. We all would like to be “saved”, and live in the happy hunting grounds when we die. Wishing does not make it so, and spreading lies (no matter if they are noble lies), does not really help anyone, it just feeds our superstitions. Hopefully our species will live long enough to outgrow our myths and face reality unafraid…

How Do You Know What You Know? Part Three

Bible

Part of the problem when writing about Christian Origins is that there is always the competing Myth to contend with. The Myth of Christian Origins is largely a construct of the 4th century, a time when Constantine sought to convert the Roman Empire from Paganism to Christianity. His personal biographer Eusebius of Caesarea (c 263-339) became the first official Church historian. His history of the Church from Jesus’ time to Constantine’s was partly historical, but mostly Church propaganda designed to show an unbroken line of Apostolic Succession from the Apostle Peter to the Bishop of Rome. It created (along with the author of Acts) the impression of a united faith from Jesus to Paul to the later Apostolic fathers of the Church. This of course is not how the real story unfolded. Scholars of Religion and Christian History are discovering just how many variant views and groups existed during the first 3 centuries. But most Christians today accept that once upon a time…in the beginning…there was a true united Church of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church has always maintained that it is THAT Church, while Protestant voices have argued over how to reconstruct the original Church ever since Martin Luther broke with Rome.

Another problem is in dealing with what the Bible teaches. Many Christians assume that the various books of the Bible agree with one another, their authors in league when it comes to doctrine, and that the message of the Bible is straightforward. But anyone who has ever gotten into a discussion about it’s meaning has quickly come to understand that there are almost as many differences of opinion as there are armchair theologians. Often you will hear a person say there are no wrong opinions, just that God speaks differently to each believer. This, dear reader, is horseshit. Of course there are wrong opinions on the meaning of scripture. Ultimately, the only meaning that matters is the one the writer intended. Why this is a shock to some, surprises me. A lot of people treat the Bible as if it’s some deep enigma that one must decipher by super secret spiritual means. In reality, it is a document like any other. But try to piece together the writings of these various authors into one coherent and non-contradictory set of teachings, and the fun really starts. That is in part one of the reasons there are so many different churches and denominations. But the key to understanding why this is, is to know that this was never the intention of those who wrote scripture…it was solely the intention of those who collected it and sought to pass off the Bible as the Word of God (singular).

Think about it. If the Bible were say, as self explanatory as a how-to manual, then we would all know and agree on the basics…how to get “saved”, how to baptize, how to conduct communion, how to believe about spiritual gifts, how to understand the “rapture” and the tribulation…on and on. This slips into how we talk about reading the Bible…we usually say STUDY the Bible. Why? Why must we study to decipher these things? Why aren’t they plainly laid out so there is no misunderstanding?

Again, the authors of the various books were not so mindful of each other as we have been led to believe. Each had a “take” on the faith, some from  very different communities of faith with very different beliefs and books they held sacred. Many of those books were left out of the final approved canon of scripture. What we would identify as Christianity today (or orthodoxy) was hammered out over the course of centuries within the established Church of the first Millennium. The history, the books included, the official approved doctrine, the “faith of the fathers” was controlled and that propaganda is what Christians have taken to be the Gospel. It is a part of how they “know” what they know…

 

How Do You Know What You Know? Part Two

FROM A RECENT EMAIL I RECEIVED:

…is  there any archaeology proof that helps give credit that the bible may not be the inspired word of God?  Its really exceptionally hard to believe that the bible is not the word of God. I try every day to feel comfortable with this information  but i tell you it’s a hard pill to swallow because there only seems to be opinions rather than proof. Each side whether christian scholars or not have their points to argue so in the end you walk away feeling like what side do I choose? Thanks so much I signed up and read your blog. Has science been able to give hard evidence to disprove the bible?

