October 24, 2015

For moron skeptics, the Bible allows everything because "Many versions, QED"

It has become clear that the attempt to popularize scholarship on the Bible has not led to a more nuanced understanding of Western civilization's sacred texts, but has instead created confusion, dishonesty, error, and downright retardation, where there used to only be mere ignorance.

Bart Ehrman, the most well known of the New Testament scholarship popularizers, found this out the hard way. A professor from an evangelical-turned-agnostic background, he wanted to enlighten believers and non-believers about what dispassionate research has to say about the Bible, and how those findings might inform contemporary debates about religion in general and Christianity in particular.

His books are easy reads, but you can get the gist of the message from the titles:

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)

Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

These were published between 2003 and 2011, after agnosticism and atheism had taken a commanding lead in American society during the 1990s. Publishing them in such a godless climate was not brave, rogue, or maverick, but simply goading on an already cynical and skeptical population by telling them that PEER REVIEWED STUDIES backed up their gut feeling about contemporary organized religion being mostly full of it.

Like most brainless mobs, though, the religious skeptics got so far out of hand that they didn't just question this or that supernatural tenet of mainstream Christianity -- was Jesus the son of God, was he resurrected, did he die for our sins, and so on -- but straightforward mundane matters like whether Jesus of Nazareth even existed, whether he led a religious movement, or whether he was crucified. Those are all basic historical facts, so imagine the embarrassment to a professor of Christian history that a decent chunk of his followers were so historically illiterate, and so smug in their convictions.

This led him to publish a popular book in 2012 whose title reveals how learned and sophisticated his audience had become:

Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Imagine a historian of ancient Rome having to write a book called, Did Julius Caesar Exist? Ignorance that profound would be too depressing for most Roman historians to even bother addressing at length.

Perhaps the most cancerous outcome of the popularization of Biblical studies has been the widespread belief that because the Bible has been copied and re-copied so many times, not to mention revised and edited by scribes who were not 100% neutral in their changes, we have no solid basis for beginning a statement with, "The Bible says ____". WHICH VERSION, WHICH VERSION, WHICH VERSION??!!

In the mind of the skeptic, in other words, the Bible allows us to believe anything about the topics it addresses, and those puritanical Bible-thumpers (booo, booo) are only quoting the particular version, among so many different versions, that happens to support their claim. For skeptics, there are alternative, competing versions either here-and-now or once-upon-a-time that undercut or even contradict the claims of the Bible-thumpers.

One of the most amazingly stupid statements to this effect came from professional ignoramus Bill Nye the Science Guy. In a 2014 debate against Ken Ham, he likened the history of reproducing the Bible to the "telephone game," where someone begins with a story and whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next, on and on down the line, until the final person tells a story very different from the original.

Let's ignore for the moment how copying a sacred text differs from playing the telephone game (serious vs. careless attitude, sacred vs. profane mindset, etc.). What is the point of this analogy except to suggest that the original versions of the Bible were substantially different from those of today, on a wide range of crucial topics?

Does Bill Nye really think the original version of the Ten Commandments went a little something like this? --

Have as many other gods before me as thou wilt. I mean, hey, they're all just different forms of the same Higher Spiritual Power, right?

Thou shalt not commit adultery, unless the side-chick is pretty hot, in which case, hey bro, I totally understand, I'd hit that too.

Honor thy mother and thy father, as long as they give you everything you ask for. If not, you can call them a fag on Twitter since those tightwads deserve to be shamed.

Does Bill Nye really think that, somewhere along the line before they mutated, the original teachings of Jesus included such nuggets of wisdom as these? --

Blessed are the impure of heart...

Blessed are the vindictive...

Blessed are the warmongers...

Judge others by a standard that you would not accept to be judged by.

Go and sin no more, j/k we all know sinning feels good.

Does Bill Nye really think that in the original unaltered form of Romans and 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul was actually trying to help the churches organize their local Gay Pride Parade?

It's as though the Science Guy thinks the process of copying the Bible leads to a multiverse of teachings, where at every major decision a scribe had to make, some went one way, others went another way, and still others went another way still. With so many branches extending from so many ideological points of departure, somewhere out there is an Anti-Bible that contradicts every major teaching of our received Bible, but which nevertheless traces back in an unbroken chain of transmission to the original autographs.

For skeptics, followers of the Anti-Christ just might be the literal original Christians. You can't get any dumber than this, folks. It really proves G.K. Chesterton's claim that, "A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything."

At the outset of the crusade, the idealistic popularizers thought their audiences would develop an appreciation for the similarities and differences of the three major textual families that the New Testament comes from, or how the texts reveal the evolving beliefs and practices of the nascent Christian communities. Instead they ended up feeding the smug dismissiveness of a bunch of morons.

