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5/30/2002 View Comments
First on the list is the idea that salvation is unconditional. Grace is freely bestowed on the believer. The believer is not saved by works, or by earning it in any way; it is a gift, offered freely and without cost to the believer. Or so we are led to believe. I contend that this concept does not make sense. If salvation is a free gift and we as human beings can contribute nothing to our own salvation, but is all a work of the grace of GOD, then why isn't everyone on the planet destined for eternal life in heaven? While Christians throughout history have debated from either the Arminian freewill approach versus the Calvinist predestination ideal, neither camp believes everyone is bound for the heavenly city paved with streets of gold. Most Christians would unanimously agree that most of humanity will find themselves in a very uncomfortable position at the judgment seat on the last day. So, if we are not saved by works but by grace, I ask again, why aren' t we all saved?
Let me explain further what I am thinking in regard to this matter. If there is some requirement for us to receive salvation, it can logically be said that we have earned our salvation through the performance of the requirement. I have heard it explained that we must believe the gospel to be saved. Another description is that we must accept the free offer of salvation, that we must figuratively reach out and take the gift. Therefore, in my mind, since I am held accountable for doing something in order to receive salvation, then in a very small way, I have contributed to earning my salvation. Admittedly, accepting a gift is not doing much, but it is still doing something. Another analogy presented to my skeptical mind went like this: If a deposit is made in your bank account making you a millionaire, then it can be said you have the free gift. It is up to you to make a withdrawal to reap the benefits of the gift, you have to believe that it is there in your account in order to make use of the money. This analogy was persuasive to me for quite some time, but I believe it breaks down in the fact that whether I use the money or not, I am still rich, and on my death my estate will benefit even if I lived like a pauper all my life. I do not loose the money in the bank simply because I do not believe it is there. The existence of the money, and my ownership of it, is not impacted by my acceptance of it's reality. The only thing affected is my lifestyle.
I am constantly told that the Christian religion is different because all other religions require it's adherents to follow some code, or perform certain established rituals, or do good works to earn the favor of whatever god the religion promotes. In my opinion Christianity is no different in regards to this. The true believer in Christ must pray the sinners prayer, he or she must repent, turning from their old lifestyle and sin, they must ask Jesus to become the Lord of their Life. This is the basic formula presented by Campus Crusade for Christ, by Billy Graham and by most of Evangelical Christendom. If this is not a ritual, or a good work in order to achieve the notice of GOD, I don't know what is. If I do not submit myself and conform to these established rules, then my seat on the heaven train is unavailable to me.
Another thing that just makes no sense to me is the propitiation for sins embodied in the death of Jesus on the cross. Supposedly Jesus suffered the condemnation that I deserve, that he stood in my place, and took upon himself all the consequences for not only my sins, but the sins of the whole world. Correct me if I am wrong, but according to Christian doctrine, if I do not have the propitiative blood of Christ on me when the last trump shall sound, I will face eternal separation from God as the recompense for my unrepentant life. Or more simply, I go to hell forever. Apparently my punishment is more severe than that endured by Jesus. The way I understand it, Jesus spent about three hours in agony on the cross, with perhaps a few more hours before crucifixion being beaten and scourged. I do not mean to minimize the pain suffered by being tortured and executed in such a cruel way, but even a few weeks of torture do not seem to evenly compare with an eternity in torment. In the book of Genesis, the consequence of sin was death. Adam and Eve and all of humanity began to die, and continue to do so to this day. Christians are absolved from that since Christ died in their place, so why do they still die? Obviously everyone still dies, so it is contingent on religionists to spiritualize the plain words of Scripture that states that Christ has set the believer free from the wages of sin through his free gift.
If I accept that the free gift of eternal life is resigned to a future after death, a resurrection life, then let me ask this, did Jesus really die? Oh sure his body died, but his bodily death did not win an escape from physical death for us, so it must have won an escape from spiritual death for us. So did Christ die spiritually? What is spiritual death exactly, isn't it eternal separation from GOD? Hell and death are thrown into the Lake of Fire, which is the second death, is how the writer of Revelation concludes the final book of the Bible. So Christ suffered eternal separation from GOD then right? No, wrong! If he was separated from God at all it was only for a few days.
Then of course there is the whole trinity thing. Christ prays to himself, he dies and is separated from himself, He turns away from himself when he sees himself on the cross. None of this makes a bit of sense.
Now let's consider the justice of someone dying for a crime that someone else committed. If my son, my only son, were to commit some heinous crime deserving of death, is there a single court anywhere on Earth that would accept my sacrifice in his place? If I were to die, while my depraved son went free, would anyone believe justice had been served? The people who my son victimized, would they be satisfied with my death in his place, while he roamed quilt less for his own crimes? The concept of justice that is promoted by the Biblical writers is defies simple logic. It is quite frankly bazaar.
The retreat of Christianity is to foam at the mouth here and state emphatically that we cannot understand the workings or mind of God. We must simply accept these contradictory concepts on faith. I contend that such statements are a bold admission by the believer that indeed, salvation does not make any sense, but the believer believes it anyway.
The need to believe is powerful. It is terrifying to many people to think that this is the only life we will ever have, that there is no one in heaven pulling the strings, that our happiness or our misery is dependant on us alone. Some people need a friend, a friend that is totally in control, and gives them the assurance that their lives are mapped out for them. Some people want to believe that no matter what difficulties they may face in life, all their efforts and the injustices they had to endure will be lavishly rewarded in the next life.
In Porgy & Bess there is a song which says, "It aint necessarily so, the things that you're liable to read in the Bible, it aint necessarily so." The ancient Egyptians spent their whole lives preparing for the afterlife. Some of them are on display in museums to this day. While their extravagant preparations for a life after this one helps us understand the past, it should give us reflection on our own beliefs and what we do with our lives now.
This is the only life we have.
5/26/2002 View Comments
Definition of the word "god"
To prove the non-existence of god we first need to define the word "god". When christians talk about god they mean an almighty being. This, I think, is the only god that holds, since it is the only god that can be logically justified.
I think it makes most sense if god is female, because only women can give life. Something that even people in the Stone Age understood. Later when wars affected the cultural evolution, and men took control of society, god became male, but the female god still lives on in the expression "Mother earth". It should also be pointed out that an omnipotent god must be either androgyne or sexless. However, in most religions god is male so I will refer to god as 'he', 'him' etc.
Some people (Einstein for instance) believe in a god who is not a personal god, but a Spinozan kind of god. I claim that this god is not a god! To say that god is universe - by getting knowledge of the universe we get knowledge of god - is to redefine the meaning of the word god. This has nothing to do with the word god as it was defined by the "primitive" cultures which preceded our present civilization. He can be excluded with Occam's razor, and most important: Such a god does not hear prayers.
If god is not omnipotent there is nothing that prevents him from being a product of the universe. If that is the case, what makes god divine? Then god would only be an alien, a being of matter; probably containing flesh, blood and DNA like all life we know of. Everything god is able to do would be things that human beings also will be able to do, all his knowledge would be knowledge we will also achieve. In fact humans would be gods, which should lead to some strange kind of humanism!
Many people justify their faith with god as an explanation. What is the meaning of life? Where does time and space come from? Who created the physical constants? et cetera. Because we lack knowledge of these things - and maybe never will, since they are questions like "what is the color of a second?" or "how does sound taste?" - god is there as an explanation.
Let's say that god is the meaning of life, what then is the meaning of god? If god has a nature, who created that nature? If god created time and space, how can god exist without it? Since creation is an event in time, how could god create time? and who created god? To answer these questions god must be almighty, or else you can't explain them. In fact you can if you say god stands above time and space and so on (which he indeed does if he is almighty), but to be able to prevent god from being tied to future phenomena, you must give him the quality of omnipotence so he can stand above everything.
The qualities of an omnipotent god
If god is almighty there are several qualities he must have. They are as follows:
He must know everything. Everything that is, everything that has been and everything that will be. To be able to know everything that will be he must know every position and every momentum of every particle in cosmos (Laplace's "World Spirit").
He must be worth our worship. A being that is not worth worshipping is no god.
He must be able to do anything. If there are things that god can't do, he certainly is not omnipotent.
He must be above time. Something that even St. Augustine deduced. But not only that, god must stand above all possible dimensions.
He cannot be 'good' or 'evil' or, indeed, have any subjective characteristica. If god is all good, he cannot do evil things and cannot be almighty. Most people would object and say that good can do evil but chooses not to do it. Well, if god is all good he can't choose to do evil things, can he?
The theodicé problem
We also have the theodice problem, stated by David Hume:
If the evil in the world is intended by god he is not good. If it violates his intentions he is not almighty. God can't be both almighty and good. There are many objections to this, but none that holds since god is ultimately responsible for the existence of evil. Besides, if only god can create he must have created evil. If somebody else (the devil) created evil, how can one know that god, and not Satan created the universe?
The ontological evidence against gods
Neccesary in a god is a being that is worth worshipping, so if there is no being worth worshipping there cannot be a god.
Not any of the existing religions can provide such a god. How do we know if there are no undiscovered beings worthy our submission? Well if there is a being that has either failed or not tried to communicate with us that being is not worth worshipping either, so the ontological evidence against god holds, even without complete knowledge of the world.
There is a test, based on the ontological evidence against god, that you can do to try the existence of god. Pray, and ask god to provide you with a clear proof for his existence within a week. After that week, if you have got a proof that god exists, send me the evidence. If not, there are only three reasons I can think of that are plausible: (1) God does not exist, (2) God does not want to or (3) God can't give you this evidence. Because of the ontological evidence, alternative (2) and (3) are not worth your worship and thus they equal alternative (1). So if you get no response there is no god.
The meaning of the word existence
What do we mean by existence? The very definition for existence is that a thing is said to exist if it relates in some way to some other thing. That is, things exist in relation to each other. For us, that means that something is part of our system ('The known world'). God is defined to be infinite, in which case it is not possible for there to be anything other than god because "infinite" is all-inclusive. But if there is nothing other than god then either god cannot be said to exist for the reason just explained, or god is the known world, in which case, by definition, god is not a god.
