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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Are You Attacking Christianity?

I said in my resent podcast, "We will take some time evaluating Christianity's claims and see if they stand up to the evidence." Whenever you question religious faith you are opening yourself up to criticism. Religious people cannot seem to tell the difference between evaluating and attacking. Faith is considered a hands off topic. But a faith that can't be tested, shouldn't be trusted.

As I explain in the podcast, "In order to construct a new building, you must first remove the old one. Demolition is not enjoyable, but it is indispensable. You can’t build one building on top of another. And this goes for worldviews as well. Christianity is the dominant worldview of Western civilization. It is, in my analogy, the old building that must be removed before constructing a new one."

In my own personal journey I have already taken the path from Pentecostal preacher to unbeliever. It was an intellectual journey that literally took years. In my struggle to find an adequate worldview without religion, I discovered Humanism.

In the analogy I use in the podcast, I explain that, "The new building I will be attempting to construct is the worldview of Humanism." I believe it is the best alternative to religion. Humanism is a secular worldview that seeks to foster human well-being.

Link
http://humanistphilosophy.com/2015/02/27/evaluating-worldviews/

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lying for Jesus

How do you respond to a story of a 6 year old boy's journey to heaven? The book was entitled, "The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World." I was skeptical. I saw the book that at Walmart that supposedly retells his story. It became a best seller. People want to believe.

But did the 6 year old actually die and go to heaven? No. The boy retracted his story and the book has been pulled. Why would a 6 year old lie? But he did. He finally told the truth - it was the right thing to do.

Will Christians now question other accounts of going to heaven? No. Why? Because they want to believe. Confirmation bias is with all of us. That is why I am not dogmatic. We need to be open to the fact that what we believe might be wrong.

Maybe you have never been wrong, but I have. I have learned to question most, what I believe the most. But I have never been afraid of being wrong, what I fear is being closed to the truth. Maybe fear is not the right word. I have been most concerned with being closed to the truth. Why? Because then I am condemned to being wrong and staying wrong, which is, well, wrong.

Link
http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2015/01/16/boy-who-claimed-had-been-to-heaven-retracts-story-best-selling-book-is-pulled/

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Origins of Valentine's Day

St. Valentine's Day is the traditional lovers' day, and is celebrated on February 14th. This can be traced back to the pagan Lupercalia and the medieval belief that birds began mating at that time.(1) Charles Panati states it bluntly, "The Catholic Church's attempt to paper over a popular pagan fertility rite with the clubbing death and decapitation of one of its own martys is the origin of this lovers' holiday."(2)

Lupercalia was an ancient Roman religious festival. Priests called Luperci, dressed in goat skins, sacrificed a goat to Faunas. This pagan deity was a rural Roman god who was identified with Pan, the Greek god of nature who played a pipe with seven reeds. The priests then cut thongs from the skin of the sacrificed goat and ran around the Palatine Hill, striking any women they happened to meet. It was believed that a blow from the thong cured sterility.(3)

Charles Panati tells us that, "As early as the fourth century B.C., the Romans engaged in an annual young man's rite of passage to the god Lupercus. The names of teenage women were placed in a box and drawn at random by adolescent men; thus, a man was assigned a woman companion, for their mutual entertainment and pleasure (often sexual), for the duration of a year, after which another lottery was staged."(4)

In A.D. 496 pope Gelasius outlawed the festival, but he retained the lottery, because the Romans' love for games of chance. But now the box that once held the names of available single women, now held the names of saints. The name of the saint that one drew was the person whose life you were to emulate throughout the year. "To expect a woman," notes Charles Panati, "and draw a saint must have disappointed many a Roman male."(5)

Cupid, the naked cherub that was armed with arrows dipped in love potion, is a popular Valentine image. Cupid was the Roman god of love, or more honestly, the god of lust, since Cupid was identified with the Greek god Eros. He was associated with Lupercalia because he was the son of Venus, goddess of love and beauty.

Endnotes
1. Valentine's Day, St.," Pocket Catholic Dictionary, Ed. John A. Hardon (New York: Image Books, 1985).
2. Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New  York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1987), p. 50.
3. "Lupercalia," The Random House Basic Everyday Encyclopedia  (New York: Random House, 1954).
4. Panati, p. 50.
5. Ibid., p. 51.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gospels Not Written by Eyewitness

The Gospels are not reliable historical documents for a number of reasons. One reason is that they were not written by eyewitness. The Gospel of Mark is the oldest Gospel in the New Testament. Mark was not an apostle and not an eyewitness. The Gospel of Luke is said by tradition to be written by Luke, but many scholars doubts it. But even then, Luke was not an apostle nor an eyewitness.

But what about the Gospel of Matthew? Remember that originally all four of the Gospels were anonymous. They were later assigned the names they now bear. But scholars have shown that the the Gospel of Matthew copied verbatim parts of Mark. The obvious question is why would an eyewitness to the events need to copy from someone who wasn't even there to witness them. They wouldn't. Which means the Gospel of Matthew was not written by the Apostle Matthew.

That leaves us with the Gospel of John. A book that the early church had serious doubts about. If the same person wrote 2 John and 3 John, we have a possible answer to the authors identity. In the first verse of both books he identifies himself as "the elder." Not an apostle, but an elder. Again no apostle and no eyewitness.

However Luke claims to have gotten his account from those who "were eyewitnesses and servants of the word" (Luke 1:2). How do we know that they were eyewitnesses? He said so. How do we know that their testimony was reliable? We don't, we just have to take it on faith. In an age of superstition and magic its not hard to see why many doubt. Even today, eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable.

You have to ask why, if there is a God, why he didn't have Jesus write the Gospel himself. Or why not have Jesus' apostles write the Gospels and identify themselves when they did so. Of course, they were probably illiterate and couldn't write them.

Bibiolgraphy

  • The Myth about Jesus, Allvar Ellegard 1992,
  • Craig Evans, "Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology," Theological Studies 54 (1993) p. 5,
  • Charles H. Talbert, What Is a Gospel? The Genre of Canonical Gospels pg 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977).
  • “The Historical Figure of Jesus," Sanders, E.P., Penguin Books: London, 1995, p., 3.
  • Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word (Vol. II): Meditations on the Gospel According to St. Matthew – Dr Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Ignatius Press, Introduction
  • Grant, Robert M., "A Historical Introduction to the New Testament" (Harper and Row, 1963)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mother Teresa's Doubts

What if you spend your whole life serving God, were consider a saint in the flesh, and yet had that nagging feeling that this whole God thing was just an illusion.

“They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God — they would go through all that suffering if they had just a little hope of possessing God. — In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss — of God not wanting me — of God not being God — of God not really existing (Jesus, please forgive my blasphemies — I have been told to write everything). That darkness that surrounds me on all sides—I can’t lift my soul to God — no light or inspiration enters my soul. — I speak of love for souls — of tender love for God — words pass through my words [sic, lips] — and I long with a deep longing to believe in them. — What do I labor for? If there be no God — there can be no soul. — If there is no soul then Jesus — You also are not true. — Heaven, what emptiness — not a single thought of Heaven enters my mind — for there is no hope. — I am afraid to write all those terrible things that pass in my soul. — They must hurt You.”1

What if there is no God? What if Mother Teresa's feeling of "God not really existing" had a very simple explanation - he doesn't exist? Of course Catholics can't or won't believe this. They have made up their minds, so don't confuse them with the facts. They don't need evidence, they have faith.

Works Cited
1. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light, the Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, edited and with commentary by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M. C. (USA: Doubleday, 2007) pp. 192-193.