Maybe now Bart Ehrman understands why the ministers and priests he talks to have made a conscious decision not to open up this can of worms for their congregations.

Bonus video: see how often a typical crowd of internet scholars brings up the objection about "many versions and revisions!" when getting into a real-life argument with street-preaching troll extraordinaire Brother Dean. I found examples around 18m, 29m, 33m, 45m, and 1h 8m.

26 comments:

  1. Most excellent. Thank you for this piece. It's good to read common sense.

    These "science guys" following this new cult of science magick seem wholly unaware that with even the most basic of modern tools we call the Internet, it is possible to discover that Biblical timelines are backed up through every ancient culture, that myriad archeological evidence exists backing all Biblical events and persons, that the writers, such as Moses, were learned, trained rigorously and far more aware of the universe than us moderns, that they had access to Pharaohs and Kings, libraries and resources, and that their "telephone game" was part of their life, not merely idle gossip about animism over imagined.

    It astounds me the willful ignorance of the mainstream "scientist" and the average atheist. It's all emotion. There is no truth in it anymore. Was it not the LORD who asked us to come and reason with Him? Is not reason the supposed apex of the atheist existence?


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  2. I've been trying to dig myself out of that intellectual hell for a couple of years now, which funnily enough, affects many Christians as much as your atheist goon. It's cartoonish misrepresentations all the way, and you also see it in people who've got the smarts te be pretty well-off in life...

    Thanks for this post, love the blog.

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  3. Great, great post. I didn't peg you as someone who is religious, and maybe you aren't, but this was a very smart, friendly post to common-sense Christianity.

    As a follow-up, you might be interested when my friend the philosopher and Christian apologist, Tim McGrew, debated Bart on the historical accuracy of the gospels:

    1) http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2015/07/on-bart-ehrman-and-authorship-of-gospels.html

    2) http://lydiaswebpage.blogspot.com/2015/07/follow-up-to-part-ii-of-ehrman-mcgrew.html

    Those two posts are from Tim's wife's blog (she is also a philosopher and an amazing apologist on her own.)

    I can't recommend their work enough -- they've done some excellent high-brow stuff. There are other more accessible authors who are very good as well including Tim Keller and Boyd and Eddy's book "Lord or Legend"

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  4. theo the kraut10/24/15, 7:32 PM

    re G.K. Chesterton's claim that, "A man who won’t believe in God will believe in anything."

    He meant that in all likelihood, but he didn't say it:
    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/G._K._Chesterton#Misattributed

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  5. The historicity of Jesus is legitimate scholarship. The argument that the Christ story started as a series of myths and legends arising from Jewish Midrashic traditions to serve the faith needs of various Near Eastern communities is a legitimate one. The same arguments are being made that Muhammed himself was not an actual person but an after the fact creation that served to form a political religion to solidify Arab conquests. In fact, the myth making capacity of humans is something which is heavily studied. There are many figures in history which might end up being myth. Caesar however is not one of them. But the details of Jesus' life are far different from Caesars.

    And lastly, fitting in with the alt-right, Uncle Adolf himself was very proud of German scholarship for proving that Jesus was just a man and not a god. There were two centuries of German scholarship on the origins of Christianity that started "the quest for Jesus". Germany prior to WW2 produced some of the best biblical scholarship (they produced the best scholarship on everything) in Europe. Good arguments were made that Jesus was either not a real figure and entirely mythical or that if he did exist he was an intinerant preacher who was probably something of a Cynic philosopher.

    But that he was actually the son of the creator of the Universe who would become a personal god for the human race and instantiate his son for the purposes of having him crucified to atone for mankind's sin... That's just the JRR Tolkein stories of 2000 years ago. (Big time best sellers though.)

    I can't stand atheist Leftists either. But just because Leftist fools today like to bash Christianity with atheism, does not mean that Christianity is true or that it has a future. Uncle Adolf intended for Christianity to die off within a few decades to be replaced by a true Aryan religion. Uncle Adolf as edgy as he was, was right on this one. Christianity, whatever its virtues, is just not a good fit for any European people that want to reorganize under a non-cucked banner.

    Let Christianity go. Its not the future of the white people. In point of fact, it might be the means that white people are ultimately cleansed off this planet. Sign off to the Carpenter's son and the entire story. There are better ways to fight for the white race.

    I say this with love not hatred. But alt-rigt-edgelords need to let sleeping gods die. The future of the pink skin must proceed on a new foundation. Its what Uncle Adolf himself wanted. Lets listen to Uncle Adolf.

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  6. Jesus-myth is just a lame kook theory, not surprising from someone who refers non-ironically to "Uncle Adolf".