Occam's razor was formulated by William of Occam (1285-1349) and says: "Non est ponenda pluralites sive necessitate" or in english: "Do not multiply entities unless necessarily". It is a principle for scientific labour which means that one should use a simple explanation with a few explanatory premises before a more complex one.
Let's say that everything must be created, and that was done by an omnipotent god. A god which stands above time, space, moral and existence, which is self containing and in it self has it's own cause. This entity can surely be replaced by the known world. The world stands above time, space, moral, existence, is self containing and in it has it's own meaning. Most theists agree that god has a nature. Then we must raise the question, who created god's nature? If we just accept that god has a nature and exists without a cause, why not say that the known world just is and that the laws of physics are what they are, without a cause?
God is not really an explanation, only a non-explanation. It is impossible to gain information from non-information so God as an explanation is a dead end. When we have said that the reason for something is that 'god did it that way' there is no way to understand it any further. We just shrug our shoulders and accept things as they are. To explain the unknown by god is only to explain how it happened, not why. If we are to investigate the world and build our views of life from the world, we cannot assume a god. Because adding god as an explanation leaves as many, if not more questions than it explains, god has to be removed with Occam's razor if we are serious in investigating the world.
Some things are impossible to do:
There are things that are impossible to do. For example nobody can cover a two-dimensional surface with two-dimensional circles, without making them overlap. It is impossible to add the numbers two and two and get 666. You can not go back in time (without passing an infinite entropy barrier). The number of things that are impossible to do are almost infinite. If god were to be almighty he would be able to do them, but it's impossible to do so.
Some people say that he can only do things that are logically possible to do, but what is? Is it logically possible to walk on water? Is it logically possible to rise from the dead? Is it logically possible to stand above time, space and all other dimensions - and still exist? I'd say that everything which violates the laws of physics are logically impossible and thus omnipotence is logically impossible. Besides if omnipotence is a relative quality there is no way to tell omnipotence from non-omnipotence. For omnipotence to be a valid expression it must be absolute, but we have no objective criteria to measure omnipotence so the word itself is useless.
Omnipotence is impossible due to paradoxes
Another way to disprove the almighty god is that omnipotence leads to paradoxes. Can god make a rock that is too heavy for him to carry? Can god build a wall that even he can't tear down?
Also, if god knows everything, he knows what he will do in the "future" (in any dimension, not necessary the time dimension). He must have known that from the very start of his own existence. Thus god's actions are predestined. God is tied by faith, he has no free will. If god has no free will god is not omnipotent. Another way to put it is that to be able to make plans and decisions one must act over time. If god stands above time he can not do that and has no free will. Indeed, if god stands above all dimensions god is dimensionless - a singularity, nothing, void!
Besides there can exist no free wills at all if god is almighty. If you had a free will, god wouldn't know what you would do tomorrow and wouldn't be omnipotent.
The void creator
If everything must have been created, then god must have been created as well. If god is not created, then everything mustn't have a creator, so why should life or cosmos have one?
Besides this argument has another leap. If everything has a source and god is that source, then god must have existed without it before he created it. So if god created time and space, he must live outside of time and space. Thus he is non-existent. If all life must come from something and that is god, god is not alive and hence non-existent. If moral must come from god, god lacks moral. If logic comes from god, god is illogic. If nature comes from god, god is unnatural. If existence comes from god, god is non-existent. If god is the cause of everything, god is void
We would never notice god
This is not an evidence against god, but rather describes the lack of sense in praying to a god who stands above time.
If god stands above time and created time and space he can not be the first link in a time dependent chain of events. Rather he would affect every step in all chains, and we would only see god in the laws of physics (Davies, 1983, chapter 4). This god is an unnecessary entity to describe the world and should be removed with Occam's razor
If somebody would pray to god and god would listen, the laws would change to achieve the desired result. Thus the world would be different and the prayer would never have been said. Besides god would already (in an "above time" sense of view) know that you would pray, and already have changed the world. Prayers would be totally meaningless. We would already live in the best world possible, and any prayer would be to doubt the wisdom of god.
Even worse: For every prayer said, god has not acted, or else the prayer had been undone. This means that the more people have prayed, the more bad things in the world have persisted. Therefore, the more you pray, the more evil persist (provided god exists and stands above time).
A much better way to change the world is to do it yourself. Then you would know that it was you who made the world better. The effect of prayers are not scientific provable, whilst the effect of actions are. Instead of praying you should set to work at improving your situation. This is what humanism is about.
Nobody really believes in god
Schopenhauer once said something like:
"Man can do anything he wants, but he can not want whatever he wants."
My thesis is that people who claim to believe in god do not really do so. They just wish to believe in god. They somehow feel that their lives are meaningless without god, so they choose to close their eyes to evidence against the existence of god. The christian view is well expressed by Cardinal Ratzinger:
"Religious liberty can not justify freedom for divergence. This freedom does not aim at any freedom relative truth, but concerns the free descicion for a person to, according to his moral inclinations accept the truth." (The times, June 27 1990, p9)
It's as clear as it can be! For a christian you accept the "truth" according to your moral, and then have to be strong in your faith to keep your believes. You decide a priori what to believe and then try to convince yourself and others that it is true. But theists don't really believe, because to believe something is to take it for true, and just like in Nazareth's song Sold my soul there is no sign of god in the world. When you have the evidence for and against something your sub-conscious works on it and makes a conclusion. The process can't be affected by your will, only delayed or suppressed, which will lead to psychoses, and those are far more common among (catholic) priests than any other group..
I have personal experience of this believing what you want to believe. When I was a child I believed in a lot of crazy things. I thought my stuffed animals were intelligent. I believed in Santa Claus. I thought there were monsters under my bed at night. I even believed in god after I heard some of the tales from the old testament. Then I became older and realized that these things weren't true. When I look back I don't understand how I could believe in them, it must have been that I wanted to do so. (Except for the monsters, which had to do with fear of the dark)
When many religious people are confronted with criticism of their religion they convert to atheism or agnosticism. Examples of people who became critical to the dogmas of christianity are Charles Darwin (Darwin, 1958), Dan Barker (Barker, 19??), Ernest Renan plus many former "Catholic modernists" in the 19th century such as Alfred Loisy and Antonio Fogazzaro (Baigenth, Leigh, 1991). The Catholic modernism evolved in the late 19th century and was banned in 1907 by the Vatican (Baigenth, Leigh, 1991). These people are to me clear evidence that an enlightened person will after considering the facts, reject christianity and other religions that contain deities.
Note: This is not the "Plead to authority" fallacy. I'm talking people here, who were trying to prove the existence of god and turned atheists. They did not want to do this, but had to after reading a lot of books and doing a lot of thinking on the subject.
I have tried to define the only god that can be philosophically justified and show some examples why this god cannot exist. After reading this document you may object and say that god is beyond human understanding and can't be defined in scientific terms. This is the view of agnosticism.
If god is so mysterious, how can we know anything about him? Through the Bible? How do we know that the Bible and not the Koran or the Vedha books, for example, are the words of god? (or the bible if you believe in any of the other two books). Considering the cruelties that have been made in the name of god, how do we know that not all religions are made by Satan?
If there is no way to know this but to trust people who claim they have had "divine experiences" there is no way to tell true from false prophets. One has to give up his free mind and follow the authority of a dictator. Remember also that it is the person making a positive claim who has to prove it.
"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true." -- Bertrand Russell
"We shall not believe anything unless there is reasonable cause to believe that it is true" -- Ingemar Hedenius
Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception (1991)
Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith - From preacher to atheist (19??)
Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882. With original
omissions restored. Edited with appendix and notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow. The only complete edition. (1958)
Paul Davies, God and the new physics (1983)
The following was posted to the Message Board in response to this article. I thought the writer made some good points so added it here
I really want to think more about this and learn from everyone's comments (as my own thoughts are developing on this). I'd appreciate everyone's comments and am sure I will learn a lot from them.
> Since creation is an event in time, how could god create time?
Is creation necessarily an event in time ? I realize that it seems ludicrous to suggest otherwise, but the statement in itself implies that without time and space there can be no existence or perception. Being creatures that are aware of only this existence in a dimension where time and space are integral to every thought and concept we have, it would be very hard to believe there is a reality where the rules of time and space are not so rigid (or exist at all).
Example: Prior to space and time, God decided to create space and time (and everything in it ; the universe). Even our language is designed in a way which makes it difficult to even discuss a reality that is not based on space and time. To say the word 'prior' in the first sentence implies there was a prior - a prior to the creation of space and time. How can we talk about before and after without time ?? The whole thing is paradoxical.
So does that mean that in a reality where time and space don't exist, all events happen at once ? What does 'at once' even mean without time ? And what does the word 'all' mean without space ? Usually, when we say all we are summing a group of things the things are separated by space.
Very frustrating. So it seems to show that there is no world without time and space.
Then we have quantum physics. I don't profess to be an expert about the subject, but it is interesting. If you happen to believe that the physicists of this world are knowledgeable (I do) then you might have a difficult time reconciling common sense with the world of quantum physics where the building blocks or our universe can exist in various states. Things at the subatomic level can exist in several places at once. Things can have multiple outcomes (electron can be detected at point B or point A depending on who looks at it and how). Experiments have been performed that seem to indicate that something you do right this instant can affect (at the subatomic level) something in the past. Light has recently been 'frozen' inside a structure and then released to become light again (much later).
Since we're all made of subatomic particles, our bodies - the whole universe is based on things that have no concrete location (space) and can exist in multiple places at once (space and time). Couple this with the experiment where things in the past can be affected with things you do today (time) and I'm back to being frustrated again. My perception in daily life seems to indicate a world of absolutely nothing but one based on time and space yet the physicists are demonstrating that the rules of time and space are not so absolute.
A part of me likes your (Dave) argument because it just makes sense. But in light of all the rules of quantum physics, it doesn't seem as cut and dry anymore. Maybe we'll discover that it is possible to create time and space without having to exist in time and space. That there's a reality outside of that. ??? That time and space is more of a perception or a side effect of simply existing in the universe in which we inhabit ???
