Tag Archive: Christianity

Dear Pastor Russ Dean, Let Me Explain to You Why so Many Atheists Are Angry

pastor russ dean

Pastor Russ Dean and Family (and dog)

Dear Pastor Dean,

You recently wrote the following for Baptist News Global:

For a couple years I’ve been having an intellectual battle with atheists. Not all of them, but the people I refer to as “evangelical atheists.” They are angry and passionate and just as religiously cocksure as the fundamentalist believers they despise.

Or maybe it’s all believers they despise. To them we are all weak-minded and superstitious and pathetically out of touch. If only we’d grow up. If only we’d get an education. If only we had a fraction of their intellectual depth, we would give up our tribal, backwoodsy notions of “God.”

As you can tell, I’m a little passionate about this.

I’m not so much offended by their insulting condescension — though it wouldn’t hurt them to be a little nicer — if only for tactical purposes. As we say in the South, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

More to the point, I’m disappointed by their argument against God. While purporting to be so intellectually superior, too many atheists take on only the worst of religion. If I positioned an argument against only 5th-grade science or against those scientists who had used their knowledge to master the atomic bomb or build Internet viruses or promote biological warfare, I could make a pretty good argument against the inanity and wickedness of science, too.

So it is either disingenuous to argue only against religious fundamentalism, or it’s embarrassing for such smart people to be so uninformed about the true variety and richness of religion. Too often atheists ignore the traditions of vigorous intellectual pursuit which can be found in the theological explorations of all of the world’s religions.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe in the same god many atheists don’t believe in!

….

Between these two disheartening poles, angry atheists on one hand and fundamentalist Christians on the other, it’s not the muddled mush of some middle ground I’m seeking — which makes staking a claim to “free and faithful” even more difficult.

I want to take a few moments to respond to some of the things you mention in your post about angry atheists.

American atheists tend to respond to the dominate religion of their culture — Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicalism dominates everything from state and federal governments all the way down to local school boards and city councils. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, American Humanists, and Americans for Separation of Church and State spend countless hours dealing with Evangelical breaches of the wall of separation between church and state. Often, these groups are forced to sue schools and governments to stop their violations of the U.S. Constitution. I live in rural Northwest Ohio, a place dominated by God, Guns, and Right-Wing Republican politics. The aforementioned groups could spend the next year here litigating church and state violations. Imagine, for a moment, being an atheist in such a place. Imagine having to sit and watch as Evangelicals trash the Constitution. Imagine not being able to find employment because many businesses don’t want to employ an atheist. Imagine a place where every officeholder is a Republican who loves Jesus, the Bible, and Friday night football. Imagine hearing of sermons where atheists are described as haters of God, child molesters, possessed by demons, and tools of Satan. Imagine being one of only a few atheists who are willing to push back against Evangelical zealots, standing in for others who fear loss of employment, family, and friends if they dare say they don’t believe. Imagine being forced to be a secret atheist lest it ruins your marriage. Imagine pretending to be a Christian and attending church so your spouse and family won’t question your beliefs and judge you harshly.

What I have described above is real life for many atheists. You might want to walk in their shoes before you slap the “angry” atheists label on them. I wonder, would you be angry if you had to live in denial of who and what you are? What if the shoe were on the other foot, and it were Christians who were treated in this manner. How would you respond then? You speak from a seat of privilege. While that privilege is increasingly being challenged, Christians still have the seat at the head of the table. Last fall, I attended a secular coffee house concert where a Christian musician started to tell a faith-based story. She paused for a moment, perhaps pondering the appropriateness of her evangelizing, and then said, well, we are all Christians here, right? I wanted to shout, HELL NO, WE ARE NOT ALL CHRISTIANS. Instead, I mumbled something to my wife and kept quiet. The musician’s statement reflects commonly held sentiment here in Northwest Ohio. I suspect the same could be said of the South and Midwest. Jesus is the king of the hill, and if you want to be fully embraced by your community you better at least pretend to be a Jesus Club® member.

You object to atheists responding to what you call the “worst of religion.” I assume that you think your version of Christianity is a better version, and perhaps it is. You and your church are progressive socially and politically. You have many beliefs that I admire. Yes, I said admire. I’m sure we could work together in turning back Donald Trump’s Evangelical followers as they attempt to establish a theocratic government. While I am not sure of your view of the culture war, I suspect on this front too we could find common ground to work together. I am pro-choice, yet I am more than willing to work with people of faith who object to abortion for moral reasons. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a Christian willing to accept my help. Instead, I am labelled a murderer who is worthy of death.

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I grew up in the Independent Baptist/Evangelical church. I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I even pastored a Southern Baptist church for a time (not a pleasant experience). I am quite conversant in Christian theology, in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Progressive Christians tend to paint themselves as different from Evangelicals. Often they are, but I have also found that if I dig a bit I will sometimes expose Evangelical beliefs at their core. For example, take the doctrine of eternal punishment. This is the one doctrine that many of my fellow atheists and I have a problem with. Not that we think there is Hell, but that there are Jesus-loving people who look at us and say, unless you believe as I do, unless you are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity in a lake of fire being tortured by God day and night. Worse yet, the God whom Evangelicals say loves everyone plans to give all non-Christians a new body after death so they can withstand endless burning and torture.

Whatever your beliefs might be, Pastor Dean, the only doctrine that really matters to me is whether you believe that I will spend eternity in Hell (or be annihilated) because I am an atheist; because I do not find the evidence for Christianity compelling. If you believe that, yes, I will spend eternity in Hell, then I have a hard time seeing you as a decent person. I am a kind, loving, thoughtful man. I’ve been married for forty years. I love my wife, six children, and eleven grandchildren. While I am far from perfect, I would be more than happy to compare good works with the best of God’s chosen ones. Yet, if there is a Hell, none of this matters. All that matters is that I have the “right” beliefs — as if Christians themselves even know what these right beliefs are. Belief in Hell, then, is the standard by which I judge Christians. If they believe only certain people will go to Heaven after death, then I have zero interest in being friends with them. Thinking your neighbor deserves to be tortured for wrong beliefs or human behaviors deemed “sinful” is offensive. Surely, you can see how atheists might become angry over Christians dismissing their lives in this manner. Granted, atheists aren’t worried about going to Hell because Hell doesn’t exist, but like most humans, we do desire to be well thought of by others. We very much want to part of the communities we live in.

