- 1 DETECTING TRUTH
- 2 Feedback Welcome
- 3 Conventions
- 4 About this site
- 5 Disclaimer
- 6 My Credentials
- 7 My Reading List
- 8 Definitions
- 9 Pressure on Bible Truth Claims
- 10 Summary of Arguments based on Religious Philosophy
- 11 Evolution vs Creationism
- 12 Age of the Earth
- 13 Theory of Mind
- 14 Christianity and Mythology
- 15 Christianity and Common Religious Practices
- 16 Evil and the Christian God
- 17 Old Testament Evil List
- 18 New Testament Evil List
- 19 Old Testament Law
- 20 Evolution of the Tithe
- 21 Inerrancy of Scripture and Contradictions
- 22 The Canon
- 23 Authorship of Books of the Bible
- 24 Slavery
- 25 Women and the Bible
- 26 History
- 27 Thought Provokers
- 28 Interesting Questions
- 29 UNDER CONSTRUCTION - MANY MORE SECTIONS PLANNED
- 30 References
Do you REALLY want to know the truth?
Feedback about this site can be sent to DetectingTruth@gmail.com
DTA = Detecting Truth Author - Unacknowledged text is authored by DTA
About this site
You and I were born [nearly] a "clean slate" regarding our brain (your brain activity IS YOU). We (you and I) have been influenced, arguably, primarily by our parents and the culture we grew up in. I grew up in a "western" culture (i.e. United States) and that means my [brain's] religious beliefs were influenced primarily by Christian concepts. This website is an attempt to demonstrate that that these concepts may not be the truth. I will leave it others to demonstrate that the religious concepts prevalent in other cultures may not be truth either (i.e. Muslim, Jew, Hindu, etc.) since I did not grow up in those cultures. I think there is a grain of truth in the claim that we have no "free will." Or, at least it is difficult to exercise free will. Once we have been "indoctrinated" into the beliefs of a given culture, it is difficult to challenge our own belief systems. We are surrounded by others that have similar beliefs and most people just don't want to deal with challenging those beliefs, much less changing those beliefs. However, this website is an attempt to point out some of the issues with the "Western" Christian belief system. And, I find it incredibly easy to do once I abandon a dogmatic defense of my prior beliefs.
What YOU believe is primarily a function of the culture you where born into. If you are a Christian, you could just have easily been a Muslim (with the associated dogmatic Muslim beliefs) if you were born in Tehran, Iran.
The purpose of this website is to host my research notes into the following question:
Does God exist?
and the related topic:
Why is religion so pervasive among human beings?
Note: Almost all of my study of God is related to the Christian God.
I've done a lot of reading on this topic (see Reading List) and I must acknowledge that the assertion God exists or God doesn't exist falls into a category of unfalsifiable assertions based on current knowledge. So, what remains is the accumulation and evaluation of the evidence supporting each assertion and deciding which one is most plausible. The conclusion you will make, I assert, will be heavily influenced by your accumulated experience, cultural influences, religious training, education, mental health and other influences since your birth. In other words, your conclusion will, most likely, NOT be based on the unbiased evaluation of the evidence. It is only through extensively exploring both sides of an issue with an open mind that dogmatic positions have a chance of releasing their hold on the believer.
Evidence for "God exists" falls into these general categories (not a complete list):
- Religious Philosophy (thought exercises)
- Personal Experience (which has led to the many religious documents in existence)
- Mysticism (i.e. experience IS reality)
Evidence for "God doesn't exist" is, essentially, the lack of the kind of evidence or data that is routinely used in science, technology, mathematics, forensics, and other technical domains (I'll take the liberty to lump these all together as science) that supports the assertion that "God exists". It should be noted that the above categories of evidence for "God exists" are generally not used or accepted in the day to day practice of science. Evidence used for science is the sort of information that can be tested and verified by anyone with the skills and tools necessary to setup and perform the test. It is also the sort of information that can be used to build a hydrogen bomb, a cell phone, a space station, a Formula 1 race car, etc. This is the sort of information that every human being (every organism) that exists on Earth uses to survive and thrive each and every day.
Additionally, the evidence and arguments provided by this website will attempt to demonstrate the errors, inconsistencies, absurdities, immorality, etc., that exists in the Christian Bible. There are similar issues with the Koran. If the Christian Bible is not a coherent, factual document and aligned with our current scientific knowledge, then doubt can be cast on the existence of the God from which the contents of the Bible originated (claimed by theologians). For example, conservative Christians will argue, based on Bible scripture, that the Earth is less than 10,000 years old and that God created Adam and Eve as the literal first humans and all other humans are descendants of these first two humans. Many different disciplines of science have produced evidence that the Earth is billions of years old and that all biological life, including humans, have evolved from lower life forms over those billions of years. These are just two of the latest examples of where science is challenging the truth claims of the Christian Bible. Following are examples of truth claims found in the Bible which are not possible based on the current understanding of the "regularly" occurring natural laws of nature.
- A talking snake
- The sun staying still in the sky
- An ocean being parted
- A pregnant virgin
- A staff turning into a snake
- A talking donkey
- Hundreds of dead people rising in Jerusalem at once
- A woman turning into a pillar of salt
- Special fruit that grants profound knowledge
- A strong man killing a thousand enemies with a donkey jawbone
- A man’s strength caused by his long hair
- A man surviving in the belly of a fish for three days
- People's languages being suddenly changed as a punishment
- Half man, half “son of god” giants called Nephilim
- City walls falling down due to a trumpeting ritual (this one is at least worth submitting to MythBusters to determine if plausible)
- Turning water into wine
- Men walking around in a fiery furnace, unhurt
- People living for more than nine hundred years
- Bizarre blood rituals to cure serious disease
- Wise men following a star in the sky to a specific house
- All the water in Egypt turning to blood
- A man walking on water
- A man riding a chariot of fire into the sky
- Sheep born speckled due to being conceived while looking at striped sticks
- Bread and fish being multiplied to feed thousands
- A bush on fire that doesn't burn up
- A fig tree withering instantly after being cursed
- Every kind of animal living on a boat for a year
I will also acknowledge that, even if God doesn't exist, there still may be a need/reason for "Religion" due to 1) our human biological condition of being aware of our individual existence and eventual demise, 2) our social needs which lead to "grouping" together with others of like mind, kinship, culture, etc., 3) based on the latest research in anthropology, cognitive science, linguistics, evolutionary biology, etc., it may turn out, due to the way the human brain evolved and currently works, religious type beliefs "just come naturally."