I'm sure this post seems confused (as I usually am) and contrived but these are real suspicions that I have. But as a non-believer in God, If I had to pin myself down to a religion or belief it would have to be one of science. I know it's not a God based religion (more of the Einstein type of religion) but I use it to try to help me decide where I might go after I die and why I'm here - and that seems to be a major part of organized religion.
So when I hear about the implausibility of a God out of time and space creating time and space, I have to take issue with it. It makes just as much sense as a purely scientific theory of everything just existing because it just exists. Or everything being created (including time - including the law of thermodynamics ?) due to the big bang (essentially something being created from nothing). Even scientific answers just seem to answer one question with a different one.
So, I don't think it's too surprising that people turn to religion to get answers/comfort, but I hope they consider there's a fascinating reality right here that they can see, hear, touch and feel.
5/19/2002 View Comments
This is correct. It is also irrelevant for it does nothing to prove that God DOES exist, and proof is the responsibility of whoever makes the claim. So, who is making the claim here? The burden (or onus) of proof is on the person who asserts a positive claim. The theist, by claiming that God exists, must supply the evidence for that claim. Atheists are not claiming or asserting anything, and thus have only the burden of rebuttal. All logical arguments are based on an understanding of these burdens. Obviously, it is impossible to examine every nook and cranny in the universe, or to examine every subatomic particle to find "God", however one chooses to describe him/her/it. To carry the theist¹s demand to its logical conclusion, the atheist could demand that they disprove the existence of Zeus, Brahma, Odin, Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other mythological gods and beings that sprang from the fertile imagination of humankind.
Existence is identification.
To prove that something exists, you must describe the object in question. This means detailing its physical attributes; it does NOT mean describing the actions of that object. In the case of God, theists must describe what God IS, not what they think He DOES. Many of the more philosophically-minded believers try to sidestep this issue by describing facts of reality that they feel could only have come about by divine fiat: The "creation" of the universe, for example. This argument presumes that the universe was created, which obviously implies a creator, rather than being a formation from natural causes.
This and other theological arguments have been refuted time and time again; the interested reader is advised to consult the references at the end of this leaflet for more detailed examinations of these arguments. What is worthy of note here is the simple fact that many theologians continue to spew forth these philosophical dinosaurs as if they were the latest theological findings.But most theists are not content with an impersonal creator God; they want a deity that they can have a personal relationship with. And that is where "revealed" religion comes in. The God of the "revealed" religion of Christianity is said to see all, know all, and make it all (in six days) entirely for human benefit. He is said to possess unlimited power and, according to the Bible, commands us to do certain things and behave in certain ways which by some strange coincidence are always beneficial to the ruling class. The evidence supporting this concept is primarily hearsay, contained in various "holy" writings originating so far back in antiquity that they cannot possibly be verified (especially since most of this evidence involves supernatural phenomena witnessed by illiterate, fearful peasant folk who saw supernatural forces at work everywhere), and that must be "interpreted" by a select few for the rest of us to accept "on faith". And right there is a strong indication that something is wrong.
That which exists needs no faith or coercion to be believed. The fact of the Sun¹s existence needs no interpretation; you don¹t need faith to know it¹s out there. If this God exists, has the abilities he is claimed to have, and cares for the beings he has created, the theist is left on the horns of a dilemma, for he or she faces questions that make a mockery of the concept of an "all-good" God: Why did he create a world of so much suffering? The Christian answer that this is due to the "sins" of humankind do not explain the ruthless predatory nature of carnivorous animals. Couldn¹t he have left us some simple instructions on how to improve the quality of our lives on Earth rather than downplaying our earthly existence and extolling the virtues of the "next life?"
Why don¹t we have a reliable source of information that answers our questions about nature? The Bible doesn¹t even come close; for one thing it is riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Why disease? Why chronic pain, making lives miserable and serving no useful purpose? Why did this "creator", who created everything, create an Adolph Hitler? Where was this loving God when millions of innocent people were brutally tortured and killed under a leader who claimed to be doing "God's will"; a leader who, incidentally, was never excommunicated from his church? What happened to the countless prayers uttered heavenward from Auschwitz, Dachau, and the other concentration camps? Theistic answers to these and other questions are not answers at all, only rationalizations.
By contrast, the atheist answer is simple and non-contradictory: There is no one there to answer these prayers. It is up to us, as humans, to prevent these grand human tragedies. It is up to us to ease the suffering here on Earth. We must recognize our responsibilities, and cease shifting them heavenward .This supposedly all-powerful God does not control nature to prevent floods, droughts, and earthquakes. If he made all the beauty and joy, he also made all the ugliness and sorrow, all the viruses and disease, and all the degeneracy and hatred.
Why? How intelligent is this God? He doesn¹t seem to score any better than random chance and repeats the same errors over and over again (witness the countless floods and earthquakes worldwide). The standard theistic responses to these questions are well-known but they are, of necessity only evasions because true and honest answers tend to disprove the existence of their God, and are thus self-defeating for the believer.So, while we can¹t prove with absolute certainty that God does not exist, the balance of the evidence is so strongly on that side as to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And from all that¹s known, the probability (for our lives must be based on probabilities, not absolutes) is that we are an insignificant part of a continually evolving universe of unknown origin and destiny, of such incredible vastness that we are barely beginning to understand it. To attribute its origin and operation to something with human-like qualities, and assuming that this "something" would have the slightest interest in one mere speck of dust among billions and billions would seem to be a form of egoism bordering on insanity.
1 Atheism: The Case Against God by George H. Smith. Published by Prometheus Books 1989
2 Atheism: A Philosophical Justification by Michael Martin. Published by Temple University Press 1990
3 Lucifer¹s Handbook by Lee Carter. Published by Academic Associates 1977
4 The Human Agenda: How to Be At Home In The Universe - Without Magic by Roderic Gorney, M.D., Ph.D. Published by The Guild of Tutors Press 1979
5/17/2002 View Comments
I keep hearing people say that God hates sin but loves the sinner. It isn't true. God does not love the sinner and I can prove what I say from the Bible which is, of course, God's Word and the final say-so about anything!
"These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19)
Do not be deceived by the lukewarm Christians and their "God hates the sin but loves the sinner!" The Bible says the Lord HATES certain people and not just the sin! (But He does love the born again fundamentalist Christian! Fundamentalist Christianity is Bible doctrine and the way of God. Jesus taught it).
I have had (supposed) born again Christians tell me that I'm talking about the Law of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ said that not one jot or tittle of His law will pass away!! (Matthew 5:18)
The Bible says, "The burden of the Word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob. And I HATED Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage to waste for the dragons of the wilderness." (Malachi 1:1-3) You read it! GOD HATED ESAU. Its in the Bible!
If someone tells you "God is love", remind him that "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:10)
Any enemy of God should be our enemy too!! I would go so far as to say that if you claim to love enemies of God, you are tryng to be holier than God.
In Psalms, David constantly called upon God to destroy the wicked! I have found ten Psalms where David asks God to destroy his enemies (7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139).
I believe when God destroys the wicked it is a form of His grace. God gives us grace when He destroys the wicked because when He destroys the wicked, He stops their evi l deeds and works. When He kills drug dealers, He saves grown ups and children from drugs. When He kills abortionists, He saves nborn babies lives.
The Bible says that wicked, evil-doers don't learn lessons. "Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness" (2 Cor 26:10); yet, "when thy [God's] judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness" (2 Cor 26:9).
People aren't saved because of God's love. People get saved because they want to escape God's wrath and don't want to be destroyed. We should, therefore, ask God to judge and destroy the wicked and evil-doers because their destructions is definitely a form of God's grace.
We need to stop separating sin from the sinner. God judges the sinner! If you believe that God is just and true, then you must believe that He hates the sin and the sinner.
"God is a just judge and God is angry with the wicked everyday. (Psalms 7:11)
Here are some things which are sinful:
Women preaching in church
Women in church buildings without a head covering.
Having sex before you are married
Impure Thoughts (goes with masturbation)
Bilingualism* (Tower of Babel)
Used Car Salesmen
Freethinkers and Freethought
*When God confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel, He didn't intend for men to learn more than one language again. If you speak more than one language, you are sinning!
And there are many more things.
All the things I listed are sinful according to the Bible. If somebody does any of them they are sinners. God hates sinners. If you do any of them, God hates you. Yes that's right. God hates you!
Being an atheist, agnostic, or a freethinker is blasphemy. You don't have a chance.
Here is what Gods Word the Bible says:
The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. (Psalm 5:5)
God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)
"The Lord trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul HATETH" ( Ps. 11:5 ). To be faithful to God we have to love what He loves and hate what He hates. To do anything else is trying to be better than God and that is also a sin.
When we hate God's enemies (not our own [ Mt 5:44 ]), we show our love for God (Ps 139:19-22). When we pray to God to destroy the wicked (anyone who is a sinner), we are showing our hate for what comes from evil doings and that they (sinners and doers of evil) be stopped (Rev 6:9-11).
So if we love God and hate evil, we should hate his enemies and pray that they, and their evil works, be destroyed.
I know there are some who might not agree with me but I have given the truth from God's Word. You can't argue with God's Word now, can you?
But all you have to do is get saved and you won't be a sinner and an evil doer. So why don't you just get saved? Then you won't be a sinner and God really will love you.
Pat Robertson is a great man of God and he explains why it is ok for God to kill the sinner:
If Pat Robertson has this to say then it is certainly OK to ask God to destroy sinners - get rid of them! They would go to Hell anyway.
Might as well get it over with!
You Are Going To Hell If You....
* eat fruit from a tree less than five years old. [Lev. 19:23]
* cross-breed animals. [Lev. 19:19]
* grow two different plants in your garden. [Lev. 19:19]
* wear a cotton-polyester blend T-Shirt. [Lev. 19:19]
* read your horoscope. [Lev. 19:26]
* consult a psychic. [Lev. 19:31]
* are tatooed. [Lev. 19:28]
* plant crops for more than seven years. [Lev. 25:4, Ex. 23:10-13]
* bear a grudge. [Lev. 19:17]
* collect interest on a loan. [Ex. 22:24]
* insult a leader. [Ex. 22:27]
* mistreat a foreigner. [Ex. 22:21, 23:9]
* spread false rumors. [Ex. 23:1]
* drive a Mercury. [Ex. 23:13]
5/14/2002 View Comments
2. Salvation By God's Grace
3. Salvation By Faith
4. Salvation By Predestination
You may be saved by doing good works, by holding the correct belief, or by hoping that God may have mercy upon you.
