Category Archives: Christianity

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

Let’s start with the first part of the myth. Inanna and Jesus both travel to a big city, where they are arrested by soldiers, put on trial, convicted, sentenced to death, stripped of their clothes, tortured, hung up on a stake, and die. And then, after 3 days, they are resurrected from the dead. Now there are, to be sure, a number of significant differences between the stories. For one thing, one story is about a goddess and the other is about a divine man. But this is a specific pattern, a mythic template. When you are dealing with the question of whether these things actually happened, you have to deal with the fact that there is a mythic template here. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t a real person, Jesus, who was crucified, but rather that, if there was, the story about it is structured and embellished in accordance with a pattern that was very ancient and widespread.

Valerie Tarico: Ancient Sumerian Origins of the Easter Story

interview with author of “misquoting jesus”

Bart Ehrman is the US author of the bestselling book “Misquoting Jesus” (In the UK “Whose word is it?”).  He calls into question the authority of the New Testament as scribal changes over time have changed the documents. 

So can we trust the scripture? Bible scholar Peter Williams believes in the reliability of the New Testament and that Bart’s prognosis is far too pessimistic.

Media Player

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

Using the St Matthew’s Gospel as a reference point, Mr Reneke pinpointed the planetary conjunction, which appeared in the constellation of Leo, to the exact date of June 17 in the year 2BC.
The astronomy lecturer, who is also news editor of Sky and Space magazine, said: “We have software that can recreate exactly the night sky as it was at any point in the last several thousand years.
“We used it to go back to the time when Jesus was born, according to the Bible.
“Venus and Jupiter became very close in the the year 2BC and they would have appeared to be one bright beacon of light.
“We are not saying this was definitely the Christmas star – but it is the strongest explanation for it of any I have seen so far.
“There’s no other explanation that so closely matches the facts we have from the time.
“This could well have been what the three wise men interpreted as a sign. They could easily have mistaken it for one bright star.

‘Jesus was born in June’, astronomers claim – Telegraph

Skepchick: Critical Thinking at its Finest

don't believe in god?

A lot of Christians who have seen the billboards have found them offensive enough that they felt a need to complain. Some have even accused the billboards of being hate speech and denigrating Christians. One Christian driver who saw the billboard went so far as to say “It is a despicable act to allow that sign…” I, for one, can’t see how that is possible since the billboards are not speaking to or about Christians or people of faith, they are merely offering support to those unbelievers who may be living in the area.

Skepchick: Critical Thinking at its Finest

obama and hell and christianity today

as i’ve spoken of before, the “hell” topic was one of the main bones of contention i ended up having with what most evangelical christians consider “orthodox”.

i did a big study on it in 2004, and abandoned the idea of hell once i actually got my mind around what the bible actually does and does not say about it.

as i recall from my studies, hell as a concept is virtually absent from the old testament, and there are three greek words used in the new testament that were translated as “hell” in the NIV (the evangelical’s translation of choice).

together these three words are used a grand total of fourteen (14) times in the new testament.

all but two of these uses are by jesus himself.

paul never mentions it.

“hell” as christians today think of it didn’t really come to be a common christian teaching until nearly 200 AD — no one in jesus audience would have ever thought that you went there forever simply for having the misfortune of being born.

“gehenna” is the most commonly used word for “hell” in the NT, and while it is never “defined” explicitly, what jesus probably meant when he used it what was everyone else at that time meant by it: a place, under the ground, where there was lots of fire, and where the sun got its heat and light from as it traveled under the ground on its trip back to the east, after it had set in the west.

if jesus believed (perhaps because he had some special knowledge from the Father) that hell was not an actual, physical, place which was literally under the ground, he didn’t seem to clue his listeners in, and they certainly would have thought this was what he meant when he used the word.

at the time, it was generally believed (jewish or not) that when a person died they went into the afterlife, or hades (hebrew: sheol), where they might face some sort of judgment.

jesus’ particularly jewish audience at the time were likely to believe that the pious would get to exchange their ticket to hell for a ticket to paradise, which meant they now had TWO tickets to paradise (every one was born with one of each) and could go there, immediately.

people who had committed adultry or had led their neighbors into wrongdoing had their one paradise ticket taken away and got another ticket to sheol handed to them: no escape.

a common phrase in jewish teaching was that it would have been better to not have been born than to be one of these people.