    "That's just the JRR Tolkein stories of 2000 years ago."

    Lazy nerd analogy. Nobody incorporates Tolkien narratives into any kind of religious practice, and never will. Every consumer of his books and related movies treats them as fictional entertainment, not myth.

    "Uncle Adolf intended for Christianity to die off within a few decades to be replaced by a true Aryan religion."

    AKA more LARP-ing to satisfy the homosexual desire for playing dress-up.

    It also ignores the reality that Christianity in Europe drew influences from the extant pagan religions, all Indo-European by that point. That's why Christian culture in the Levant, Egypt, or among the Assyrians is different from the European type -- different substrates feeding into the syncretism.

    "Christianity, whatever its virtues, is just not a good fit for any European people that want to reorganize under a non-cucked banner. "

    I half-agree that it's not a good fit for all Europeans. It's deeply rooted in the area covered by the Roman Empire, plus nearby targets of missionaries -- Ireland, Scotland, etc. It's impossible to conceive of "Western" culture or civilization without it, indefinitely into the future.

    But it might not be a good fit in places where it was introduced many centuries later, after the seven ecumenical councils that gave final shape to the religion. Particularly where it was imposed by military conquest rather than voluntary adoption by elites and emulation by commoners of the elites, or by missionary conversions, etc. In these places, it's not so organic or eagerly held onto, and may be a reminder of their humiliation in battle.

    So, probably not a good fit in northern and eastern Germany (the hotbed of Nazi support -- not the ancient Christian lands of the western and southern parts). Not in Scandinavia. Not in the Baltic countries.

    Perhaps not in the Slavic lands, although most of them are intent on continuing to use Eastern Orthodoxy as a Slavic ethnic marker. They're not in quite as bad of a position as the Nords, since they didn't become Christians only after being conquered, though they are late-comers for whom the religion did not co-evolve organically with their local culture.

    I'm not convinced that these parts of Europe can restore any religion. They were Indo-European pagans for far longer than they were Christian -- especially if you only count the period when they were in communion with all of the Western churches. But that's been erased for 500-1000 years. Reviving it would be the most hardcore form of LARP-ing, akin to Ashkenazi Jews moving "back" to Israel and speaking (modern) Hebrew.

    The only possible way to restore religion to those places would be like Mormonism in America, a latter-day prophet who convinced enough people to follow him. It would work best if it tried to tie into and build upon what people are already familiar with, and make it specific to Northern Europe so that it feels like "our religion".

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  7. "Let Christianity go. Its not the future of the white people. In point of fact, it might be the means that white people are ultimately cleansed off this planet."

    Another confusion between cause and effect. Mainstream churches are of course in bed with secular forces for cultural suicide -- politicians, big business, the Chamber of Commerce, mass media, academia, and so on. Churches are no longer part of the Establishment, though, and play tag-along in a desperate attempt to feel relevant, accepted, and at least partially influential by the true shapers of society.

    When did Christians get big into the Civil Rights movement? MLK's first big action was the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 -- one year *after* the secular Supreme Court had already ended segregation in its entirety, after more than a decade of piecemeal rulings affecting specific sectors (taxis, lunch counters, etc.). And well after desegregation in the secular baseball league and the secular military.

    The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded later still, in '57.

    So, the churches played catch-up with secular institutions -- not surprising given how much more conservative religion is compared to politics, commerce, and entertainment. In fact, there were (voluntarily) segregated denominations right through the Civil Rights movement, with blacks having their own Baptist and Methodist churches.

    The same goes for population replacement through immigration and amnesty. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, a liberal policy-oriented group, had diddly squat to say in favor of the 1986 amnesty. They only released a pro-immigration paper in 2003 (Strangers No Longer), and began supporting amnesty in earnest from the mid-2000s onward. In other words, 20 years after amnesty and ramped-up immigration was already shown to be where the Establishment was heading.

    Have the churches been captured, though, at any rate? No: the membership is more against immigration than lay atheists and agnostics. Even when you compare conservatives who are religious vs. secular, the religious folks are more for cultural preservation. Some exceptions, of course. I'll cover that in a full post.

    Take-home message: godlessness is even more compromised by the forces of cultural suicide than mainstream Christianity. With no alternative religion to go with (a real one, not five guys LARP-ing on the internet / basement / suburban woods), Christianity wins hands down.

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  8. "I say this with love not hatred. But alt-rigt-edgelords need to let sleeping gods die."

    You sound like you're under 25 years old, from how shallow your file of facts on anything is, so hold off on issuing grand pronouncements about the future of Western civilization until you learn a lot more.

    I say that with love not hatred. Everyone goes through a phase when they're only 22 years old -- it'll pass.