But if God has predestined you for either heaven or hell. there is nothing you can do about it. So just relax and enjoy yourself - if you can.
5/10/2002 View Comments
orignal can be found HERE
Any honest, thinking person reading through the bible cannot ignore the blatant misogyny and barbarity towards women. The eminent 'men of God" who wrote the bible were the product of patriarchal, tribal, violent, intolerant, monotheistic society. They reflect the ignorance and brutality of that society and at the dawn of a new millennium, fundamentalists insist that we should all abide by biblical law.
It is no accident that from the very beginning the bible cements women's inferior status. In 1Timothy 2:11-15 we are told that women are not permitted to have authority over men and that they must be silent because Adam was formed first then Eve.
Consider this: when God created all the animals he made male and female together. Then he created Adam. Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden, so God puts Adam to sleep, extracts one of his ribs and out of that single rib creates Eve. Even before the fall woman is accorded inferior status by deliberately being created after Adam instead of being created together. Why would an all-knowing God create man first then woman, shouldn't he have known that Adam would need a partner?
Anyway, God places Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and permits them to eat the fruit from all the trees but one - the tree of "knowledge"! The serpent, a wise and knowing creature approached Eve and suggested that she eat from the forbidden tree. When Eve saw that the fruit was desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it - it is no surprise that Abrahamic religions value ignorance as a virtue for women. Adam is exonerated from sin since it was the woman who led him astray. Perhaps Adam would have been better off with an inflatable doll rather than a real, thinking woman!
"Woman is more guilty than man, because she was seduced by Satan, and so diverted her husband from obedience to God that she was an instrument of death leading to all perdition. It is necessary that woman recognize this, and that she learn to what she is subjected; and not only against her husband. This is reason enough why today she is placed below and that she bears within her ignominy and shame."
Eve was punished severely for her attempt to gain knowledge, for disobedience and for exerting independence from her husband. I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing... Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16. In accordance with God's command, some fundamentalist sects forbid painkillers during childbirth.
Some years ago I had a heated discussion with a Greek Orthodox woman regarding the subject of women priests. She claimed that women should not and could not become priests because of their monthly unclean state - they would defile the altar. Her view summed up the biblical contempt for women's bodies and natural functions (also shared by Islam and Judaism) There are several verses in the bible that emphasise women's uncleanness.
"A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding. These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. She is to bring two doves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean." Leviticus 12: 1-8
If a woman gives birth to a girl she is unclean for twice as long.
"When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. … If a man lies with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days..." Leviticus 15:19-32.
“Man born of woman…Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!” Job 14:1-4
In some denominations women are still considered unclean during their menses. E.g. in the Greek Orthodox church women who have given birth attend church forty days after the birth to make amends for their uncleanness and be declared clean by the priest. Young women are still exhorted by their mothers and mothers in law to bow to this insulting and demeaning ritual.
The words whore and harlot are used frequently in the bible to describe women who deviated from the double standards sexual moral code. Women's bodies were not their own but the property of fathers and husbands. Virginity and chastity were mandatory for women and any woman breaking the double standard moral code was put to death. Under Mosaic Law men were permitted many wives while women were permitted only one and were subject to a test for unfaithfulness - Numbers 5:11-31. Men could divorce their wives on a whim - Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Women's main role was to bear male children and infertile women were scorned. In the bible it was always the women who were sterile, never the men.
“…If however the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death..." Deuteronomy 22:13-21.
Cultures, which demand virginity and chastity in women, have as their bedrock the double standard morality code. If men are encouraged to view women as depreciative chattels they will never regard them as human. And if women are not regarded as human, then all kinds of atrocities and injustices are permissible against them!
"For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head;" 1 Corinthians 11:9, 10.
“…women should remain silent in churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission...” 1 Corinthians 14:34
“Wives submit to your husbands, as is fitting to the Lord.” Colossians 3:18
Polygamy still exists amongst fundamentalist Mormons and certain sects. A fundamentalist group in America instructs women to call their husbands MASTER and to practice the art of being a SLAVE. Various fundamentalists exhort wives to submit and obey and have embarked on a chastity crusade targeting young women.
Today the religious right still uses the bible as a manual for the enslavement of women and persecution of homosexuals. Not only is the bible infested with sexism, but violence and obscenity also abound. Under the guise of "family values", the religious right is fighting to reverse all the gains made by women: the right to own property, the right to tertiary education, the right to work, the right to childcare, the right to vote, the right to plan their families, the right to equal wages, the right to enter politics and above all the right to sexual autonomy.
In the Roman Catholic tradition the Virgin Mary is held up as a role model for women. She symbolizes female "virtues" such as obedience, submission, chastity and silence. In fervent Catholic countries, Catholic women are encouraged to emulate her. In fact the more women submit and self-efface themselves the more they are praised for being “good” Christian women. The Roman Catholic Church glorifies one woman while it rubbishes all the rest.
The "glory" of motherhood is constantly drummed into women with the intent of preventing them from doing anything else. At the same time the bible emphasises women's uncleanness after childbirth, and states that we are all born sinful. Even Mary had to make a sin offering after the birth of Jesus.
Women should beware of campaigns to enshrine "God's Law" and "family values" into secular law. Whenever "family values" and "god's law" are mentioned, the little alarm bells inside my head start ringing loudly!
It is time women saw the bible for what it is: a man-made, primitive "revelation"! No woman with a shred of self-esteem would want to demean herself by bowing to such tyrannical and self-effacing absolutes. Every time a woman submits to such demotion she throws away her sell-worth. Women's self-worth is anathema to fundamentalists who accuse women of being selfish and ungiving.
Some Christian apologists claim that sexist biblical verses are a reflection of Hebrew society of that time and that Jesus Christ was a reformer who endeavoured to improve the status of women. They point to Proverbs 31:10-31 describing the virtues of a good wife - hard working, intelligent while implying that such women are so rare that their price is more than the price of rubies. On the other hand, fundamentalists invoke sexist verses in order to deny women their rights. In the US, Reconstructionists dream of doing away with the constitution and enforcing their own version of "God's law" based on the Old Testament. They advocate the death penalty for adultery, homosexuality, witchcraft, blasphemy, unchastity and sacrificing to "false gods".
Despite apologists attempts to "white-wash" the bible with a litany of excuses, it does not change the fact that the bible is anti women.
I urge you not to take my word for it but to check it out yourself. Here are some more biblical "gems" to look up:
2:22 Eve created from Adam's rib.
3:16 Cursed with painful childbirth and domination by husband.
4:17 Cain marries sister?
4:19 Man marries two wives.
12:13-19 Abraham prostitutes wife.
19:1-8 Rape virgin daughters instead of male angels.
19:26 Lot's wife turned into pillar of salt for disobeying god.
19:30-38 Lot impregnates his two daughters while drunk. (So much for "family values"!)
20:2-12 Abraham prostitutes wife - again.
25:1-6 Keeping many concubines is OK.
20:17 Wife as property.
21:4 Wife and children belong to master.
21:7-11 OK to sell daughters. Female slaves can be used for sex.
Polygamy permitted. Unwanted female slaves can be set "free" without payment of money.
22:18 Kill witches.
12:1 Childbirth a sin, Women unclean after childbirth.
15:19-32 Menstruating women are unclean.
20:10-16 Death penalty for homosexuality and various sexual transgressions.
21:7 Priests must not marry prostitutes or divorcees.
21:9 Burn daughters.
21:13-14 Priest must marry virgin, not "used" woman.
1:2 Census lists only men - women do not count.
5:11-31 Fidelity test for women only.
30:1-16 Woman's vow invalid unless approved by her father or husband.
31:17-18 Kill all except virgins. Keep virgins for yourselves.
CH 12 Miriam punished for rebuking Moses.
20:14 Take women, livestock as plunder.
22:13-21 Stone non-virgin bride.
22:23-24 Stone rapist and rape victim.
22:28 Rape victim must marry rapist; rape victim's father compensated for depreciation of his property.
25:11-12 Cut woman's hand for touching foe's penis.
24:1-5 Man can "send" wife from HIS house. Man must not marry "used" woman.
28:18 The FRUIT of your womb will be cursed - eclectic "pro-life" verse!
5:30 Women are spoils of war.
14:20 Samson gives wife to another man.
16:1 Samson visits prostitute.
CH 19 Concubine pack-raped and butchered.
21:10-12 Slaughtered all inc. women and children. Saved virgins for wives.
21:21 Abducted girls for wives.
Ruth shags Boaz.
15:2-3 Attack Amalekites, kill men, women, children and livestock.
22:19 Kill all inc. infants and livestock.
21:4-5 Men avoid defilement with women.
5:13 David took many wives and concubines.
CH 13 Ammon rapes his own sister.
16:21-22 Absalom sleeps with his father's concubines.
6:20-23 Mischal punished with bareness.
11:3 Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.
9:30-37 Brutal murder of Jezebel.
15:13 Put to death unbelievers.
11:21 Hoards of wives and concubines.
CH 1-2 Queen Vashti dethroned for disobedience; setting "bad" example to all other women.
51:5 Sinful since conception.
127:3 Sons are heritage from god.
137:9 Seizes infants and dashes them against rocks.
CH 5 Beware of wicked women!
CH 7 More of the above.
6:24 As above.
31:3 Do not waste strength on women.
3:16-26 Lord punishes haughty women.
4:4 Filthy women.
13:16 Ravish wives, dash infants.
19:16 Will be like women! (insult to Egyptians)
9:6-7 Slaughter all including children.
CH 16 Prostitutes, stoning, promiscuity...
