Sketches on Atheism

A question for theists

Apologetics_Can-There-Really-be-Only-One-True-ReligionPeel away the colourful ritualistic outer layers, bypass the guidebooks, skip over the oral traditions and dive through the charismatic mind-sets to the core within and anyone curious enough to look will find that there are but two ostensible, universal truths pervading all religions:

1) They all claim to be true

2) Not one has ever emerged twice on the planet

That’s it. There is nothing lurking any deeper than these two truisms, and as the second maxim annihilates the first claim there’s really no need to even litigate the petitions forwarded by any single religion as it’s already perfectly clear that any allusion to authenticity is entirely groundless. If this were not the case, if any single religion were indeed true, we would have seen that religion emerge unsupervised at least twice on the planet. Its truth would in fact be demonstrable in this supernatural event. Such an event has, of course, never happened but a theist will simply ignore this and insist that their particular belief is undeniably correct. The claim is predictable, but considering all religious belief is inconsistent it raises a powerful and profoundly important question: how do they know theirs is true?

Deism, pantheism, polytheism, paganism, totemism, animism and ancestor cults differ radically from one another in practice and observance, and even though there are some fifty-seven monotheistic religions presently active the contrasts between even these single-minded belief systems is at times positively mesmerizing. Zoroastrianism, for example, is first divided into Iranian and Indian schools, then further subdivided into Parsees, Gabars, and Iranis (according to secondary migration patterns) inside of which are theological wings including the Zurvanites, Mazdakites, Khurramites and Behafaridites. There are seventy-three distinct chapters in Islam starting with the main tributaries of Sunni and Shia down to distant subgroups from the Hanafiyah (who believe Allah might have had a beginning) to the unfathomably specific Amriyah’s (who reject the legal testimony of anyone who’s ancestors took part in the Battle of Camel, Basra, 656 CE). Judaism is split predominantly into nine competing and entirely antagonistic branches, and Christianity has no less than 42,000 sects ranging from the liberal anti-Trinitarian churches to the violent right-wing fundamentalism of the Reconstructionists.

Each of these sacerdotal beliefs are, quite obviously, logically exclusive. If one is correct, the others can’t also be true, and in a theists mind this leaves an awful lot of people being wrong. truthOn what then does a person select their version of the “truth”? Parentage and birthplace is the conspicuous answer; a correlation perhaps best demonstrated in a 1998 study, Counting Flocks and Lost Sheep, conducted by the University of Chicago which looked at the percent of people raised in a particular religion and who’ve since remained in that faith (Protestants 90.4%, Catholics 82.3% and Jewish 86.6%). Being born into a religion doesn’t however mean that particular strain of belief is any closer to the “truth” than someone else’s strain, so genealogical and geographic history cannot be considered valid selection criteria. So, while it’s claimed that one branch of a religion is in fact true and all the others aren’t, how would a person born into another religion (or even a differing chapter of the same religion) know that theirs is wrong? And conversely, if theirs is right, what measure can/does one use to determine its validity? That is to say, are there any credible (confirmed) criteria for differentiating one’s religion as “true” and another’s as “false”?

 

*Post inspired by existential atheism

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145 thoughts on “A question for theists

  1. The existence of multiple mutually exclusive religions might be one of the best arguments against religion (but not against the mere existence of god(s), since it’s possible to believe in god without being religious).

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  2. This is hardly watertight… if the ‘true’ religion claimed to have arisen from an historical event (i.e. at a set time and place) whereby the way to God was revealed, why would we expect that ‘true’ religion to arise spontaneously all over the world at all sorts of times?

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    • Why would an omni-everything god be a prejudiced isolationist, a racist, a sectarian?

      If any single religion were in fact true, we would have already seen that religion emerge naturally and fluidly wherever humans were found, regardless of their isolation or epoch. Its deity (or deities) would wear a single hat, carry a single name, and speak a single language. Its dramas and narratives would be recognised and repeated by cloistered populations, and its edicts would have penetrated all cultural, governmental, educational and legal code mindless of earthly or socioeconomic borders. If any single religion were true a single objective moral writ would underwrite diverse populations, dietary conventions would be unchaste by oceans, and norms of etiquette, civility and protocol would not deviate with geography or era.

