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Mythologizing Jesus

16/12/2014

ron cobb jesus

art by Ron Cobb

In recent days a lot of people on all sides of the equation have been getting their tunics in a twist over what the popular press reports as a “controversy” over “mythological Jesus.”

What the evangelical atheists and the common sense denying fundamentalists all fail to acknowledge is that nobody with two brain cells rubbing together thinks the Jesus depicted in the Bible is a complete and accurate picture of the man in the sense that modern histories and biographies offer a well documented portrayal of their subject.[1]

Lemme explain it as clearly as possible:  Acknowledging that the person we know of today as Jesus of Nazareth has been subjected to hagiographic reporting and analysis that have created a popular conception of who he was, is not / never has been / never will be the same thing as saying that person did not exist, or that teachings and sayings attributed to him are the product of a committee of literary / theological hoaxers.

Let’s walk through the time line, shall we?

Sometimes circa 33C.E. an eccentric rabbi preached a message considered heretical[2] by the religious leaders of his day.  He was executed under trumped up charges, just like several hundred / perhaps thousands of other Judeans of his day.

Between his death and 72C.E., a new religious movement arose among and from his followers.  Internal and external evidence indicates this new religion spread far outside of Judea and the Jewish culture it sprang from.  During this period of time his disciples wrote a series of letters to various local groups of followers, discussing finer points of their theology, debating what certain teachings meant, and establishing protocols for worship.  While lacking any solid biographical data on the eccentric preacher, these letters do indicate a formal and well articulated religious belief based on his teachings existed at that time.

They also indicate they are not the product of a literary hoax.  In 72C.E. the Roman empire eradicated Judea from existence, all the way down to their maps by renaming the land Palestine in the process.  There is no mention of this, no hint of it in the various letters left behind by the disciples; had they been hoaxers attempting to “salt the mine” they would have been sorely remise not to include prophesies about the single most traumatic event in Judea’s history up to that point.

Lemme ask you this question point blank:  If you are a 21st  century faker trying to fabricate a prophetic Jewish religious leader who lived in 1920, would you fail to have him “predict” the Holocaust in your forgeries?

I thought not…

So before the fall of Jerusalem in 72C.E. and the scattering of the Judean people, the beginnings of a new religion were clearly underway.

As mentioned, there was internal debate among the disciples over exactly what the various teachings of their eccentric rabbi really meant.  We have no direct evidence that copies of his teachings and sayings had been collected by 72C.E.[3]

We do have evidence sometime between 72C.E. and 100C.E. that the teachings and sayings were collected into the form we recognize as the Four Gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.[4]

Why these four gospels were written then can be deduced by the disciples letters and by known historical events:  The earliest followers not only believed their rabbi had been resurrected after his death but also felt he was going to return in their lifetimes to establish a heavenly kingdom on earth.  When that didn’t occur and as eye witnesses to the events circa 33C.E. began dying off, people saw the wisdom in writing down everything they could remember their rabbi teaching and saying and doing.

Had they been hoaxers, they were putting the cart before the proverbial horse:  Logic would say you establish the bonafides of your bogus religious leader with an official hagiography, sell the rubes on that first, and only then do you begin hashing out purely academic debates about your wholly imaginary religion.

What the early church did was to see the commentaries written first, and only after they were already well established did anyone think to get all the important stuff written down for future generations.

A lot of evangelical atheists will want to dismiss this all right now, but they can’t do that.  This may not be the best evidence we might desire from a historical perspective, but it is the only evidence we have, and the evidence points away from a deliberate hoax and fabrication and more towards a theology that grew organically from a single point.[5]

And this is important because while it agrees that the sparse historical image we have of Jesus of Nazareth has doubtlessly undergone a certain degree of hagiography or “mythicalization”, it is absolutely not the same thing as saying it is entirely false, a myth made up by hoaxers for no discernable reason and with no discernable reward for the perpetrators.

The number of first, second, and third century Christian writings, not to mention their widely spread origins, indicates that if the religion was based on a hoax, it was a hoax with an enormous number of co-conspirators who had nothing to gain through their hoax nor any means of seeing if their hoax was successful or not.

You get the occasional doctored fossil or forged historical document in the real world that manages to pass immediate scrutiny, but they only succeed when they are isolated incidents not open to wide public examination.  When there are thousands of faked fossils, or dozens of bogus documents and they are all open to view, the forgeries become transparently obvious.

Further, when we compare the letters written by the various disciples with the gospels themselves, it’s pretty clear the former represents a wide variety of insights / opinions / writing styles while the four gospels offer a remarkably consistent moral philosophy expressed in a unique and inimitable personal style.