CH 23 Tale of two adulterous sisters - reads like the script of a pornographic film. I bet you weren't told this story at Sunday school!
13:16 Rip pregnant women, dash little ones. (Another "pro-life" verse!)
3:4... wanton lust of a harlot... prostitution... witchcraft.
3:5 I will lift your skirts over your face!
3:13... Your troops are all women. (insult to Nineveh)
5:32Husband can divorce wife for adultery. Can wife divorce husband for the same?
CH 25 Sexist tale of ten virgins.
2:22 Mary must be purified after birth of Jesus.
2:49 Jesus rebukes his mother.
11:2-10... Woman created for man.
14:34 Women must be silent in churches.
5:22-24 Wives must submit to husbands in everything.
3:18 Wives submit to husbands.
3:22 Slaves must obey masters in everything.
2:11-15 Woman must not have authority…she must be silent. Women can be saved with childbearing.
5:9-10 Widows should be faithful to husband and must wash saints' feet.
2:18 Slaves submit to masters, even masters who are harsh.
3:1 Wives submit.
3:5-6 Sarah calls husband master.
CH 17 Destroy great prostitute.
14:4...they did not DEFILE themselves with women but kept themselves pure.
5/07/2002 View Comments
Gregory W. Lester
Because a basic tenet of both skeptical thinking and scientific inquiry is that beliefs can be wrong, it is often confusing and irritating to scientists and skeptics that so many people's beliefs do not change in the face of disconfirming evidence. How, we wonder, are people able to hold beliefs that contradict the data?
This puzzlement can produce an unfortunate tendency on the part of skeptical thinkers to demean and belittle people whose beliefs don't change in response to evidence. They can be seen as inferior, stupid, or crazy. This attitude is born of skeptics' failure to understand the biological purpose of beliefs and the neurological necessity for them to be resilient and stubbornly resistant to change. The truth is that for all their rigorous thinking, many skeptics do not have a clear or rational understanding of what beliefs are and why even faulty ones don't die easily. Understanding the biological purpose of beliefs can help skeptics to be far more effective in challenging irrational beliefs and communicating scientific conclusions.
>>Biology and Survival<<
Our brain's primary purpose is to keep us alive. It certainly does more than that, but survival is always its fundamental purpose and always comes first. If we are injured to the point where our bodies only have enough energy to support consciousness or a heartbeat but not both, the brain has no problem choosing-it puts us into a coma (survival before consciousness), rather than an alert death-spiral (consciousness before survival).
Because every brain activity serves a fundamental survival purpose, the only way to accurately understand any brain function is to examine its value as a tool for survival. Even the difficulty of successfully treating such behavioral disorders as obesity and addiction can only be understood by examining their relationship to survival. Any reduction in caloric intake or in the availability of a substance to which an individual is addicted is always perceived by the brain as a threat to survival. As a result the brain powerfully defends the overeating or the substance abuse, producing the familiar lying, sneaking, denying, rationalizing, and justifying commonly exhibited by individuals suffering from such disorders.
>>Senses and Beliefs<<
One of the brain's primary tools for ensuring survival is our senses. Obviously, we must be able to accurately perceive danger in order to take action designed to keep us safe. In order to survive we need to be able to see the lion charging us as we emerge from our cave or hear the intruder breaking into our house in the middle of the night.
Senses alone, however, are inadequate as effective detectors of danger because they are severely limited in both range and scope. We can have direct sensory contact with only a small portion of the world at any one time. The brain considers this to be a significant problem because even normal, everyday living requires that we constantly move in and out of the range of our perceptions of the world as it is right now. Entering into territory we have not previously seen or heard puts us in the dangerous position of having no advance warning of potential dangers. If I walk into an unfamiliar building in a dangerous part of town my survival probabilities diminish because I have no way of knowing whether the roof is ready to collapse or a gunman is standing inside the doorway.
"Belief" is the name we give to the survival tool of the brain that is designed to augment and enhance the danger-identification function of our senses. Beliefs extend the range of our senses so that we can better detect danger and thus improve our chances of survival as we move into and out of unfamiliar territory. Beliefs, in essence, serve as our brain's "long-range danger detectors."
Functionally, our brains treat beliefs as internal "maps" of those parts of the world with which we do not have immediate sensory contact. As I sit in my living room I cannot see my car. Although I parked it in my driveway some time ago, using only immediate sensory data I do not know if it is still there. As a result, at this moment sensory data is of very little use to me regarding my car. In order to find my car with any degree of efficiency my brain must ignore the current sensory data (which, if relied on in a strictly literal sense, not only fails to help me in locating my car but actually indicates that it no longer exists) and turn instead to its internal map of the location of my car. This is my belief that my car is still in my driveway where I left it. By referring to my belief rather than to sensory data, my brain can "know" something about the world with which I have no immediate sensory contact. This "extends" my brain's knowledge of and contact with the world.
The ability of belief to extend contact with the world beyond the range of our immediate senses substantially improves our ability to survive. A caveman has a much greater ability to stay alive if he is able to maintain a belief that dangers exist in the jungle even when his sensory data indicate no immediate threat. A police officer will be substantially more safe if he or she can continue to believe that someone stopped for a traffic violation could be an armed psychopath with an impulse to kill even though they present a seemingly innocuous appearance.
>>Beyond the Sensory<<
Because beliefs do not require immediate sensory data to be able to feed valuable survival information to the brain, they have the additional survival function of providing information about the realm of life that does not deal directly with sensory entities. This is the area of abstractions and principles that involves such things as "reasons," "causes," and "meanings." I cannot hear or see the "reason" called a "low pressure zone" that makes a thunderstorm rain on my parade, so my ability to believe that low pressure is the reason assists me. If I were to rely strictly on my senses to determine the cause of the storm I could not tell why it occurred. For all I know it was dragged in by invisible flying gremlins that I need to shoot with my shotgun if I want to clear away the clouds. Therefore my brain's reliance on my "belief" in the reason called "low pressure," rather than on sensory data (or, as in the case of my car, my lack of it) assists in my survival: I avoid an experience of incarceration with myriad dangerous characters following my arrest for shooting into the air at those pesky little gremlins.
>>The Resilience of Beliefs<<
Because senses and beliefs are both tools for survival and have evolved to augment one another, our brain considers them to be separate but equally important purveyors of survival information. The loss of either one endangers us. Without our senses we could not know about the world within our perceptual realm. Without our beliefs we could not know about the world outside our senses or about meanings, reasons, or causes.
This means that beliefs are designed to operate independent of sensory data. In fact, the whole survival value of beliefs is based on their ability to persist in the face of contradictory evidence. Beliefs are not supposed to change easily or simply in response to disconfirming evidence. If they did, they would be virtually useless as tools for survival. Our caveman would not last long if his belief in potential dangers in the jungle evaporated every time his sensory information told him there was no immediate threat. A police officer unable to believe in the possibility of a killer lurking behind a harmless appearance could easily get hurt or killed.
As far as our brain is concerned, there is absolutely no need for data and belief to agree. They have each evolved to augment and supplement one another by contacting different sections of the world. They are designed to be able to disagree. This is why scientists can believe in God and people who are generally quite reasonable and rational can believe in things for which there is no credible data such as flying saucers, telepathy, and psychokinesis.
When data and belief come into conflict, the brain does not automatically give preference to data. This is why beliefs-even bad beliefs, irrational beliefs, silly beliefs, or crazy beliefs-often don't die in the face of contradictory evidence. The brain doesn't care whether or not the belief matches the data. It cares whether the belief is helpful for survival. Period. So while the scientific, rational part of our brains may think that data should supercede contradictory beliefs, on a more fundamental level of importance our brain has no such bias. It is extremely reticent to jettison its beliefs. Like an old soldier with an old gun who does not quite trust that the war is really over, the brain often refuses to surrender its weapon even though the data say it should.
Even beliefs that do not seem clearly or directly connected to survival (such as our caveman's ability to believe in potential dangers) are still closely connected to survival. This is because beliefs do not occur individually or in a vacuum. They are related to one another in a tightly interlocking system that creates the brain's fundamental view of the nature of the world. It is this system that the brain relies on in order to experience consistency, control, cohesion, and safety in the world. It must maintain this system intact in order to feel that survival is being successfully accomplished.
This means that even seemingly small, inconsequential beliefs can be as integral to the brain's experience of survival as are beliefs that are "obviously" connected to survival. Thus, trying to change any belief, no matter how small or silly it may seem, can produce ripple effects through the entire system and ultimately threaten the brain's experience of survival. This is why people are so often driven to defend even seemingly small or tangential beliefs. A creationist cannot tolerate believing in the accuracy of data indicating the reality of evolution not because of the accuracy or inaccuracy of the data itself, but because changing even one belief related to matters of the Bible and the nature of creation will crack an entire system of belief, a fundamental worldview and, ultimately, their brain's experience of survival.
>>Implications for Skeptics<<
Skeptical thinkers must realize that because of the survival value of beliefs, disconfirming evidence will rarely, if ever, be sufficient to change beliefs, even in "otherwise intelligent" people. In order to effectively change beliefs skeptics must attend to their survival value, not just their data-accuracy value. This involves several elements.
First, skeptics must not expect beliefs to change simply as the result of data or assuming that people are stupid because their beliefs don't change. They must avoid becoming critical or demeaning in response to the resilience of beliefs. People are not necessarily idiots just because their beliefs don't yield to new information. Data is always necessary, but it is rarely sufficient.
Second, skeptics must learn to always discuss not just the specific topic addressed by the data, but also the implications that changing the related beliefs will have for the fundamental worldview and belief system of the affected individuals. Unfortunately, addressing belief systems is a much more complicated and daunting task than simply presenting contradictory evidence. Skeptics must discuss the meaning of their data in the face of the brain's need to maintain its belief system in order to maintain a sense of wholeness, consistency, and control in life. Skeptics must become adept at discussing issues of fundamental philosophies and the existential anxiety that is stirred up any time beliefs are challenged. The task is every bit as much philosophical and psychological as it is scientific and data-based.