      No religion has however emerged twice anywhere on the planet, no single deity has been envisaged by two populations separated by time and geography, and not a solitary person in history has arrived independently at Mithraism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Scientology or Judaism without it first being taught to them. That is a fixed, unarguable truth, and it’s a point worth repeating. If any given mythology were even remotely accurate (the claim made by all) then that cult, its gods, its rituals, behavioural codes and canons should have emerged unsupervised at least twice on the planet. Its truth would in fact be demonstrable in this supernatural event.

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      • I can only speak as a Christian (and despite the sweeping claims of some, I do require evidence for my faith, in my own understanding it is logical and entered into because it is reasonable, not simply because of ‘feeling’). The Bible would teach that there is such a thing as general revelation by which all humanity has enough evidence to know that there is a God who is a moral being (Romans 1:18-20; 2:14-16); that man inherently knows this has resulted in many varied manifestations of religion. However, God has given specific revelation in His Son Jesus Christ, who appeared on this earth ca. 5BC in Palestine to save sinners by his death and resurrection (prior to this there was specific revelation in the form of the Old Testament Law etc about the way of salvation).

        Now in terms of this specific, and final (Hebrews 1:1-4), revelation about the way of salvation, it has its basis in historical events (the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Thus, even if you were willing to grant for the sake of argument that it is true, we would not expect Christianity to crop up spontaneously in more than one place. You reject this on the basis that (as far as I can see from your initial reply) if there was a God he would be more inclusive than that. I don’t really have an answer as to why God would choose to disseminate his message in this way because…well…God is God. Your conception of god and what it must be like is something I don’t believe exists either; we’re both atheists in that sense.

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      • Thanks for the thoughtful reply, but you do know I’m going to rip into it.

        “evidence to know that there is a God who is a moral being”…
        Bold statement. Does this morality include your Middle Eastern gods sanctioning of rape and genocide? If so, why do we consider rape and genocide to be immoral acts today? What about the problem of natural evil? Is it moral for a being capable of stopping evil to not act?

        I’m sorry, but as i said in an earlier post: the bible is no more a source of objective moral guidance than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an industrial design manual for ornate Shāng Dynasty ritual wine vessels.

        You cite “historical events” for Jesus, and yet there is not a single corroborating piece of evidence for this man’s alleged life. Nothing. Zero. Zip. The amount of external evidence for Jesus is the exact same amount of external evidence for Batman. That is the truth. And yes, it is rather odd that this god-mans supposed earthly tour took in about 90km2 on a 508,000,000km2 planet and somehow miraculously missed all political, philosophical, and scientific hotbeds of the day… places filled with thoughtful, mindful, inquisitive people who actually owned a pen or two.

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      • I wouldn’t have posted a reply if I wasn’t prepared for you to rip into it…

        “not a single corroborating piece of evidence” for Jesus’ life? You might not find it convincing, but you must acknowledge there is evidence. I didn’t think there were many people who still denied the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. First of all, the Bible itself is a book of history and a number of external sources corroborate many of the historical characters and events which the Gospel writers use to frame the time of Jesus’ life. There is also the 1st century Roman historians who mention Jesus (most prominently, Josephus).

        Add to this the very much verifiable fact that throughout the Roman Empire in the 1st century there were Christians – after all Nero couldn’t have outlawed them and burned them without them existing. Now these points present evidence for the existence of Jesus, more evidence than for Batman, surely?

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      • 🙂 Good man!

        Now, there isn’t a single historian from the time who mentioned Jesus, no court record keeper, or any satirist. No one. I’m not doubting Christian cults emerged in the late 1st Century, but don’t try and say there is a single contemporary account of the man, Jesus. There isn’t.

        Josephus (I’m assuming you’re referring to the Testimonium Flavianum) was writing 100 years after the alleged death and the passage is a recognized 4th Century forgery. The acknowledged authority on the life and works of Josephus is Louis H. Feldman of Yeshiva University, who wrote: “The first to cite the Testimonium is Eusebius (c. 324); and even after him, we may note, there are eleven Christian writers who cite Josephus but not the Testimonium. In fact, it is not until Jerome in the early fifth century that we have another reference to it.”

