I get email

Ahh, evangelical Christians…so persistent, so illogical, so arrogant. There’s a guy who has been pestering me for years, and he wrote again today. I’ll include most of it here, because one notable thing about him against the background of the usual mob of people who write is that he actually has decent command of spelling and grammar. He couldn’t argue his way out of a wet paper bag, though.

Isn’t that nice? He’s read some books about science. It’s an open question whether he understands them, though, since he never talks about the contents, nor will he in this letter. It’s a kind of meaningless nod, to say he has some books on his shelf I might have read, too, but nah, he’s going to talk about a sermon he heard, instead.

Also, it’s very nice to hear that Harry Kroto had recommended me to the evangelicals that pestered me. Harry and I had quite a few conversations before his death — he was deeply passionate about science education, and used his Nobel as a tool to fund all kinds of outreach programs. He was a genuinely good guy, and ferociously godless as well.

See what I mean? All he writes about is the stupid goddamn sermon he heard recently, and he seems to think that sprinkling Bible verses everywhere will be persuasive. I believe there was a Paul who lived in the first century AD. I believe that he traveled about, preaching. I can believe he visited Athens, and that philosophers were curious about him (I don’t believe that all Athenians did nothing but listen and think about the latest ideas, though). Nothing in this account contradicts a reasonable understanding of people and the natural world. So, so what?

Of course many people are searching. I’m searching. That doesn’t mean I’m searching for a god — I’m searching for a better understanding of reality. I even accept that last line, People will NEVER find soul satisfaction in false gods. True. That’s why I reject Jesus and Jehovah and all that nonsense, along with other false gods. Is my correspondent actually so incapable of understanding that other people won’t necessarily find his assertions about god at all true?

He just resorts to puking up more Bible quotes.

Some guy insisted, 2000 years ago, that his god was real and true, and some people believed him, and others disbelieved him. There are prophets everywhere who have been saying similar things — Mohammed, Joseph Smith, L. Ron Hubbard. Why should I believe? Because you thump your holy book harder?

Here are his conclusions.

No evidence given. We’re just supposed to accept this because it’s in the Bible. You know, this is not an approach that’s ever going to work with people who deny the authority of scripture.

But wait! He has a little evidence to throw at us at the end!

So they found that the Bible names 53 people who have been confirmed to have really existed.

I can do that, too. Here’s a story.

Robert Downey Jr and I used to get together to drink beer and build robots in Wakanda several years ago — Harry Kroto was there, too, as well as Harry Potter, and the leprechaun from Lucky Charms. Downey later used the skills I taught him to build an armored suit and become famous as Iron Man. Unfortunately, we had a falling out because his girlfriend, Pepper Potts AKA Gwyneth Paltrow, found me irresistible and kept throwing herself at me, and Iron Man refused to believe me when I said I found her ditziness unattractive. So I moved to Iceland and married a far more attractive woman named Mary and we went on to found the city of Little Rock, Arkansas. You’ve probably heard of it.

There are 6 names in there, maybe more if you aren’t particularly rigorous in your fact-checking, that you can easily confirm belong to people or places that verifiably exist.

Therefore, the whole story is true.


  1. nathanieltagg says

    Plot twist: Downey turns out to be a secret phan of Freethought Blogs, reads this, and publicly confirms it as all true. PZ beleaguered by fans for robot designs, microbrew recommendations, and the location of Wakanda.

  2. says

    Off the subject:
    I get emails on posts and comments here, and if I follow the link in the message, it takes me to a “sorry, but no” from FreeThoughtBlogs. I then go to their Pharyngula link on the left side, and it takes me to your posts, so it’s only an extra step for me, but I thought I’d tell you anyway.

    Sorry I can’t point to a bible verse that backs me up, but how about hymn 404: “My Sin Shall Not Be Found”?