This is not the product of a committee of forgers, but rather the expression of one single, remarkable mind.

There are those who claim the glove maker turned theatrical impresario is not the true author of Shakespeare’s plays but rather some other person wrote them instead.[6]

Fine, let’s play that game:  Whoever that person was who wrote Shakespeare was Shakespeare.

And whatever we may think about Shakespeare the glove maker turned theatrical impresario, it doesn’t alter the fact that some literary genius whom all the existing evidence points to as being a glove maker turned theatrical impresario wrote the impressive body of works we refer to as Shakespeare today.

Whoever the real Jesus was, whatever his real biographical data, that person was the author of some of the most profound moral / ethical / spiritual teachings in human history.

Which pretty much makes him…Jesus.

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[1]  And even with scrupulous documentation, copious eyewitness accounts, audio and visual records, even the subjects speaking in their own voice, there’s still huge debates over exactly who these people really were or what the events really mean.  Look at how many differing interpretations exist of Harry S Truman the man and the presidency; or the brief presidency of John F. Kennedy; or the enormous complexities of Johnson and Nixon.  If we can’t agree on the particulars of people and events that occurred under intense scrutiny in our own lifetimes, why is anyone surprised that much of the ancient world is even less clear today?

[2]  i.e., threatened to cost them money.

[3]  Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, as the old saw goes, but we can only play the cards we are dealt, and those cards offer no documentation of the teachings and sayings being recorded at length prior to the fall of Jerusalem.

[4]  There are fascinating articles on how these gospels may have been compiled and in which order, as well as a possible source document for three of them, fragments of other gospels, “sayings” gospels that included various teachings but no linking narrative, and other accounts of the rabbi’s life and teachings that were considered either redundant or at odds with the four main gospels.  That’s what Google is for, folks…

[5]  Skeptics are more than welcome to point out logical holes in the evidence; they won’t find anything believers didn’t discover millennia ago and have been debating ever since.  What the skeptics can’t do is dismiss the only records that exists without offering equal or better proof that those records are fake.  Without contrary evidence, the existing records are the only evidence we have.  Wishing them away will not make them go…

[6]  This is based on the premise that plebians are just too fnckin’ plebian to write Shakespeare.

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Thinkage

12/12/2014

“Friends, I want to submit that our society suffers from a collective Borderline Personality Disorder writ large on a massive, macro, scale. We’re overly-rigid, hyper-vigilant, unduly wary, and reticent to see and embrace the messy merits of others. We all too readily dehumanize vast groups of people and consider them dogs or monsters. Arguing this case doesn’t involve a PhD thesis. One need only to watch the news – and look in a mirror.

Until we can see God in everyone, until we can see the face of God in “the other,” until we can flip the script and see God in those who we tend to write-off and not expect to see Godliness in — we have work to do.” — Rev. Roger Wolsey, The Holy Kiss

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The Annunciation

8/12/2014

mead schaeffer - the annunciation

underlying art by Mead Schaeffer

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As We Enter The “War On Christmas” Season, Remember…

2/12/2014

bullet proof armor in church

There are a lot of folks out there flying false flags, claiming to be Christian but actually espousing violence and hatred.  Whenever you hear somebody scream / bitch / moan about the lack of respect they are being shown as a self-identified Christian, remember this:

By this everyone will know
that you are my disciples,
if you love one another.

John 13:35 (NIV)

 

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Apologetics For Atheists

16/11/2014

the whole universe is completely insane

The way I see it, we’ve got at least three different groups of people sharing several different points of view talking at cross purposes to one another on matters ethical / moral / spiritual / theological / religious,

Most of the time, they’re all in agreement on the same thing, but don’t want to admit this.  Call it fear / pride / sheer ol’ stupidity, they generate heat and smoke while carefully obscuring their light.

The truth is everybody, including — no, especially – the most cynical / jaded evangelical materialist atheist possesses a religious belief.

Here is the religious belief of the current crop of evangelical atheists:

  1. Biological life arose from inorganic matter.
  2. Consciousness arose from biological life.
  3. Different conscious entities (call them minds, beings, humans, whatever) can compare notes on what they have observed happening around them.
  4. These notes, when compared and evaluated, present an objective view of reality.

You see the huge leap of faith expressed there, don’t you?

No?

Hardly surprised.  This is another one of those “fish in water” moments where the folks possessing a certain mindset are completely obvious to the mindset they possess and so make assumptions based on presumptions that they can not objectively prove, and thus fail to realize:  “Hey!  We’re wet!!!”

Let’s stipulate for the purpose of this argument that yes indeedy, conscious independent entities we refer to as “human minds” exist; and that these human minds reflect back an accurate view of what they know of the world around them.