        • Justin Martyr (c. 100-c. 165), who obviously pored over Josephus’s works, makes no mention of the TF.
        • Theophilus (d. 180), Bishop of Antioch–no mention of the TF.
        • Irenaeus (c. 120/140-c. 200/203), saint and compiler of the New Testament, has not a word about the TF.
        • Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-211/215), influential Greek theologian and prolific Christian writer, head of the Alexandrian school, says nothing about the TF.
        • Origen (c. 185-c. 254), no mention of the TF and specifically states that Josephus did not believe Jesus was “the Christ.”
        • Hippolytus (c. 170-c. 235), saint and martyr, nothing about the TF.
        • The author of the ancient Syriac text, “History of Armenia,” refers to Josephus but not the TF.
        • Minucius Felix (d. c. 250), lawyer and Christian convert–no mention of the TF.
        • Anatolius (230-c. 270/280)–no mention of TF.
        • Chrysostom (c. 347-407), saint and Syrian prelate, not a word about the TF.
        • Methodius, saint of the 9th century–even at this late date there were apparently copies of Josephus without the TF, as Methodius makes no mention of it.
        • Photius (c. 820-891), Patriarch of Constantinople, not a word about the TF, again indicating copies of Josephus devoid of the passage, or, perhaps, a rejection of it because it was understood to be fraudulent.

        Now, you make the claim the “Bible itself is a book of history”. Sorry to rain on your parade here, but it’s total bunk. Abraham and Moses never existed, the Exodus never happened, and there was no triumphant conquest of the land of Israel. These facts have been in the public domain for over a generation. In his 1999 essay, Deconstructing Jericho, famed Israeli archeologist, Prof. Ze’ev Herzog wrote: “The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells.”

        I wrote a post on this recently.

        https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/well-this-is-a-little-embarrassing-isnt-it/

        And to hit the point home, even Jewish rabbis admit the historical farce. “The rejection of the Bible as literally true is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis.” (Rabbi David Wolpe of the Conservative Sinai Temple)

        Now, wouldn’t you expect a god-man, Jesus, to actually know this?

        So, back to the point of the post: Do you have any “valid” criteria for knowing your particular religion is true?

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      • Poor old Josephus… He’s older than you think, my copy of his works says he was born in AD37. What’s more there is a reference outside the disputed Testimonium Flavianum to “…James the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ…” which Painter helps us to appreciate the authenticity of:

        ‘the passage in which the reference to James the brother of Jesus occurs is present in all manuscripts, including the Greek texts.’ (‘Just James’ by John Painter p.134). Not even a concession that there is some evidence? I was staying focused on the historicity of the accounts of Jesus Christ – especially the historical landmarks that Luke litters his Gospel with, they show that at least he got that bit right (and wasn’t afraid of people not so far removed from the events picking over those details).

        In answer to your question, for me the thing which convinced me of the veracity of my faith is the historically credible (and, for me, compelling) case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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      • Born in 37, sure… writing in 37? Please, keep it real.

        Sorry, but you’re wrong again about the second entry. Yes, there is a ‘James brother of Jesus’. The “Christ” bit is a well-known interpolation also from the 4th century. Seriously, you need to learn this stuff, Duncan. Read up on Origen and you’ll see what I mean. So, all there is two names, a james and jesus. Could be anyone… and again, the Christ bit was added in the 4th century.

        Now, who cares if there are references to real places in the gospels? Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October contains many real places (like Moscow and Washington) but that doesn’t make his work non-fiction. Honestly, is that the best you have?

        OK, you say “historically credible”… Perhaps you can show me this credible history. You haven’t so far.

        Now, to tell you the truth, I really couldn’t care less if Jesus was real or not. If he was real, he couldn’t even identify the myths contained in the OT, and that alone is proof-positive he (if he existed) was a lying charlatan masquerading as some celestially inspired soothsayer. Seriously, not knowing Moses didn’t exist is a tremendous blunder, you’d have to agree.

        The point of this post was rather to hear what credible criteria a believer uses to prove their religion, or disprove anothers.

        So, if you can, what criteria do you use to determine Islam is wrong?