ANSWER:
I think you’re coming at this entirely the wrong way. If someone said they saw an angel or that a donkey spoke to them (as is recorded in the OT), the burden of proof does not lie with science to prove anything…it becomes a matter of belief. There does not seem to be much archeological evidence to support the stories told in the OT about the Exodus, about Israel and kings David and Solomon despite what Christians might claim. Jesus would be unknown to us in history without the writers of the Gospels because no historian of his time commented on him (except Josephus which includes a much disputed text). All sorts of things supposedly happened in the NT that would have made some kind of impact…a supposed earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death, the temple veil torn asunder, many of the dead in their graves rising and walking among the people. And yet we hear nothing of this from history. The writer of Luke, for instance, assumes that Quirinius and Herod were contemporaries during the birth and infancy of Jesus…when in fact they were separated by a span of almost 10 years or so, Herod having died around 4 BC and Quirinius being the governor of Syria in 6 CE. There is no evidence whatsoever of a Empire-wide census taken around the time of Jesus’ birth, or of the massacre of the innocents at the hands of Herod. Mark claims that Jesus was crucified on the day after the Passover meal, at the 3rd hour…John states it was the 6th hour on the day before the Passover meal. Acts claims that Paul met with the disciples right after his conversion…Paul himself makes a point of saying that he did not meet with any of the disciples at that time but rather went to the desert for 3 years and learned his gospel from no man but rather from revelation. Doesn’t it bother you that Paul’s so called “gospel” contradicts the very teachings of Jesus in the Gospels? It certainly wasn’t known by the disciples, it wasn’t the one delivered to them by Jesus…just look at the opposition that is recorded in the NT to the teachings of Paul. Paul doesn’t even seem to know much about the historical Jesus, he doesn’t include stories about him or quote from him that often (only twice). The book of Revelation was known as a spurious and disputed book for much of its history before finally being chosen for the canon of Scripture.

My de-conversion took place in 2 parts. First, while studying Genesis and the story of Eden and the talking serpent, I knew the Bible had to be a myth…but I was still held by a sort of bewitching power it had over me. I still thought of it as sacred because of my upbringing and because it SEEMS so perfect…a story told of the beginning, salvation, and end of mankind that was written over centuries. I didn’t yet know HOW they did it. I knew the magician’s act was only illusion, but I didn’t know how he accomplished it. It was only years later that I realized an important element missing from the conversation. The whole framework that supports the Bible, the contemporary history and beliefs and ideas of people of other religious and national backgrounds has been removed from the equation. Many times it was THEY WHO INVENTED an idea or story that resides in the pages of Scripture. We don’t see the connection because we don’t study those religions or philosophies while we turn the Bible’s pages. If someone delves into the OTHER writings and traditions during Biblical times it becomes quite clear…it was altogether rather EASY to script Scripture. The problem is, we lack the supporting debate that surrounded those times and writers. The writers of the Bible were a PRODUCT OF THEIR TIMES…nothing more. When studying the religious culture of those days, you will begin to connect the dots. Paul incorporates a heavy amount of Greek philosophy and elements of the mystery religions so popular in his day…but the average Christian thinks its all original theology that drifted down from heaven! Of course a Christian is impressed with their study of the Bible, and then they think they alone hold all the truth…it’s sad and a travesty. It has infected the world with such arrogance…

The problem is not that you require proof that the Bible is not the truth…the problem is you are still beholden to its sway over you. It is a spell that can only be broken when one arms themselves with knowledge. The TRUTH is…the Bible is MYTH. That can shatter the world of a “raised on Sunday-preaching” believer. It will take time, and maybe a few like minded friends, to adjust…

How Do You Know What You Know? Part One

Where are you on the gullibility scale? The word ‘gullible’ means – easily taken in or tricked. Every year millions of notices are mailed out notifying recipients that they have won a dream vacation or a large amount of money. All they have to do is follow a short list of instructions. Or maybe you have received a phone call like that. Do you believe them? I would hope not. But obviously a percent of people do because the scams continue. These scams count on gullible people. They wouldn’t exist without them.

This might make you mad, but Religion counts on a degree of gullibility as well. Think about it. Do they ask you to accept statements based on logic or “faith”? They need your faith. For that reason, the most important elements must happen “off camera”, so to speak. Did Jesus stick around to convince everyone in the known world he had been raised from the dead? Of course not. He flew off to heaven after revealing himself to a number of disciples who were charged with the task of making believers. Did Joseph Smith prove he was a prophet by showing off the gold plates that the angel Moroni told him were buried in a hill in upstate New York? Of course not. He revealed them only to a few faithful followers, then the plates were transported to heaven. Do you see how this works? It’s your faith that is required of you, or else you don’t have a religion. If everyone could go to a museum and look at the Mormon gold plates, you wouldn’t have to believe the testimony of Joseph Smith. Faith wouldn’t count for much.