Most of the atheists I know aren’t angry. They just want to live and let live. They want to live authentic lives filled with meaning and purpose (and not have Christians tell them there is no meaning and purpose in life without the Christian God). Unfortunately, literalism and certainty drive many Christians to evangelize anyone and everyone who doesn’t believe as they do, atheists included. Readers of this blog know that I am not an evangelist for atheism. I write about my past experiences as an Evangelical pastor. I also critique Evangelical Christianity, calling into question beliefs and practices they swear are straight from the mouth of God. I know Evangelicalism inside and out, and readers tend to trust my opinions. That said, I don’t care one way or the other if someone becomes an atheist. I consider any move away from Fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist) a good thing. I view myself as a facilitator who helps people as they journey along the road of life. To use a worn-out cliché, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

My writing is widely read by religious and non-religious people, and it attracts legions of Evangelical zealots. These zealots call me names, attack my family, and even threaten me with death. These “loving” people of God are hateful and mean-spirited, some of them going so far as to attempt to hack my site or crash it with DDOS attacks. You see, Pastor Dean, your backyard has plenty of shit in it too. How about we both agree that angry Christians and angry atheists do not represent Christianity and atheists as a whole? How about we agree not to use social media as the measuring stick for determining the demeanor of Christians and atheists as a whole? I am sure that, like me, you can become angry. Anger is, after all, a human emotion. After leaving Christianity, I actually had to reconnect with my emotions. I had to learn that it was normal to be angry. What mattered is what I did with my anger. I spent fifty years dying to self/crucifying the flesh. The real me was swallowed up by Jesus and the ministry. It was refreshing, post-Jesus, to be human again. I am still in the process of reconnecting with the real Bruce Gerencser.

Rarely does a week go by where I don’t receive an email or a blog comment from Christians who think they can psychoanalyze me by reading a few blog posts. These mind readers just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am bitter, angry, and hate God. No matter how much time I spend responding to them or explaining myself, they still heap judgment upon my head. Years ago, I told my counselor that I was perplexed by this treatment. Here I would share my journey and answer their questions and these followers of the thrice holy God would still heap judgment and condemnation upon me. Why? I wondered. My counselor laughed and told me, Bruce, you wrongly think they give a shit about what you believe. They don’t. He, of course, was right. Evangelicals, for the most part, aren’t interested in my story or what I believe. What matters is winning me back to Jesus. What matters is winning a victory for Team Jesus®. What matters is vanquishing the atheist preacher and his “followers.”

Perhaps, by now, Pastor Dean, you can sense and understand why I might be justifiably angry if I chose be. However, I choose not to be angry. Life is too short for me to spend it arguing with people who aren’t really interested in what I have to say.  Let me concludes this post with the advice I give to everyone who stumbles upon my blog:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Please feel free to contact me when you have a question about atheists and their beliefs. You and I are never going to agree on the God question and the veracity of Christianity, but we can both do our best to understand each other. When given the opportunity, I do my best to call out atheists when they wrongly represent Christian belief. Facts matter, and atheists should be factual in their representations of Christian belief and practice. I ask that you do the same. I am considered by more than a few atheists to be too friendly with religious people. Since most people worship some sort of deity, it would be foolish for me not to be friendly to people of faith. All I ask is that religious people grant me the same courtesy.

Be well, Pastor Dean.

Bruce Gerencser

P.S. I also could have written thousands of words about how I was treated by colleagues in the ministry and former congregants after they found out l left the ministry and left Christianity.  Needless to say, these so-called men of God and sanctified church members revealed for all to see the ugliness and hate that lies just under the surface of Evangelical Christianity. I find myself asking, why in the hell would I ever want to be a Christian again? Why would I want to around people who treat people in such dehumanizing ways? Forget whether the Christian narrative is true. If Christians can’t be people of love, compassion, and peace, they have nothing to offer unbelievers.

Note

Pastor Dean’s bio states:

Russ Dean is co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. A native of Clinton, S.C., and a graduate of Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he earned a D.Min. degree from Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been in church ministry for 30 years, and they have served as co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. He is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue, and when he isn’t writing sermons or posts for Baptist News Global you’ll find Russ in his shed doing wood working, playing jazz music, slalom or barefoot water skiing, hiking and camping, or watching his two teenage boys on the baseball field.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of almost 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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Do School Shootings Happen Because the Evangelical God is Banned From Public Schools?

god banned atheist pigEvangelicals often claim that the reason for school shootings is that the Christian God has been banned from public schools. According to Evangelicals, all sorts of maladies afflict our society due to the fact that prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments have been litigated out of public schools. If only people would see the importance of the Christian God (and only the Christian God) in educating children and return him to his rightful place, why all sorts of societal ills would disappear overnight. The same argument is made for banning abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and any of the other hot-button issues Evangelicals deem a threat to their God and way of life.

This argument, of course, is patently false. God isn’t banned from public schools. I attend several local high school girls’ basketball games each week in the winter month. Many of these games have prayer times by led by players before and after the games. Such student-led prayers are legal. I don’t care for the prayers, and I refuse to stand silently in the stands until the prayers are done. Not my God, so I am not going to give my approval to such bawdy displays of religiosity. That said, students are free to pray, read the Bible, and have a Ten Commandments book cover. Teachers are free to do the same during their breaks or other times when they are not teaching their students. What schools and teachers are not permitted to do is advance or evangelize for sectarian religious beliefs.

Most local schools have Christian student groups, including groups associated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (an Evangelical ministry whose goal is to “present to coaches and athletes, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church”). Youth for Christ has an active presence in many schools. Local churches are free to rent/use school facilities. Over the years, new church plants have used local school buildings as their meeting places. Local school boards are dominated by Christians, and I suspect most teachers profess some form of Christian faith. It seems, then, that the Christian God is alive and well in public schools.

What upsets Evangelicals is that they can no longer demand preferential treatment for their religious cult. If Satanist, atheist, or secular students want to start student-led clubs, they are free to go so. If Satanists on school sports teams want to offer a prayer up to Beelzebub before the start of the game, they are free to do so. Evangelicals want exclusivity and it irritates the heaven out of them that other sects and groups are given equal status.

What kind of God allows children to be murdered, all because his adult followers aren’t allowed to proselytize public school students? What a vindictive, petty God this is, akin to a man who burns down a house with his ex-wife and children in it, all because his ex wouldn’t let him in the door. Such a God is not worthy of worship. Worse yet, are Evangelicals of a Calvinistic bent who believe school shootings are all part of some sort of perverse cosmic plan. According to Calvinists, these children were murdered because God willed it to be done. It is God who ultimately fires the bullet that kills us all.