Well, these minds have observed and documented on numerous occasions that it is possible for a human mind to be deluded, psychotic, and hallucinating to the point where it can not distinguish between what the brain imagines and what is real.

There exists a very real possibility — certainly too real to ignore — that everything you experience is simply to product of your imagination and not a reflection of reality.

I don’t care how many rocks you pound with your walking stick; you still could be imagining it.  And as to the logic of asking why you would imagine something that would harm you, psychotic and paranoid people fantasize things harming them all the time.

A maniac’s logic is logical to the maniac.

You materialists out there are taking, out of necessity, the biggest leap of faith imaginable, the leap that you can with any degree of certainty believe other conscious entities (i.e., minds, i.e., human beings) exist, much less interact with you in a way that represents reality.
I’m not saying you’re wrong…
I’m just pointing out it’s impossible to prove…

…and if you live your life as if it is true,
that’s no different than any other religious belief.

art by R. Crumb

 

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Keep Your Eye On The Camel

5/11/2014

brick bible-500wi

from the Brick Bible
by Brendan Powell Smith

So I encountered someone who was Christsplaining “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” on the InterWebs and thot oh hell NO it would be a good topic for a blog post.

Their Christplanation was that Jesus wasn’t saying rich people couldn’t go to heaven, because a camel going through the eye of a needle is obviously an impossibility.[1]

Instead, what Jesus was referring to was a special little gate called “The Eye Of The Needle” because it was so narrow, and that for a camel to pass through, it would first need to be unburdened and then get down on its knees and shuffle in.

For some peculiar reason this interpretation is extremely popular with people who desire s4!tloads of money.[2]

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” is a very complex metaphor.
Let me explain it to you:

 “A camel” = a great big fncking animal

“the eye of a needle” = that leeeetle tiny hole at the end of the thin thin thin pointy metal thing you use to sew cloth together

“a rich man” = anybody who has two shirts when somebody else has none

“the kingdom of heaven” = to be in communion with God both here & now and the hereafter

Jesus was fond of using ridiculous hyperbole to prove his points. F’r instance, “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” literally meant people were walking around with six foot long weaver’s beams in their eyes while criticizing their neighbors for having a speck of dust in theirs. Obviously a physical impossibility, but Christ wasn’t interested in telling something literally factual but rather spiritually true

Likewise “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out” meaning literally gouge your eyes out rather than let them lead you into temptation. I don’t think Jesus expected anybody to take that as a serious command, but rather that we should remove from our lives anything that might cause us to harm another person or allow another to come to harm.

So the point he was getting across re camel / needle / rich man was this: If you are more interested in lining your own pocket than in seeing justice is done, you aren’t going to hell…

…you’re already there.

 “The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge.  It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later.  It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now.  Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.” — Marcus J. Borg , The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith

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[1]  There is an alternate Christplanation where “camel” is a miscopying of the Aramic word for “rope” and there’s a certain appeal to that insofar as one can see a similarly between a thread and a rope.  However, that Christplanation also misses the point that it’s fracking impossible.

[2]  They don’t actually have to possess s4!tloads of money, just desire to possess s4!tloads of money.  Check out Matthew 5:27-28.

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Keep Your Eye On The Camel

26/08/2014

So I encountered someone who was Christsplaining “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” on the InterWebs and thot oh hell NO! it would be a good topic for a blog post.

someone is wrong on the internet cap

Their Christplanation was that Jesus wasn’t saying rich people couldn’t go to heaven, because a camel going through the eye of a needle is obviously an impossibility.[1]

Instead, what Jesus was referring to was a special little gate called “The Eye Of The Needle” because it was so narrow, and that for a camel to pass through, it would first need to be unburdened and then get down on its knees and shuffle in.

For some peculiar reason this interpretation is extremely
popular with people who desire s4!tloads of money.[2]

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” is a very complex metaphor.
Let me explain it to you:

“A camel” = a great big fracking animal

“the eye of a needle” = that leeeetle tiny hole at the end of the thin thin thin pointy metal thing you use to sew cloth together

“a rich man” = anybody who has two shirts when somebody else has none

“the kingdom of heaven” = to be in communion with God both here & now and the hereafter

Jesus was fond of using ridiculous hyperbole to prove his points. F’r instance, “why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” literally meant people were walking around with six foot long weaver’s beams in their eyes while criticizing their neighbors for having a speck of dust in theirs. Obviously a physical impossibility, but Christ wasn’t interested in telling something literally factual but rather spiritually true

Likewise “if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out” meaning literally gouge your eyes out rather than let them lead you into temptation. I don’t think Jesus expected anybody to take that as a serious command, but rather that we should remove from our lives anything that might cause us to harm another person or allow another to come to harm.

