Jesus Dance 1

As someone who has diligently studied biblical criticism and comparative religion, I am no fan of the kind of misinformation that is promulgated by conspiracy films like Zeitgeist and popular novels like The Da Vinci Code. So, I was pleased to come across a critical review of Valerie Tarico’s 9 Things You Think You Know About Jesus That Are Probably Wrong, written by Ben Stanhope of the blog Remythologized.

In it, Stanhope rightly skewers Tarico for her Da Vinci-esque claims, e.g., that no Jewish men from Jesus’ time were celibate, that Jesus might have been gay, that Gnostic sources like the Gospel of Philip are historically reliable, and so on. But, about midway through, he completely derails into the kind of dubious apologetics you’d expect to find in Lee Strobel’s egregiously awful The Case for Christ. Which makes him no better than Tarico. To top it all off, he does so with the shameless arrogance of a Cracked.com writer. And that disgusts me.

hypocrisy

So, let’s dive right in and see where this dude goes off track.

Stanhope lambasts Tarico for chalking the Gospels up to a “hopeless historical mess,” quoting apologist Craig Evans to the effect that the Gospels are “essentially reliable.” Uh huh. From Herod’s infamous slaughter of the innocents (confirmed by no historian ever) to Caesar Augustus’ worldwide census (confirmed by no historian ever) to the earthquake and risen saints that accompanied Christ’s crucifixion (confirmed by no historian ever), the Gospels are just scary fucking accurate.

Oh, you were so close.

Oh, you were so close.

He attempts to back up this claim with the “history-bursting creed in 1 Corinthians 15,” trotting out a list of scholars who date it to the “mid-to-late 30’s [CE].”

We have a written record of a crucified, risen, messianic figure who was believed to have appeared to great numbers after his death within less than a decade after his execution.

Whoopee. Miraculous tales about the 17th century messiah-figure Sabbatai Zevi were spawned within mere weeks of his public appearances in Palestine. Letters from that same year relate that he commanded a fire to appear and walked through it unaffected. [1] The same year. Talk about “history-bursting.” It must have really happened!

My Weed 2

Not to mention, the mid-to-late 30’s date for 1 Corinthians 15 is spurious. Scholars infer this from the notion that Paul received and delivered the creed; ipso facto, it must predate Paul. But we have to ask what Paul is doing passing on an early creedal statement as fundamental to the gospel he preached (15:1-3), when, in Galatians 1:11-12, he states unequivocally, “…the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

Bottom line: 1 Corinthians 15 is very likely a post-Pauline interpolation, i.e., a passage inserted by later scribes. [2] Which would explain why the whole business of Jesus’ appearance to over five-hundred brethren appears nowhere in the later Gospels. So much for bursting history.

Hadouken

Then there’s this tasty morsel:

Tarico says the gospel story about the women at the tomb is believed by most scholars to be a mythological fiction based in earlier myths.  In reality, this element of the gospel sources is considered one of our most reliable according to Gary Habermas who surveyed more than 1,400 scholarly publications on the historical Jesus in German, French and English. (The testimony of women was so repudiated in the first century that this embarrassing element in the sources wouldn’t have been contrived by Christians.) [20]

Christian apologist Gary Habermas surveyed more than 1,400 scholarly publications and somehow failed to discover that his claim about women’s testimony in the ancient world is, in fact, completely false. (Did I mention that he’s a Christian apologist? Yeah, that would explain why.) Though women did not take on traditional male roles, such as that of a lawyer, their testimony was indeed trusted, even in a court of law. [3]

And it still is.

And it still is.

Stanhope continues:

Modern scholars don’t interpret the mystery religions into the gospels because there was little footing for them in 1st century Judea unlike Alexandrian Judaism.

The relevance of this statement is that the mystery religions constitute those “earlier myths” from which the Gospels may have derived their story about women grieving at the tomb. They featured dying and rising godmen, such as Osiris and Adonis, whose deaths were bewailed by female consorts. Stanhope would have us believe that no one in 1st century Judea had ever heard of such a thing. Even though Ezekiel 8:14 attests to women bemoaning the slain Tammuz at the very gates of the Temple, and Osiris had long been known in Palestine. [4]

But not as long as T-Rex.

But not as long as T-Rex.

Besides, what evidence does Stanhope have that the Gospels were actually written in Judea? They may likely have been produced by Hellenized Jews in the Diaspora, where mystery religion motifs would have been quite familiar. Stanhope, like most apologists, conflates the setting of the Gospels with their place of composition.