    And I'm proud to say that I was left out of a data visualization graphic of the sprawling alt-right ecosystem, most of which was populated by blinkered nerds.

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  9. Jesus as myth is false. At the same time, what a person like Reza Aslan has said about Jesus is probably obviously pretty closer to the truth of the historical Jesus than what most people (most Christians) actually think (although there are many other versions). I don't really think the Jesus mythers followed logically or historically from anything like actually popularising historical scholarship on Jesus or early Christianity. Just seems like an argument that threatened Christians would make to keep a lot of the ahistoricity of the actual religion away from prying eyes. For believing Christians, Jesus lived an ideal life, which offers example for humanity, and obviously they would be threatened that that no one actually ever lived that life.

    I don't think anyone really ever believed there was a secret version of the Bible that allowed everything. It is that if it is a constantly shifting tradition, communicated with changes, then it is less likely that there was ever any genuine revelation to begin with (although that is not a particularly strong argument for there not being a relevation originally). And rather the original founders were simply passing on truths that were generally believed and present within their age, guided by some belief that they were particularly chosen by the god, perhaps not even with the sort of emphasis later people placed on them. So why waste time with fundamentalism or theology, other than as a sort of way to inspire moral philosophy (not an ends in itself)?

    Guys like Nye are (as far as I can tell) really arguing against recent fundamentalism, that there is some real source of preserved and authoritative revelation to try and get back to, simply by literalist readings of modern texts, rather than principles which are either justifiable (or not) on their own reasonable or intuitive basis. Not arguing in favour of an "anything goes" attitude to moral philosophy because the anti-Bible says so.

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  10. Reza Aslan's view is farther away from the historical Jesus than what most people / Christians think. He's trying to re-frame 1st-century Palestine into the 21st-century religious and political climate. He's not a scholar of the New Testament or ancient Christianity; scholars there say he's in over his head, and wants to make ancient times feel still relevant to today's climate. (Those critics aren't evangelical Bible-thumpers either: Dale Martin is at Yale, a close friend of Bart Ehrman, and a literal faggot.)

    Most people / Christians think of Jesus as a prophet preaching the coming end of the world and the need to repent of your sins to be right with God lest you find yourself thrown into the lake of fire, nothing to do with politics. That's just about what the critical consensus is among New Testament scholars, going back to Albert Schweitzer in 1906.

    If people / Christians have been brainwashed by Hippie Jesus propaganda, though, then Aslan's view would be closer to the truth.

    "I don't really think the Jesus mythers followed logically or historically from anything like actually popularising historical scholarship on Jesus or early Christianity."

    As a popular movement they did. There have been individuals promoting the myth-theory off and on for awhile. But why else did Ehrman wait until 2012 to address it, well after his series on "what THEY don't want you to know about the Bible"? Obviously because the myth-theory had been growing, bad enough that it needed to be contained.

    The myth-theory comes from a paranoid / conspiracy worldview. If you did a survey, how strongly correlated do you think it would be to believe that Jesus was a mythological creation, and that Oswald didn't act alone in planning / executing the assassination of Kenndy? Or that Bush was in on 9/11?

    The paranoid / conspiracy worldview regarding Christianity was given a massive boost in 2003 with the best-selling book The Da Vinci Code. To his credit, Ehrman dismissed the book's unserious approach to "hidden secrets of Christianity," but it didn't stem the tide of paranoia since every one of his books was another variation on the theme of "what THEY don't want you to know about Christianity".

    "For believing Christians, Jesus lived an ideal life, which offers example for humanity, and obviously they would be threatened that that no one actually ever lived that life."

    No, most Christians respond to "Jesus as myth" the way they respond to 9/11 truthers, JFK conspiracy nuts, and someone who would write about "Abraham Lincoln as culturally necessary construct" or something equally vapid and baseless.

    They don't want to open the can of worms about the early history of Christianity because it would require sophisticated knowledge to understand such a foreign place and time and state of technology. Most folks will lazily project the here-and-now back onto ancient Palestine and only get confused and propagate error.

    For those who are willing to put in the effort to understand ancient Christianity, there is no discouragement, and ministers and priests are happy to direct you to the sources that they themselves studied at seminary, where mainstream historical approaches to the Bible and early Christianity are required.

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  11. "I don't think anyone really ever believed there was a secret version of the Bible that allowed everything."

    If the telephone game is your working model for the reproduction of the Bible, or of oral stories, or of ritual gestures and performances that are passed on by visual imitation, then yes, you are committed to there having been all sorts of texts, beliefs, and practices throughout the history of Christianity that are radically different, even contradictory, to those of the here-and-now.

    The same goes for those who keep screeching about WHICH VERSION OF THE BIBLE.