Most of us end up with a religious worldview of some sort and these views vary dramatically depending on the culture we are a member of. Additionally, most of us never really think much about it (i.e. question things). However, some of us do do end up questioning things for various reasons. In my case, I ended up doing a lot of reading on apologetics (defending the Christian worldview), specifically evolution vs. creation, and eventually educated myself to the point where I started questing things. However, the reading involved was not a trivial task. For example, reading Charles Darwin's Origin of Species is not light reading. I have a feeling that most people will just not put in the effort to educate themselves to the point that they would start questioning things.
Some philosophical and scientific concepts are just difficult to understand and take a lot of study to comprehend. For example, I took four Calculus classes during my Engineering studies in college. It was difficult for me to understand the concepts. However, at some point during those classes, the ah-ha moment happened and it suddenly made sense. Without putting in the time and effort to study Calculus, I would not be able to say I understand it. My point is that, even with this topic, much study is required to grasp the arguments for either position.
The following sections will attempt to layout the evidence.
If you really want to go down this path, then be prepared to have your belief system challenged whether you believe or do not believe God exists. To some degree, this path is a philosophical study.
The authors of Introduction to Philosophy: Classical and Contemporary Readings, Louis Pojman and James Fieser explain this succinctly.
Philosophy is the love of wisdom (from the Greek philos, "love," and sophia, "wisdom"). It is the contemplation or study of the most important questions in existence, with the end of promoting illumination and understanding, a vision of the whole. It uses reason, sense perception, the imagination, and intuitions in its activities of clarifying the concepts and analyzing and constructing arguments and theories as possible answers to these perennial questions. It is revolutionary because its deliverances often disturb our common sense or our received tradition. Philosophy usually goes against the stream or the majority, since the majority opinion is often a composite of past intellectual struggles or "useful" biases. There is often deeper truth, better and new evidence that disturbs the status quo and that forces us to revise or reject some of our beliefs. This experience can be as painful as it is exciting.
The pain may lead us to give up philosophical inquiry, and a great deal of emotional health may be required in order to persevere in this pursuit. We may retreat into unreason and obey the commandment of Ignorance. "Think not, lest thou be confounded!" Truth (or what we seem justified in believing) may not always be edifying, but in the end the philosopher's faith is that Truth is good and worth pursuing for its own sake, and for its secondary benefits. The intelligent inquiry that philosophy promotes is liberating, freeing us from prejudice, self-deceptive notions, and half truths. As Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) put it:The [person] who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason... [W]hile diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, [philosophy] greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive the sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar light.
My Reading List
Pressure on Bible Truth Claims
There is mounting pressure on the Christian Bible as a valid source of truth and morality and the following graphic represents the ones discussed below.
Summary of Arguments based on Religious Philosophy
The objective of this section is to present the most common religious philosophical arguments used to argue FOR or AGAINST God. This is a rich topic and only a short list is provided below.
This section is based on “Introduction of Philosophy, 4th edition, Louis P. Pojman & James Fieser, Part III.” I highly recommend that you obtain this book or another like it and read the various essays related to religious philosophy. It is fascinating.
The first four arguments are FOR God’s existence and the agnostic/atheist base their cases on absence of evidence to support these arguments. The existence of evil, says the agnostic/atheist, is an argument for God’s non-existence.
Cosmological Argument for God (a posteriori)
All cosmological arguments contain these basic assumptions:
- The universe exists
- Something outside the universe is required to explain the existence of the universe.
- The universe is contingent, depending on something outside the universe for its existence.
- God is such a being
A version of the cosmological argument is called the “first-cause argument.”
- Everything in the universe has a cause.
- An infinite regression is impossible. The series of causes and effects cannot go on indefinitely but must have a beginning.
- So there must be a first cause (outside the universe) capable of producing everything besides itself (which is not produced, but a necessary being).
- Such a being must be an infinite, necessary being; that is, God.
St. Thomas Aquinas is most famous for making this argument. This argument can be challenged at every point. For examples, see writings by Bertrand Russell and David Hume. DTA
Teleological Argument for God (a posteriori)
All Teleological arguments contains these basic assumptions:
- The design manifested in the world shows the hand of a grand designer.
- The world shows intelligent purpose or order and there must be a divine intelligence, a supreme designer to account for the observed or perceived intelligent purpose or order.
A good example of this argument can be found in William Paley’s Natural Theology “watch” argument. This argument has been refuted, most famously, by David Hume as well as Charles Darwin in Origin of Species and his theory of “variation and natural selection.” DTA
Ontological Argument for God (a priori)
This argument was first established by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, in the eleventh century. It raises philosophical problems such as (1) whether existence is a property and (2) whether the notion of necessary existence is intelligible. The argument that follows may be treated as a reduction ad absurdum argument. That is, it begins with a supposition (S) that is contradictory to what one desires to prove and then goes about showing that (S) together with other certain or self-evident assumptions (A-1 and A-2) yields a contradiction, which in turn demonstrates that the contradictory of (S) must be true. Anselm’s argument goes like this:
- Suppose that the greatest conceivable being (GCB) exists in the mind alone (and not in reality). (S)
- Existence in reality is greater than existence in the mind alone. (A-1)
- We can conceive of a GCB that exists in reality as well as in the mind. (A-2)
- Therefore, there is a being that is greater than the GCB. (from 1, 2, & 3)
- But this is impossible, for it is a contradiction.
- Therefore, it is false that GCB exists in the mind alone and not in reality (from 1 & 5). So a GCB must exist in reality as well as in the mind. This being is, per definition, God.
A contemporary of Anselm, Gaunilo, set forth the first objection to this argument claiming this argument could be made for the greatest conceivable “anything” such as an island.
Argument from Religious Experience for God (a posteriori)
This argument appeals to mystical experiences and claims of extraordinary revelation as evidence for God’s existence. The problem with religious experiences is that they are private. William James, F. C. Copleston, C. D Broad claim that personal experience is valid evidence for God’s existence.
Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud made cases against personal experience as proof of God’s existence.
Argument from Evil for God (a posteriori)
The theist argues:
- God is all-powerful (including omniscient).
- God is perfectly good.
- But, Evil exists.