Such a God is an abomination, one unworthy of worship, love, and devotion. This is one of the things that makes it clear such a God does not exist. A moral, loving God would neither be an instrument of murder, nor would it stand by while children (and teachers) are killed by deranged gunmen. What the school shootings tell us is that the Christian God is either a work of fiction or he is too busy to be bothered with the pain and suffering of his creation. If God has the powers Evangelicals say he does, he could have stopped Nikolas Cruz from killing seventeen and wounding four of his fellow students (including several school staff members). That God did nothing is a sure sign that he doesn’t exist. Evangelicals love to tell us mere humans that we are sinners deserving judgment from their God and eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. Yet, I suspect many of us sinners, if given the opportunity, would have done all we could to protect children from murder. Unlike God, we value life, especially that of those who are in the early years of this wonderful experience we call life. That it was humans, not God, who tried to protect children from slaughter is yet another reminder of the fact that God is, at best, an absentee father who has no interest in his children.

If the root cause of mass shootings is the Evangelical God being kicked out of our culture and schools, how then do Evangelicals explain the shooting at an Evangelical Baptist Church that claimed the lives of twenty-six God-fearing souls? How then do Evangelicals explain Dylan Roof’s murder of nine Christians while they were praying at church? Surely, the people killed in these shootings were devoted followers of Jesus, yet God, as he does in EVERY case, stood by and did nothing. In fact, based on demographics, it is likely that many of the students murdered in the school shootings over the past three decades were believers in the Christian God. What possible reason could be given for the Christian God — he who holds the keys of life and death — wiping these people off the face of the earth?

Well, you know Bruce, God’s ways are not our way.

No shit, Sherlock. And you wonder why atheism is growing?

God is not going to fix the school shooting problem. It’s up to us, just as is everything else in life. Waiting for God to act is a fool’s errand, one that leads to countless heartaches. We are the Gods in this morality play, and it is time we exercise our divine powers and put an end to gun violence. It’s time to run the NRA and their Republican lackeys out of town. It’s time we recognize that guns are instruments of death, and a country without 300 million of them would be a better place to live. While a total gun ban will never be implemented in the United States, we can ban weapons capable of causing horrific bloodshed in short amounts of time.

Or we can put prayer and Bible reading back in the public schools….

The Danger of Bible Literalism

the bible says

I recently watched a miniseries on David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and the horrific loss of innocent human life at Waco. The miniseries was a poignant reminder of the fact that bad things can happen when people believe the Christian Bible is the Word of God and is meant to be read literally and taken at face value.

Koresh was considered a cultist, but were his beliefs about the Bible that much different from countless Evangelical churches who say the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God; that every word of the Bible is to be obeyed and practiced; that God said what he means and means what he said (and in some sects continues to say in prophecies and dreams)? Think about the American religious landscape for a moment. Look at how Bible literalism affects (infects) everything from public discourse to governmental policy. Everywhere we look — IF we dare to do so — we see the tragic consequences of Bible literalism. Never mind the fact that the Bible is an ancient religious text of sketchy provenance and is chock full nonsense. That the Bible plays such a vital part in the ebb and flow of American life should frighten us. Why? Because if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that ruthless, conniving men can use the Bible and naivety of Christians to advance their agendas, leading to everything from slavery and war to colonialism and genocide. It is Bible literalism that lies behind efforts to criminalize homosexuality, ban birth control, make abortion illegal, and constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. It is Bible literalism that fuels the patriarchal movement, causing untold spousal and child abuse. It is Bible literalism that leads people to demand creationism be taught in public schools.

Just look at how often Bible literalism affects government at every level. A hundred years after the Scopes Monkey Trial and a decade after the Kitzmiller v Dover decision, and we still have Evangelicals clamoring for creationism to be taught in public schools. Worse yet, local and state governments gave the Profit of Creationism, Ken Ham, millions of dollars to build and operate a replica of Noah’s Ark. Without Kentucky politicians believing in Bible literalism, Ham would have been laughed out of the room. Instead, they gave a con artist millions of dollars so he could pick the pockets of the taxpayers of Kentucky and the visitors to his monuments to Evangelical ignorance.

Here in Ohio, Republican politicians who are Bible literalists are working as hard as they can to make abortion illegal. And unless the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts intervene, it is likely they will succeed — even though most Ohioans believe abortion should be legal. Why are legislators ignoring their constituents? Bible literalism.

donald trump bible

Donald Trump caused quite a stir when he announced that the U.S. Embassy in Israel was going to be moved to Jerusalem. Countless Evangelical preachers got an eschatological boner when Trump said this. Why? Bible literalism. And herein lies the biggest danger of Bible literalism. Trump — who has Evangelicals kneeling before his unzipped pants day and night — is more than willing to use Bible literalism to advance his agenda. Trump is a deranged narcissist who wants to return the United States to its so-called glory days. What’s Trump’s slogan? Making America GREAT Again. In his mind, the United States needs to reassert itself as a singular world power, and use any means necessary to do so. This is why his proposed budget gives the U.S. military billions in increased funding while cutting spending on everything from the social safety net to the EPA. Trump plans to dominate the world or die trying — taking the human race with him.

Proponents of Bible literalism see Trump as man who has been raised up by God for such a time as this (much like Esther). Believing that the rapture and the second coming of Christ could happen at any moment, Evangelicals are giddy over how Trump’s decisions could provoke Armageddon, the end of the world, and the return of Jesus to earth. Making Jerusalem the home of the U.S. embassy and following through with the move will most certainly result in violence, bloodshed, and death. As I write this post, Bible literalism fuels political and religious embers in the Middle East, embers that could turn into flames that engulf the world in World War III. Trump wants war because he thinks the United States, with him as Commander-in-chief, can whip anyone who dares to trifle with God’s chosen nation. Evangelicals, believing that Biblical books such as Daniel and Revelation are histories that have yet to happen, see God in Trump’s dick wagging. And when Israel, a proxy state for American imperialism, attacks Iran and the Persians retaliate with nuclear weapons, what then? When millions of people are killed and the earth is rendered uninhabitable, what then?  When life as we know it disappears with a push a few buttons, what then?

evangelical love for israel

What then? Why, Evangelicals will remind us that the Bible says ________________________; that everything that happens is according to God’s purpose and plan; that there is life after death, so no need to worry about dying if you know Jesus; that God, in the near future, plans to make a new heaven and new earth. Surely anyone with more than an ounce of sense can see how dangerous Bible literalism is. It’s all fun and games when we are talking about a big boat in Kentucky, but when Bible literalism influences and drives governmental policy and decisions, it should frighten us. This is why we must continue to wage war against Bible literalism. Such thinking must be driven from our governmental process and schools. Treating Bible literalism as nothing to worry about is every bit as ignorant as Bible literalism itself. We must never forget that history is replete with accounts of massive violence and death that were perpetrated because people believed what a religious guru or religious text said was true.