    The same goes for those who try to end an argument from Biblical authority with HOW MANY TIMES HAS THE BIBLE BEEN RE-WRITTEN.

    In the context of someone preaching against homosexuality, these arguments assume that there was a text, tradition, etc., in the history of Christianity that *did not* condemn gay buttsex or lesbo rug-munching. That, before the story was re-written, Lot and his male-looking guests joined the crowds of literal Sodomites for one great big orgy, and that the omni-tolerant God looked on with a knowing wink, uttering that truly the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah shall be like a light unto the nations.

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  12. "Guys like Nye are (as far as I can tell) really arguing against recent fundamentalism, that there is some real source of preserved and authoritative revelation to try and get back to, simply by literalist readings of modern texts"

    Except that those "modern" texts are close copies of close copies that stretch back into antiquity. When you read a "modern" Bible, it's the result of teams of scholars fluent in the relevant ancient languages, modern languages of scholarship, history, geography, ethnography, and so on and so forth.

    Like Bill Nye, you seem ignorant of how many ancient and Medieval manuscripts we have access to -- those intermediate forms that are lost in the telephone game, where all that is compared is the first and last form.

    Because of this faithful copying process, and the wealth of intermediate forms whose similarity can be measured, you *can* get the gist of what people were saying 2000 years ago.

    "rather than principles which are either justifiable (or not) on their own reasonable or intuitive basis. Not arguing in favour of an "anything goes" attitude to moral philosophy because the anti-Bible says so."

    But who says we get to decide whether a principle is justifiable on its own basis? For most of the history of Christianity, appealing to Biblical authority was good enough. Many Christians still do make that appeal.

    In arguing against that appeal by referring to the telephone game, which version of the bible, how many revisions, etc., Nye & Co. are saying that there is no textual basis in antiquity for the principle being pushed, e.g. that homosexuality is an abomination. That apparent principle only appears in "modern" Bibles, which are the end-result of the telephone game, revisions, etc., which have corrupted the earlier principle, or perhaps inserted it where it had originally been absent.

    I didn't say that Nye & Co. are arguing for "anything goes" morality. Rather, that they are arguing that an appeal to Biblical authority allows anything and everything, since we can never know what the original pre-mutated form(s) was/were like. This implies that these long-lost forms could have supported the opposite principles that are advocated here-and-now on the basis of Biblical authority, e.g. that sodomy was tolerated or even revered rather than condemned.

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  13. The whole approach of Nye & Co. is disingenuous and biased -- why don't they apply the same criticisms to other ancient texts, oral stories, rituals, etc.?

    Every time we talk about "Plato's allegory of the cave," we're just falling for a modern construct that is the end-result of 2500 years of the telephone game. What Plato and his confreres actually said, we have no idea at all.

    Every time we refer to "the Sicilian expedition," we're just falling for more modern end-results of a telephone game. What Thucydides actually said -- or if he even existed -- we have no idea at all.

    Somehow the historicity of secular philosophy and secular history are taken on pure blind faith by self-styled skeptics, while anything even remotely touched by religion is presumed to be bogus history. As though the copyists of sacred texts were less fanatic about preserving their purity than those of mundane goings-on and profane speculation about the good life.

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  14. I figured out why this "telephone game" objection has become so common. The easiest way to discount appeals to Biblical authority is dismissal of the approach altogether -- Bible, schmible. It doesn't sound very sophisticated, logical, or thought-out, though, and the skeptics want more than anything to signal how cerebral they are.

    That means they have to attack the internal soundness of the appeal, while still defaulting afterward to "I'm not persuaded by Biblical appeals, no matter how internally sound."

    Attacking the soundness used to mean they would accuse the Bible-thumper of cherry-picking -- you're quoting these verses that support you, but ignoring these other verses that go against you. That was a learned way of trying to use the Bible itself against the Bible-thumper. (Key word: "trying," since the accuser may have been guilty of cherry-picking themselves, in cases where just about all verses on the topic supported the Bible-thumper.)

    This approach required the objector to not only know what the Bible-thumper was referring to, but all kinds of other stuff in the Bible that he *wasn't* referring to -- too high of a homework requirement for someone who is going to end with "I'm not persuaded by Biblical appeals" in any case.

    Enter the telephone game objection. Now the objector doesn't have to know anything about the Bible at all. The attack on soundness is that no one can have any idea, one way or another, about what the original unaltered form of the Bible said. Biblical appeals are a kind of appeal to tradition, and an appeal to purity (uncorrupted sources). Claim that the beliefs and stories being quoted here-and-now weren't originally in the Bible, and you undercut the foundation in tradition and purity -- the actual Bible in the thumper's hand is new and corrupted.

