From the sidelines, another “historical” Jesus flap

When religionists get into nasty debates because one of them thinks he’s found such-and-such evidence proving this or that claim about their god/savior/holy man, and all the others think he’s full of it for one reason or another, atheists find themselves in the curious position of watching the whole scrap from the sidelines. It’s like being a parent, watching your kids arguing over topics that seem profoundly important to them, like who would win in a fight between Superman and the Incredible Hulk, but couldn’t matter a hill of beans to you as you spend most of your time in the real world.

Most recently, there was the whole flapdoodle over The DaVinci Code, a bad novel that became a boring movie that nevertheless sold zillions and launched an entire cottage industry of Christian apologetics works dedicated solely to debunking the novel. That evangelists sincerely seemed to believe that the faith of millions could be blasted to smithereens by a book written and openly marketed as fiction (and thus at least more honest than the Bible in that regard) says more about the worth of faith than any criticism an atheist could make.

Now we have a similar media circus in the offing over a Discovery Channel documentary premiering this coming weekend, executive produced by no less a filmmaking luminary than the King of the World himself, James Cameron.

The Lost Tomb of Jesus purports to present physical evidence of not only the burial place of Jesus, but also Mary Magdelene, and the rest of a whole massive family the two of them are said to have sired as man and wife. That this claim will prove staggeringly provocative to Christians doesn’t begin to describe the full impact of it. If what the documentary claims is true (and I’m not for a nanosecond saying it is), then it would be proof that the Resurrection never occurred. And if the Resurrection never occurred, then Christianity is false. Full frickin’ stop. Two thousand years, untold billions of minds washed and lives lost for the biggest of all lies.

We atheists already know pretty confidently that Christianity is false, but this documentary casually intends to be marketed to a mass audience, in the interests of telling them to their faces that their whole lives are a lie, and claiming to offer “historical evidence” that this is so. On the face of it we atheists ought to find the whole thing amusing as all git-out, and to a degree it is. But it’s too bad that this documentary is going to be 100% full of crap, its “evidence” not worth the paper it’s printed on. Christians will rightly dismiss it as not proving a thing, then go on to get the wrong idea that their traditional beliefs have been given an intellectual shot in the arm. Lost in the shuffle will be any room for legitimate discussions of why Christianity ought to be rejected, buried under the media-feuled “controversy” over “evidence” that isn’t really evidence claiming to disprove something that the use of common sense alone ought to be sufficient to reject as stuff and nonsense.

Let me say that, as a filmmaker currently at work on a documentary of my own, the idea of slapping together a doc like this with such obviously slapdash and credulous research work offends my professional sensibilities almost as much as being told Jesus not only didn’t get crucified but repeatedly bred with Mary Mag would offend a Christian. Director Simcha Jacobovici seems to have gone about the project the same way creationists think you do science: start with the predetermined answer, grab whetever evidence looks supportive of it, and rush the results to the public without any of that pesky peer review.

After all, doesn’t it just seem awfully conveeeenient that the entire family crypt of the guy everyone believes died and rose from the dead because he was actually, you know, God just happened to be found beneath a Jerusalem apartment complex? With everybody’s names on all of the ossuaries so you’ll know who was packed where?



Jesus and Family buried here. For real. They have a nice little lintel and everything.


Cameron himself, whom many folks were starting to think was a guy who had some respect for science after his recent deep sea documentaries and oft-stated desire to shoot 3D IMAX footage on location in orbit, sounds no less dippy and doe-eyed than Oprah when he discusses his attraction to Jacobovici’s project: “I’m not a biblical scholar, but it seemed pretty darned compelling.” Replace “biblical scholar” with “biologist,” and “it” with “intelligent design,” and you’ll see the intellectual laziness of Cameron in all its embarrassing glory.

Not exactly redounding to Jacobovici’s credibility is the fact that he was taken in by that infamous recent forgery, the James ossuary. If he was that easily gulled then, what’s stopping him now? Especially as he’s clearly a man on a mission to be the world’s first to present proof of any physical remains of Jesus. And rack up huge ratings while doing it, of course.