  3. birgerjohansson says

    But, but we know the bible is true because the cross will repel vampires.
    By contrast, the quran will only repel cats.
    ( based on the claim “you know the quran is holy because a cat will never walk on it”.
    This claim was put to the test in the Youtube video “Will a cat walk on a quran? “.
    Result: cat 1, quran 0 )

  4. Owlmirror says

    Which of course makes me wonder — what is the name of the leprechaun from Lucky Charms?

    WikiP says:

    The mascot of Lucky Charms […] is Lucky the Leprechaun, also known as Sir Charms, and originally called L.C. Leprechaun.

    Wow! Not just Lucky, but also a knight!

  5. says

    I miss the old versions of the cereal mascots. I guess they mostly changed when Daws Butler, Bill Scott, and other great voice actors died, but they still didn’t have to become total patsies. Lucky now is just this little goober who sets out some good nutritious breakfast for his kiddie friends, but he used to be such a mean little bastitch: “Always after me Lucky Charms! I’ll make a magic machine gun—and BLOW THEIR LITTLE ASSES TO HELL! HA HA HA HA!!!”

  6. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

    “Next time on JUDGE JESUS!… (dramatic courtroom theme music)”

  7. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    I don’t believe you, PZ. You lie. Everyone knows that Arkansas is a mythical place, like Shangri-La but with trailer parks.

  8. says

    I’ve been to Shangri-La, in China. I took a picture of the sign as our bus passed through it. As we left it, I returned to my true age.

  9. PaulBC says

    If you told me you managed to get hold of his Lucky Charms I would know you were lying. You’ll never get them! As stated, I can only rate it unverified.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    My authobiography has a lot of names in it. It has the best names. That is how you know it is true.
    The chapter about when I invented the internet has the mostest names.

  11. jrkrideau says

    the cross will repel vampires
    Are you sure? A friend set off to Transylvania equipped with several and we have not heard from him since. Even those nice men from CSIS say they do not know where he is.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Re @ 16
    Monster hunters, like gun enthusiasts, will go on forever describing the details of their weapons, and the alleged advantages of one over the other. Greek cross or western/catholic one?
    All-silver bullet or silver jacket over tungsten core?
    Pre-recorded incantations?
    The transylvanian undead are more vulnerable to garlic than to crosses, so you need a fresh supply of those.

  13. nomdeplume says

    PZ – you are too generous in accepting “Paul in Athens” as real. It seems to be largely, if not entirely, an invented story, part of early christian propaganda.

  14. nomdeplume says

    Also meant to say that the “53 names” seems unlikely, even though you’d expect, in fact, people writing religious books would include real people alive at the time by way of context. But I can’t think of any more than a couple of Roman governors, a Roman Emperor, and possibly an Egyptian Pharoah, which seems like a very small sample.

  15. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    You’re forgetting that many folk in the bible had a single name. If sometime in the last 200 years someone translated some Egyptian hieroglyphics as mentioning an “Abraham” to the north or some Mesopotamian cuneiform mentioning an “Abraham” to the west, BOOM! Confirmed.

    There are plenty of figures mentioned that have good historical evidence for them – certainly better than that for any Jesus that performed actual miracles, though not better than just “any Jesus that happened to live in the first half of what we now call the first century”. The Maccabee brothers give you five right there. Then there’s the creative accounting that takes confirmed real persons and associates them with vague biblical figures. Take the Pharaoh of Exodus. That pharaoh is not named, but there really were pharaohs, we do know that. So many people feel that the pharaoh of exodus is confirmed (often associating him with Ramses II), but if PZ had included “the Queen of Sheba” in his story, would that count as another character confirmed?

    It gets even weirder: We can say that of course the QoS couldn’t be one of the confirmed characters in PZ’s story because there’s been no QoS for longer than PZ has been alive. But what if PZ specifies someone we know existed, someone with an actual name that we can be quite sure about? Let’s say it’s Cleopatra VII Philopator (the famous Cleopatra that ruled for 30 years, messed around with Mark Antony, and died of an asp’s bite).