But Bruce, most Evangelicals don’t really believe in Bible literalism. Look at how they live, how they pick and choose what to believe and practice. Sure, but let their tribe be threatened, and all of a sudden what the Bible says (or what their pastors say it means) becomes vitally important. Watch how Evangelicals become prayer warriors the moment calamity strikes them. Do you think it will be any different when smart political operatives use the Bible to justify their military responses to perceived threats from North Korea, Iran, or Syria? Remember, George W. Bush believed the Iraq War was a holy war, a battle between good and evil. Where did he get such ideas? The Bible. We err in our thinking if we believe Americans can’t be manipulated as Germans were by Hitler. Look at how a sizeable percentage of Americans are impervious to facts about Trump and his nefarious agenda. Facts simply don’t matter. Trump was right when he said he could murder someone in the middle of the street and people would still vote for him. And who was it that gave the pussy-grabber-in-chief the White House? Evangelicals. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for the Trump-Pence ticket. What’s even scarier is the fact that if Trump is indeed impeached, a card-carrying Evangelical extremist, a true-blue believer in Bible literalism, Mike Pence, will become president.

Want to see what happens when religious literalism is wed to political power? Look at the Muslim world and the currents violence that has engulfed the Middle East and parts of Africa. Don’t think for a moment that a Christian version of this can’t happen in the United States. It can. I, for one, intend to do all I can to make sure that Bible literalism dies the swift death it so richly deserves, taking Fundamentalist Christianity with it. I would love to be the person who holds the pillow over the faces of Bible literalism and Evangelical Christianity as they draw their last breaths. I fear, however, due to my advanced age, that I will not have that opportunity. Maybe a Gerencser in the future will have this privilege — that is if Bible-believing Christians and their political operatives don’t destroy the world first.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

How Do I Explain “Eyewitness” Testimonies of the Resurrection of Jesus From the Dead?

easter

Recently, an inquirer asked me:

Why would somebody think they saw the risen Christ. I do not understand the phenomena going on there. Do you have any insight from your readings? Granted, Islam claims Mohammad flew to Jerusalem on a winged horse and on the way back, saw a caravan – which he then told people the next day and the caravan arrived when he said it would. I am not sure if you know the story, but in general, it is a claim that cannot be easily explained away other than it is just bogus in general.

Why would people say they saw a resurrected Jesus if, in fact, they hadn’t seen him? What possible reason could they have had for lying, right? For some people, this one issue keeps them awake at night and keeps them from walking away from Christianity.  Worried that they might have wrong beliefs or might end up in hell for not believing in the risen Christ, people hang on to ancient myths, thinking that it is better to be safe than eternally sorry.

I could write thousands of words on this subject, but with this post, all I want to do is give a few of the reasons why I think Jesus still lies buried somewhere in Palestine.

First, human history and personal experience tell me that when people die they stay dead. Cemeteries are reminders of the fact that once people die, they ain’t coming back. It’s all about probabilities. If I died today and were buried in a ground, what are the odds that I would miraculously reappear alive three days later? Zero. Nada. Zip. None. Not going to happen. So it is for Jesus.

Second, the only places we find reports about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead are the Bible or from later Christian sources. There are no purely secular reports attesting to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. All we have is the Bible. Christians, out of hand, reject the notion that Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on a winged horse because it appears in the Quran, a religious text they deem to be mythical and false. Yet, when it comes to the Bible, its stories are viewed as historical facts, narratives of what really happened. Why the duplicity in belief? The simple answer, of course, it that all of us tend to believe as true the stories of our tribes. Christians believe that Jesus resurrected from the dead because they have been told from their youth onward that God’s son, Jesus, died on the cross for their sins, and three days later resurrected from the dead, thereby vanquishing sin and death, and granting to all those who believe eternal life. When this story is drilled into Christians’ head over and over and over again, Sunday after Sunday, year after year, it should come no as surprise, then, that Christians believe Jesus is still alive, biding his time until he returns to earth to make all things new.

Take, for example, Mormonism. Talk about a crackpot, bat-shit crazy, religion, yet millions of Americans believe that Joseph Smith found golden plates translated them. Wikipedia describes the “historical” narrative of Mormonism this way:

Joseph Smith claimed The Book of Mormon was translated from writing on golden plates in a reformed Egyptian language, translated with the assistance of the Urim and Thummim and seer stones. Both the special spectacles and the seer stone were at times referred to as the “Urim and Thummim”. He said an angel first showed him the location of the plates in 1823, buried in a nearby hill, but he was not allowed to take the plates until 1827. Smith began dictating the text of The Book of Mormon around the fall of 1827 until the summer of 1828 when 116 pages were lost. Translation began again in April 1829 and finished in June 1829, saying that he translated it “by the gift and power of God”. After the translation was completed, Smith said the plates were returned to the angel. During Smith’s supposed possession, very few people were allowed to “witness” the plates.

The book described itself as a chronicle of an early Israelite diaspora, integrating with the pre-existing indigenous peoples of the Americas, written by a people called the Nephites. According to The Book of Mormon, Lehi’s family left Jerusalem at the urging of God c. 600 BC, and later sailed to the Americas c. 589 BC. The Nephites are described as descendants of Nephi, the fourth son of the prophet Lehi. The Nephites are portrayed as having a belief in Christ hundreds of years before his birth. Historical accuracy and veracity of the Book of Mormon was and continues to be hotly contested. No archaeological, linguistic, or other evidence of the use of Egyptian writing in ancient America has been discovered.

How is Mormonism any different from Christianity? Shouldn’t we accept their stories as true? After all, they are found in a divine religious text. So it is with the Bible and the resurrection of Jesus. Just because something is found in the Bible doesn’t make it true. There’s no historical reason for anyone to believe that Jesus not only resurrected from the dead two thousand years ago, but is still alive today. I am not saying that Jesus, as a man, is a work of fiction, but the supernatural events attributed to him have no historical foundation. As such, I am free to reject them out of hand. This is why believing in the resurrection of Jesus requires faith, a faith I do not have.