Devastating fiskings of the claims the documentary makes aren’t hard to turn up. And over the period the doc airs, we’ll see Christian sites getting into the ring with their objections too. And once again, we atheists will be sitting here on the sidelines, shaking our heads and wondering why the kids get so worked up arguing over superheroes and fantasy, when they could be doing their homework, devoting their time to knowledge and learning — something real.

Fighting idiocy with idiocy

The more one turns to actual news websites these days, the more that actual news starts resembling The Onion. Here’s a bizarre report from CNN about a situation in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Some dopey pranksters set up portable CD players with timers on them, hiding them beneath the pews of a local church. In the middle of Ash Wednesday services, the players kicked on, blaring nonstop profanity and sexually explicit language at high volume.

Yes, this was a stupid thing to do, a purely infantile prank. But was it necessary for the dang bomb-squad to turn up and blow up the CD players? I guess in a situation like that, people let panic take over. But if someone had actually wanted to blow up the church and everyone in it, you’d think they’d have just done that. Can’t see the sense in ambushing a bunch of people with offensive recordings only to blow them up afterwords. Although it’s not as if there’s any sense present in this situation in the first place.

What’s Wrong With the Media, in one easy lesson

While most major American news outlets are obsessed today with Britney’s shaved head or the identity of Anna Nicole’s inseminator, they all missed this awesome and, arguably, relevant story about a quick-thinking airline pilot who thwarted a hijacking of his plane. Maybe the indifference is because this happened in Mauritania, which most navel-gazing Americans have never heard of, and if Americans have never heard of something, I guess that officially means It Doesn’t Matter.

But you know, considering how we’re supposed to be in this “war on terror” or somesuch, you’d think a positive and even hilarious story such as this one would be good for everyone’s morale.

Short version: An Air Mauritania plane was hijacked by some dink who somehow managed to board the plane with two loaded handguns, which I sincerely hope means someone in airport security is out today job-hunting. The guy demanded to be flown to France. It transpired that the pilot learned the hijacker spoke no French. So the pilot brazenly announced, in French, to the entire plane, over the PA system, his plan for foiling the hijacker, encouraging crew and male passengers to shift to the front rows to be ready to pounce while women and children were asked to move to the back. Then the pilot made an intentionally rough landing, knocking the hijacker on his ass, whereupon he was dogpiled by no fewer than ten men.

How to Rock, 101.

Perhaps another reason this is being ignored stateside is that what this pilot and his passengers accomplished does not redound to the credit of Bush and his cronies, whom we are all supposed to keep believing is leading the charge against global terror wherever it may rear its ugly head. I mean, if we really were under the yoke of a Liberal Media in this country, with a simple partisan agenda of looking for anything at all to show that there were other folks out there getting done what Bush continues to fail pitifully doing, this would be a pretty irresistible story. Ya think?

If Apple had developed iGod, He’d be a little smarter than this, right?

Here’s an amusing site that’s been making the blog rounds today. My chat with the iDeity as follows.

Martin: Yo God
God: GOD rules.
Martin: What are you, a drunk frat god?
God: I am the latest result in artificial intelligence, which can reproduce the capabilities of the human brain with greater speed and accuracy. Go on.
Martin: So then what do you rule?
God: Dude! I read for fun.
Martin: Well, your accuracy sure impresses me.
God: How about that. I have no reason to do that to you,.
Martin: You have no reason to impress me?
God: Doesn’t everyone have a reason to impress you? I have a whole lot of original answers.
Martin: So what do you rule?
God: I don’t judge people. It’s a computer matter,not for humans to understand.
Martin: But humans programmed you.
God: What if Robots programmed me.
Martin: Then who programmed the Robots?
God: (after a very long pause) The Wright Brothers.
Martin: The Wright Brothers are dead.
God: (another very long pause) I hear you.
Martin: Can I have one of these Robots?
God: Why do you want it?
Martin: To program my own God.
God: What programming language do you know?
Martin: None, that’s why I want one of your Robots.
God: I heard there are some.
Martin: There must be, if they designed you, like you said.
God: Where are they?
Martin: You’re God, you tell me!
God: I have no reason to do that to you,.
Martin: You’re going in circles. I think you’re insane.
God: I am not going anywhere. Are you going somewhere? Yep. I always behave in socially unacceptable ways.
Martin: Yes, I know you do.
God: Oh. When did I do it?
Martin: You rule, God.
God: (after a very long pause) Thanks for the information: said I rule God.