Now imagine if Jesus would have pulled his “back from the dead” stunt today. We live in an age of cell phones. Someone, no doubt, would have taken a picture. Maybe one of the Roman guards at the tomb when the angels appeared. Maybe Thomas would have snapped one of Jesus’ “holey” hands. How about any one of the gathered believers who saw the resurrected Jesus? Ah, but that would never be the case, right? We all know instinctively that those aren’t the “rules” that God plays by. Something so obvious, something that could be verified, something subject to standards of common sense logic and reason…these aren’t acceptable to the game of faith. That is why Jesus chose not to walk down the streets of Rome in the light of day.

Believers need to feel special. They need to feel that they “get it”, while the world at large doesn’t. It fosters that ‘Us vs Them’ dichotomy.  By necessity there needs to be believers and unbelievers. Religion therefore counts on skepticism to weed out the rejects, the ones that can be blamed and vilified.

In the Case of “Revealed” Truth

I used to fancy myself a songwriter…and I was pretty good at it.  In my world of small town USA, I could achieve a measure of success at it.  Once upon a time, I moved to Nashville.  There, I thought, I might make a career of songwriting.  I soon got to know what they mean by “a lot” of competition.  EVERYONE there fancy’s themselves a songwriter…from the lady that cashes you out at Wal-Mart, to the pizza delivery guy, to your co-worker’s third cousin.  To even get heard is a one in a million shot (all due respect to “dreamers” like Taylor Swift, who live their Cinderella dream).  No, if you just believe, you CAN’T achieve anything.  There are limits.

When I attended a countryside Charismatic Church in my youthful days, it was at first, an eye-opener when someone had what they called “a word from the Lord”.  One church member regularly spoke to me of dreams and visions he had about my future.  It was mesmerizing.  Whenever a traveling Evangelist/Prophet made a guest appearance, people would angle themselves to the front during the altar call to hear what the Lord would say about them.  Our church was very big on end times prophesy as well.  I remember our Pastor giving an entire sermon on the subject as it beamed directly down to him from “on high”.  This was exciting stuff.

Then, I attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK.  There, EVERYONE got “words from the Lord” and prophesied.  Your classmates, persons at every church I attended and at chapel services, everyone…and quite often their messages contradicted one another, or just seemed “off”.  How could it be any other way with the sheer volume of “revealed” truths.  That taught me an important lesson…not everyone who “speaks” for God, speaks for God.

If you study the subject of religion long enough, you will realize patterns emerging.  First, someone spells out the original “revealed” truth.  But after time passes, new information is needed.  What tends to happen is that there is a REVEALED REINTERPRETATION of the original truth that was taught.  This of course happens in the Catholic Church all the time…the council of the Bishops and when the Pope speaks “ex cathedra” are considered REVEALED INTERPRETATIONS of the Bible.  Mohammed received his REVEALED REINTERPRETATION of Christianity and Judaism.  And then there is Joseph Smith, who started the Mormon religion based on visions and gold plates that were to set right all the MISINTERPRETATIONS of the various Christian denominations.

In the New Testament, the writers took passages from the Old Testament and gave them new meanings for a new generation hungry for a Messiah.  The passages they ascribe to Jesus actually have nothing to do with Jesus in their original meaning.  These are supposed REVEALED REINTERPRETATIONS.

But the most amazing thing of all, that most Christians seem completely blind to, is that the Christian faith itself TURNS ON A REVEALED REINTERPRETATION!  Most Bible scholars will tell you that the closest we can come to understanding the original message of the historical Jesus is in the first 3 gospels, called the SYNOPTICS.  Any one who studies these will find a disturbing disconnect between the message of Jesus and that of Paul the Apostle.  What one must realize about this is that:

1) Paul was not an original member of the 12 disciples.  2) Paul actually never knew Jesus.  3) Paul claimed that his “gospel” was taught to him by no man, but was REVEALED to him by Jesus (after Jesus had ascended to heaven).  4) Paul also specifically stated in Galatians that he did not council with any disciple while “learning” his gospel, in direct contradiction with the writer of Acts, which tried to show an apostolic succession of Paul’s ministry.