Third, the gospels are not eyewitness accounts, nor were they likely written by the likes of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Whatever the original authors of the gospels might have written, we will never know. Those original documents no longer exist. All we have are copies of copies of copies of copies, with thousands of variants among them. This is why I snort and laugh when Evangelical pastors, thinking they are taking some sort of intellectually superior high road, say that they believe the original documents were inerrant. How can they know this, not having seen the original manuscripts? Again, belief in inerrancy requires faith, a faith I do not have.

While it is possible that extant gospel manuscripts accurately reflect what actually happened, it is far more likely that the stories about the resurrected Jesus were added after the fact. This includes stories about Jesus walking through walls, appearing to his disciples/public without Roman/Jewish authorities finding out, and countless graves being opened, people arising from the dead, and walking the streets of Jerusalem. All of these stories were meant to turn Jesus into a supernatural being. Supernatural religions require mythical stories, so it doesn’t surprise me that Christianity is rife with such beliefs (beliefs, by the way, that continue to change and evolve).

Fourth, why didn’t reports of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, his post-resurrection exploits, and the dead walking the streets of Jerusalem make it into the news? Surely, a Roman or Jewish writer would have written something down about these earth-shattering events. Yet, apart from the Bible and a handful of Christians sources, history is silent.  Why is that? Perhaps, the silence reflects the fact that these things never happened, that they are, at best, myths used to convey some sort of spiritual meaning.

Fifth, if the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the central belief of Christianity, why did God make sure that no one wrote anything about it outside of the Bible and a handful of Christian sources? Why hide in obscurity the biggest event in human history? This, of course, can be said about most of the big events recorded in the Bible: Moses and the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, the story of King David, the story of Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Noah and flood, and countless other stories many Christians believe are historical facts. Why did the God of creation, the God who controls everything, leave blank the pages of human history when it comes to Jesus’ resurrection and the other important events previously mentioned?

The same could be said of the doctrine of salvation. If the most important decision people ever make is to put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ, why does the Bible present several different plans of salvation? (Please read Can Anyone Really Know They Are Saved? Does the Bible Contain Multiple Plans of Salvation?  Is There Only One Plan of Salvation? If Salvation is by Grace and Not by Works) Why wouldn’t God make it crystal clear as to what we must do to be saved? Perhaps, the reason for all the confusion is that the Bible is not divine, that it a human book written by men with varying agendas.

Let me conclude by saying that the reason that I am not a Christian is that Christianity doesn’t make sense to me. Last April, I wrote a post titled The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense. Here’s some of what I said:

In recent months, I have started using The Michael Mock Rule when engaging Evangelicals who have their hearts set on winning me back to Jesus. Instead of endlessly debating and discussing this or that doctrine, I invoke The Michael Mock Rule : It just doesn’t make sense.

Consider the following Evangelical beliefs. Do they make sense to you?

  • The Bible is a divine text? Inerrant text? Infallible text?
  • God is one person, in three parts: Father, son, and Holy Spirit?
  • Universe created in six twenty-four-hour days?
  • Adam and Eve the first humans and the mother and father of the human race?
  • Adam and Eve were tempted to sin by a talking snake who walked upright?
  • All humans are sinners because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate fruit from a forbidden tree?
  • The story of Noah, the Ark, and universal flood?
  • The Tower of Babel?
  • Fallen angels having sex with human women, producing hybrid children?
  • Jesus is God in the flesh?
  • Jesus was born of a virgin? His mother was impregnated by the Holy Spirit?
  • Jesus walked on water? Turned water into wine? Healed blindness? Walked through walls?
  • Jesus died and resurrected from the dead three days later?
  • Jesus ascended to heaven?
  • Jesus will return to earth someday, destroying the earth and making all things new?
  • All humans are sinners in need of salvation, broken in need of fixing?
  • Blood atonement for sin?
  • Life without Jesus is meaningless and without purpose?
  • All that matters in life is Jesus?
  • If I believe in Jesus I go to heaven when I die, if don’t believe I go to hell?
  • Rapture? Dead people coming back to life?

Evangelicals routinely make the above assertions without presenting any evidence for their claims — and quoting the Bible is not evidence. These claims are reinforced Sunday after Sunday through sermons, Sunday school lessons, and songs. Through the week, Evangelicals read Christian literature, listen to Christian podcasts and music, and tune in to Christian radio and TV stations. These followers of Jesus are surrounded by people who, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day, reinforce these “truth” claims. Having been immersed in Evangelicalism their entire lives, Christians find that these beliefs make perfect sense.

But for those who have never lived in the Evangelical bubble or no longer do so, these beliefs just don’t make sense. Believing them requires a suspension of rational thought. Believing them requires putting faith above facts, knowledge, and evidence. Believing them requires setting skepticism aside. Believing them requires accepting the most outlandish of things as true. The Michael Mock Rule says to all of these beliefs: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.

Making sense of Christianity requires faith, a faith that I do not have. I am unwilling (and anyone using Pascal’s Wager in a comment will immediately be banned) to surrender the only life I will ever have in the minuscule hope that Jesus really did resurrect from the dead and that an eternal home in heaven awaits me if I will but believe the gospel and be saved. Besides, based on what I read in the Bible and hear from Christians, heaven doesn’t appeal to me. Spending eternity worshiping a narcissistic deity who consigned billions of people to endless torture for believing in the wrong deity doesn’t sound like something I want to do.

What are your thoughts on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Songs of Sacrilege: Judith by A Perfect Circle

a perfect circle

This is the one hundred sixty-eighth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Judith by A Perfect Circle.

Video Link

Lyrics

You’re such an inspiration for the ways
That I’ll never ever choose to be
Oh so many ways for me to show you
How your savior has abandoned you

Fuck your God
Your Lord and your Christ
He did this
Took all you had and
Left you this way
Still you pray, you never stray
Never taste of the fruit
You never thought to question why

It’s not like you killed someone
It’s not like you drove a hateful spear into his side
Praise the one who left you
Broken down and paralyzed
He did it all for you
He did it all for you

Oh so many ways for me to show you
How your dogma has abandoned you
Pray to your Christ, to your God
Never taste of the fruit
Never stray, never break
Never choke on a lie
Even though he’s the one who did this to you
You never thought to question why

Not like you killed someone
It’s Not like you drove a spiteful spear into his side
Talk to Jesus Christ
As if he knows the reasons why
He did it all for you

Did it all for you
He did it all for you.