This can be perceived as a paradox or, worse, a contradiction. DTA
The opposing argument is:
- If God (an all-powerful, omniscient, omnibenevolent being) existed, there would be no (or no unnecessary) evil in the world.
- There is evil (or unnecessary evil) in the world.
- Therefore, God does not exist
The writings of Voltaire, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Bruce Russell and Richard Swinburne are examples that explore both sides of this argument. DTA
Evolution vs Creationism
The objective of this section is to present the scientific case for evolution as the only currently plausible scientific theory that explains the existence of life on Earth and that Scientific Creationism and its cousin, Intelligent Design, are not based on science but, instead, religion. The United States legal system has repeatedly supported this conclusion.
The debate regarding creationism vs evolution has been going on since Darwin published his groundbreaking "On the Origin of Species." The debate has made its way through the courts a number of times; from the Scopes trial in 1925 to more recent cases such as the 2004 case in Dover, Pennsylvania in Kitzmiller v. Dover area School Board (see NOVA video: Judgement Day - Intelligent Design on Trial). Currently, due to the establishment clause in the constitution, religion can't be taught in public schools. Intelligent Design was determined, in the Dover case, to be repackaged creationism (religion) and can't be legally taught in public schools.
The Dover case is fascinating because of the intense scrutiny of the best argument for "special creation", intelligent design, as well as evolution, by the best intellectual experts on both sides. It was ruled that intelligent design is not based on science and it's key claim regarding irreducible complexity was dismantled by the plaintiffs side. It was also determined that intelligent design is repackaged creationism in order to skirt around the establishment clause of the constitution.
Other key court cases affecting the teaching of Creationism in state public schools:
- Edwards v. Aguillard - Key 1987 case decided by US Supreme Court disallowing teaching of creationism in the public schools.
- McLean v. Arkansas 1981
To understand legal issues involving the creation and evolution controversy, one must first understand the three clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Religion Clause states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The Free Speech Clause states, "or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The third clause proclaims "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." All of the legal decisions generated by the creation and evolution controversy have been decided based on interpretation of the Religion and Free Speech clauses of the First Amendment.
The Establishment and Fee Exercise clauses, taken together, mean that public institutions have to be religiously neutral.Laws have been judged for Establishment Clause constitutionality by applying a three part test devised in a 1971 Supreme Court case, Lemon v. Kurtzman. The Lemon test requires that a bill or practice must have a secular rather than a religious purpose; it must not have an effect that either promotes or inhibits religion, and it must not create undue entanglement between government and religion. Failure on any of three "prongs" of Lemon means the bill is unconstitutional. --- Eugenie C. Scott - Evolution vs. Creationism Ch. 9
Thus, evolution remains intact as the only science based theory that explains the history and diversity of life on Earth. It should be noted that even evolution has not yet explained the actual process of how that first replicating cell/organism came into existence. It does explain how the subsequent diversity of life came into existence.
If you really want to learn more about evolution, I recommend actually reading Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and another book that explains it more succinctly, such as Richard Dawkins "The Blind Watchmaker." Warning: Dawkins is an excellent teacher of complex subject matter, but he can be very disrespectful of views opposing evolution. Additionally, reading a book on basic genetics would provide the foundation for some of the mechanisms of evolution.
It should also be noted that the Catholic church, via various proclamations by various Popes, have accepted evolution as a means by which God created man's physical body. This is called "Theistic Evolution." However, the Catholic position also adds that God alone created and infused man with his soul.
The bulk of this section is found on the following page and is primarily a summary of the evolution vs creationism debate as laid down by Eugenia C. Scott in her book Evolution VS Creationism.
Age of the Earth
The objective of this section is to demonstrate the overwhelming scientific evidence that the earth is old or ancient rather then the 6,000 to 10,000 years old asserted by Christian creationists. To claim the Earth is young in the face of this overwhelming scientific evidence reminds me of the Catholic Church dragging Galileo before the court because he asserted that the Earth is not the center of the universe (which is no longer contested by Christian Church).
See Rational Wiki for the explanation of each of the following subjects.
The data to support ages of the earth from > 10,00 years to > 1,000,000,000 years
- > 10,000 years
- Human Y-chromosome ancestry
- Oxidizable Carbon Ratio dating
- Rock varnish
- Thermoluminescence dating
- > 100,000 years
- Fission track dating
- Ice layering
- Lack of DNA in fossils
- Weathering rinds
- > 1,000,000 years
- Amino Acid racemization
- Baptistina asteroid family
- Continental drift
- Cosmogenic nuclide dating
- Geomagnetic reversals
- Impact craters
- Iron-manganese nodules
- Length of the prehistoric day
- Naica megacrystals
- Nitrogen in diamonds
- Petrified wood
- Relativistic jets
- Sedimentary varves
- Space weathering
- > 1,000,000,000 years
- Distant starlight
- Lunar retreat
- Radioactive decay
Theory of Mind
"Theory of mind (often abbreviated ToM) is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own." - Wikipedia
"One would need a mature theory of mind to reason in the following manner: "Jakob thinks that Adrienne doesn't know I stole the jewels."" - The Belief Instinct - Jesse Bering
Christianity and Mythology
The objective of this section is to point out that almost all human cultures have myths about common themes that are also found in Christianity such as creation, flood, virgin birth and afterlife myths. Many of these myths pre-date Christianity or even the Jewish culture. So what is more plausible; 1) the Christian myths are true and all others are false or 2) the Christian myths are just another set of cultural myths (Jewish in this case) among the myriad of other myths spanning most human cultures.
- Myth – a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind assumed their present form. Wikipedia - Mythology
- Can also refer to a traditional story
- Ideology in narrative form
- Transmitted to convey religious or idealized experience, to establish behavioral models, and to teach
- As sacred stories, myths are often endorsed by rulers and priests and closely linked to religion or spirituality
- A myth is usually regarded as a true account of the remote past
- Many societies have two categories of traditional narrative, “true stories” or myths, and “false stories” or fables
- Creation myths generally take place in a primordial age, when the world had not yet achieved is current form, and explain how the world gained its current form and how customs, institutions and taboos were established
- Many cultures have a creation myth
- Closely related to myth are legend and folklore
- When a myth loses its status as part of a religious system, it often takes on traits more typical of folktales, with its formally divine characters reinterpreted as human heroes, giants, or fairies
- Origins of Myth
- Distorted accounts of real historical events. Storytellers repeatedly elaborated upon historical accounts until the figures in those accounts gained the status of gods.