And if concepts from the mystery religions had not been known to the New Testament authors, then Stanhope has a long way to go toward explaining why the ritual assimilation of the believer to Christ (Ro. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12) and the consumption of his flesh in the form of bread (Jn. 6:53-58) have no basis whatsoever in Judaism, but fit beautifully in the context of the Osirian mortuary cult. [5] [6]

There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we're naught but humble pirates.

There are a lot of long words in there, Miss; we’re naught but humble pirates.

All in all, Stanhope is just another spin-doctoring windbag, attempting to foist his trite apologetics upon an ill-informed public–one that he hopes will be just as credulous of his claims as they are Tarico’s. More importantly, anyone who would rip off Cracked.com should be ferociously dick-punched and forced to traverse the earth collecting elephant shit in a bag for the rest of their pitiful lives.

And so it is.

Off I go. Man, my dick hurts.

Works Cited:

[1] Robert M. Price. “Is There a Place for Historical Criticism?” Official Home Page of Robert M. Price. http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_place.htm (2007).

[2] Robert M. Price. “Apocryphal Apparitions: 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 As a Post-Pauline Interpolation.” The Secular Web. http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/apocrypha.html (1997).

[3] Richard Carrier. “Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False?” The Secular Web. http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/women.html (2006).

[4] “Osiris, according to the brilliant conjecture of Lagarde, is perhaps named in Isaiah 10:4. In any case, he is known in Palestine much earlier, according to the excavations there” (Alfred Bertholet, “The Pre-Christian Belief in the Resurrection of the Body,” The American Journal of Theology, 20:1 [1916]: 10).

[5] S.G.F. Brandon. The Ritual Technique of Salvation in the Ancient Near East. In “The Saviour God: Comparative Studies in the Concept of Salvation,” ed. Edwin Oliver James (Manchester University Press, 1963), 32-33.

[6] “It so happens that scented loaves of bread accompany the Sokar figure in the Osirian mysteries described at Dendera. Called kfn-loaves, they are baked in special molds that mark them as representations of Osiris’ body parts…” (Joseph D. Reed, “Arsinoe’s Adonis and the Poetics of Ptolemaic Imperialism,” [American Philological Association: First Edition, 2000], 331).

funny_300_sparta_dine_in_hell

You all know the drill. Scramble into place and line up before Jesus McJudgealot, who’s seated on a great white throne. Scrolls are opened like winning lottery tickets, and names read aloud. The naughty are separated from the nice, and the former get tossed into a fiery lake of burning sulfur. Yadda yadda yadda, brown-nosers and goody two-shoes inherit the new earth, which glistens with streets of gold and IHOPs as far as the eye can see.

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Mmmm. I’ll have what he’s having.

This is more or less the picture that is painted in the Book of Revelation, minus the 24-hour chicken and waffles. And those consigned to the Lake of Fire suffer the “second death” (Rev. 20:14-15). An idea that’s totally original to the Bible, RIGHT? Bah! The ancient Egyptians were waxing theological about second deaths in an ominous Lake of Fire a good millennium beforehand.

hell-loving-god-eternity
But, before you were annihilated in the Egyptian Lake of Fire, you were treated to all manner of good, wholesome torture: having your flesh ripped off by demons, walking upside down on your head, getting your limbs torn from your body, and, best of all, eating a heaping helping of your own shit.

This is Hell!!?

Eat like an Egyptian.

Images of burning in “liquid hot magma” were present in Zoroastrianism, too, which, like the Book of Revelation, involves the destruction of the cosmic evildoer by submersion in the fiery ooze. Not that the Hebrews took this idea from the Persians or anything. I mean, when could that possibly have happened? Except for that one time, in band camp, when the Persians freed the Jews from captivity in Babylon, and then a Jewish sect arose whose name smacks of Persian (Pharisee = Farsi/Parsee).

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You can TOTALLY trust me not to rip you off; I’m Jewish!

Okay, but maybe the Bible’s account of Hell is still true, and the Egyptians and Zoroastrians were simply keen to the same, spiritual insights.

Yeah, that's the ticket!

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

Except that the Bible is about as consistent on the afterlife as a Mitt Romney campaign that starts on the East Coast and ends in Georgia.

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Abortion? It should be legal. As long as you go to jail for it.

The Old Testament begins by teaching mortalism (Gen. 3:19, Ps. 90), then speaks of a shadowy existence in Sheol as the final destination of both the righteous and the wicked (Eccl. 9:2-6), then of resurrection to either everlasting life or eternal contempt, depending on one’s righteousness (Dan. 12:2-3).

Giddyup, you unrepentant asshole!

Giddyup, you unrepentant asshole!