Third, and perhaps most important, skeptics must always appreciate how hard it is for people to have their beliefs challenged. It is, quite literally, a threat to their brain's sense of survival. It is entirely normal for people to be defensive in such situations. The brain feels it is fighting for its life. It is unfortunate that this can produce behavior that is provocative, hostile, and even vicious, but it is understandable as well.
The lesson for skeptics is to understand that people are generally not intending to be mean, contrary, harsh, or stupid when they are challenged. It's a fight for survival. The only effective way to deal with this type of defensiveness is to de-escalate the fighting rather than inflame it. Becoming sarcastic or demeaning simply gives the other person's defenses a foothold to engage in a tit-for-tat exchange that justifies their feelings of being threatened ("Of course we fight the skeptics-look what uncaring, hostile jerks they are!") rather than a continued focus on the truth.
Skeptics will only win the war for rational beliefs by continuing, even in the face of defensive responses from others, to use behavior that is unfailingly dignified and tactful and that communicates respect and wisdom. For the data to speak loudly, skeptics must always refrain from screaming.
Finally, it should be comforting to all skeptics to remember that the truly amazing part of all of this is not that so few beliefs change or that people can be so irrational, but that anyone's beliefs ever change at all. Skeptics' ability to alter their own beliefs in response to data is a true gift; a unique, powerful, and precious ability. It is genuinely a "higher brain function" in that it goes against some of the most natural and fundamental biological urges. Skeptics must appreciate the power and, truly, the dangerousness that this ability bestows upon them. They have in their possession a skill that can be frightening, life-changing, and capable of inducing pain. In turning this ability on others it should be used carefully and wisely. Challenging beliefs must always be done with care and compassion.
Skeptics must remember to always keep their eye on the goal. They must see the long view. They must attempt to win the war for rational beliefs, not to engage in a fight to the death over any one particular battle with any one particular individual or any one particular belief. Not only must skeptics' methods and data be clean, direct, and unbiased, their demeanor and behavior must be as well.
About the Author
Gregory W. Lester, Ph.D. is a psychologist on the graduate faculty of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and in private practice in Houston and in Denver, Colorado. Address correspondence to: Gregory W. Lester, Ph.D., 111 Harrison St., Suite 1, Denver, Colorado 80206.
5/03/2002 View Comments
The author of 1 Clement, an anonymous letter, usually dated as ca. 96 CE, and attributed to Clement writing from Rome to the church at Corinth, does not appear to be aware of any written Gospels. On two occasions he refers to what Jesus had said; in chap. 13, he repeats the words of Jesus, very similiar to those in the Gospels, although they are not quotations. In chap 46 he brings together two unconnected Markan statements (9:21 and 14:21) and he appears to be quoting loose sayings which were circulating, but in not in a fixed form. He never refers to Gospel stories, or sayings, when it would be very appropriate, applicable and would support the argument he is making; instead he quotes or refers to the O.T (Old Testament).
Ignatius, ca. 110 CE, mentions the Gospel although it again appears he is referring to the Gospel message, rather than written documents. He gives much more information about Jesus' life, but as he refers to things not found in any of the four canonical Gospels, e.g. the story of Jesus speaking after the resurrection (Smyrn. 3) which is apparently from the Gospel according to the Hebrews and not from the canonical Gospels, and he describes the Bethlehem star in a way that is not found in Matt (the only canonical Gospel to mention this), it is not altogether clear what written Gospel was available to him. He does refer to other N.T writings (e.g. 1 Cor, Gal, Eph), but there is no clear indication that he knew of any written Gospels.
In his letter to the Philippians he uses terms found in Matt and Luke although it is noteworthy that the author of 1 John, facing the same Docetic problem as Ignatius, but at an earlier time, clearly did not have the biographical information about Jesus, which was available to Ignatius.
The Epistle of Barnabas ca. 130 CE, uses O.T references to support its contents when N.T ones would have been far more appropriate. He refers to a passage in Matt 20:16b and 22:14 and surprisingly for this early date calls it 'Scripture'; this is quite unique. However, 20:16b appears to have been an interpolation and if it was a loose saying, it is more likely the author is using Matt's source, rather than Matt itself. The author chose to use the apocryphal Enoch when writing about the eschaton (instead of Mark l3), and in referring to the crucifixion he refers to the Psalms rather than the Gospels. The Epistle (chap. 7) also has a saying attributed to Jesus not found in the Gospels.
Polycarp, ca. 130, apparently knew Matt and/or Luke and improves upon Clement's "quotations", but apparently didn't know of John's Gospel. Papias, ca. 140 CE, mentions Matt and Mark in written form, but not Luke or John, and he also made use of non-canonical apocryphal literature indicating that Matt and Mark were not seen a sole source of the gospel message.
Justin Martyr, in the middle of the second century, refers to written Gospels which were deemed as authoritative as the O.T, but he does not name them, nor state their number, so it is not known what he was referring to. He too, used non-canonical material.
It was only by ca. 170 CE that Tatian was using all four Gospels for his Diatessaron harmony, and about a decade later Irenaeus was arguing for the acceptance of the four canonical Gospels, and only those.
Therefore it appears that the writings that give Jesus a historical place only appeared in the closing years of the first century and even these took quite some time to be established and accepted.
In respect of the belief in Jesus of Nazareth as a historical person, one is surely justified in asking why there appears to be so little said by this figure that is original. For example, a good deal of the Sermon of the Mount goes back to the O.T, or the 1st cent BCE apocryphal writings, e.g. the Book of Enoch. There is the further point concerning the remarkable silence over biographical - or chronological - details about Jesus' life in the early/earlier writings.
Paul, who wrote the first layer of writings in the N.T, never invokes Jesus' words when they would be invaluable in supporting his argument, and this is not only with Paul, but elsewhere, e.g. 1 Peter. The authors of Romans 13:1-3 and 1 Peter 2:13-14 certainly could not have been aware of the story of Jesus appearing before Pilate in view of what they say. This silence continued over into the end of the 1st century; in fact when the author of 1 Clement wrote, he seems to suffer from the same problem as Paul and others, i.e., a considerable ignorance about Jesus and the Gospels; obviously as is so clearly demonstrated, Christians always used scripture or suchlike to support any argument they were making, so is it somewhat bizarre that Clement does not do this. In chap. 3-6 he lists Abel, Joseph, Moses and David as examples of people who suffered through jealousy - but surely Jesus would have been the ideal example of this - Matt 27:18/Mark 15:10 ??? When he speaks about people preaching repentence in 7-8, he uses Ezekiel and Isaiah as examples - but again surely Jesus would have been the ideal example to use - Luke 13:3, Matt 18:3 ? In 9-12 he lists examples of faith - but yet again they're all from the O.T - surely an example from the Gospels would be more appropriate ? In 16 he refers to Jesus' humility and one would expect him to refer to his birth in a stable or suchlike, but instead he quotes from the O.T again (Isa 53). In chap 17, he speaks of examples dressed in animal skins who announce the coming of Christ. The obvious example of this would be John the Baptist (Matt 3:4), but Clement does not do this, but rather lists the O.T prophets Elijah and Ezekiel. It is very clear that although the Gospels emerged in the last decade of the 1st century CE, they took a lengthy period of time to be circulated and/or accepted.
With regard to the eyewitness testimony for Jesus' existence, there is certainly a problem. It is amazing that anything up to 70(100?),000 people saw Jesus, but no one compiled an eye-witness account. Mark was obviously not an eyewitness due to his errors concerning chronological, historical, geographical and theological matters in 1st. cent Palestine; Matt and Luke have to use Mark as their base (which they obviously would not have done if they were eyewitnesses), and in John (Which even the church only hesitantly accepted into the canon) the account of Jesus' life and ministry is at variance with the Synoptic record, e.g., the timing of the Temple-clearing and the last supper, etc., in relation to the Passover. John also reports situations e.g., expulsions from the synagogue (16:2) which did not occur until after 90 CE (ie. Rabbi Gamaliel II's official cursing prayer of the 'Minim' in ca. 90 CE). In the case of Paul, he gives virtually no detail about Jesus' earthly life, other than he was a descendent of David, was crucified and was raised by God. If Romans, a genuinely Pauline letter, is examined to discern Paul's knowledge of Jesus' earthly life, the silence becomes most apparent:-
(l)Jesus was a Jew/descended from David (1:3, 15:8,12);
(2)Jesus was human (8:3);
(3)His blood was shed (3:25, 5:9);
(4)Jesus suffered/died/was crucified (5:6,8,10,l5, 6:3,4,5,6,8, 8:17, 14:15);
(5)Jesus rose from the dead (1:4, 4:24,25, 6:4,5,9,10, 8:11,34, 10:7,9, 14:9):
As can be seen, the same few details are repeated over and over again. In the letters that are genuinely accepted as being written by Paul there is no specific reference to the parents of Jesus, and certainly not a virgin birth; his place of birth or the area in which his ministry took place is not mentioned either; 'Of Nazareth' is never used; the details supplied by Paul give no indication whatsoever of the time or place of Jesus' earthly existence. Paul never refers to Jesus' trial before a Roman official. He does not appear to even know who crucified Jesus - in 1 Cor 2:8 he refers to the death of Christ by 'rulers of the age' - this hardly fits a tinpot prefect called Pilate (this term really denotes supernatural spirits - 2 Cor 4:4, Col 2:15). Paul never refers to Jerusalem as the place of Jesus' execution and never mentions John the Baptist, Judas, or Peter's denials (This would have been quite pertinent in combatting Cephas/Peter at Antioch - Gal 2:11-17. Paul's position was apparently being threatened by Peter and despite calling him a hypocrite, he does not allude to his three denials of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, e.g. Mark 14:30 par). The only chronological reference to Jesus in the Pauline corpus is in 1 Tim 6:13 and this letter is widely accepted as post-Pauline. Furthermore it appears to be a non-Pauline insertion from a baptismal creed.
(* Although some argue that Paul's reference in 1 Thess 2:14-15 shows he knew that the Jews crucified Christ (this of course is incorrect - the Gospels portray the Romans as being responsible), this reference is clearly to God's vengeance on the Jews and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE - therefore it has to be an interpolation as 1 Thess is generally accepted as having been composed ca. 55 CE.