    If PZ specifies that Cleopatra was raised from the dead and later introduced him to Mary while the three were drinking in a Reykjavik bar, is the Cleopatra one of the confirmed persons?

    Because similar things happen in the bible, though all dates are somewhat uncertain that far back. The Herod the Great/Quirinius conflict is just one example. Are Herod the Great and Quirinius “confirmed” when at least one of them seemingly must have a timeline that conflicts with facts known about the only “confirmed” Herod the Great or the only “confirmed” Quirinius?

    I’m not really interested in which 53 people they call confirmed, but whichever ones they choose can’t make up for all the other impossibilities built into the biblical narrative.

  16. nomdeplume says

    Yes, it’s curious to erect 53 straw men and women. It is as if they think think Atheists believe that NO ONE lived during “Biblical times” and therefore demonstrating that people did validates the whole nest of nonsense.

  17. cartomancer says

    There’s cuneiform evidence that a certain Prince Alexandros existed at about the time the Trojan War was supposed to have happened. Therefore the entire Iliad is true and the archaic Greek pantheon are the ones we ought to worship. I hope this guy has been making regular sacrifices to Zeus in the approved manner.

    I had a run-in with disturbing religious folk myself yesterday. Ended up losing out on a job thanks to the fact it was a Catholic school and they weren’t happy when they asked me how I could contribute to the “Catholic ethos” of the place and I answered honestly. I suppose I was so uneasy because, hitherto, I have never actually met and interacted with people who think all this guff is real. I had assumed they maintained it as some kind of fuzzy community tradition rather than actually thinking it was real, but they actually expected me to lead prayers in the morning. I think I dodged a bullet there. Also, Slough really is a horrid place.

    Carry on.

  18. opposablethumbs says

    A Catholic school in Slough? Definitely sounds like a bullet dodged; I’m sorry it turned out to be a bullet-dodging situation in the first place, though. Hope the next one is good.
    (I remember having that freaky feeling in school as a pupil – I could never quite get my head round the realisation that there were people who actually did and said all this (Church of Scotland, in that case) religious stuff for real, not as part of some quaint traditional-customs-and-practices thing. Weird.)

  19. blf says

    I attended a concert almost during this tour (long video), therefore it must have been that concert during that tour. I even used to have the ticket stub to confirm it, and a fiend I met later was also there. Finally, since I was seated centre front row, all of this must be correct !

    (Some of this actually is true.)


    Clearly related, I recently downloaded a game which was an incidental find during a search for another package. However, trying out the game, I made the mistake of entering “full screen” mode. This caused the game to appear full screen on both monitors, which was odd. Exiting the game, the monitors remained “clones”. Rebooting didn’t fix. And the configuration tool was confused, claiming both monitors where “the same” (which is impossible, as they have different sizes, resolutions, and are connected to different ports). Some experimentation showed my local user software configuration was corrupted, albeit what and how was a mystery.

    Enter the great sky faerie LiveCD, which after some incantations, agreed to hint at the fix. Lo and behold, waving the keyboard correctly, the problem vanished. Clearly, therefore, this conclusively demonstrates dual-headed computers are a dragon. Or possibly a walrus. Definitely a mythical fruit.

    (Most of this actually is true.)

  20. Stardrake says

    birgerjohansson @5–Ah, but this is the Marvel Universe®! Crosses only work against vampires if you believe! (Source: UNCANNY X-MEN #159, “Night Screams”, script Chris Claremont, art Bill Sienkiewicz and Bob Wiacek (Marvel, 1982)) When both Kitty Pryde and Wolverine present a cross to Dracula, he feels nothing. (Although he burns his hand on Kitty’s Mogen David when he grabs her by the neck.) When Nightcrawler uses a cross, though, it works–Nightcrawler believes!

    (Previous void where prohibited by natural law.)

  21. chuckonpiggott says

    53 People Comfirmed is clickbait from the bottom of a web posting.