(christians familiar with their bibles will recognize that phrasing: jesus borrowed it.)

people who had themselves sinned, but had not lead other people to sin had to spend about only about one (1) year in gehenna, and then got to go up to paradise.

note: this is not a biblical teaching, as the bible doesn’t actually ever say anything on the subject. i’m just relaying what most people who happened to grow up the descendants of nomadic desert tribes in mesopotamia happen to believe on the subject.

so, that was the belief of MOST of the people who heard jesus say:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

this was RADICAL teaching on this subject.

but did he mean it, literally?

to the people who believed that gehenna was under their ground, and supplied the sun with fire, jesus said that if they are angry with their brother, they are going to go there.

surely he didn’t actually mean it, literally, right?

what about when he said: “And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.”

did he mean this literally?

so, then, in which of the three times where we have jesus quoted as talking about gehenna is he speaking literally?

if it isn’t those two, it must be this one:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?”

other times the NIV says “hell” are:

2 Peter 2:4 — “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment;”

here, the word peter uses is “tartarus” — and is generally thought to be a big, dark, essentially bottomless hole.

James 3:6 — “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”

the word used here is “gehenna”

Matthew 16:18 — “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

here, the word jesus uses is “hades”, rather than “gehenna”.

hades was believed in jesus’ time to be “the afterlife” — and did not necessarily imply someplace horrible, though it was believed to be rather gloomy, unless you happened to get to some sort of paradise.

so, there you have it: the entire new testament’s teaching on “hell” all summed up, with some history on what jesus’ contemporaries believed on the subject.

not one time does jesus ever mention being a christian.

not once does jesus lay out specific things one must believe in order to NOT go to hell.

not once does any other new testament writer.

the bible is more or less quiet on the entire matter of hell and who goes there or does not.

of course, this is NOT a view that is embraced 21st century evangelical christian culture, with its particular version of orthodoxy, where the text must be accepted as a whole: either all true or all a lie, right?

so, then, what about anyone who doesn’t poke out their own eyeball for enjoying checking out a hot chick?

anyway, when obama says:

“I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell…I find it hard that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell…I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity…That’s just not part of my religious make-up.”

…i think you’ll find its actually a very biblical view.

its almost certainly the one jesus himself held, if we are to go by what we know of history combined with his teachings on the subject.

note: i cross-posted this as a comment on john crane’s blog here.

is this true: “all these things will be given to you”

recently i had reason to go back and examine the teachings of jesus in the book of matthew, chapter six:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

many christians accept this without much thought, and yet also basically ignore it, except as a mild emotional uplift when hard times come.

the basics are: “i am worried. i feel like i should not worry, because god is in control, therefore, i shall now feel better.”

but is the above quoted passage actually true?

is there evidence that god actually provides clothing food and water to those who seek his kingdom?

is it safe to assume that those who do not have such things are, then, not seeking god’s kingdom?

Creationists fail again: taken for granite

But I’m thinking that no matter what, we’re talking ages significantly longer than say, 6000 years. In fact, unless Antarctica was moving at a pace faster than you can jog, we’re talking millions if not hundreds of millions of years here.

Of course, creationists have an answer for this, including “catastrophic plate tectonics”, which apparently can have all the continents scurrying across the face of the Earth like cockroaches avoiding light. Go ahead and read that link; it’s pretty entertaining. According to them, the continents all got pushed around by Noah’s flood, then suddenly stopped, except not really stopped; now they move slowly, and at just the right speed to be in concordance with the hundreds of other pieces of evidence that show that the Earth is billions of years old.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Creationists fail again: taken for granite

Being a Theistic Evolutionist without contradiction

First of all this suggests that Humans were the expected outcome of God’s creation and while it is easy to understand this flawed logic, after all, we are the outcome of God’s creation, this should not be confused with a forward looking goal. In fact, it is easy to argue that God’s Creation was set in motion to eventually result in a form of life which could gain spirituality and a soul and thus become aware of His existence. Furthermore, even if God had set in motion a Darwinian process, He could still have intervened, as I have explained above, without violating natural law. In other words, the process would still appear purely Darwinian and at the same time would be guided.

So contrary to the fallacious claims that ‘true Darwinists’ cannot be ‘true Christians’, it is self evident that such a position is not logically tenable.

What I find puzzling is why people are intent on rejecting the good science of Darwinism and evolutionary theory as somehow being incompatible with their faith. That shows both a disregard for science, which is a typical ID Creationist affliction, as well as a significant lack in faith.

Being a Theistic Evolutionist without contradiction

fairness is in our genes

there has been a lot said about the article i am going to quote later in this post, but none of it that i’ve seen calls out the glaringly obvious point that i’m seeing in this:

Consider one more experimental example to prove the point: the ultimatum game. You are given $100 to split between yourself and your game partner. Whatever division of the money you propose, if your partner accepts it, you each get to keep your share. If, however, your partner rejects it, neither of you gets any money.