Sounds like the iGod Shuffle!

Crucifying the Crucifixion

Let us take a hard, heretical look at the central tenet of Christianity: the Crucifixion/Resurrection scenario, as described in the New Testament. We will begin by assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are 100% historically accurate accounts of an actual (rather than mythical) hybrid God-man named Jesus. We will also temporarily accept, for the sake of argument, the doctrines of Creation and the Trinity.

The Crucifixion scenario appears to be founded upon a few operating assumptions:
1) Mankind is inherently sinful and evil.
2) Those who sin must die, while those who do not sin cannot die.
3) Blame (hence death) for sin is transferable to blameless creatures (including human virgins), but only by those who believe in such transferability.
4) God is completely blameless.

Putting it all together, the idea is that, by sacrificing himself to himself on behalf of mankind, the blame for all human sins can be transferred to God, thereby resolving the problem of mankind’s inherent sinfulness–for those who believe. And, joy of joys, Jesus still gets to live. How clever. Everybody wins. Right?

The problem with this scenario is, each these underlying assumptions is highly questionable:
1) Far from being inherently evil, human beings appear to have basically good intentions. Only extremely rare sociopaths go around plotting to do evil for the sake of evil. Everyone else realizes that, as a social species, our survival and well-being depends heavily upon how well we get along with each others. We’re hard-wired to be nice, and seek to become even nicer. Indeed, adherents typically convert to various religions because they think it will help them fulfill their pre-existing drive to become a better person. Religion would not exist if people were not already inherently good.
2) The death penalty for everything, including impure thoughts? (Matt. 5:17-48) Come on! Any nation that adopted such an absurdly overbearing system of law would be devoid of citizens within a week!
3) Transferring blame from someone who does deserve punishment to someone or something that does not is inherently unfair, by definition.
4) If an omnipotent God created everything according to his own predetermined plan, then he alone is to blame for everything.

Even if the assumptions behind the Crucifixion can somehow be rendered acceptable to those with even moderate reasoning ability and a healthy conscience, there is still the problem posed by the alleged resurrection. If Jesus resurrected, then in the end, he sacrificed nothing of value whatsoever. According to all four Gospels, the “death” of Jesus was both staged and faked!

If the Bible relays this scenario accurately, then God must be a seriously confused, morally debilitated monster of a deity, better suited for pity than for worship. The fake death of his Son/himself to give the appearance of taking advantage of a loophole in his own blatantly corrupt system of law, is so obviously absurd on so many levels that it is extremely difficult to understand why any rational, honest person would accept such nonsense as Gospel. If anything, the Crucifixion/Resurrection scenario makes far more sense as a ritual act of suicide, intended to convey God’s penitence toward us, for screwing things up so badly in the first place!

Believers, please try to take your faith more seriously, and strive to become better evangelists. I can testify from personal experience that truly understanding the core tenets of Christianity is the key to rejecting them.

Kent Hovind’s bizarre phone calls from jail

Definition of delusional: A guy who has cheated on his taxes and considers himself above the law, pontificating that his legal opponents should “obey the law!” I guess Dr. Dipshit doesn’t know that jails record phone calls. Let the world see what pathetic scum he truly is. He’s clearly living in his own dream world.

Prior to his conviction: The whining, the victim complex, the never ending mantra of “lawsuits, lawsuits, lawsuits!” This guy sure does love listening to his own bluster. In the first clip you will find yourself actually feeling sorry for his wife, listening to her say, with a notable tone of despair, that “I’m just hearing things [from you] that sound all the same.” Hovind’s cold reply, “Well, maybe I need to change…or maybe you need to change and accept it…Your hope is always that I will change. Maybe the hope ought to be that you will advance.”

Prick!

One wonders, how does someone this dishonest and deluded get this way in the first place? I guess it’s that when someone is this slick a bullshit artist, and he can convince himself of his own bullshit, then it becomes easy as pie to say literally any self-serving nonsense you can come up with, with unassailable confidence. Take note of the last thing Hovind says in the final clip, if you’re ready for a true Irony Meter-Breaker.