Paul suggests that miracles might be expected wherever a Christian mission went, for he includes the working of them among 'the gifts of the Spirit' (1 Cor 12:10,28) and himself claimed to have won converts by 'the power of signs and wonders' (Rom 15:19), but he never makes any mention of Jesus having been a miracle-worker.
Among the signs of a true apostle, he lists 'signs and wonders and mighty works' (2 Cor 12:12); the striking feature is that he fails to mention that Jesus is reported as having done on an extensive scale in his earthly life. Another striking feature is that whilst the Synoptic Gospels portray Jesus as an ethical teacher, there is no suggestion of this in Paul's letters. Paul is certainly not indifferent to ethical problems and on several occasions his letters contain a sizeable amount of ethical instruction. On only one occasion does he represent Jesus as having made an ethical injunction and this is in 1 Cor 7:10 when Paul discusses the subject of divorce. The Gospel 'parallel' to this is Mark 10:11-12 (Matt is simply following Mark), but there is a difficulty even here as some reject this is authentic as Jesus refers to women divorcing their husbands - something that was not possible in Palestine. Some have argued that this statement was assigned to Jesus through Paul quoting a Christian prophet (himself ?) through whom the risen Lord was speaking and it was then utilised by the author of Mark who placed it in the mouth of Jesus whilst on earth, but was careless in not realising that its context was Gentile rather than Palestinian. It is clear from such early Christian writings as the Didache that as late as the end of the first century Christian prophets were viewed as being channels of communication for the risen Lord.
Paul was content to suffer weakness, insults, humiliation, persecution and hardship (2 Cor 12:10) adding that he entreated the readers by the 'meekness and gentleness of Christ' (2 Cor 10:1). He stated that he imitated Christ (1 Cor 11:1) and that his whole existence was 'to know nothing...except Jesus Christ and him crucified' (1 Cor 2:2) and then goes on to say he was with his readers in 'weakness, much fear and trembling' (1 Cor 2:3). If this is Paul's 'imitation' of Christ, then it is a far cry from the Jesus of the Gospels and particularly the picture of Jesus portrayed in John. It would seem that Paul thought Jesus led a humble inconspicuous life that went completely unnoticed by the world.
Other situations arise in Paul's writing that suggest a lack of knowledge concerning Jesus' supposed earthly life. He clearly was unaware of Jesus' command not to go to the Gentiles (Matt 10:5) in Rom 11:13, and in Rom 8:26, he states 'for we do not know how to pray as we ought' suggesting that he knew nothing about Jesus' instructions in Matt 5:7-13, Luke 11:14. The instructions regarding baptism by Jesus given in Matt 28:19 were also apparently unknown to Paul (1 Cor 1:17).
The person of Paul was that of someone who believed that God was now revealing secrets or mysteries; these terms frequently arise in Paul's letters, e.g., 1 Cor 2:7, 13:2, 14:2,, 15:51, with 'revealed' or similiar also arising frequently, e,g. Rom 1:17,18, 8:18, 16:25, 1 Cor 2:10,13, 3:13, 2 Cor 12:1. Paul believed that he had seen the risen Jesus (1 Cor 15:8) and he had spoken directly to him (2 Cor 12:8-9); he had experienced ecstatic states (2 Cor l2:1-4, 1 Cor 14:18) and God was now revealing previously-hidden information (1 Cor 2:10,12-13, 7:40).
A question therefore arises: did Paul's scant knowledge about Jesus arise through his belief that the risen Lord was now communicating with and through him, along with other Christian prophets, or from information gleaned from earthly companions and eyewitnesses of the earthly Jesus? One passage in which Paul clearly refers to a hist- -orical event in Jesus' earthly life, i.e., the last supper, is 1 Cor 11:23-26. However this passage begins "For I received from the Lord...." and indicates this information was transmitted directly to Paul from the risen Christ, rather than from the apostles. Consequently a question arises, ie. why this should be as Paul had met the apostles (Acts 9:27, Gal 1:18-19, 2:2,9) and would have been given this information by them. By this is only if these "apostles" had in fact accompanied the earthly Jesus rather than being as Paul, i.e., Christians who were receiving information direct from the risen Lord. But in view of Paul's lack of knowledge, it would seem that these "apostles" also knew nothing of Jesus' supposed earthly life.
Reference to Jesus' resurrection, rather than his earthly life appears in 1 Cor 15:3-8, when Paul lists the resurrection appearances (apparently in chronological order); these bear no resemblance to the Gospel ones and reference to an appearance to 'all the twelve' whilst the Gospels report Judas' suicide before the resurrection again suggests a lack of information; Paul's mention of a post-resurrection appearance to five hundred brethren at one time (15:6) is quite extraordinary as it would be inexplicable for the Gospel writers to have omitted this event if they had known of it. The empty tomb, nor Jerusalem itself is ever mentioned by Paul; his several visits to Jerusalem, recorded in both Acts and Gal. surely would have brought him into contact with the empty tomb; the failure to mention this, which surely would have had great significance for Paul due to his preoccupation with Jesus' death and resurrection, may have been due, unlike the Gospels reporting a physical resurrection, to a belief in Jesus being raised as a spirit (1 Cor 15:44,45,50). The 1 Cor 15:3-8 passage does not link Jesus to any specific historical time; it simply reports that he died, was buried, was raised, and had appeared to a number of people alive in Paul's time. There is no suggestion whatsoever that these appearances occurred immediately after his death/resurrection. Whilst the Gospels have Jesus appearing as a resurrected physical human being to his apostles and Acts having Jesus appearing in a totally different form to Paul (ie. after his ascension), there is no such suggestion here; Paul does not differenciate in any way between the earlier appearances in 1 Cor 15:3-7 and the one to him (15:8). It appears from this that he believed all those listed in 15:3-7 had experienced the same vision as he had done - they are certainly not made to be companions of Jesus in his earthly life and Paul appears to think of the others who are listed as experiencing a supernatural vision as he had done. The reason for Jesus now appearing was apparently because of the approaching end which was imminent (1 Cor 7:29, 15:23-24, 1 Thess 4:14-17, etc, etc).
The baffling silence is accounted for in a number of ways; the conservative Catholic theologian Xavier Leon-Dufour says of the matter:
"Why do these epistles...pay so little attention to the events in the public life of our Lord, and why do they not frequently cite his actual words ?..... To some Paulinists the earthly existence of Jesus...was meaningless as it is seen as a convenient way of teaching simple-minded men about the spiritual experience of the first Christians...Some go further and maintain that Christianity is not essentially concerned with a unique happening in past time, but is a vision in which an experience is crystallised......".
Dufour believes there are some passages where there is an 'echo' of Jesus words, e.g. 1 Thess 4:15-17, but some argue that rather than this (and a few others) being an 'echo' of Jesus' words, the situation was that the messages imparted by Christian prophets 'speaking in the name of the risen Lord' in Paul's time were collected and fed back into Jesus' time and put into his mouth lips during his earthly ministry.
It is argued that Paul had no need to refer to events in Jesus' earthly life when writing to Christian comunities as they would have already known the Gospel story; however, Paul's constant failure to invoke the words of Jesus to support his arguments suggests it was rather a case of being unable to do this, rather than not needing or wanting to do this. There are many occasions when Jesus' words are so very applicable, but Paul simply ignores them. For example, in 1 Cor 7, Paul argues about the value of celibacy, but the words of Jesus in Matt 19:12, which are totally relevant, are not cited.
To say either that Paul was only concerned with Jesus' death, resurrection and present role in heaven, and not so much his earthly life, or that his readers already knew Jesus' life and Paul had no need to repeat details of this simply does not explain Paul's astonishing silence.
Other examples of Paul's failure to invoke Jesus' words are:-
Rom 2:1, 14:13/Matt 7:1, Luke 6:37.
Rom 12:14,17/Matt 5:44, Luke 6:38.
Rom 13:9, Gal 5:14/Matt 22:39-40, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27.
Rom 13:6/Mark 12:17.
Rom 14:14/Mark 7:18-19.
1 Cor 6:7/Matt 5:39-40.
1 Cor 15:35-55*/Mark 12:25.
1 Thess 4:9/John 15:17.
* In 1 Cor 15, Paul uses the O.T. rather than Jesus' statements in the Gospels i.e., 15:45 (Gen 2:7), 15:54 (Isa 25:8) and 15:55 (Hos 13:14).
Paul argues that the 'spirits of this age' will be put down at Christ's second coming (1 Cor 15:24-25) - he appears to be ignorant of the fact that spirits were overcome by Jesus in his earthly life (e.g. Mark 3:11) and furthermore this was when Satan himself was judged and cast out (John 12:31).
It is very clear that Paul was greatly influenced by the Wisdom tradition and the expectations of Jewish belief which arose in the first century BCE. In fact a striking similarity can be found between Paul's letters and this literature. A summary of some parts of the Wisdom of Solomon, the Book of Enoch, Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus, which mention Wisdom, 'the virtuous man', the Lord and the 'Word' produces the following (these all pre-date Christianity).
Wisdom is the sustainer and governor of the universe (Wis. 8:1, 9:4) who comes to dwell among men but is rejected by most. 1 Enoch states that after being humiliated on earth, wisdom then returned to heaven. In Wisdom there is mention of the 'just man' also, who is persecuted and condemned to a 'shameful death' (2:20); he is tested and then has immortality bestowed upon him (3:5); he is called a son of God (5:5). In 1 Enoch, the son of man shall bring salvation to the Gentiles; when he comes, he will come with angels and everyone will worship him; he will then destroy sinners.
In the upshot, Paul's view of Jesus appears to be wholly based on this line of thinking. In the case of 1 Cor 1:23-25, this comes very close to actually calling the supernatural personage that became Jesus, 'Wisdom'. In view of what information is available, it seems what little Paul knew about Jesus appears to be was based on (a)Current Jewish beliefs concerning wisdom, etc, (b)Revelations that he believed he was receiving from the resurrected messiah who had died sometime in the past and was now revealing himself just before the end of the age.