- Myths began as allegories for natural phenomena. Apollo represents the sun; Poseidon represents water, etc.
- Of inanimate objects and forces. Ancients worshiped natural phenomena such as fire and air, gradually coming to describe them as gods.
- Myth-ritual theory
- The existence of myth is tied to ritual. Myths arose to explain rituals.
- Myths began as allegories for natural phenomena. Apollo represents the sun; Poseidon represents water, etc.
- Functions of Myth
- Establish models of behavior and religious experience
- Reproduce conditions of the mythical age
- Render a cosmology – an image of the universe for the individual
- Support the current social order, to integrate the individual organically with his group
- Political interpretation of myths to the advantage of one group within a society or one society within a group of nations
- Initiate the individual into the order of realities of his own psyche
- Establish models of behavior and religious experience
- Creation Myths
- “A creation myth (or creation story) is a cultural, traditional or religious myth which describes the earliest beginnings of the present world. Creation myths are the most common form of myth, usually developing first in oral traditions, and are found throughout human culture. A creation myth is usually regarded by those who subscribe to it as conveying profound truths, although not necessarily in a historical or literal sense. They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths—that is they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.” -- (Wikipedia)
- Virgin/Miraculous Birth Myths
- Flood Myths
- A flood myth or deluge myth is a narrative in which a great flood, usually sent by a deity or deities, destroys civilization, often in an act of divine retribution. -- Wikipedia
- Many human cultures lived in areas that were prone to periodic severe floods. To this day, many regions of the Earth are still prone of severe floods. Some of these floods were likely so severe they may have seemed to be global to the ancient culture, however, this is not likely based on current scientific knowledge.
- List of Flood Myths - Wikipedia
- Afterlife Myths
- In philosophy, religion, mythology, and fiction, the afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the Hereafter) is the concept of a realm, or the realm itself (whether physical or transcendental), in which an essential part of an individual's identity or consciousness continues to exist after the death of the body in the individual's lifetime. - Wikipedia
- List of Afterlife Myths - Wikipedia
- In philosophy, religion, mythology, and fiction, the afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the Hereafter) is the concept of a realm, or the realm itself (whether physical or transcendental), in which an essential part of an individual's identity or consciousness continues to exist after the death of the body in the individual's lifetime. - Wikipedia
Christianity and Common Religious Practices
The objective of this section is to point out that "religion" and its common practices have been around since the dawn of man. It started with folk or indigenous religions (which still exist) and evolved to worldwide religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. There are also many recently founded religions such as Church of the Latter Day Saints, Scientology, etc. See Wikipedia - Religion for more details.
The book "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong is a good overview of the origin of the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam an Judaism.
There are literally thousands of religions around the world, many claiming to represent the "One True God." So which one, if any, is true?
Questions to think about:
- If one true God does exist, which one is it?
- If one true God does exist, why has God not revealed itself to ALL human cultures and instituted a common belief system and common religious practices?
Following is a list of practices that can be found in almost all religions. Not all religions practice all of these, but the main point is that there are many common practices across all religions. The theologies, histories, rituals, etc., may be unique to each culture, but the religious frameworks are similar.
- Believe in one or more God(s)
- Sacred texts or history
- Religious laws or lifestyles
- Matrimonial services
- Funeral services
- Prayer and meditation
- Personal God: Prayed to the god(s) for personal intervention
- The God(s) were located in the sky
- os 8:20 (ESV) “So when the men of Ai looked back, behold, the smoke of the city went up to heaven …”
- Concept of Hell
- Plato talks about hell in The Republic, Book 2.7 (4th century BC)
- Apuleius, Metamorphosis Ch 11 – talks about hell ~ 200 AD.
- The God(s) had a son and sent him to the earth
- Built temples to worship their god
- Song and Dance during worship
- Confession of sins
- Gods concerned themselves with earthly society
- Gods were used as authority by rulers to go to war or commit other heinous acts
- Gods had intelligence and will
- Gods either aided or opposed man’s plans and efforts
- Gods rewarded men for fidelity and virtue and punished them for impiety and sin
- Creation myths to explain how humans originated
- Virgin birth myths to give the God(s) superhuman origin
- Miracles attributed to the God(s)
- Sacrifices to please the God(s)
- Priests to administer/interpret religious framework
- God(s) have eternal life and you can too
- Prophesies (pagans called them oracles)
- Notion of good and evil (see Egyptian Book of the Dead, chapter 125)
- Visions/Dreams (messages sent by God)
- Sages, Necromancers, Witches, etc.
Evil and the Christian God
"Is the pious (τὸ ὅσιον) loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" Plato's dialogue Euthyphro
Modern interpretation: "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?"
"If one argues, as many deeply religious individuals do, that without God there can be no ultimate right and wrong - namely that God determines for us what is right and wrong - one can then ask the question: What if God decreed that rape and murder were morally acceptable? Would that make them so? While some might answer yes, I think most believers would say no, God would not make such a decree. But why not? Presumably because God would have some reason for not making such a decree. Again, presumably this is because reason suggests that rape and murder are not morally acceptable. But if God would have to appeal to reason, then why not eliminate the middleman entirely?" Steven Pinker - debate at Arizona State University - referenced in "A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss
- The fact that God commands NOT to kill AND commands TO kill has to be one of the biggest contradictions in the Bible.
- Mark 12:31 (ESV) ““You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.”” Matt 5:43-48 (ESV) “You have heard it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … you therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
- The list of Old Testament atrocities (see below) attests that the heavenly Father is not perfect and does not love thy enemy. The list contains God commanded examples of:
- Human Sacrifice
- Lev 19:18 (ESV) “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of you own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
- This, based on the context, seems valid only within the Hebrew tribes, as is also shown below. No mercy was given to non-Hebrew nations.
- Exodus 20:13 (ESV)– Thou shalt not murder; Deu 5:17 (ESV)– You shall not murder.
- Exodus 20:13 (KJV) – Thou shalt not kill; Deu 5:17 (KJV) – Thou shalt not kill
- Yet God ordered the murder of entire cities over and over again.
- Is the God of the Old Testament the SAME unchanging God of the New Testament? If so, this God cannot be the source of our morality, irregardless of any teachings by Jesus.