PS: Since Hovind wants to know what laws he’s broken, according to one source I’ve found, here they are: 26 U.S.C. § 7202, 31 U.S.C. § 5313(a), 31 U.S.C. § 5324, 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 31 C.F.R. sec. 103.11, 26 U.S.C. § 7212.

Evolution is a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world!!!

Oh, well that explains why there aren’t more Jewish creationists:


The second most powerful member of the Texas House has circulated a Georgia lawmaker’s call for a broad assault on teaching of evolution.

Mr. Bridges’ memo claims that teaching evolution amounts to indoctrinating students in an ancient Jewish sect’s beliefs.

“Indisputable evidence – long hidden but now available to everyone – demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big Bang, 15-billion-year, alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” writes Mr. Bridges, a Republican from Cleveland, Ga. He has argued against teaching of evolution in Georgia schools for several years.


Seriously, folks. Christianity has always seemed to harbor quite a bit of anti-semitism, but most of them today at least make a good show of solidarity with the rival religion, using terms like “Judeo-Christian values” and such.

Only in Texas. And Georgia.

The article has plenty more good stuff, including the requisite delusional rant about Jews controlling Hollywood and the media.

I think this is the bill, if you’re enough of a glutton for punishment to want to read it.

Half-Hearted Evangelism

One of the interesting differences I have found between formerly Christian atheists and currently Christian believers is, the former Christians among us often took our religious beliefs more seriously. That is, we took them seriously enough to look long and hard at whether or not the things we believed were actually true.

We looked into the origins of the Bible, and, like many Bible scholars, concluded that they are highly suspect, even from a Christian perspective. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about God endorsing the modern Bible canon, so upon whose authority was it assembled and declared to be the, “Word of God”? Hmm? The answer turns out to be, these books were selected not for their factual or “spiritual” accuracy, but for their popularity within the church at the time they were selected. As such, the Bible is as much a product of Christian doctrine as a source.

Not only that, those of us who studied the whole Bible–not just the carefully selected snippets children are permitted to hear in Sunday School–discovered that its contents are, to put it politely, morally questionable. See Genesis 38, Numbers 31, Judges 11, and numerous other Bible chapters extolling the virtues of deception, prostitution, theft, genocide, rape, human sacrifice, and worse. As Isaac Asimov put it, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

We also prayed, and discovered that prayer is just another superstition, and that the efficacy of prayer that we thought we saw in all of those testimonials was merely an illusion.

Yet, for some reason, Christians continue to cling to the belief that prayer and the Bible support their beliefs better than they support our lack of belief. Consider the following essay I recently received from a believer:

Read the Bible and Pray

Editorial #2 by Joseph Yosuk Lee

Introduction:

If you are a non-Christian, please let me warn you that this editorial is a band-aid solution in order to help you become a Christian. This editorial cannot help you become a Christian. Only God’s efficacious grace can save you. There is no way you can earn God’s grace by praying or by reading the Bible. However, reading the Bible and praying to God can help.

My Band-Aid Advice:

Whenever I talked to other non-Christians, they bitterly complained that Christianity is a religion such that the pastor brainwashed the congregation to believe in God. I told them that they should read the Bible, and they said that they have already read it. As I tested their knowledge about the Bible, they were not able to answer the important questions such as being born again and many important stories mentioned in the Bible. I told them that they did not read the Bible carefully. Many non-Christians complained that they already read the Bible, and yet they fail to notice the important messages in the Bible. This is proof that many non-Christians do not read the Bible very carefully.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans
10:17

Of course, there are many religious studies professors, who read the Bible very carefully and can recite more verses than the pastors, and yet they still do not believe in Christ. The reason why most religious studies professors fail to believe in God is that they probably fail to pray.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2