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      • Had to go visit a dog we rescued last week, take her to the vet back here, then take her back into the countryside where she’s being housed for now. You want to adopt another? 😉

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      • My point about Josephus is that if he was born in AD37 he certainly wasn’t writing a hundred years after Jesus died, it was nearer sixty years and he thus lived in the immediate period post-Jesus, so it was not an archaic myth to him. It’s not just the two names given, there is a reference to James being sentenced to stoning. You need to acknowledge that even though many believe that there are subsequent Christian interpolations in these texts, the majority believe that Josephus did refer to Jesus but that it was perhaps ‘beefed up’ at a later date.

        My point about Luke’s references to dates, people and places would be stupid if he wrote primarily with a view to people reading his work 2000 years later, but he wrote as a second generation Christian, therefore if he was stating that certain events in Christ’s life took place at certain times, people were not so far removed that they couldn’t check it out.

        Your insistence that if anyone cares to check, they will find that Jesus never existed places you outside the school of thought of the vast majority of historians. In fact of the attacks that Christianity faced in its infancy, it doesn’t appear to have faced any serious claims that Jesus didn’t exist. I don’t think it is such a bold thing to say there is evidence,even if you think it is weak…

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      • So, let me get this straight…. You are citing one historian (writing two generations after the character in question supposedly lived) who every scholar on the planet has known since the 18th Century was forged. That’s it… that’s your historical evidence? A forgery. Pretty thin, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you imagine that there should exist just ONE verifiable, credible source… Perhaps some Roman court record keeper who noted the crucifixion?

        Anyway, I don’t care if Jesus existed or not, and debating the merits of Josephus is unbearably dull. It’s really not important, and it certainly has nothing to do with this particular post. If you’d like, though, I would like to hear how you explain Jesus not knowing Moses didn’t exist. That’s a fairly huge historical blunder and your thoughts on the matter would be appreciated.

        Back to the post: We won’t (obviously) agree on your use of evidence so I’d like instead to hear (for the purposes of this post) the criteria you use (as a believer) to know Islam (for example) is wrong.

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      • Hey John,

        I asked my Christian friend to explain to me how it is Jesus did not know Moses existed and he said he doesn’t now how anyone could come to that conclusion.

        Is there a scripture ref you have I could read and then throw at him?

        Cheers.

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      • Sure, from what I know there are three main passages (below) and in John Jesus names Abraham eighteen times.

        John 5:45 “But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. 46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. 47 But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

        “Do not think that I [Jesus] have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke or a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18)”

        “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.’ (Matthew 23:1-3)”

        Here’s the link to m y post on it. It has further links to the archaeological evidence for no Moses, no Abraham, no Exodus, no conquest.

        https://thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/well-this-is-a-little-embarrassing-isnt-it/

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      • Thanks John,

        I don’t get it. How do these passages take to mean Jesus didn’t know Moses existed?

        I’ve been digging around the Internet and one “respected archaeologists” states that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of the Biblical narrative and another states it does not.

        A Dr. Paolo Matthiae, Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Syria, “hit an archaeological jackpot” in 1975. He discovered “a third-millennium (B.C.) archive.” It included “more than 15,000 cuneiform tablets and fragments” and unveiled a Semitic empire that dominated the Middle East more than four thousand years ago. Its hub was Ebla, where educated scribes filled ancient libraries with written records of history, people, places and commerce.

        “These early tablets display an ease of expression, an elegance that indicates complete mastery of the cuneiform system by the scribes,” said Dr. Giovanni Pettinato, former epigraphist of the Italian Mission, who worked closely with Dr. Matthiae. “One can only conclude that writing had been in use at Ebla for a long time before 2500 B.C.”

        Source: examinethetruth.com/National_Geographics_Dec_1978.pdf

        The Ebla tablets verified the worship of pagan gods such as Baal, Dagan and Asherah “known previously only from the Bible.” They mention the name “Abraham” and “Ur of Chaldees” (the Biblical Abraham’s birthplace) as well as other familiar cities and places:

        “The names of cities thought to have been founded much later, such as Beirut and Byblos, leap from the tablets. Damascus and Gaza are mentioned, as well as two of the Biblical cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah. … Most intriguing of all are the personal names found on the Ebla tablets. They include Ab-ra-mu (Abraham), E-sa-um (Esau)….”