- Malachi 3:6 ESV “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
- Hebrews 13:8 ESV “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
- John 10:30 ESV "I and the Father are one." a Jesus quote
- Thus, Jesus is the one that commanded all the atrocities listed below.“The problem of vindicating an omnipotent and omniscient God in the face of evil (this is traditionally called the problem of theodicy) is insurmountable. Those who claim to have surmounted it, by recourse to notions of free will and other incoherencies, have merely heaped bad philosophy onto bad ethics. Surely there must come a time when we will acknowledge the obvious: theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. “ Sam Harris – The End of FaithAfter reading the following list (and looking up the verses), I could no longer worship this God and sing songs such as: Awesome GodOur God (our god) is an Awesome God He Reigns (he reigns) from heaven above With Wisdom (with wisdom) pow'r and love Our God is an Awesome GodI doubt that this God (or any god) exists. What seems more plausible is that Israel used the concept of God, just like all other nations at the time, to justify the nation's war efforts and motivate the population in support of such immoral behavior. And this is still occurring to this day around the world in many nations.The morality encoded in modern civil law far surpasses the morality demonstrated in the Bible.
Old Testament Evil List
New Testament Evil List
Old Testament Law
Is it in effect today or not? I've done some research on this and there doesn't seem to be a consensus view among Christians. Here are the three most common possibilities:
- All laws of the Old Testament are still binding
- Some OT laws are still binding while others are not [how does one know which ones are applicable?]
- OT laws are no long applicable to Christians
Jesus said, "Matthew 17 [NIV] Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Since the Earth has not disappeared, either the OT law still applies or this verse is not literally true.
Even today, there seems to be a lot of energy by Christians around the 10 Commandments and Tithing, both OT laws. There are law suits pending regarding the placement of 10 commandments on public property. The Christian churches (some more than others) will put pressure on the congregation to tithe 10 percent which is clearly an OT law/tradition. Why such energy around these things if they are not still applicable in their reasoning. The real answer, in my opinion, is that the Bible is not coherent to begin with, so trying to apply reason to such questions invariably results in significant interpretation/language gymnastics to prove any particular assertion.
Evolution of the Tithe
The inspiration for this section comes chiefly from reading "Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" by Jared Diamond. I've read a few books that survey known human history (modern humans (homo sapiens) have been around for about 200,000 years) and it is with this perspective that the origins of some of the current traditions we currently observe come into clear focus. Also, the concept of "Occam's Razor" comes into play here. The simplest explanation is usually the correct explanation.
I will attempt to summarize some of the concepts from Jared's book (mainly chapter 14 - From Egalitarianism to Kleptocracy - the evolution of government and religion) that could explain the currently observed tradition of "commoners" providing religious organizations with various forms of material or financial support.
Some societies have grown over time from bands (dozens) to tribes (hundreds) to chiefdoms (thousands) to states (> 50,000). The successful societies, over time, have annexed (either voluntarily or by force) other societies, typically in the local region, in order to grow larger. This process has led to the current configuration of global states numbering approximately 194 (as of 2016). This number fluctuates over time because this process is still ongoing.
One of the characteristics of the successful societies is the transition from a hunter/gatherer based society to a farming society that is able to domesticate crops and animals. This enabled that society to support higher density populations by producing larger and more stable sources of food. This also led to divisions of labor within those societies such as crop growers, herders, blacksmiths, medicine, textile, soldiers, etc., and bureaucrats to manage the society. A form of exchange was developed to transfer food and services among the different trades. Various forms were used including bartering and early forms of currency.
The early bureaucrats were the "big men" of the tribe and the role tended to stay within the hereditary lines of the tribe and, later, kings within states. This function led to larger and more complex bureaucracies as the size of the society increased. These bureaucracies would levy taxes on the population or force tributes from recently conquered societies. The taxes would be used to support the members of the bureaucracies as well as to pay for public works of their choosing.
The exact cause for the rise of religion is still debated, but it is established fact that nearly all bands/tribes/chiefdoms had a form of religion that was practiced. Often societies grew by forcefully annexing adjacent societies. Among other reasons, the bureaucrats began to co-opt religion to justify the wars required for forceful annexation (i.e. "it is God's will"). Thus began the long and fruitful relationship between politicians and religions.
As the practice of religion within a society began to get more organized, a religious organization would soon develop along with dedicated religious leaders. Since these religious leaders often did not grow crops, hunt for food, etc., they required the support of the rest of the population. Often, the taxes raised by the politicians would be used to support these religious organizations, in exchange for certain services, but this was not always the case. In those cases where the religious organization had to raise support on their own, various methods, depending on the particular religion, were used to acquire that support. The one that most "westerners" - as followers of Christianity - are familiar with is the 10% tithe.
If you think about it, rationally, the support of religious leaders via tithe or other means solves a purely human need, the material needs of the religious leaders. Since religious leaders did not typically have the legal means to extract support from the population, they often invoked the "it is gods will" rule as a substitute. These "systems" evolved over long periods of time and just became a way of life and questioning any aspect of the "system" within a society would usually lead to big trouble including death of the "heretic." It is only in last couple hundred years of human existence that questioning and debating the role of religion in a society can be done openly and that is only the case in a minority of global states. For those Christians that can now resist the "it is god's will" rule to tithe, there is the more recent pitch by some Christian leaders for "prosperity tithing." The pitch is that, if you tithe to the church, you will get your money back, plus 10 times more, in wealth and other material blessings.
In Jared's book, he discusses how some states and religions can evolve into a kleptocracy. A kleptocracy is a term applied to a government seen as having a particularly severe and systemic problem with officials or a ruling class (collectively, kleptocrats) taking advantage of corruption to extend their personal wealth and political power (Wikipedia).
If you Google "how rich is the Vatican," you will find many articles on the topic. Clearly, the Vatican has accumulated enormous wealth and political power over the centuries, far beyond what is needed to materially support the basic needs of the priests that directly support the population.
So, has the Catholic Church evolved into a kleptocracy? You decide.
Inerrancy of Scripture and Contradictions
- Two camps
- Liberals – allow for errors, but argue this does not distract from the central truth of scripture.
- Example of Liberal thought:
- "It may also mean, however, that the historical Jesus never spoke the words recorded in Matthew 16:17-19 during his earthly ministry. Whether Jesus actually spoke those words, however, is not a critical question, for if - as we affirm by faith - Jesus continues to dwell in his church in the form of the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured that this quotation (which has been preserved by the church) is indeed Jesus' testimony to the church, whether or not he actually spoke those very words at Caesarea Philippi." – Mark M. Mattison
- Inerrantists – do not allow for errors. They have an explanation for all errors, mutilations of text, contradictions, etc.