The New Testament says that we are resurrected to a spiritual body without flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:50), then the opposite (Lk. 24:39), and includes notions of a paradisaical life after death (Lk. 23:43) versus one in which we sleep (Eph. 5:14, 1 Thess. 5:10). Hell ranges from a place of eternal fire and punishment (Mt. 18:8, 25:46) to outright annihilation like that of ancient Egyptian belief (Rev. 20:11-15, 21:8). Confused yet?

Those aren't contradictions! It's multiple choice!

Those aren’t contradictions! It’s multiple choice!

All in all, there’s nothing to fear of Hell. As with so much of the Bible, it is derivative of earlier mythology, and its artificiality is laid bare by the winding and weaving of ideas attached to it. And you know what that means? No eternal consequences. As Rick Warren says, we can throw caution to the wind, engaging in lifelong debauchery and hedonism. Because it’s not like there are real-world consequences for our actions!

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Like he doesn’t already get under-the-altar blowies.

 

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Quick history lesson: About 10,000 years ago, the last Ice Age came to an end, resulting in the migration of wild game, flora, and fauna that hunter-gatherers had depended upon from time immemorial. In response to this, man had to innovate new ways to maintain sustenance. Thus, the advent of agriculture. With the rise of agriculture, man gradually ceased to be nomadic and began settling in areas conducive to the cultivation of crops, giving rise to civilization.

And "Obelisks."

And “Obelisks.”

As agriculture became essential to both civilization and subsistence, it also became crucial to understand the nature of the seasons and the solar cycles that contribute to seasonal change. Since we hadn’t yet developed the scientific method, we looked to the one place that would suffice to help us understand all this: the innermost region of our b-holes.

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One shart away from a mouthful of chocolatey badness.

We culled from our asses all manner of stories, rituals, legends, and myths that would explain a broad range of natural phenomena, from the movement of celestial objects to the death and rebirth of croplife. From this sprang “dying-and-rising god myths, [which] symbolized the death and return of vegetation, or the shortening and lengthening of the daylight.” Such deities as Tammuz, Baal, and Adonis personified the death of the planted seed and its sprouting to new life in Spring. Over time, man came to believe that performing certain rituals of initiation could mystically unite him with the fate of the risen god, effecting for him a spiritual rebirth already in this life, and, ultimately, a blessed life after death.

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Totally worth taking a pickaxe to the head.

Probably the earliest among these was the ancient Egyptian cult of Osiris. Scholars are reluctant to label it an official “mystery religion,” due to its lack of initiatory elements. Though it was nonetheless the conceptual precursor to the various mystery cults that followed. As Osiris had been murdered and subsequently raised from the dead, his devotees, too, could expect to share in eternal life beyond the grave.

“Even as Osiris lives, he also will live; even as Osiris is not dead, he also will not die” (Adolf Erman, A Handbook of Egyptian Religion, trans. A. S. Griffith [London: Archibald Constable & Co., 1907], 95).

The imagined mechanism in all of this was the homologic principle: “As above, so below. As within, so without.” As is accomplished by the god, so is made manifest in the believer. You may also have noticed that such expressions underscore Rhonda Byrne’s top-selling book, The Secret. Which is just chock full of credible.

I just put the thought out there, and BOOM: Hot girl on a donkey!

I just put the thought out there, and BOOM: Hottie on a donkey.

After Alexander the Great conquered half the known world in the 4th century BCE, ancient Egyptian beliefs became widely diffused through the medium of Hellenism–the adoption of Greek culture in foreign lands, and vice versa. Greeks and Romans had a certain preoccupation with ancient Egypt, due to its antiquity and mystique.

That's great, ancient Egypt, but I'm the most mysterious man of all time!

That’s great, ancient Egypt, but I’m the most mysterious man of all time!

The ancient Egyptian cult of Osiris would go on to influence the cults of Dionysus, Attis, and others. Upon Greek soil, secret rites of initiation (mysteries) were introduced, whereby the believer would sacramentally participate in the death and resurrection of the god. The risen deity served as the conduit through which mortal men could conquer death and live on in the hereafter.

Come with me if you want to live.

Come with me if you want to live.

Christianity arose in this Hellenistic milieu–an environment in which the old, Olympian gods were succeeded by the mystery religions and their promise of personal salvation. It was only natural that the emerging religion would absorb ideas from its surroundings, and such is reflected variously throughout the New Testament. The apostle Paul speaks of baptism as a mystical experience in which one dies and rises with Christ (Ro. 6:3-5, Col. 2:12). As Christ conquered death, so too could Christians (1 Cor. 15:22). Surely this meant they could curse fig trees as he did, also.

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Make me figgy pudding or DIE, plant!