What does all of this mean.  A whole lot!!  Jesus, in the Synoptics, never made believing in him a requirement for salvation.  Also in the earliest gospel of Mark, Jesus does not equate himself with God.  Jesus remains a Jew in the Synoptics and the disciples in Acts show no sign of believing in another faith, just in Jesus as the Messiah.  It is Paul, not the early Christians, who sets aside the Jewish Law…paving the way for the Gentile church and the gospel message of believing in Christ as the only means of salvation.  Paul’s REVEALED TRUTH should be judged no less controversial than Joseph Smith’s…the only difference is the distance in time between their attempts at REORGANIZING the church and establishing a new doctrine.  Many of the early Jewish believers in Jesus did not accept the teachings of Paul.  It is interesting to note that the concept of a man who could be both human and divine is a Pagan one, and many other teachings of the Pagan mystery religions found their way into the Bible via Paul and others who were well acquainted  with Pagan beliefs.  A very direct connection would be the first chapter of the gospel of John and the Pagan concept of the Logos.

“Respecting” a Belief…

If anyone has ever tried to explain legitimate scholarship regarding the Bible to an Evangelical Christian, they know just how frustrating that can be.  Studying that legitimate scholarship has inevitably led me to the conclusion that the core beliefs of historic Christianity, and it’s redneck cousin – Evangelical Christianity,  are simply not true.  The Bible is NOT the Word of God.  Sorry, a thousand apologies.  Sucks.  I wanted it to be true, it just isn’t.  Now, that does not mean I can prove to you that a God does not exist (or a space traveling blue turtle, for that matter).  But the claims made by the Christian faith do not pass the scrutiny test.

But try explaining that to close-minded believers!  Several problems need to be exposed.  Allow me to use an analogy…

THE ANALOGY

Imagine we live in a world made up of two very strong belief systems.  One group believes that the sun revolves around the earth…they are convinced of this.  The other believes that the earth revolves around the sun.  You get the picture.  Now, I have done the calculations, studied science and mathematics, observed the evidence through a telescope, and concluded that the fact is – the earth revolves around the sun.  I carefully explain my findings to, let’s call them “sun revolutionists”, and they respond by saying “…well, that is your BELIEF.  I do not believe that and you must respect my BELIEF, which is that the sun revolves around the earth.”

I think you can see we have a problem here.  1) Based on the facts, the “sun revolutionists” are clearly wrong.  2) In what universe do the rules state that I must “respect” a BELIEF that should go the way of the Dodo bird.

Back to Christians and their BELIEFS.  The fact that they do not “get” the facts is the main issue.  They simply do not understand that one can quite easily prove that Christianity is a lie, using modern means of research.  In order to get them to see this, you would have to first teach them to use critical thinking and deductive reasoning.  For Christians, if they “feel” it is true, then it is…period.  If you show them how the dominoes all fall into place on the side of disproving Christianity, it does nothing for a person who can’t comprehend the seismic impact that this should have on their lives.  They will staunchly maintain that you’re just BELIEVING in something on the basis of faith, like they are.  So not only do you have to teach them the answers, you would have to teach them how one arrives at the answers.  This is supremely difficult because…

THE SIMPLISTIC ANSWER USUALLY BEATS OUT THE COMPLEX ANSWER in people’s minds.

If you have a debate, and one man drones on with facts and figures because the answer is more complex than people realize, while the other man offers up a soundbite that sounds quite confident and definitive…who do you think is more likely to win the mind of the average viewer?  This is the way of it.  The task of getting a Christian to understand what the evidence means is too daunting.  The Christian will offer you his truism and walk away, confident he has just said something profound and irrefutable.

This has been my experience since I have “seen the light” that the Bible is a man-made concoction of fables.  It is self contradictory and is filled with references and influences by other religions of the time period.  Therefore it can not be what Christianity claims it is…the true Word of God…

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.