- Wayne Grudem defends inerrancy.
- Says there are solutions to all “problem” texts.
- The point here is that the church has two camps on the issue of inerrancy: 1) liberal view – supports that errors exist but don’t change the meaning; 2) inerrantists – support that there are no errors and all “problem texts” have a solution.
- Typical defenses involve translation errors, words have multiple meanings, context issues, etc. In any event, the Bible is supposed to be the inerrant word of God, and God could surely have eliminated all this gnashing of teeth by just making it clear to everyone. God could have delivered the books of the bible in a perfect language with no words with multiple meanings, etc.
- Many parts of the Old Testament are repeated in multiple books. Some of the repeats have missing text that is clearly an error. Other text just appears to be missing (per the context)."It should be kept in mind, however, that a perfect, omnipotent, and omniscient god would reasonably be expected to have done a better job of it had such a god inspired the Bible." Jim Meritt - A List of Bible Contradictions (1992)
See errancy.comfor a list
See infidels.org for a list
The topic addressed in this section is that the OT & NT Canon is likely the product of man, not God.
- Which canon of OT books contains only revelation from God and all the revelation of God (excluding NT revelation)? There are multiple canons.
- What books are in the OT canon? There is no agreement among Catholics and Protestants. Although these are the two main groups, there are a few other Christian groups that have their own canons.
- Catholic Church (46 book in OT; 27 books in NT)
- Protestants (39 books in OT; 27 books in NT)
- From http://www.ChristainBibleReference.org
- The Septuagint
- In the third century B.C., the Jewish scripture was translated into Greek for the convenience of the many Jews who were not fluent in Hebrew. This translation was known as the Septuagint [SEP tuh jint], often abbreviated as "LXX." The name Septuagint comes from the Greek word for ‘seventy’ (hence the symbol LXX, 70 in Roman numerals) and refers to the tradition that seventy-two rabbis worked on the translation.
- The First Christian Bible
- At the time the Christian Bible was being formed, the Septuagint was in common use by Jews and Jewish Christians, and Christians adopted it as the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. However, around 100 A.D., Jewish rabbis revised their Scripture and established an official canon of Judaism which excluded some portions of the Greek Septuagint. The material excluded was a group of 15 late Jewish books, written during the period 170 B.C. to 70 A.D., that were not found in Hebrew versions of the Jewish Scripture. Christians did not follow the revisions of Judaism and continued to use the text of the Septuagint as the Old Testament.
- Protestant Bibles
- In the 1500s, Protestant leaders decided to organize the Old Testament material according to the official canon of Judaism rather than the Septuagint. They moved the Old Testament material which was not in the Jewish canon into a separate section of the Bible called the Apocrypha. So, Protestant Bibles then included all the same material as the earlier Bible, but it was divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the Apocrypha. Protestant Bibles included the Apocrypha until the mid 1800s, and the King James Version was originally published with the Apocrypha. However, the Apocrypha was considered less important, and Bible publishers eventually dropped it from most Protestant editions. The books of the Apocrypha are also known as the deuterocanonical books.
- Catholic and Orthodox Bibles
- The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches did not follow the Protestant revisions, and they continue to base their Old Testament on the Septuagint. The result is that these versions of the Bible have more Old Testament books than most Protestant versions. Catholic Old Testaments include 1st and 2nd Maccabees, Baruch, Tobit, Judith, The Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), additions to Esther, and the stories of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon which are included in Daniel. Orthodox Old Testaments include these plus 1st and 2nd Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh, Psalm 151 and 3rd Maccabees.
- Apocrypha included in Catholic OT
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Sirach / Ecclesiasticus
- Additions to Esther
- Additions to Daniel (stories of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon)
- The content of the OT Canon is not universally agreed upon. Is this evidence that man, not God, decided what is in Canon?
- The books included in the NT Canon were decided by vote rather than revelation from God.
- “...They allege an old catalogue, which they call the Canon, and say that it originated in a decision of the Church. But I again ask, In what council was that Canon published? Here they must be dumb. Besides, I wish to know what they believe that Canon to be. For I see that the ancients are little agreed with regard to it. If effect is to be given to what Jerome says (PrÊf. in Lib. Solom.), the Maccabees, Tobit, Ecclesiasticus, and the like, must take their place in the Apocrypha: but this they will not tolerate on any account. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 4, Chapter9, Article 14 (selections) - http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/calvin-institutes-christianity/book4/chapter-9.html
- John Calvin challenges the concept of a Canon.
- Martin Luther attempted to eliminate Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation.
- The process by which the New Testament canon was established is complex, occurred over hundreds of years and involved several “councils” where men argued and ultimately voted on the documents that would be included and excluded.
- Are there any documents inspired by God that are NOT included in the Canon?
- Where is Paul’s letter from Laodicea? Col. 4:16. Is this a candidate?
- How did the church decide what documents were inspired by God? From Evidence that Demands a Verdict – Josh McDowell
- Was the book written by a prophet of God?
- Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?
- Did the message tell the truth about God?
- Does it come with the power of God?
- Was it accepted by the people of God?
This only scratches the surface of the convoluted process of how the canon's developed over time. The quality of the whole process seems typical of man, but not how one would expect an all powerful God to transfer his only spoken word to the entire human race.
Authorship of Books of the Bible
- The authorship of most of the books of the Bible is widely contested or admitted to be unknown.
- “Since none of the four Gospels includes the names of their authors in the original manuscripts, they are all technically anonymous.” ESV Study Bible - Crossway - Matthew - Author and Title
- There are no claims in the gospels of authorship.
- If the gospels are the only written record of the life, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, it would be helpful if God had made sure that that the authors were well established to lend credibility to the recorded events. As it stands, both secular and theological scholars agree that it is difficult to say who actually wrote the gospels. This fact makes these texts and easy target for skeptics to attack.
- There is much analysis available that demonstrates the five books of Moses (Gen, Exo, Lev, Num, Deu) were not written by Moses and were written after the time of Moses.