For obvious reasons, Christian apologists strive mightily against the notion that Christianity borrowed from these older religions. You’ll hear everything from “The mysteries stole from Christianity!” to “Ancient Jews would never have entertained paganism!” These and other claims are patently false, as you can see here and here and here and here. And apologetics, in general, is an abject failure, as you can see here.

But I'll be damned if I can't afford this Versace suit!

But I’ll be damned if I can’t afford this Versace suit! SUCKERS.

So, next time you’re in church, remember: much of what you’re hearing, and the rites in which you’re partaking, not only come from paganism, but are ultimately rooted in the worship of fucking corn. Which is basically just another instance of corn resurfacing in crap.

xxx

Funny, I don’t remember taking Communion.

 

funnysatan

You’ve all probably heard of this guy. The Old Serpent, Prince of Darkness, Master & Chief of Demons, Pitchforked Wonder, etc., etc. If you don’t have a Jesus force-field app on your iPhone, he screws you in your sleep while smearing Andy Rooney’s dung all over your helpless body. Which, of course, you happily pass off as a spray tan.

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I’m socially liberal and fecally not conservative.

But, whence cometh Satan? We’ve already seen that both God and Jesus are patchwork quilts of prior gods and archetypes from the ancient world. Is it the same for Satan? Fuck, no! I just have a strange fetish for misleading my readers!

Gotcha! Now, who wants fried chicken with extra frosting?

Gotcha! Now, who wants fried chicken with extra frosting?

Okay, yes, it is. Satan is first introduced in the book of Genesis yeeeahNO. The chatty snake in the Garden of Eden is never identified with Satan. Like, ever. Rather, he is first introduced in the book of Job, where he functions as a “prosecutor” and member of the Divine Council, i.e., Sons of God (Elohim).

“One day the Sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them” (Job 1:6).

The name Satan denotes “adversary.” But, originally, he was the adversary of man, not of God. He is God’s right-hand man, “roaming about the earth” and sniffing people out to see whether or not they are truly loyal to the Almighty. Just as he does with Job. Who, by the way, got royally shafted.

Bah! Would you like some boils with that dead family?

Would you like some boils with that dead family? Bah!

Only later in the Old Testament, and especially in the New Testament, does Satan morph into the embodiment of evil, due to Zoroastrian influences that took hold after the Persians freed the Jews from captivity in Babylon. The Hebrew ha-Satan was merged with the Persian Ahriman–the opposer of the Wise Lord Ahura Mazda. In fact, the entire eschatology (end times belief) of Judaism and Christianity flows from Zoroastrian influence, and such is laid bare by the fact that “Pharisee” originally denoted “Persian” (Farsi/Parsee).

Perhaps also the origin of artsy-fartsy?

Perhaps also the origin of artsy-fartsy?

In the New Testament in particular, Satan also bears resemblance to the Gnostic Demiurge–the “craftsman” of this fallen world and its inferior, physical state (as opposed to the superiority of the spiritual world). Thus, the apostle Paul’s reference to Satan as “the god of this world,” who blinds “the minds of the unbelieving” (2 Cor. 4:4). Likewise, Paul yearns for the spiritual over the physical:

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).

Of course, Paul wrote this well before 1987’s Predator, so he can surely be forgiven for his naïveté.

Fix your eyes on me, ya sanctimonious taint scab.

Bout time I fixed my laser pointer on you, ya preachy shit.

And then there’s the whole bit about Lucifer and his legion of rebellious angels getting booted from heaven. This tale is cribbed from Isaiah 14, but with a twist.

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High’ (Is. 14:12-14).

Was Isaiah actually referring to Satan? NOPE. He was talking about the friggin’ King of Babylon, as he makes expressly clear in 14:4. (And that, in turn, was influenced by the myth of Helal [Venus] and his daily ascent/descent in the heavens.) But this is the type of dubious malpractice that early Christians loved to perform, because their god apparently never stated this:

prooftext2
Insofar as iconography is concerned, Satan acquired his horned and hooved image from the ancient Greek nature god, Pan. From whom, apparently, we learned how to get our dusty, old Nintendo games playing again.

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And when you’re finished blowing that…

All told, Satan is just another, imaginary synthesis of syntheses, cobbled together from this and that antiquated piece of superstitious dumbfuckery. Like God, he simply does not exist.

Or does he…

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GABBAR#$@!%&FARAR, liberals!

 

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When theists pose “proofs” for God, such as the cosmological argument, the typical atheist taunt is, “Where did God come from?” Which is, of course, a justifiable response. If everything must have a cause, then God must also have a cause. And so on and so forth ad infinitum. The only way to avoid this infinite regress is to reason that there must be an “Uncaused Cause,” or “Prime Mover.” Here, Occam’s Razor (entities need not be multiplied beyond necessity) delivers a swift blow to the poor theist’s gambit: If God could exist uncaused, then why couldn’t the universe? Science is indeed pointing in that direction.