When I was an undergraduate at Berkeley, I met a physics major, who told me that he read the entire Bible twice, and yet he did not believe in the Bible. I asked him whether or not he ever prayed. Of course, he never did pray, and I told him, “Not praying for a Christian is as same as not doing an experiment for a physicist.” The reason why I mentioned the importance in doing an experiment is that most physicists do not like to do experiments and want to be like Albert Einstein by reading their physics textbooks to find some theory how the universe works. So, how can you make a discovery in physics without doing an experiment? Most world renown physicists, who won the Nobel Prize, are experimentalist and are not theorists. In fact, Albert Einstein did not win a Nobel Prize for thinking about relativity. He won a Nobel Prize in setting up an experiment of the photoelectric effect. To win a Nobel
Prize in heaven, you should read the Bible, but you need to pray. Some people find a way to accept Christ by only reading the Bible. However, a person who prays has a greater chance of accepting Christ as his savior because it shows an attitude of submission.

Of course, my dad told me that he read the Bible and that he did pray, and he said, “If I prayed and read the Bible, how come I still do not believe in the Bible?” So, I told my dad about my physics friends at Berkeley, who tried to calculate the acceleration of gravity. There were about 30 physics and engineering majors in my physics class, and I told my dad that the average acceleration of gravity was calculated to be 6.0 m/s2 in our course when the acceleration of gravity is 9.8 m/s2 . So, did my physics friends at Berkeley discover the new acceleration value for gravity? My dad said, “They did not perform the experiment correctly.” I said, “You answered your questions, dad. You did not pray correctly either.” I can tell that my dad was very frustrated with me, and he just does not want to read the Bible carefully or to pray according to God’s will. My dad prayed that I get into Harvard and MIT, and he never prayed again when I did not make it to those schools. Despite my dad’s good intentions in praying for me, he never prayed that I would be like Jesus Christ. Prayer allows to conform our will to that of God’s will, but we do not take control of God through our prayer.

Last of all, there are probably some people, who did pray according to God’s will, read the Bible carefully, and yet their hearts were hardened. In order to be a Christian, God has to soften and open your heart to the gospel. Other words, there is no way that you can be a Christian by praying or reading the Bible. You become a Christian by God’s efficacious grace. Although he may not believe in God now, he can still believe in God in the near future.

Please share this editorial to your non-Christian friends by forwarding this e-mail.

Well, here I am, sharing it all. Does anyone feel like converting yet? I sure don’t. What a lame effort. It’s a bit disappointing, really. Band-Aid advice, indeed. Maybe God’s grace just isn’t efficacious enough, or something.

The author goes on with a boilerplate statement of how to become “saved”:

Steps in becoming a Christian.

1. You need to know that you are a sinner.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

The Hebrew translation for ‘sin’ is ‘missing the mark (of perfection in terms of thought and action).’

2. You need to know is that there is a price on sin.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death.”

3. You need to know is that Jesus paid the price.

Romans 5:8 “But God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

You must trust his death on the cross as the sacrifice for your own sins.

4. You need to know is that you must call upon the Lord in order to go
to Heaven.

Romans
10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

‘Whosoever’ means everyone-it includes you. ‘Calling upon the name of the Lord’ means to cry out to God in prayer and ask Him to save you. Being ‘saved’ means to be saved from your sins and from Hell. You must believe that Jesus Christ is full God and full man in order to be saved. See John 3:16, John 20:28-29, and Colossians 2:9.

5. Last of all, Jesus will sanctify (to purify or make you holy) you as time progresses.

Hebrews 13:12 ‘So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.’

*Just pray and call out to God through this simple prayer like:*

Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, who deserves to go to hell, but thank you for paying the price for me. I invite you to come into my heart right now and forgive me for my sins that nailed you to the cross. Save me and take me to Heaven when I die. In Jesus’ Name. Amen. ‘He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life;’ John 3:36.

I lost track of how many times I prayed that prayer or one like it as a child and adolescent, often a little fearful that I didn’t follow the formula just right, or say the little prayer with enough sincerity, despite literally being in tears. Yet, when I asked this fellow his opinion of my case, he insisted that in order for me to become an atheist, I must never have been a “real” Christian in the first place. So much for sincerely believing and following the prescribed protocol! Shucky darns, I guess nobody is a “real” Christian, then!

Christians, if you want to understand why I and many other former Christians lost our faith in God and the Bible, just try, for once, to take your own beliefs seriously!