How much should you offer? Why not suggest a $90-$10 split? If your game partner is a rational, self-interested money-maximizer — the very embodiment of Homo economicus — he isn’t going to turn down a free 10 bucks, is he? He is. Research shows that proposals that offer much less than a $70-$30 split are usually rejected.

Why? Because they aren’t fair. Says who? Says the moral emotion of “reciprocal altruism,” which evolved over the Paleolithic eons to demand fairness on the part of our potential exchange partners. “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” only works if I know you will respond with something approaching parity. The moral sense of fairness is hard-wired into our brains and is an emotion shared by most people and primates tested for it, including people from non-Western cultures and those living close to how our Paleolithic ancestors lived.

the idea that most people react this way is something in our selves so deep that it is something we share with other primates.

when we share so much DNA with monkeys, apes, and lemurs, and yet so many people deny that we come from common ancestors, it just seems dishonest to me.

intellectually at best, and plain-old lyin’ at worst.

as i get further and further away, as the months tick by, from my old christian self, i have trouble even remembering how it is i ignored so much evidence for evolution and spent so much time researching “science” that “disproved” it.

how was i able to accept as fact then what is so clearly horse-pooey?

this article explains it, in some small sense.

Why people believe weird things about money – Los Angeles Times:

The Daily Detour: Does freedom require religion?

in response to The Daily Detour: Does freedom require religion?, i have a couple points to make:

We must be sure to separate the misapplication of a religious worldview from that worldview itself.

it seems to me that it is usually those who disagree with the truthiness of a specific worldview who say that actions by those who hold that worldview are the all-but-inevitable consequenses of that worldview.

conversely, those very same people tend to to be quick to apply the “misapplication” argument when confronted with misdeeds by those who hold a worldview similar to their own.

or more simply: you can’t say pol pot’s actions sprang from his beliefs and then turn around and someone like, say, cortez’ actions showed up in spite of his beliefs.

no: the evil that human beings do is because human beings do evil things, and no worldview can keep all of them from doing such things: even one that (mostly) preaches peace and compassion.

when it comes to the christian worldview, there is the “little” matter of the holy spirit and her influence on the human she inhabits.

to this, i can only answer that if god were real, and god actually sent a holy spririt to inhabit people’s hearts and help turn their minds, their actions would follow, always.

the bible says that god changes peoples hearts and minds and paul is explicit that it is a natural consequence of being saved that one acts in a godly way.

but clearly there are plenty examples of christians acting in a way that is antithetical to the way their faith says they will.

this is why there’s such an undercurrent in christian culture of the tension between freewill and god’s sovereignty.

gotta keep that freewill card around so the huge evidence of lack of obedience doesnt’ end up undermining the faith altogether.

my second point is that ideas either survive or do not survive.

ideas that are absurd do not survive.

very few people believe the earth is flat anymore because we accept the eidence presented to us: very very few of us get to see the thing from afar ourselves or understand the physics well enough to run tests on our own.

no one believes they can fly (at least no one who lives long enough to spread the idea).

but ideas that sound plausible can survive, and they can survive long enough to get refined and evolve to become more plausible.

this is, of course, the “religion as meme” idea, and it is fully capable of explaining why religion and specifically christianity describe the human condition quite well.

if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have survived.

ultimately, though, in the great sifting of ideas by humanit, the truthy ones will come to the top while the others are burned off.

this is why humans murder less than they used to, live longer, have healthier babies and are able to build rockets.

it is also why, eventually, we will shake off all notions of the supernatural to explain what is currently unexplainable.

thank god for it, too! ;-)

5 Upcoming Comic Book Movies That Must Be Stopped – Page 4 | Cracked.com

comic books reveal how we as humans tend to really feel about god:

The origin of the comic god goes like this: The arrogant Thor needs a lesson in humility, so his father Odin, the ruler of all gods, sends him to Earth in the form of a crippled mortal to teach him to be humble. When Thor finally learns his shits do stink, his mortal form dies off and he is allowed to become himself again.

This spiritual lesson serves to confirm two things: Being handicapped is God’s way of punishing you for religious transgressions, and to the son of God, Earth is essentially a giant time-out where instead of facing a corner for five minutes you live a short, challenging life rife with confusion and pain until you are eventually allowed to die.

from 5 Upcoming Comic Book Movies That Must Be Stopped

“Wow, what a load of horseshit.”

Here’s how to understand the Creation Museum:

Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we’re not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we’re talking colossal load of horsehit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. This is a Herculean load of horseshit, friends, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Augeas.

And you look at it and you say, “Wow, what a load of horseshit.”

Your Creation Museum Report