Sheeit, anymore, we up and make our own universes.

Sheeit, anymore, we plumb make our own universes.

But, funny thing about that question, “Where did God come from?” We have a very good idea where he came from. And it wasn’t from Lex Luthor’s asshole.

It was from mine! Ha! Kneel.

It was from mine! Ha! Kneel with it.

Generally speaking, the idea of “gods” probably stems from our ancestors’ tendency to over-infer agency–a living entity, human or other, that acts in the world. So, when Neanderthal Joe was “breaking the seal” after 30 some-odd cold ones at Club Spearchuck, and he suddenly heard a rustling in the bushes behind him, his first reaction was to assume it was a giant, man-eating chicken, and light up with 1500 volts of pure adrenaline.

Pollo Uh-Oh.

Pollo Uh-Oh.

Obviously, this would have served an evolutionary advantage in being extra cautious about marauding predators, something with which we have much less concern today. Though, the remnant of that mechanism still has us believing all manner of stupid.

I refudiate that remark!

I refudiate that remark!

Of course, there’s also something to be said for the theory espoused by the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Prodicus of Ceos, who judged the gods to be representations of natural phenomena–the sun, moon, rivers, crops, etc. Thus, Apollo symbolized the sun, Demeter embodied the grain, and so on. If I had to guess, I’d say ol’ Prodicus was a godless bag o’ shit.

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Me and Prodicus on safari. Ah, memories…

As it concerns the biblical god, we have, just like Jesus, a mosaic of elements from around the ancient Mediterranean. According to scholars such as Karen Armstrong and Mircea Eliade, there are traces in the Bible of a tribalistic “god of the father” cult, in which the deity was a figurehead of the tribe, passed down through the generations. Thus the expression, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). Frankly, this pisses me off. As a youngster, I received hand-me-down sweaters and pants, but never a fucking hand-me-down god.

Cool. My own Canaanite Terminator.

Cool. My own Canaanite Exterminator.

The biblical god is also a mishmash of regional deities, including El Elyon of Canaan, Marduk of Babylon, and Yahweh, who was probably of Kenite origin (Judg. 1:16). The Israelites were simply Canaanites under a new name, the conquest of Canaan being a foundationary myth geared toward uplifting national morale during troubling times. Kind of like a literary cheerleader.

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READY? OKAY! GOOOO, UNMANNED FLYING DEATH MACHINES!

The Israelites were originally polytheistic, and only later streamlined the pantheon by merging various deities into one. As Marduk, God separates the waters above from the waters below, and creates man on the sixth day (Gen. 1). As El Elyon, he presides over the divine council and renders judgment among the gods (Ps. 82). As Yahweh, he is the irascible god of war and conquest, whose wrath is as dreadful as an incoming storm. In fact, Yahweh probably began as the personification of volcanic storm activity:

On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently … When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear (Ex. 19:16-18, 20:18).

This is descriptive of a natural phenomenon known as a “dirty storm,” in which thunder and lightning accompany the billowing smoke of an active volcano.

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Jehovah Blows.

The biblical god also fits the psychological profile of a despotic and tyrannical, Ancient Near Eastern king, and he is likely a fictive projection of such. He sits atop a throne (Ps. 11:4), rules over his people (Ex. 19:6, Deut. 4:19), commands an army (Josh. 5:14), prefers to be feared (Ex. 20:19-20, Job 38-41), and he requires high praise and exaltation (Isa. 6:2-3). But, the best part? He loves the smell of burning meat (Gen. 8:21, Ex. 29:18, Lev. 1:17, Num. 15:13). His hatred of pork and apparent sense of smell go a long way toward explaining my weekend ritual.

Take a whiff, O' Lord.

Take a whiff, O’ Lord.

During the Axial Age (c. 800 to 200 BC), God received a bit of toning down, as well as a loftier position in the heavens, with the influence of Greek philosophy. Plato envisioned a more spiritualized realm between heaven and earth, and Aristotle introduced a grand scheme of metaphysics, e.g, God as “Unmoved Mover,” “First Cause,” and self-subsistent “Being.” These are ideas about “God” that most people take for granted today, but in fact stem from classical ponderings of the world in antiquity. Sounds fancy and stuff, but still boils down to people making shit up.