Jesus’s Own Words Prove God Doesn’t Exist

jesus

A guest post by Neil Robinson. You can read more of Neil’s writing on the Rejecting Jesus blog.

I often feel I’ve run out of thing to say about Christianity, or rather, I think I’ve said all I want to say about it. It’s not much of a challenge to show how insubstantial, inconsistent and spurious religious faith is. None of it actually works, even though Christians, in the face of all the evidence, continue to insist it does.

On his Theological Rationalism blog,  James Bishop smugly tells his readers how he can ‘defeat atheism’ with three questions, chief of which is asking, ‘What would you count as “actual, credible, real world evidence for God?”’ Although I’ve already responded directly on his blog, for me it would be if any of the promises Jesus made (or was made to make) actually came true in the ‘real world’.

Jesus said that Kingdom of God would descend on the Earth within the lifetime of his original followers, in Luke 21:27-28, 33-34; Matthew 24:27, 30-31, 34 and here in Matthew 16:27-28:

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels… I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.

Did this come true when he said it would?

He claimed that the judgement of the nations and their peoples would immediately follow, with the righteous going on to populate the new Earth while the wicked were sent to eternal punishment:

But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25.31-46).

Did this?

He promised that whatever his followers pray for in his name, God would grant. No ifs and buts, he would do it. Matthew 17.21, Matthew 21.21-22, John 14.12-14 and here in Mark 11:24:

…if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.’

Does this ever happen?

He said that with enough faith, believers would literally be able to move mountains. (Matthew 17.20).

They literally don’t.

He guaranteed that his followers would be able to drink poison and handle serpents with impunity (Mark 16:18).

Those who are stupid enough to take him at his word find they can’t.

He said ‘very truly’ that believers would be able to do even greater miracles than he himself did:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14.12).

Where’s the evidence of this?

The fulfillment of any of these promises would be enough to convince atheists – well, me anyway – that Jesus’ God exists. If those about the Kingdom and judgement had come to pass when Jesus said they would, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I could still be convinced, however, if his guarantees of miracles and answered prayers regularly came about in the spectacular ways he said they would. The fact is, they never have done and they don’t; the world would be a very different place if they did.

All that the ridiculous claims Jesus makes for his God convince me of is that Jesus himself was, at best, deluded, and at worst, an utter fraud – a traveling salesman who promised the Earth and delivered absolutely nothing. His unfulfilled, empty promises are evidence enough that his God, like all the others, does not exist.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Founders of Feminism Were Reprobates Says Lori Alexander

lori alexander twitter

Christian women are floundering today. They have no idea what they are supposed to do with their lives? Should they work after having children or be home full time? But if they don’t work outside of the home, they will probably get bored and won’t make any money so they will feel useless. Oh, what should they do?

Mark Taspon did an interview with Mallory Millet who is the sister of Kate Millet. Kate is one of the founders of the second wave of feminism. Mallory admits that Kate was mentally ill and was a terror to live with:

I was with them at that table as they founded the Women’s Movement and NOW. The entire stated point of their activities was to destroy the American family and with that, Western Civilization. Is this not crazy? They were tooth-grittingly determined.

They were driven by destruction and deeply violent impulses toward men and the patriarchy. Their goal? To establish a matriarchy in order to end all war because that’s what men do, wage war. They believed that if women ran everything there would be no more war. In their madness they have conspired to destroy masculinity, drugging our little boys while trying to remake them into little girls and thus, emboldening our enemies who now see us as easy pickings. No nation is easier to overwhelm than one which has feminized the men and put females at the head of the tribe. Matriarchies never survive – never have, never will!

God tells us that those who “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (they know the truth but rebel against it) are given over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1). Reprobate means “a person abandoned to sin; one lost to virtue and religion.” This completely describes the founders of feminism since they were against all of God’s beautiful ways and they deceived women, even Christian women, into believing that leaving their homes all day and their children in the care of others is best

….

Instead of following culture and the lies of the mentally ill, young women should consider this when making life decisions:“If all mothers based their choices on whether to return to work by asking the questions, ‘What does the Bible say?’ and ‘What is best for my child spiritually?’ different choices would be made” (Judy Turner)

….

Christian women need to wake up and understand that they need to stop following women who had and have reprobate minds and begin following Jesus and His ways instead. Our culture is a mess and it’s because women have left their God-ordained roles at home and pursued their own selfish gain at the expense of their children.

— Lori Anderson, The Transformed Wife, Founders of Feminism Had Reprobate Minds, February 13, 2018

An Unlikely Feminist

guest post

A guest post by ObstacleChick

My grandparents were members of what has been termed “the Greatest Generation”; that generation of people who came of age during World War II. My grandfather was a combat war veteran in the Pacific theater — drafted into the US Army/Air Corps as an 18 year-old. He was newly married to his 16-year-old sweetheart, and their baby was born while he was in boot camp. Because he assaulted his superior officer after his drunken father called saying his baby was going blind (untrue), grandpa was demoted from corporal to private. He was required to serve an extra tour of duty, and was sent overseas early with another unit. His previous unit’s ship was sunk by the Japanese when they were finally deployed, so his bad behavior saved his life.

After the war, grandpa took advantage of the GI Bill, studying electrical and refrigeration in night school. He had only completed 6th grade (he lied and told us all that he completed 8th grade but his Army records stated 6th). Army testing proved that he was intelligent, and he was put into the emerging signal corps with much more educated men. After the war, my grandparents and mother lived in government housing, and they eventually had another child, my uncle. They bought a house, then later bought a bigger house in the suburbs of Nashville.

My grandparents were Southern Baptists, with my grandfather serving as a deacon and my grandmother serving as a Sunday school teacher and Women’s Missionary Union leader. I was never sure how much my grandfather bought into all the religious stuff, though he did implore me to “get saved” when I was about 12 years old. He stated what I later learned as Pascal’s wager when questioned about the existence of heaven and hell. He prayed the blessing over meals and at church, but he never really talked about having a personal relationship with God, and I never saw him reading the Bible. He always found a way to be busy at church during Sunday School, so he rarely sat through a class, but he was generally present for most of the Sunday church service in his deacon capacity. My grandmother, on the other hand, was consumed with studying the Bible and Christianity. She had her own personal library of Bible concordances, study guides, commentaries, Bible history, Bible geography, and Bible archaeology, as well as books by authors like James Dobson, Hal Lindsey, Billy Graham and Christian biographies about Johnny Cash, Corrie Ten Boom, and many others. Living near Nashville, she would travel to the Baptist Book Store to pick up whatever books she needed. Every day, she devoted 2 hours in the afternoon to studying and making lesson plans for women’s Sunday school and Women’s Missionary Union classes. I suspect that her lessons were way beyond the understanding of many of the women she taught due to the thoroughness in her research and planning. I always thought she would have made a great university professor. Although she dropped out of high school in 10th grade due to severe anemia, she earned her GED as an adult (I asked her why she bothered, and she said it was because she wanted to earn her high school degree).