So the point he was getting across re camel / needle / rich man was this: If you are more interested in lining your own pocket than in seeing justice is done, you aren’t going to hell…

…you’re already there.

“The Christian life is not about pleasing God the finger-shaker and judge. It is not about believing now or being good now for the sake of heaven later. It is about entering a relationship in the present that begins to change everything now. Spirituality is about this process: the opening of the heart to the God who is already here.” — Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith

.

.

.

[1] There is an alternate Christplanation where “camel” is a miscopying of the Aramic word for “rope” and there’s a certain appeal to that insofar as one can see a similarly between a thread and a rope. However, that Christplanation also misses the point that it’s fracking impossible.

[2] They don’t actually have to possess s4!tloads of money, just desire to possess s4!tloads of money. Check out Matthew 5:27-28.

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Addendum to “Lauren’s Choice”

30/06/2014

I’ve been asked, “But what about adoption for unwanted children?”

To that I say:

Yes!
Yes!
Yes!
and even more
YES!!!
PLEASE!!!

That is the best, most humane solution to the problem of a woman’s unwanted pregnancy.  It’s a perfect example of “pony up”.  Give that child a stable, loving home.  Raise it to its full potential.  Personally assume that responsibility.

A blessing for the child
A blessing for the parent
A blessing for the society

GO FOR IT!

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Lauren’s Choice

30/06/2014

Cartoonist Lauren Weinstein was told that the child she was carrying had a high (1-in-4) chance of carrying the cystic fibrosis gene to such an extreme degree that it might require a lung transplant before age 5.  Weinstein tells the story of her nerve-wracking three week wait to find out if this would be the case in her story “Carriers” (parts one / two / three / four / five).

Major Spoiler:  
It has a happy ending and
her daughter was born
disease free.

laurenstroy

Many reading her story will rejoice, but say to themselves,
“If it had been me, I would have never even thought of terminating my pregnancy.”

Good for you.

Seriously.

I mean that.

I want you to have a choice.

Just like I want Lauren to have a choice.

Just like I want billions of other women to have a choice.

Because nobody knows what is best for a woman and the pregnancy she is carrying other than that woman herself.

She gets to make her own decisions.

Just as you get to make your own decisions.

She’s certainly entitled to seek medical advice and/or moral support from others, but in the end, she is the one who has to either see it through to a live birth or terminate it.

It is, quite simply and quite literally,

NOBODY
ELSE’S
FUCKING
BUSINESS

And I drop the f-bomb very deliberately & in its sexual context to get the point across:

Not your uterus,
not your problem,
not your responsibility,
most certainly not your business,
not now,
not ever.

If you’re serious about wanting to reduce the number of abortions in the world today, see to it that birth control is reliable, available, and inexpensive (free would be best; we can pay for it with the money we would otherwise spend incarcerating unwanted/abused/neglected children who grow up to be addicts and/or felons).

See to it that sex education is universal, pragmatic, sensible, and easy to understand.  Wishful thinking, no matter how devoutly inspired, does not trump science or the realities of human nature.  Be prepared for and compassionate to people who make messy mistakes; there but for the grace of God…

See to it that no mother ever has to worry about affording a safe place to raise her child, or how she will feed her child, or pay for her child’s health care, or her child’s education (you can slice a fraction off the defense budget for this; we can somehow squeak by with only 999 new jet fighters instead of 1,000).

Pony up…

…or shut up.

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thanx to
Tom Spurgeon,
The Comics Reporter,
for the tip off

 

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The Anti-Abortionist Credo

30/06/2014

anti-abortionist credo

I forbid you to have sex without MY permission.

I forbid you to know anything about birth control.

I certainly won’t pay for your sex education.

If you defy ME and have sex anyway,
then I want you to get pregnant / catch the clap (or better yet, AIDS!).

I forbid you to have an abortion.

I will judge you and call you a murderer if you do.

I demand you bring the pregnancy to full term.

I demand you bring the pregnancy to full term
even if the child will be born with a fatal condition.

I demand you bring the pregnancy to full term
even if you already have a house full of children and
you are stretched to the breaking point.

I demand you spend 18 years of
your life (minimum!) taking care of this child.

I will not help you.

I will not offer any financial subsistence.

I will not lift a finger or spend a dime of MY money to help you provide
food / lodging / medical care / education for the child.

I demand you suffer for your sins.

However, you may not judge ME.

Because just by saying I oppose abortion,
just by condemning you for your choices,
I am pure and holy.

(Did I miss anything?
Did I not summarize our
position accurately?)

 

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