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The Whore of Babylon will be here to eat our souls in 3…

The irony is this: Fundamentalist Christians vehemently deny evolution. Yet, the Bible, Jesus, and God himself are all prime examples of evolutionary development. The ideas attached to them are the product of change and adaptation, occurring throughout the course of human history. And these adaptations continue to take place even today, as the more rational among evangelicals embrace scientific truths, and interpret scripture in new ways to accommodate for them. In this way, Christianity is a chameleon. Should it survive another thousand years, there’s no telling what it will look like.

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This disc is my flesh. The MCP can totally eat it.

 

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When I began my foray into religion and philosophy, I was concerned with one thing and one thing only: truth.  There was never a point at which I sat down and selected atheism from the menu of favorable options. In fact, I don’t necessarily favor atheism. I’d like to think that a guiding and benevolent father figure looks out for me from above. That one day I’ll get to parade around in my underwear for all eternity with Phil Hartman and Chris Farley.

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We’ll be here, Derreck. Just as soon as you die from cirrhosis.

But, at the end of the day, it’s not about what I desire or find palatable. It’s about what strikes me as being true. What worldview seems to best comport with reality? Atheism, for me, is not even a choice, but a conclusion, however tentative, based on an honest appraisal of the world around me. In light of that, I prefer to follow the Buddhist wisdom of accepting things just as they are, rather than attempting to skew reality so that it conforms to my innermost wishes. Carl Sagan said it best: “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”

I’ve got a fistful of science to go with that butthurt, Jesus.

The approach that I just described, the honest seeking for truth, seems to be the furthest thing from the Christian mindset. Let’s face it: anyone who’s a Christian either inherited their faith without ever rigorously questioning it, or came to believe as a result of some emotional incentive. I have yet to meet a single Christian who says, “I was a nonbeliever, until I investigated the truth claims of the Bible. And whad’ya know: logic, reason, evidence, science, history, and philosophy all bore it out!”

Look, here's Noah's Ark!

Look, here’s Noah’s Ark!

But, here’s the thing. I am perfectly fine with that. Really. Truly. What somebody else believes is none of my business, so long as they don’t impose it upon me. If it makes them happy and provides them a sense of comfort, who am I to interfere with that? I say, to each his own.

Good. Because this basketball is mine. This is MY basketball.

Good. Because this basketball is mine. This is MY basketball.

Now, of course there are things about the highly political, religious right that irritate me, e.g., their stance on gay rights, women’s reproductive rights, the attempts to inject creationist pseudoscience into the classroom, etc. But, as someone with an academic interest in religious studies, what really grinds my gears are Christian apologists–those who attempt to defend the faith on “intellectual” grounds. As an institution hellbent on defending the indefensible, theirs is the practice of shameless shell games, spin-doctoring, convoluted thinking, far-fetched rationalizing, baseless presumptions, careless conjecture, and all manner of fallacious argumentation. Basically, bullshit artistry masquerading as scholarship. 100%. Complete. Bullshit.

On the Origins of Apologetics.

On the Origin of Feces

That they have the gall to insist that we atheists are unjustified in our disbelief, because we’re somehow oblivious to their oh-so-cogent “evidence,” is disgustingly disingenuous and insulting. Peddle your nonsense to the credulous if you must, but don’t pretend as though we ought to be equally gullible.

Molecules in the shape of a cross, you say? Oh, Praise Him!

Molecules in the shape of a cross, you say? Oh, Praise Him!

But, are their arguments really that bad, you might ask? YES. Yes, they are. One need look no further than the grand poobah of Christian apologists, William Lane Craig. Dr. Craig’s defenses of Christian belief are so bad that even Norm Macdonald is more convincing as Burt Reynolds in SNL’s Celebrity Jeopardy. And he’s not even trying. Craig basically relies on sleight-of-hand trickery, as do most Christian apologists. But anyone with a modicum of critical thinking skills can see exactly how he pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

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Among his other tricks.

Craig’s misrepresentation of the physics behind cosmic origins has been noted here, where he flagrantly lies about the universe being created ex nihilo (out of nothing). In addition to that, I will discuss three other arguments of his that stink to high heaven so severely, even Jesus chokes on the fumes.

Where's the goddamn Hawaiian Breeze & Fuji Apple Glade?!!

Goddammit, Peter, where’s that Hawaiian Fuji Apple Glade?!!