- There are many examples of events recorded by an author that occur after the author had deceased. An example from Age of Reason – Thomas Paine - Second Part - Chapter I - The Old Testament
- “Samuel died before Saul; for 1 Sam 28 tells, that Saul and the witch of Endor conjured Samuel up after he was dead; yet the history of matters contained in those books (1 & 2 Samuel) is extended through the remaining part of Saul’s life, and to the latter end of the life of David, who succeeded Saul. The account of the death and burial of Samuel (a thing which he could not write himself) is related in 1 Sam 25.; and the chronology affixed to this chapter makes this to be B.C. 1060; yet the history of this first book is brought down to B.C. 1056, that is, to the death of Saul, which is not till four years after the death of Samuel.”
- The ESV Study bible supports this conclusion in the Author and Title section at the beginning of 1 Samuel. “The author of 1-2 Samuel are not known … because his death is mentioned in 1 Sam 25, he could not have written most of Samuel” ESV Study Bible - Crossway - 1 Samuel - Author and Title
- Everything in Genesis is prior to the time of Moses and Moses is not mentioned. Age of Reason – Thomas Paine - Second Part – Chapter I – The Old Testament
- The books are mostly in third person and this is the style and manner historians use if speaking of the person whose lives and actions they are writing [about]. Age of Reason – Thomas Paine - Second Part – Chapter I – The Old Testament
- However, he [Samuel] could have written it in third person, but:
- Some examples that that seem ridiculous and absurd:
- Numbers 12:3: “now the man Moses was very MEEK, above all the men which were on the face of the earth”. If Moses said this of himself, instead of being the meekest of men, he was one of the most vain and arrogant coxcombs”
- Deuteronomy: “The manner used here is more dramatical; the writer opens the subject by a short introductory discourse, and then introduces Moses as in the act of speaking, and when he has made Moses finish his harangue, he (the writer) resumes his own part, and speaks until he brings Moses forward again, and at last closes the scene with an account of the death, funeral and character of Moses.” Moses could not have written about his own funeral.
- Thomas Paine, in Age of Reason, gives many more examples of how Moses could not have been the author of these books.
- The ESV Study bible supports this conclusion in the Author and Title and Date section at beginning of Deuteronomy. “… another widely held view is that the book should be dated long after Moses.” ESV Study Bible - Crossway - Deuteronomy - Author and Title section
See http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_Bible for a great review of slavey in the bible.
- Pagan cultures owned slaves: Babylonians, Assyrians, Sumerians, Persians, Thracian, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks
- Jews owned slaves
- Christians owned slaves
- The Jewish and Christian god said (implicitly) it was OK (no commandment to NOT own slaves) to own slaves and made suggestions or rules about how to treat them.
- Where did Jews and Christians get the idea of slavery? Other cultures or did they independently come up with the idea? Probably other cultures. What else did they borrow from other cultures? Maybe lots of religious ideas?
- Herodotus (circa 440 BC) speaks of people converted to slaves by the Persians after their defeat. (the Persian Wars 6.18-19) The Jews did the same thing.
- The Christian defense of slavery in the bible is based on the concept of bond servant. They argue that the slave was really a bondservant. However, I find the following passage difficult to defend as it seems to clearly indicate that slaves were property that can be inherited as property forever. Additionally, the Hebrews treated "themselves" differently than people from other nations.
- Leviticus 25:39-46 (ESV): 39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: 40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. 41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.42 For they are my servants,[e] whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. 43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. 44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. 45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. 46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.
- Leviticus 19:19-29 (ESV) The Hebrew god speaks of how to treat female slaves. It implies it is OK to mistreat a female slave if not yet assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or freed. Otherwise, a goat must be sacrificed to be forgiven for such mistreatment.
- The rules could also be used to essentially force a Hebrew "bondservant" to become a permanent slave.
- Exodus 21:2-6 (ESV): 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave,[a] he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
- Female slaves are not freed after six years like male slaves. Evidence women are discriminated against?
- Exodus 21:7-11 (ESV): 7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her[b] for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
- God says a man can beat his slave as long as he survives and is able to get up after a day or two.
- Exodus 21:20-21 (ESV): 20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money."
- Even the New Testament has references to slavery. Again, the Christian will argue this is a bondservant. However, in the following passage the master has the right to "cut to pieces" a "servant."
- Matthew 24:45-50 (ESV): 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant,[c] whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants[d] and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
- The bottom line here is that God did not make an attempt to wipe out or discredit slavery in either the old or new testament. Instead, what we find are rules that allow slavery to go on indefinitely.
- Can modern society use a book that endorses slavery as the basis for ethics and morality? The Bible no longer has credibility in the area of ethics and morality. Civilized secular society has moved beyond ancient texts in ethical and moral standards encoded in modern secular laws.
- “ . . . now at least, in our immediate day, we hear a Pope saying slave trading is wrong, and see him sending an expedition to Africa to stop it. The texts remain; it is the practice that has changed. Why? Because the world has corrected the Bible. The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession—and take the credit of the correction. As she will presently do in this instance.” Mark Twain
Women and the Bible
In both the Old and New Testament, women were treated as inferior and, at worst, property (see Slavery section). Since all scripture is "breathed by God", does Timothy's treatment of women reflect God's values?
- 1 Timothy 2:8-15 "8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control."