        Centuries later, some believe Moses was trained “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians”. Raised at Pharaoh’s court, he would have learned to write on fragile papyrus as well as clay tablets. The 1988 discovery of the TEL el Amarna letters shows us that written messages were an important part of Moses’ culture:

        bible-history.com/archaeology/israel/el-amarna-letters.html

        “…there were about 400 cuneiform tablets discovered at this site which were part of the royal archives of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) who reigned about 1400 BC. Among them were letters written in Babylonian cuneiform script to these Pharaohs of Egypt by various kings dwelling in the land of Canaan and Syria… written during the time of Moses [and Joshua]. They provide the first evidence of the Hebrew tribes entering into the land of Canaan in ancient times.”

        The Merneptah Stele—also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah—is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king Merneptah (reign: 1213 to 1203 BC) discovered by Flinders Petrie in 1896 at Thebes, and now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The text is largely an account of Merneptah’s victory over the Libyans and their allies, but the last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in Canaan, then part of Egypt’s imperial possessions, and include the first documented instance of the name “Israel” in the historical record.

        That last sentence points to the completion of the Biblical Exodus — the Israelite journey, led by Moses, out of bondage in Egypt toward the land God had promised them.

        Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneptah_Stele

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      • Ah, I thought you were asking for where Jesus puts his foot in it and names Moses and Abraham.

        Nate, I have no idea why you outlined a bunch of archeological findings… none of it even alludes to the exodus. Without going into the vast library of archeologist evidence (or total lack thereof), it’s been known for well over 30 years that the patriarchs (Abraham, Jacob, Isaac) and Moses never existed, the Exodus never happened, there was no conquest of the Land of Israel, and there was never a 10th Century United Kingdom. Penned by Judean copywriters between the 7th and 5th Centuries BCE (nearly a millenium after its alleged origin) the Pentateuch is recognised today by even conservative Jewish rabbis to be nothing but a geopolitical work of fiction commissioned to justify a northern land grab after the fall of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE.

        • “There is no archaeological evidence for any of it. This is something unexampled in history. They [Judah] wanted to seize control of the territories of the kingdom of Israel and annex them, because, they said, `These territories are actually ours and if you have a minute, we´ll tell you how that´s so.’ The goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom.” (Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology, Tel Aviv University)

        Those are the facts, they’ve been in the public domain for over thirty years, but as Prof. Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University observed: “we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the public.”

        • “The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells.” (Prof. Ze’ev Herzog)

        • “I think there is no serious scholar in Israel or in the world who does not accept this position. Herzog represents a large group of Israeli scholars, and he stands squarely within the consensus. Twenty years ago even I wrote of the same matters and I was not an innovator. Archaeologists simply do not take the trouble of bringing their discoveries to public attention.” (Professor Magen Broshi, Archaeologist at the Israel Museum)

        Here are a few more quotes from the unchallenged leaders in the field:

        • “It’s been decades since we’ve known… what’s the hold up?” Israel Finkelstein, chairman of the Archaeology Department at Tel Aviv University.
        • “The period of the patriarchs, exodus, conquest, or judges as devised by the writers of Scriptures never existed,” asserted Robert Coote, Senior Research Professor of Hebrew Exegesis at San Francisco’s Theological Seminary.
        • “The Genesis and Exodus accounts are a fiction,” noted the biblical scholar Niels Peter Lemche of the University of Copenhagen.
        • “The actual evidence concerning the Exodus resembles the evidence for the unicorn,” concluded Baruch Halpern, Professor of Jewish Studies of Pennsylvania State University.
        • “The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years,” declared famed Israeli archeologist, Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University.
        • “Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently,” explained one of America’s preeminent archaeologists, Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona.
        • And just to hit the nail home, here’s Christianity Today’s Kevin D. Miller: “The fact is that not one shred of direct archaeological evidence has been found for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or the 400-plus years the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt. The same is true for their miraculous exodus from slavery.”

        If you doubt the world’s experts, the leaders of archaeological digs and heads of Israeli University departments, then I’d urge you to look at the Jewish rabbis who now openly admit to these facts. Specifically, read the Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary; the first authorised commentary on the Torah since 1936. Published in 2001 by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (in collaboration with the Rabbinical Assembly and the Jewish Publication Society) the 1,559 page long Etz Hayim concludes with 41 essays written by prominent rabbis and scholars who admit the Pentateuch is little more than a self-serving myth rife with anachronisms and un-ignorable archaeological inconsistencies, and rather than triumphant conquest, Israel instead emerged slowly and relatively peacefully out of the general Canaanite population with monotheism only appearing in the post-Exilic period, 5th Century BCE.