Beginning with Craig’s defense of the resurrection. In addition to appealing to the empty tomb, Joseph of Arimathea, and visions of the resurrected Jesus in order to prove the resurrection of Jesus–in effect, using the Bible to prove the Bible–Craig made this stunning statement during a debate with New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman:

Dr. Ehrman just assumes that the probability of the resurrection on our background knowledge [Pr(R/B)] is very low. But here, I think, he’s confused. What, after all, is the resurrection hypothesis? It’s the hypothesis that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead. It is not the hypothesis that Jesus rose naturally from the dead. That Jesus rose naturally from the dead is fantastically improbable. But I see no reason whatsoever to think that it is improbable that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Background knowledge, of course, refers to our everyday experience of the world. And Craig really nails it. We don’t tend to witness people naturally rising from the dead. But, supernaturally? Oh, well, yeah. You can barely walk your dog or stroll through the supermarket without encountering a reanimated corpse these days. But it’s hardly any surprise in the face of magic. What the fuck was Dr. Ehrman thinking?

Is this the produce section?

Is this the produce section?

With respect to the Problem of Evil, Craig argues that evil is actually proof of God’s existence. Because, you see, evil denotes “a departure from the way things ought to be.” And, if there’s “a way things ought to be,” then there must be a design plan set forth by a Creator. QED. Everything is the result of God’s design.
Oh grow up, God.

Oh grow up, God.

Problem is, Craig’s definition of evil is ad hoc, designed expressly for the sake of arriving at his desired conclusion. If there is no God, then there is no “way things ought to be.” There is only the way things are. Gratuitous and pervasive suffering only “ought to be” absent from the world if there is an all-powerful and loving God–an entity with both the ability and desire to prevent it. It is precisely because the world is not so that we atheists disbelieve in God.

Evil, therefore, would not be a departure from any divine plan, but a value judgment set forth by human beings, best described as “that which causes harm, misfortune, or destruction.” But the best part is this: By Craig’s rationale, Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho is a shining example of God’s glorious existence.

xxx

“Witnessing.”

Lastly, we come to Craig’s defense of biblical genocide. Accordingly, all those Canaanites whom the Israelite soldiers slaughtered had it coming. They were steeped in impurity, so what’s an all-powerful and loving God to do but have them exterminated? It’s not like, in his infinite power and wisdom, he could conjure up a civil, non-violent solution. He’s not fucking Gandhi or Jesu… wait, whaaa?

I see what you did there.

I see what you did there.

But what about the children, Professor Craig? Why the innocent children?

If [you] believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

Those lucky little fucks! Now, excuse me while I go on an infanticidal killing spree, so that more of God’s precious children can “quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.” I’m sure the parents won’t mind. After all, I’m just expediting their salvation!

Time to blow you little shits to Kingdom Come.

30-round bursts of salvation comin’ at ya!

Oh, but it gets better.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

By extension, I feel the sudden urge to give Hitler a hug. In fact, we should dedicate a memorial to the Nazi regime (those poor souls), with William Lane Craig hosting the opening ceremony. What could be more fitting for Christianity’s leading apologist than to be dressed in regalia that reads “God With Us.”

xxx

That special gift for the guy who kills everything.

So there you have it, folks. Among defenders of the faith, that’s the best Christianity has to offer. I’d sure hate to see the worst. In all their works, whether written or spoken, there is no regard for the truth. There is no attempt whatsoever at objectivity. They seek only to defend what they already blindly believe, no matter how grotesque or outlandish. And they’ll lie, cheat, contrive, and deceive every step of the way. But, hey. At least they love Jesus. You can be forgiven for anything as long as you believe the right shit.

There-there, now. Just promise you won't lace Gerber products with arsenic again.

There-there, now. Freebasing cocaine from a hooker’s severed head is a mild offense, anyway.

 

jesus-holds-the-planet

Upon rejecting Christianity, I did not automatically jump to an atheistic conclusion. I still held to some fundamental idea of God, however ambiguous it might have been. A benign father figure or creator of sorts. It just wasn’t time to throw the baby out with the bath water. Which, by the way, is something I’ve always wanted to do. A baby is a fragile and vulnerable thing, a precious and joyous gift of life. I still want to throw one at a bullseye. You simply haven’t lived til you’ve seen a baby hurtling at 70 mph.

Eat your drywall, Toby.

Eat your drywall, Toby.

Though it wouldn’t be long before I realized that an all-powerful and loving, personal God could ill be squared with the Problem of Evil. As Epicurus wisely put it: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

BaZing! Now, who's dick do I have to suck to get some pupils?

BaZing! Now, whose dick do I have to suck to get some pupils?

Of course, the Problem of Evil can seemingly be defused by appealing to Free Will. However, many sources of suffering are due to entirely natural causes. Among them: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, disease, famine, butt worms, etc. With the possible exception of butt worms, the others cannot be so easily dismissed. Unless one wishes to argue that tectonic plates have desire.

Oh, just rub my crust right into yours.