    Notice that this isn't the same as one Bible-thumper saying that another thumper's Bible is corrupted -- e.g., I quote the Revised Standard Version to argue against your quoting of the King James Version. Or Catholics arguing against Protestants, or whatever. In these cases, the objector is also making an appeal to Biblical authority, just disagreeing on what the original form unambiguously said.

    The telephone game objection says there can be no knowledge whatsoever about what the original form(s) looked like -- so many mutations over so many individuals over so many years, all those editions, revisions, etc. God only knows what was originally in the Bible. Maybe it condemned homosexuality, and maybe it tolerated it -- but we have no basis for concluding one way or the other. The original form has been rendered too opaque by subsequent mutations to be worth discussing seriously.

    Well that's great -- I get to dismiss all appeals to Biblical authority, and I don't have to know anything about what's in the Bible that the thumper is quoting from. No homework, *and* an easy A, *and* I sound learned rather than kneejerk? Awesome saaaauce!

    It's no wonder that the telephone game / many revisions objection has become catnip for lazy braindead skeptics looking for a rationalist response to appeals to Biblical authority.

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  15. There are letters from Pontius Pilate to Tiberius Caesar discussing Jesus Christ:

    "A young man appeared in Galilee preaching with humble unction, a new law in the Name of the God that had sent Him. At first I was apprehensive that His design was to stir up the people against the Romans, but my fears were soon dispelled. Jesus of Nazareth spoke rather as a friend of the Romans than of the Jews. One day I observed in the midst of a group of people a young man who was leaning against a tree, calmly addressing the multitude. I was told it was Jesus. This I could easily have suspected so great was the difference between Him and those who were listening to Him. His golden colored hair and beard gave to his appearance a celestial aspect. He appeared to be about 30 years of age. Never have I seen a sweeter or more serene countenance. What a contrast between Him and His bearers with their black beards and tawny complexions! Unwilling to interrupt Him by my presence, I continued my walk but signified to my secretary to join the group and listen. Later, my secretary reported that never had he seen in the works of all the philosophers anything that compared to the teachings of Jesus. He told me that Jesus was neither seditious nor rebellious, so we extended to Him our protection. He was at liberty to act, to speak, to assemble and to address the people. This unlimited freedom provoked the Jews -- not the poor but the rich and powerful."

    What's next, Romans didn't real? Fucking fedorafags.

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  16. FWIW I would recommend the book A Marginal Jew as a good, measured summation of the historical evidence for the gospels. The other books in the series are much more scholarly and focus on the teachings of Christ; they painstakingly demonstrate that the message we find in the gospels/Acts/epistles was there from the earliest days of Christianity and isn't a later addition or misrepresentation.

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  17. It's interesting that you posted this, because I find historical-literary study of the Bible from a secular-scholarly perspective to be a very enriching pursuit. I actually put up time and expense to forming a discussion group centered around this for a period of about 18 months in my community, after reading some Ehrman and realizing that the Bible, although widely discussed, is poorly understood on these grounds. I primarily targeted atheists and agnostics, since I thought they would be the most interested in such a thing, but with meetings being publicly advertised and open to anybody, many believers found the group. In the end, the regulars were mainly well-educated, open-minded believers. Of the atheists, the more serious members were mainly converts from a former church background. Those from an atheist origin (I would identify myself as having this background) would come to one or two meetings but then stop attending once they learned you were expected to read the text that was posted for discussion that month, rather than just airing general opinions about Christians.

    There is a very interesting discussion to be had on a text-by-text basis, like about literary value, historical accuracy/reliability, reactions & interpretations by different groups throughout history to the text, archaeological support, influences from foreign precursor canons, and so on, and so forth. Say it's 100% made up, or 100% factually accurate, don't contribute any specific, useful, or interesting information to the discussion.

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  18. agnostic: Every time we talk about "Plato's allegory of the cave," we're just falling for a modern construct that is the end-result of 2500 years of the telephone game. What Plato and his confreres actually said, we have no idea at all.

    Well, of course they do.

    But at the same time, whether Plato said that or not is almost totally meaningless. The allegory works or it doesn't. There's no "special revelation" because Plato said it. If it doesn't work then, hey we let it go. They can say that the evidence is good, or bad, that there was a person named Plato and this was an idea he passed on, no one is building a system of morality ordained by divine authority on it, so it is not very important. They could pull it out in some debate on Plato, but since there are no crazy Platonists around who are insisting that this is the divine tradition from God so let's throw our reason and intuition out the window, it might be met at most with "Well, this is somewhat of off topic".