        • “Defending a rabbi in the 21st century for saying the Exodus story isn’t factual is like defending him for saying the Earth isn’t flat. It’s neither new nor shocking to most of us that the Earth is round or that the Torah isn’t a history book dictated to Moses by God on Mount Sinai.” Rabbi Steven Leder of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple.
        • “The rejection of the Bible as literally true is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis.” Rabbi David Wolpe

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      • Perhaps the conquistadors, strappado, bastinado, holy stake, thumbscrews and rack etc were simply God’s method of delivering His message of peace and universal brotherhood to the ignorant savages who missed out earlier (when there was no reliable intercontinental transport)?

        C’mon John … He’d already done the ‘nail me to a cross bit’ once — you don’t really expect Him/Them to do it all over again for latecomers? Hell, them nails hurt (bet they made His Eyes water~!).

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    • Josephus may well have been born in AD37…but John said he was writing 100 years after the supposed death of Yashu’a.

      ”!n answer to your question, for me the thing which convinced me of the veracity of my faith is the historically credible (and, for me, compelling) case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
      There s NO compelling evidence, mere philosophical conjecture.
      Besides, the oldest manuscripts of Mark contain no Resurrection. The verse we read in the bible are regarded as Christian add-ons.
      Even the Encyclopedia Brit. states that Mark’s gospel is regarded as open ended.

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    • Considering the gravity of the Jesus solution, the more pertinent point is that it’s not believable that God failed to arrange things so that historicity of Jesus would be difficult to question, let alone to be “undoubtable”. This failure defeats the endgame.

      Forget Josephus, why were there not *thousands* of historians, poets, politicians, philosophers etc–cleverly organised by God-that mention Jesus throughout his lifetime?

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  3. Excellent article. The trouble is that true believers don’t feel they need proof that others understand – for them, it’s about a ‘feeling’, about faith, not about hard evidence. It isn’t logical. It doesn’t make sense to the rest of us. Sadly, it also makes the argument unwinnable.

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    • The “personal” experience does pop up a lot, but even theists can’t ignore the fact that this is an untenable situation when trying to convince others. At the very least it negates any self-proclaimed authority to speak in public.

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  4. Ponder what it would be like spending a life time searching for the “one true religion”. There have, I think, been many searching for what they call enlightenment. Would this be the hallmark of the most wasted life, to seek an enlightenment which is in the end all within an individuals own mind?
    Not only are there numerous religions, but within each religion each individual carries a different idea, concept, of that religion. In the end the sage sitting at the top of a mountain is just as likely to find enlightenment as the missionary, or “truth-seeker”.

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    • Any search is noble, and no one should ever be chastised for looking for truth. To search is human. Regretfully, its also human to proclaim the search over (prematurely) and sell the incomplete, unsatisfactory answer…”Yours for just $5.99!”

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  5. It is obvious; each religion sponsors classes explaining what the other religions teach so they can know that theirs is right and the others wrong . . . , excuse me a second . . . (No? Really?) Uh, never mind.

    Emily Litella

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  6. P.S.
    Back in my religious days, I overheard a conversation in church.
    Church Elder : “What if none of it is true?”
    Church Leader : “Is it worth the risk?”.
    As I have said before, religion is a dodgy insurance policy. Pie in the sky when you die.

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    • I’m just watching an excellent Sam Harris video: “Denial of death is central to religion. Atheism doesn’t offer real consolation. When one jettisons religion the thing that gets lost, the thing that has no substitute, is total consolation in the face of death. What fills the void is art, science, philosophy. Atheism is just a way of clearing the space for better conversations.”

      I like that.