Yeah, just rub your crust right against mine. Ahhh…

Oh, but how quickly I forget: “God works in mysterious ways.” Why, of course he does. Funny how those “mysterious ways” are completely indistinguishable from God sitting around with his thumb in his butt.

$10 bucks says I find that goddamn TiVo remote.

$10 bucks says I find that goddamn TiVo remote.

So, with a personal God out of the question, what was left? Well, the very existence of the universe still needed some explaining. If nothing else, it seemed to me that there had to be a creator, something or someone who set all this in motion. And so I arrived at Deism: belief in a supreme being who created the world but does not intervene in it. Somewhat akin to what a few of our Founding Fathers believed, e.g., Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. As Paine once famously wrote, “It is the duty of every true Deist to vindicate the moral justice of God against the evils of the Bible.” And here you thought they were all fundamentalist Christians.

Pfft. Fuck Jesus.

Pfft. Fuck Jesus.

After all, I had enough familiarity with science to know that our universe began some 13.8 billion years ago at the Big Bang. But, what caused it? How does this much something come from nothing? It almost had to be the divine act of a supreme being, a creation ex nihilo (out of nothing).

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Let there be light! …and Maury Povich reruns.

As it turns out, this is exactly the type of thing that Christian philosopher William Lane Craig argues, i.e., The Kalam Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God. How ’bout them apples? Not only does it have a cool sounding name, but, heck, if you can’t trust a Christian philosopher, who can ya trust? They’re all so goddamn genuine! Couldn’t fake a smile if they had to!

Everything about me screams "Genuine!"

Yep. Just shit my pants. Must. Keep. Smiling.

So, that pretty well settles it. When you arrive at the limits of your knowledge, when there just doesn’t seem to be an explanation in sight, simply invoke God, and, presto! Tis explained! YeeeahNO. This is what philosophers call an Argument from Ignorance. By settling for an answer that is essentially steeped in magic, you haven’t really answered anything. In fact, you’ve only kicked the can down the road, explaining one mystery by invoking another: God.

I know the answer to X! It's XX!

I know the answer to X! It’s XX!

Okay, so back to the drawing board. Philosophical faux pas or not, how could the universe have emerged from nothing? There almost had to be something from which everything else came. Nothing couldn’t possibly produce anything! That would be a logical absurdity!

Like voting Republican when you're poor white trash!

Like voting Republican when you’re poor white trash!

Unless the nothing of physics is actually… wait for it… wait for it some more… oh, God, this is so close to happening… unless the nothing of physics is actually still… something.

Yep. This guy again.

Yep. This guy again.

Here’s the lowdown on “nothing,” according to Dr. Sten Odenwald of NASA:

When physicists say ‘nothing’ they are being playful with the English language, because we often think of the vacuum as being ’empty’ or ‘nothing’ when in fact physicists know full well that the vacuum is far from empty. The primordial ‘state’ at the Big Bang was far from being the kind of ‘nothingness’ you might have in mind. We don’t have a full mathematical theory for describing this ‘state’ yet, but it was probably ‘multidimensional’, it was probably a superposition of many different ‘fields’, and these fields, or whatever they were, were undergoing ‘quantum fluctuations’. Space and time were not the things we know them to be today because our world is a lot colder than the way it started out. Nothingness was not nothing, but it was not anything like the kinds of ‘somethings’ we know about today.

ioj

Now, how ’bout you drop them panties?

And there you have it. Our universe was indeed spawned from a strange and curious void. An underlying field of existence, or substratum, that has probably always been, and forever will be. This is scientifically supported by the First Law of Thermodynamics (mass-energy is neither created nor destroyed), which itself is confirmed by the net energy of the universe as a whole (all positive, material energy minus all negative, gravitational energy equals zero). Thus, there was no violation of conservation laws between the zero-state energy of the primordial void and now. Follow me?

It is so totally okay if you need to read that again.

It is so totally okay if you need to read that again.

What’s more, according to recent findings in quantum physics, our universe may cycle through an endless series of Big Bangs, essentially rebirthing itself from within every so many billion years. Precise measurements of what is known as the Higgs boson particle have revealed an inherent vacuum instability, suggesting that the universe is eternally in flux. Bottom line: the universe was never in need of a creator. In one form or another, it has probably always existed.

Oh, yeah... that's... that's more poop.

Oh, yeah… just squeezed a little more out, there.

All in all, a personal God seems wildly improbable, given the Problem of Evil. And science renders the God of Deism without any explanatory utility. So much for attempting to find God at the ass end of space. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Christian apologists to fairly and accurately portray science before their flock. They come from a long line of deception and delusion. One that’s lasted at least 2,000 years.

Man. Judas didn't fuck me that hard.

I’ve inspired generations of assholes.