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  19. Sorry, professional scholars do. I'm not sure about how many people who are skeptical towards the Bible are even interested in Plato. If they're conspiracy theorist types, they might be up for some "But there was no Plato! (unlike what those mainstream fools think)" stuff.

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  20. "there are no crazy Platonists around who are insisting that this is the divine tradition from God so let's throw our reason and intuition out the window"

    I realize there are some fundies out there who cling to some pretty over-the-top beliefs in spite of all evidence, but to take them as representative is to attack a straw man. It's true that the Allegory of the Cave ultimately stands or falls based on its usefulness as an idea rather than its origin, but the same is at least partly true of Biblical morality. A Christian believes that God's law is natural law, and that the only difference between morality and something like gravity is that God gave us free will that allows us to break the laws of morality, though by doing so we inevitably harm ourselves or others (though we may not realize it at the time, or ever). It's misleading to think Christian morality is arbitrarily based on "because God said so"; all morality is about dividing good from evil, and Christians simply accept that God's will is identical with the good, indeed that "good" has no other definition. If one is able to believe that God exists, this is actually a very logical, internally consistent view of morality.

    Though we're fallen creatures with imperfect judgment, our reason, intuition, and conscience are often very good guides to understanding our moral duties. If we think we're following God's law but our results are destructive and chaotic (e.g. abolishing all borders in the name of "compassion"), that's a good sign that we've misunderstood some facet of the natural law and should re-think our logic. Some evils will always be with us: natural disasters, disease, old age, scarcity, etc. But most trouble in the world today comes from people slamming themselves headfirst into the natural law over and over and wondering why it isn't working. The result? Tranny suicides.

    tl;dr no one should become a Christian out of worldly pragmatism, but Christian morality is in fact highly pragmatic and properly practiced is not mere blind obedience to arbitrary commands.

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  21. A.B. Prosper10/27/15, 3:58 PM

    I'm hardly some edgelord and I'm nominally Christian though without a lick of faith in doctrines but I have to agree with the people who feel the Christianity isn't our native religion

    It probably belongs back in the Middle East and in at least its modern forms, isn't doing the people of the West a lick of good. It would be fine if it was folkish but combined with the enlightenment values, you get Angela Merkel and immigrant invasion and all that.

    A folkish enlightenment would be workable and folkish Christianity would be but they can't be used together.

    Now if Christianity isn't "true" in the metaphysical sense, we don't need it to be whole, have healthy societies or to have a future for the West. we managed that thousands of years before the Nazarene was even born.

    These days its pretty much being rejected in in every European nation and slowly on the US of the ones doubling down on it, the occidental east, none of them have above replacement fertility. Not a single one.

    The higher rates among Western peoples are found in non religious nations (and the more religious the US lost its traditional edge its about that of Poland now)

    I think it being rejected slowly but surely even in the US and its hold loosening is natural and instead of it being a tragedy, its a healthy expected outcome of a memeplex reaching the end of its utility.

    To my way of thinking its not a shame but it poses some risk, the environmental mania we have is a kind of distortion of our normal Western animism and nature tradition and love for sacred spaces and its dangerous. Also weak minded people are at risk from another Middle Eastern meme, Islam which is more dangerous.

    How we keep those at bay and allow time and nature to build a new religious ideology is the real challenge.

    of course Christianity is more than a little about the Resurrection so it may come roaring back.

    As for the Heathens of all stripes, its highly unlikely they'll have a huge resurgence. It might be cool but its probably not going to happen.

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  22. "It probably belongs back in the Middle East"

    Definitely not the "Middle" East, i.e. Iraq, Iran, Arabia, etc. It's from the Near East, and that is an important distinction -- more civilized, not leaps and bounds away from ancient Hellenic culture (Near Eastern cultures were strongly Hellenized during the Second Temple period), and part of the Roman Empire.

    Remember that Rome was one of the earliest centers of the nascent Christian movement, only equaled by Antioch and Alexandria. Paul's letters to burgeoning Christian churches are addressed to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and other northern Mediterranean places -- not the Assyrians, Persians, Arabians, etc.

    There were Christian missionaries, writers, and congregations in the Celto-Germanic Europe from very early on. Christians were in Lyon from the 2nd century, Trier had a large enough Christian community to have its own bishop already by the 3rd C., whence Christianity spread to Cologne and other major cities in the Rhineland. Missionaries thrived in Wales, Ireland, and Scotland from the 5th-6th centuries onward.

    The seven ecumenical councils that solidified Christianity doctrine / practice began in 325 and ended in 787. So it's not as though Christianity was an ossified foreign import when it arrived to what's now France, Britain, or western and southern Germany. In fact, Britain sent delegates to the first council, at Nicaea. If Brits had that early of an influence on the final shape that Christianity would take, it's not a foreign religion to Britain (or France or the southern-western half of Germany).