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  7. No…. however…. you know I’m going to find a hole in your assumptive logic here. You might argue that there are no two humans who are alike, yet conjecture that the similarities are enough to lump us all under the title ‘human’. Therefore there are of course common denominators between most religions, even if the labels shift about a little. In fact they all fall under the heading ‘religion’ so, you might pre-suppose a distinct correlation between them, a multi-purpose defining attribute. N’est pas?
    You cannot in my mind say that no two are the same, perhaps no two exact same versions of the same dead horse exist, but the similarities are more often than not clear to see right throughout history, and possibly because as humans with such a fanciful bent we only have so much within our repertoire?

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    • Nah, I’ll stand by the observation that the only universal truths pervading all religions is 1) They all claim to be true, 2) Not one has ever emerged twice on the planet.

      Yes, many try to explain natural phenomena with inventive (albeit sometimes poetic) hogwash, but you cannot compare ancestor cults to animism, or animism to anthropomorphic theism. They are completely different circus rides.

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      • Oh, that’s no fun. No fight in you today? I didn’t have a chance to check the score, but this mean Australia is trouncing the Poms in the ashes?

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      • What ever fight I had in me I’ve just spent doing another video blog. I’m totally creamed as we say over here. It’s late, and as much as I would love, I mean love to engage you in a tussle of words, it ain’t gonna happen. Who watches cricket anyway? Besides Ark committed the coup de grace by reblogging you and firmly underlying any further dissent toward your noble search for untrue-truisms with this post 🙂
        My arm is still much thicker than yours by the way.

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      • Ah well, it’ll keep. The virtual me isn’t going anywhere, even though the physical me is on the way to the heady land of nod and another crazy dreaming adventure. Must be all the late coffees and cheese I’ve been having lately! Nice though 😉

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      • All revealed religions in their origin are/were from one source of the one true God; that is the reason for so many similar teachings in them. The differences in religions reflect that when the message from the one true God got diluted due to corruption; the message was again revealed by Him on another truthful messenger prophet of the one true God.
        Thanks

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      • Again, if there were one god (as you’re alluding to) then a valid explanation will have to be given why it doesn’t have a single name recognised by all people’s.

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      • The name has to be in the language of the people who have been addressed by the one true God.
        It is a valid explanation; otherwise the people to whom the message has been sent won’t understand it.

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      • Sorry, that explanation doesn’t fly. You are alluding to a universal god, and a universal god should have one name recognised by all. By extension such a god should be able to state exactly what it wants to say and do so free of any and all ambiguity. Its word should be unencumbered by cultural idiosyncrasies and remain unmolested by divergences in language, calligraphy, obscure and dead lexicons, future dialects, exotic morphemes, or even illiteracy and deafness. Its word should contain no contradiction, no absurdity, no oversight or declarations that are in conflict with observed facts. Its word should penetrate all tribal, domestic and international legal code and remain morally true in a timeless continuum. Such an entity should be instantly recognisable to all sentient creatures and its actions should exhibit no fault or favour, no bias, prejudice, second-thought or indeed, if omniscient, no mind-set at all.

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      • @ ISHAIYA @JOHN ZANDE
        “there are of course common denominators between most religions”
        The similarities in revealed religions speak that in the origin the message from the one true God was the same; when the message was lost or got obscured it was revealed again.
        So in fact the truthful religion has always been the same.

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      • Yeah ok, you’ve ever so slightly twisted the point I was actually trying to make. I believe that all religions are man-made, and in partial agreement with John it is true to say that no two religions would actually appear in the same guise anywhere because of the diversity of human beings full-stop. However, the point I was trying to make was that the variations in many cases are negligible because of the social inferences present in many cross trading and co-existing cultures throughout history. Cultural habits have a way of permeating the fabric of people’s lives in ways that can travel and spread far and wide indeed. However, that does not necessarily imply any level of truth in such popular myths.
        I have an issue with believing in anything stemming from a one true God because I simply do not believe in god/s whatsoever. As humans we only have so much within our repertoire because of our physiological make-up, so in many ways we are bound to happen upon and create similar ideas.

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      • To my mind the onus of any true god-like entity has to rest with the human condition, which means that we are all god-stuff if we are to subscribe to any notion of mono-theism. How does that rest with you Paarsurrey, if we are all god, and we can all do what we like with that statement because we are all omnipotent and omnipresent? Is your god not you?