- The Cylinder's text has traditionally been seen by biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus’ policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity (an act that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus), as the text refers to the restoration of cult sanctuaries and repatriation of deported peoples. This interpretation has been disputed, as the text identifies only Mesopotamian sanctuaries, and makes no mention of Jews, Jerusalem, or Judea. The Cylinder has also been called the oldest known charter or symbol of universal human rights, a view rejected by others as anachronistic and a misunderstanding of the Cylinder's generic nature as a typical statement made by a new monarch at the beginning of his reign. (Wikipedia)
- I watched a TED video, “2600 years of history in one object”, by Neil MacGregor (Director of the British Museum). He told the story of the object and one of the observations was the cylinder text and old testament scripture appear to intersect and corroborate each other except in one important area. The cylinder, whose text attributes the events to the Babylonian god Marduk and the book of Ezra attributes the events to the Hebrew god. Ezra 1:1 “… the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia …” - DTA
- This is just more evidence, in my opinion, that the Hebrew religion was just another national religion (every nation/culture had one or more gods) among many others and state history/events were naturally attributed to the influence of their god. - DTA
- The Hebrew religion was no different in the basics practices from any other pagan religion. (See Christianity and Common Religious Practices) - DTA
Steve Jobs had a reputation for cutting through the bullshit and "fog" of a complex issue and boil it down to its bare simplistic essence. Here is a snip from the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs."Even though they were not fervent about their faith, [Steve] Jobs's parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to and end when he was thirteen. In July 1968, Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church's paster. "If I raise my finger, will God know which one I'm going to raise even before I do it?" The pastor answered, "Yes, God knows everything." Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, "Well, does God know about this and what's going to happen to those children?" "Steve, I know you don't understand, but yes, God knows about that." Jobs announced the he didn't want to have anything to do with worshipping such as God, and he never went back to church." -- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
"The Garden of Eden is supposed to be a literal place somewhere in the world guarded by a flaming sword. If the Garden of Eden with its talking snake, magical fruit and flaming sword doesn’t literally exist then there was no reason for Jesus to literally die on the cross. Yet the entire world has been explored and observed by satellite, and no Garden of Eden or flaming swords exist. The whole story was mythology." -- WiseSloth.wordpress.com - 10 scriptures that reveal the Bible is mythology
"Notice also that the story of the Garden of Eden was supposed to be the first thing that ever happened. Yet there’s a sword there. It’s more likely that humans invented swords in the Bronze Era and included their invention in their creation myth than it is that God created the first sword." -- WiseSloth.wordpress.com - 10 scriptures that reveal the Bible is mythology
DTA: I discussed some of these questions with my pastor before I quit attending the church.
- What is church position on the existence of evil in the world?
- My Pastor: Man cannot answer this question, as we don’t have the intellect of God. We must have faith that God knows what he is doing and we (the pot) have no right to question the potter (God) (Rom 9:19).
- DTA: This is likely the strongest argument against the existence of God and the basic argument is "trust me, God knows what he is doing."
- What is the church position on hell?
- My Pastor: Suffering in Hell is real and the majority of souls born into this world will end up there.
- Are our beliefs largely a function of the culture we grow up in?
- My Pastor: Yes
- DTA: Statistically, you are more likely to be born in a non-Christian culture, thus dooming you to the Christian Hell completely by chance.
- What will happen to a little girl that grows up in Tehran, indoctrinated into Islam and never learns about Jesus?
- My Pastor: That girl’s soul will suffer torment in Hell for eternity.
- DTA: How can such a God be the "author of Love." 1 John 4:8
- If you had been born in Tehran, what are the chances you would be a Muslim now?
- My Pastor: there is a certain non-zero probability.
- DTA: Iran has 74 million muslims (2010 Pew Report) which is 99.7 percent of the population. The probability of becoming a lifelong muslim if born in Tehran is likely very high. So, the Christian God IS love (1 John 4:8), hell is real and the little girl born in Tehran (by no fault of her own) will spend eternity in hell. This is incoherent. This is the sort of "corner" that myths paint themselves into.
- Is the Old Testament God and the New Testament God the SAME God?
- My Pastor: Yes
- Is God unchanging?
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: We didn’t talk about this one.
- How should modern civil society derive it’s ethical standards?
- My Pastor: From the Christian Bible
- Can modern civil society base it’s morals and ethics on a document that endorses human slavery and sacrifice?
- My Pastor: God didn’t endorse slavery; he managed it. Anyway, the answer is yes.
- DTA: I can’t remember the exact word the pastor used where I put “managed.”
- Why are there no unambiguous miracles occurring today such as the ones described in the bible such as water to wine and stopping the sun, etc.?
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: I don’t think we discussed this in any detail.
- Why is there no confirmed case of God healing an amputee?
- My Pastor: Are you sure God has never healed an amputee?
- DTA: I did a quick Google search and nothing significant came up. What does come up are some Christian websites defending God on this one.
- Why are there no more revelations from GOD worthy of adding to the Canon?
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: We didn’t discuss this one.
- What is the key difference between pagan religion and Christianity?
- My Pastor: Jesus rose from the dead. The pagan religions are similar to Christianity in many of the practices because man is made in the image of God and all men are seeking God in similar ways and practices.
- What is the church position on reading Free Thinker and Religious Philosophy books, etc.?
- My Pastor: I would filter whom I would allow to read such material. Some people can handle it without affecting their faith in Jesus and others cannot.
- What is church position on reason vs. faith?
- My Pastor: Man is limited and thus reason is limited. God is omniscience, so man must have faith in God’s answer in those knowledge domains where reason contradicts or has nothing to say.
- What is the church position on inerrancy in the Bible?
- My Pastor: The Bible is inerrant.
- What is the church position on the age of the earth?
- My Pastor: The Earth is around 6-10 thousand years old. I subscribe to the young Earth theory.
- What is the church position on creation vs. evolution?
- My Pastor: Man and the universe were created in the basic form it is in today. Evolutionary processes work within biological kinds/species, but doesn’t explain the diversity of life forms on the Earth today.
- If the Catholic Church accepts evolution (a form called theistic evolution), how does the Genesis account of Creation reconcile with this?
- My Pastor: I’m open to theistic evolution???
- DTA: I’m not sure if this is what the pastor was saying.
- Why did Jesus curse the fig tree? Mark 11:19
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: we didn’t talk about this. The question is useful because it appears (without convoluted interpretation) that Jesus wanted a fig and the tree didn't have one so he cursed it, thus vengeful.
- What happened to the Garden of Eden and the flaming sword?
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: We didn’t talk about this.
- Why was a flaming sword used by God to guard the entrance?
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: We didn’t talk about this much, so not sure what pastor's thoughts are. My curiosity is around the use of a sword by God when there were only two humans on earth. Who’s idea was the sword? God or man’s.
- How can we both Love and Fear God?
- Man is to Fear God. Lev 19:14; Deu 6:24
- Man is to Love God. Matt 22:37
- I love my wife and brother, but fear neither.
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: we didn’t talk about this. Is this realistically possible?
- Why would the God of all mankind have a Chosen People and favor them over the other nations on Earth?
- My Pastor: ???
- DTA: This came up, but not sure pastor gave an answer.
- Which canon of OT books contains only revelation from God and all the revelation of God (excluding NT revelation)?
- This question is useful because there are several different canons; the most well known being the Catholic canon and Protestant canon which are different.
- How can we know that a particular OT canon is the inerrant OT canon?
- Are demons real?
UNDER CONSTRUCTION - MANY MORE SECTIONS PLANNED
So, ya'll come back now!
- Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912), 156 f