My mother was twice divorced and thrice married. She was a National Merit Semi-Finalist in high school, tied for second in her graduating class of over 300 (she and the other student were required to take a test to determine salutatorian, and because my mom was painfully shy and did not want to make a speech, she threw the test). Her high school counselor suggested she should apply to college. No one in our family had attended college, and she had no idea what to pursue as a career. She always figured she would be a wife and mother like her mother. But she applied to a local university, got a scholarship, and went to college like a good student who always did what was expected of her. Not knowing what she wanted to do, she majored in education. Most young women in 1961 majored in education or nursing — she cared for neither — but given a choice she thought education would be a better option. Without a passion for pursuing a career, she dropped out of college after the first semester of her junior year and got married. She was divorced a year later. Her excellent verbal skills helped her procure a job as a secretary. She married my father who ended up being a selfish and abusive man. When I was 3 years old, my mom left my dad because he threatened her, and we moved in with  my mom’s parents and my great-grandmother. My mom suffered from depression, anxiety, and loneliness for many years. When I was 11, she married my stepdad, and my brother was born a year later. I chose to live with my grandparents, but eventually my mom and stepdad built a house across the street, so I spent time in both houses. I considered my grandparents more like my parents, with my mom and stepdad more like older siblings.

My grandfather’s biggest regret in life was that he did not convince my mother to stay in college, earn her degree, and pursue a career. In his mind, if she had gotten her degree and pursued a career, she would not have ended up a single mom struggling financially. Even in her 3rd marriage, they struggled financially, especially after my stepdad became disabled and could no longer work. Despite his severe pain, though, that man worked hard doing most of the cooking, cleaning, home repair, and yard work. If he couldn’t stand, he would sit on a stool. He worked relentlessly until the day he died.

Because of my mother’s circumstances, my grandfather made it his mission to instill in me that pursuing education and preparing for a career was my number one priority in life. He told me, “Never be dependent on a man.” From the time I was 11 years old, I remember him saying repeatedly that my education came first and that NOTHING should come in the way of that. He did everything he could to facilitate my ability to obtain what he believed was a good education by paying for my private school tuition and piano lessons. While I might argue now that the fundamentalist evangelical Christian school might not have been the best choice, I was admitted to a top secular university despite my lack of knowledge on evolution (the school taught young earth creationism).

His teaching that I should never be dependent on a man was contrary to the teachings of his church. In the 1980s, our church started teaching complementarianism (see previous post: Biblical Manhood and Womanhood), offering courses to men and women in the church. My grandmother and mom took the married women’s course, and I took the single women’s course. My grandmother, ever striving to be the most obedient Christian — following her God’s dictates — took on the role of the submissive “helpmeet” wife. My grandfather had no interest in that. He valued my grandmother’s intellect and spirit. My grandmother struggled against what she considered her rebellious nature, but she tried as hard as she could to be a submissive wife. My mom took the course too, but when I asked her why she was not submissive, she said, “We all know that I am smarter than your stepdad so we agreed that I make the decisions.” And that was the end of that.

The concept of complementarianism was one of the major reasons I began my exit from evangelical fundamentalist Christianity. I have never taken well to the notion that women are somehow lesser. As I studied biology and psychology, I found that gender and sexuality are present on a spectrum, not strictly binary. We learn in grade school about XX and XY chromosomes, but in fact, there are X0, XXY, XXX, XYY possibilities as well.

My grandfather lived to see me graduate from college, but died a couple of months later. I think he would be proud of the fact that I married someone who is my partner, and as it so happened I am the primary bread-winner in the family (both of us work).

My grandfather wasn’t someone we would call a feminist by today’s standards, and he might roll over in his grave if he heard me call him a feminist. Indeed, his feminism was situational, based on personal experience. I never asked him if he thought ALL women should never be dependent on men. He still believed women should not serve in combat because (a) he didn’t think most were physically strong enough and (b) he was concerned that female combat troops could be captured by the enemy and raped by their captors. And he wasn’t too keen on homosexuality, but I’m not sure if it was because of his religion or if he just personally didn’t like it. I do know that my grandfather’s brother disowned his son (my grandfather’s nephew) for being gay, but my grandfather would invite his nephew to our house to visit and to provide a place for his sister-in-law to visit her son, as the nephew was not allowed in his parents’ house. But compared to most men of his religion and generation, he was more progressive than his peers. Therefore, oddly enough, I consider my grandfather instrumental in sending me on the path toward feminism.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Albert Phillips Charged With Sex Crimes Against Children

pastor albert phillips

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Albert Phillips, pastor of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, was charged Friday with sex crimes against children. Astoundingly, Phillips has been accused of such crimes numerous times over the years, but this is the first time he has been charged with a crime.

WFLA-8 reports:

A 74-year-old former Sarasota pastor is accused of inappropriately touching children.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office charged Albert L. Phillips with sex crimes against children and detectives are concerned there could be more victims. Phillips is the former pastor of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

On Dec. 8, 2017, a 15-year-old victim told authorities that she was inappropriately touched on several occasions by Phillips. Some of the incidents happened when she was only 4 years old, a Sarasota County affidavit stated.

Some happened when Phillips and his wife were caring for the girl when she stayed with them at their Tarpon Avenue home.

The victim said she was shown porn in Phillips’ office and he would touch her in private areas and he tried to get her to touch him, too, on several occasions. He would say that it was their secret and there would be consequences if she told anyone, according to the affidavit.

Sarasota police said there were similar reports in 2015 and 2005 with allegations dating back to the mid-1980s.

On Friday, Phillips was arrested and charged with Lewd or Lascivious Molestation of a Victim Under 12, Lewd or Lascivious Conduct on a Victim Under 16 and Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition on a Victim Under 16.

….