Additionally, there seems to be no pagan evidence for Jesus' existence either. Reference to his life does not occur until well into the second century and even then the writers seem to be merely repeating Christian statements about Jesus (e.g. Tacitus in 120 CE). What is really striking is that the same ignorance about Jesus' earthly life is found in most other N.T writings, e.g. in 1 Pet, readers are told to love one another, have unswerving faith and put away malice - but the writer never quotes Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount - instead he quotes the O.T.
With regard to Paul and the origins for Jesus, it does seem that Jesus' 'teachings' overall were borrowed from the O.T. and occasionally from elsewhere. It also seems that messages received 'from the risen Lord' by Christian prophets in trance were fed back into Jesus' earthly life. The Didache, a Christian writing of ca. 1st century (probably from Syria) writes of Christian prophets; "Welcome them as the Lord...Every missioner who comes to you should be welcomed as the Lord...While a prophet is uttering words in a trance, you are on no account to subject him to any tests or verifications - this is the sin that shall never be forgiven...They exhibit the manners and conduct of the Lord.....".
Here it can be seen these prophets were treated with the same respect as Jesus himself; what they said was treated as coming direct from Jesus and was not to be questioned. Furthermore this feature is found elsewhere, e.g. B. E. Beck (Senior Tutor and Methodist minister, New Testament Studies, Wesley House, Cambridge), in his Reading the New Testament Today:-
"Sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels were used by Christians without acknowledgement, but the possibility cannot be ruled out that the reverse process has occurred - maxims in general use, from whatever source, have been mistakenly attributed to Jesus, e.g., Matt 6:34, 7:6. Apparently Christian prophets spoke in the name of the risen Lord, that is, on his behalf. Were such sayings treasured as those of the earthly Jesus ? Was any real distinction made between them when both were felt to express the mind of the Lord who had now risen and was still acting through his church ? If the distinction was not sharply drawn, what was to prevent a saying of the Lord, delivered through a prophet, being attributed to the Lord in his earthly ministry ?......"
In the book 1 and 2 Thessalonians by Ernest Best (Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism, University of Glasgow) it is stated:-
"....There were many prophets among the early Christians; such prophets may have passed on sayings of the exalted Lord to his church, and the church have made little distinction between these sayings and those of the earthly Jesus; confirmation of this may be seen by the ascription by Paul of sayings of Jesus to the Lord.....".
Paul's letters are usually dated 50-60 CE, but by the time the Gospels were written (after ca. 90 CE), the 'apostles' were made to be companions of Jesus whilst he lived on earth - and yet there is no such mention of this whatsoever in pre-90 CE writings; Paul certainly never suggests this: he appears to liken them to himself, receiving messages from the risen Christ who had lived 'sometime in the past'.
In Gal 2:11 Paul has a fierce argument with Peter, but he makes no reference to Peter' denials of Jesus as the Gospels relate which would crush Peter's arrogance here; in the same way, Paul has to labour over the problem of unclean foods (e.g., Rom 14:14-15, 1 Cor 8:7-13) even though Jesus had supposedly spoken on this matter already (Matt 15:10). The explanation might be that Jesus were never spoke these words, but rather, a Christian prophet received this information supposedly from the risen Lord and the words were fed back to Jesus' earthly life which by 90 CE had been located ca. 30 CE.
The reasons for this are numerous, but very briefly, it was necesssary to locate Jesus in history and as John the Baptist could be seen as 'fulfilling' a supposed O.T prophecy (Malachi 3:1), Jesus became tied to this period (Note that Josephus the Jewish historian writes of the Baptist but he never mentions any Jesus associated with him). As it was believed that a foreign power would have killed Jesus, it seemed sensible to presume this Christ-figure had lived in the time of Pilate's prefectship. In sum, the events of ca. 30 CE provided an excellent background to when Christians believed Jesus would have lived.
As far as Jesus being connected with Nazareth, most commentators (even Christian ones) admit he was called this in error - i.e., his title was Jesus the Nazarene which had nothing to do with Nazareth but only meant 'Holy' or 'devout' or 'Separated one'. Although the word 'Nazareth' is only mentioned once in Mark (in 1:9), the translators have unfortunately translated all references as 'of Nazareth' when most of them do not say 'of Nazareth' but 'Nazarene' (1:24, 10:47, 14:67), which, as stated, refers to Jesus' sect or way of life, rather than a geographical location anywhere. Matt and Luke used Mark and interpreted this as meaning 'of Nazareth', when quite clearly it did not. One reason for this 'change-of-meaning' was no doubt due to seeing Jesus as a rebel against orthodox Judaism and the South (i.e. Judea) was considered to be fairly conservative, but Galilee in the North was notorious for producing rebels (e.g. Judas the Galilean led the famous 6 CE revolt).
Therefore, logically they presumed he must have come from there. Also, and finally, commentators admit there are 'difficulties' in bridging the gap between the two terms, i.e., how 'of Nazareth' is obtained from the original 'Nazarene' term.
Furthermore it appears these Christian prophets (called 'apostles' - surely evidence that 'apostle' originally meant someone receiving direct revelations from Christ in heaven and not someone who had been a companion of the earthly Jesus) were not all transmitting the same information from him - 2 Cor 11:4,5,13.
It has to be borne in mind that there were apparently "many Jesus'" - i.e., different Christian prophets were receiving different revelations from the figure they believed to be this person. This may explain why Jesus contradicts himself in the Gospels, e.g. in Matt 5:16 he says "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works....", but seconds later (Matt 6:1), says "Beware of practising your piety before men in order to be seen of them" - and he then goes on to say all good works must be done secretly and not to be observed by other people. How could one historical person have spoken like this ? It can only be explained by statements from different sources that is, Christian prophets relaying on revelations they believed they were receiving, and these being combined into the one figure of Jesus.
With regard to Paul's consistent and continual failure to locate Jesus in any chronological period, some argue that the reference to James being 'the Lord's brother' by Paul in Gal 1:19 indicates that Paul knew that Jesus' life was in that period of time, but far too much has been built up upon this one isolated statement. For example, the statement may have a theological, rather than a sociological meaning, viz. it is a term to denote something other than a literal flesh-and blood brother.
In fact Robertson suggests that the term really referred to a group of messianists that had a particular school of thought; Brandon suggests it could simply mean a 'principal servant' (which of course would suit the leader of the Jerusalem church). It does appear that in Paul's time 'brother/brethren' was a very common term for members of a particular group of people, rather than members of a physical family.
1 Cor 1:11-13 does imply that such groups existed within the church - it does seem from this that there were particular groups of people, e.g. those who were a 'Christ-party', and a member of this could be called "the Lord's brother".
Furthermore, as the Gospels also have Jesus referring to his non- family disciples as 'brethren' e.g., Matt 28:9-10 and John 20:17, it does appear that a blood relative is not necessarily meant by the term 'brother/brethren' in the N.T. Some go as far as believing that Jesus' family, as briefly referred to in the Gospels, were in fact 'created' by the Gospel writers purely for anti-docetic reasons. It is also strange that the author of Acts never mentions the James of Acts l5 as Jesus' brother, although he presumably knew Mark which named James as a brother of Jesus.
Finally, it is necessary to comment on the argument that maintains that as Josephus and Tacitus, both non-Christians, refer to Jesus, this surely proves that he was a historical personage.
These references are very brief fleeting statements concerning a Jesus by (1)Josephus (XVIII, 3.3), ca. 93 CE. and (2)Tacitus (Anals., xv, 44), ca. 120 CE. However, serious questions arise.
In the case of Josephus, (i)Why do no Christians up to the 4th cent. refer to Josephus' priceless remark that 'Jesus was the Christ'? (ii)Why does the Christian apologist Origen (185-254 CE), who knew of Josephus' writings, categorically state that Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Christ when in the passage Josephus refers to Jesus by this very title? (iii)How could a strict Pharasaic Jew make such a statement? (iv)Why is it written in the same style as Luke? (v)Why does it look like an insertion in the narrative and appears to interrupt the flow, not following on from what is said before and not leading into what is said afterwards? (vi)Why does Josephus not say more about Jesus if he did really believe 'he was the Christ'?
Additionally, it should be noted that firstly, a host of eminent Christian theologians/scholars who firmly believe in Jesus' historicity reject that it was written by Josephus. Secondly, why should this be genuine when other copies of Josephus's Antiquities have been discovered which are heavily interpolated with Christian references? And thirdly, the very fact that it does appear to be a Christian interpolation surely suggests there was a problem, as why should Christians feel there was a need to even do this?
In the case of Tacitus, it is never clear why this passage is even referred to; it was written nearly a century after Jesus' supposed existence and is therefore hardly 'contemporary'. If he is quoting a historical fact, then why does he make the same error that Christians also made about Pilate, i.e,. calling him a procurator when he was in fact a prefect. Trilling, an orthodox Christian, comments that Tacitus was saying what 'could have reached him from any educated contemporary' and 'is no more than what could be learned anywhere in Rome'. In fact when Pliny wrote to Trajan (ca. 112 CE) he admits that his information about Christians was obtained by questioning Christians - not by using any historical record or common knowledge. Tacitus is undoubtedly doing the same. Tacitus does not refer to Jesus as 'Jesus' but 'Christ' - i.e., the title ('Anointed/Messiah') that Christians gave Jesus. He could have hardly found this reference in any records he consulted (which would have therefore read:- 'We executed the Christ today' !). It is obvious that he is only repeating what he had heard that Christians believed.
NB. Further information on this topic will be found on page8.
Therefore, to conclude, in the matter of eyewitness and contemporary accounts to Jesus' earthly life, there is a striking absence. The situation is adequately summed up by Professor Fuller, Professor of New Testament, Union Theological Seminary, New York, in his A Critical Introduction to the New Testament:-
"Of the 27 books of the New Testament only the authentic Pauline epistles are, strictly speaking, the testimony of an apostolic witness. And even Paul...was not a witness of the historical Jesus. Since the earliest witnesses wrote nothing...there is not a single book in the New Testament which is the direct work of an eyewitness of the historical Jesus..." (p.197).
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