    "we managed that thousands of years before the Nazarene was even born."

    But we didn't manage that without religion altogether. Far from it. Every primitive society had religion. There's no recovering those long-lost religions, though, so the point is moot. The alternative to Christianity, here-and-now, is not the earlier pagan religions but utter godlessness -- no beliefs, no practices.

    "It would be fine if it was folkish but combined with the enlightenment values, you get Angela Merkel and immigrant invasion and all that."

    Notice where the immigrants are having an easier time over-running the Germans -- very easy in eastern Germany, where Berlin is the world capital of atheism. Much tougher in Bavaria, where there are still large numbers of devout Catholics. Outside of Germany, the godless Scandinavians are eagerly welcoming their invaders, whereas more religious countries like Poland and Hungary are telling the migrants to go somewhere else.

    Like I said, on an individual level, people who are less religious are more favorable toward immigration. Part of that is due to political orientation -- liberals are less religious and more pro-immigrant. But even when you look only at conservatives, the godless ones are still more pro-immigration than the religious ones (although not as pro-immigrant as liberals).

    Re-read my earlier comment about who leads and who follows -- secular institutions move first toward cultural suicide, followed decades later by religious institutions who are desperate to stay relevant and be on the "right side of history," as established decades earlier by the secular initiators.

    In our age of teetering on the brink of cultural suicide, does it feel more Christian or less Christian than hundreds of years ago? Wake up: it's atheism that unglues a culture.

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  23. As for Angela Merkel specifically, her case has little relevance to Western Europe. Her father was Polish, and her mother's maiden name is Sorbian. They were Slavs who migrated to eastern Germany. Much of the electorate in eastern Germany are crypto-Slavs.

    Her father was a Lutheran pastor, and Merkel herself belongs to the Lutheran church. Lutheranism has always been limited to the less civilized and not-so-accomplished parts of Northern Europe -- Scandinavia, northern Germany, eastern Germany -- and in pockets throughout Central and Eastern Europe. (One cheer for the Enlightenment in eastern Germany, though.) In America, it has been dominant only in the culturally unremarkable and economically unimportant region of Neo-Nordia, in the northern Plains, Minnesota, Iowa, etc.

    Merkel-ism may be similar in some ways to developments in the West, but we are not Nordic or Slavic people, and we don't practice Lutheranism, so it's not a situation that we are realistically heading toward. In fact, the front-runner for the upcoming American election has built his popularity on sending back immigrants, and giving advanced warning to Muslim invaders that they will all be sent back.

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  24. A.B. Prosper10/27/15, 6:14 PM

    I'm not asleep here any more than you are.

    Good point about the Near East though . I kind of lumped the two together and its not accurate and while I concur they are more civilized than the Middle East , its still a foreign civilization.

    And while I concede that Atheism isn't healthy but "we must go back to what we had before" is also folly. Transitions are always difficult.

    What making this one harder though is left over guilt from WW2 and before our local Hitler-phile jumps in, its not just "the Jews" though they have a part but an entirely rational response to the horrors of WW2. This "weakness" is a way of saying enough is enough to mass internecine slaughter.

    That war trauma and guilt along with the fear of the H-Bomb rendered Europe afraid of nationalism . After all every European country is a small place.

    As nationalism rises and its rising fast people will be able to take care of the invader problem pretty well with or without Christianity.

    Now sure the more religious , less prosperous folks recovered faster from say the slaughter of the 30 years war (half the population of Germany died) but its not 1618.

    Also long term, White birth rates, Poland more religious or not is not better off than the rest of Europe. According to Pew Research, religion has no impact on White non Muslim birth rates. High secular Sweden and Denmark (with basically zero Christians) and France have higher birth rates than the US , Ireland where Catholicism is in freefall among the young has a TFR of around 1.9

    They don't need it to to reproduce and economic improvement or small cultural shifts say from removing immigrants might push fertility rates up to replacement. sure it would be great of they had surplus to send to the US but we have our own immigrant problems (c.f Mexicans mostly along with others) and even if we got rid of most them would be pretty full at around 260 million which is plenty

    More importantly, its not a baby making game, Expelling the immigrants or making it too hot for them literally as Sweden and Germany have had many arson attacks against immigrants and removing the Tranzis like Merkel will fix the problems pretty fast

    Sweden w/o Muslims would have a TFR around 1.8 maybe a bit more with economic improvement which is fine for many many decades given how crowded it is there, Same with France, UK and the others.

    Most of those nations can do fine with a bit of shrinkage, if they deal with the Tranzis and immigrants and rebuild a local economy it self corrects.

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  25. Still waiting for proof that God exists...

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