Quote of the Day: The Rest of the Story About the Birth of Jesus by Bart Ehrman

bart ehrman

In my graduate course last week, we analyzed the Proto-Gospel of James (which scholars call the Protevangelium Jacobi — a Latin phrase that means “Proto-Gospel of James,” but sounds much cooler….). It is called the “proto” Gospel because it records events that (allegedly) took place before the accounts of the NT Gospels. Its overarching focus is on Mary, the mother of Jesus; it is interested in explaining who she was. Why was *she* the one who was chosen to bear the Son of God? What made her so special? How did she come into the world? What made her more holy than any other woman? Etc. These questions drive the narrative, and make it our earliest surviving instance of the adoration of Mary. On the legends found here was built an entire superstructure of Marian tradition. Most of the book deals with the question of how Mary was conceived (miraculously, but not virginally), what her early years were like (highly sanctified; her youth up to twelve (lived in the temple, fed every day by an angel), her betrothal to Joseph, an elderly widower with sons from a previous marriage, the discovery of her pregnancy and the “proof” that she (and Joseph) were both pure from any “sin” (such as, well, sex).

The book was originally composed in the second Christian century. There are a number of intriguing passages, none of which is more famous than the one I translate here (the original language is Greek). In this striking narrative, when Mary is about ready to give birth in a cave just outside of Bethlehem, Joseph runs off to find a midwife who can help. They arrive too late. The child appears without any human help or intervention (is the child really a newborn? Jesus appears to walk over to his mother to take her breast; and he performs a healing miracle!).

….

It’s an amazing passage, that everyone should know about.  (The first bit is given in the first-person, with Joseph himself talking).  Here it is:

(1) I saw a woman coming down from the hill country, and she said to me, “O man, where are you going?”  I replied, “I am looking for a Hebrew midwife.”  She asked me, “Are you from Israel?”  I said to her, “Yes.”  She asked, “Who is the one who has given birth in the cave?”  I replied, “My betrothed.”  She said to me, “Is she not your wife?”  I said to her, “She is Mary, the one who was brought up in the Lord’s Temple, and I received the lot to take her as my wife.  She is not, however, my wife, but she has conceived her child by the Holy Spirit.”  The midwife said to him, “Can this be true?”  Joseph replied to her, “Come and see.”  And the midwife went with him.

(2) They stood at the entrance of the cave, and a bright cloud overshadowed it.  The midwife said, “My soul has been magnified today, for my eyes have seen a miraculous sign: salvation has been born to Israel.”  Right away the cloud began to depart from the cave, and a great light appeared within, so that their eyes could not bear it.  Soon that light began to depart, until an infant could be seen.  It came and took hold of the breast of Mary, its mother.  The midwife cried out, “Today is a great day for me, for I have seen this new wonder.”

(3) The midwife went out of the cave and Salome met her.  And she said to her, “Salome, Salome, I can describe a new wonder to you.  A virgin has given birth, contrary to her natural condition.”  Salome replied, “As the Lord my God lives, if I do not insert my finger and examine her condition, I will not believe that the virgin has given birth.”

(1) The midwife went in and said to Mary, “Brace yourself.  For there is no small controversy concerning you.”  Then Salome inserted her finger in order to examine her condition, and she cried out, “Woe to me for my sin and faithlessness.  For I have put the living God to the test, and see, my hand is burning, falling away from me.”    (2)  She kneeled before the Master and said, “O God of my fathers, remember that I am a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Do not make me an example to the sons of Israel, but deliver me over to the poor.  For you know, O Master, that I have performed my services in your name and have received my wages from you.”

(3) And behold, an angel of the Lord appeared and said to her, “Salome, Salome, the Master of all has heard your prayer.  Bring your hand to the child and lift him up; and you will find salvation and joy.” (4) Salome joyfully came and lifted the child, saying, “I will worship him, for he has been born as a great king to Israel.”  Salome was immediately cured, and she went out of the cave justified.  And behold a voice came saying, “Salome, Salome, do not report all the miraculous deeds you have seen until the child enters Jerusalem.”

— Bart Ehrman, The Bart Ehrman Blog, How was Jesus *Really* Born?

Bart Ehrman’s latest book, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, is now available.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheists are Pathological Liars, says Bruce Walker

bruce walkerAtheism is the slavish and simple-minded embrace of ignorance.  When people call themselves “atheists” today, what they really mean is Christophobes, people with an irrational hatred and fear of Christianity.  The arguments they make against Christianity are both bizarre and silly.

Consider first the macabre atheistic position that only stupid people believe in God (i.e., Christianity) [straw man argument that no thinking atheist makes].  Until the latter part of the 19th century, virtually all great scientists were extraordinarily devout Christians.  Indeed, the scientific method itself was created by Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar.  Buridan, a priest, perfected the scientific principle of impetus and answered many questions about the revolving of our planet.  Ockham created the idea, the heart of modern science, that the most simplified explanation for phenomena ought to be considered the truest.

Science long was exclusively the province of devout Christians, and the greatest scientists, like Newton, Maxwell, and Kelvin, were also profoundly religious individuals whose faith was greater than that of most people of their time.  Even through the modern age, important scientists have been Christians.

The contrast with atheism is stark.  Until the modern age, there were virtually no atheist scientists worth mentioning [yet, many modern scientists are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion].  Atheism, instead, proved an obstacle to scientific thought.  Most prominent was the wiliness of atheists to lie.  Lacking any divine overseer to perceive and punish mendacity, virtually all atheists – Nazis, Soviets, Maoists, fascists and our indigenous atheists – have been willing to lie and to conceal if the subterfuge is deemed in the interest of a greater cause.

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The pattern is clear: atheists are Christophobes who irrationally hate and fear Christians (and also religiously serious Jews) because they hate and fear the idea of a divine and perfect judge of our honor and virtue.  Atheists are the dead end of scientific inquiry and rigorous speculative theory because of their phobia.  They run from truth as they run from God [if God is chasing atheists, surely he can catch them].  They are profoundly unserious minds whom no one needs to heed.

— Bruce Walker, American Thinker, The Ignorance of Atheism, February 10, 2018

Walker, a chiropractor, lives in Perth, Australia and is on the faculty of Murdoch University.

Quote of the Day: The Bible Has Caused So Much Damage, Says Former Pastor Rob Bell

rob bell

The Bible has caused so much damage. In many ways, it’s often been an agent of dragging everything backwards.

—  Rob Bell, former Evangelical pastor

Please take time to watch the following three minute video.

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