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      • I am not God. I am just a human being with all the merits and demerits a human has.
        I cannot do whatever I like.
        I donèt believe that a human could be a god; one could be one with the one true God in the sense to inculcate the attributes of the God. that does not make one God.

        Jesus, Buddha and Krishna were just human beings who became one with the one true God in the above sense.

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      • Look even Buddha realised that he had an inner godhood, he was not merely a lowly man. Do not compare Buddhism with theism.
        How is there any separation in your logic? You can be be one with god but not as god? Hmmm, nope no logic in that. That’s just setting conditions based on your own inadequacies, and possibly a lack of understanding of what god is?

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      • Buddha believed that one has to fight with Mara or the Evil one or Satan. When one opposes Mara and gets rid of Mara then one becomes on the true path of becoming one with God; which means one cannot do any evil now.

        I think there is no restriction on comparison.

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      • Paarsurrey says:
        I don’t find any reply button on your following comments.

        ”Sorry, that explanation doesn’t fly. You are alluding to a universal god, and a universal god should have one name recognised by all. By extension such a god should be able to state exactly what it wants to say and do so free of any and all ambiguity. Its word should be unencumbered by cultural idiosyncrasies and remain unmolested by divergences in language, calligraphy, obscure and dead lexicons, future dialects, exotic morphemes, or even illiteracy and deafness. Its word should contain no contradiction, no absurdity, no oversight or declarations that are in conflict with observed facts. Its word should penetrate all tribal, domestic and international legal code and remain morally true in a timeless continuum. Such an entity should be instantly recognisable to all sentient creatures and its actions should exhibit no fault or favour, no bias, prejudice, second-thought or indeed, if omniscient, no mind-set at all.”

        My reply:

        That is just your opinion.
        The universal one true God has the same attributes but He is remembered by the people in the name of their own languages unless they opt to have a name of some other language; that is also OK.

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      • I’m going to interject and say Paarsurrey, your devotion to your god sounds like a deep lack of self worth masquerading as an excuse not to address your inadequacies. In that regard you prove John Zande’s point that no two religions have appeared in the world. Seems like your religion is a personal affliction than an altruistic aspect of your character. Ish is right, address the issue, and stop comparing yourself to anyone else. You’re on your own in this one.

        TSK

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  8. Good post my friend. I do enjoy a good yarn. But look…

    What cranks my gears is that seldom few seem to want to thaw out that little brain popsicle of theirs, in which is encased the tiniest gem of attestable logic, long enough to suppose that maybe humanity is the one and only truism that exists, with all its fallacious assumptions and myriad variations of itself. That different types of conjecture provide different kinds of answers. Different strokes and all that shiz. I mean, what else you got?
    If humanity is the medium through which all these ideas of divinity, measurable scientific factoids and the like flow, then I’m sorry but any and all human arguments are flawed in that they only apply to the individual voicing their opinions, based on whatever truism they happen to like the flavour of that day.
    Is there any truth in anything? That should be the question being stated here.
    I could go on, but I’d be repeating myself:

    http://wp.me/p3G05C-1k

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    • Good point, but the beauty of science is it never claims to be 100% true. In fact, science is simply the process of being less wrong. I like that. It’s flexible. It’s honest.

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      • Yes, honestly vague 🙂
        If vagueness is the desired result then it does indeed work beautifully!
        However, if there are no truisms as you seem to be implying, despite the specific reference in your post to religion, then what is there to be less wrong about?
        It becomes a case of anyone’s guess is as good as another’s. Surely to then propound some kind of scientific truth as being more valid is a tad hypocritical?

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      • Not at all. The movement toward being less-wrong has been in one direction, and one direction only: away from religious belief. In the last 400 years there hasn’t been a single event or discovery which has lent credence to any belief. If religion (any belief system) were true there should have been at least some moments of success to point to. We haven’t witness a single thing to substantiate religion. Nothing. Zero. Zip. From a species perspective, we have to jettison the thing that is clearly in error and celebrate the other thing which is actively clearing out the smoke…. Making things less-vague every day. To dispel religion is simply to clear the ground for better conversations, as Harris said.

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      • Haha, I see the lesser of two evils then? 😉
        Science is just another religion with a new label my friend. Slightly more useful but just as in the dark in many ways.

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      • True, but just as long as its moving (seemingly in the right direction) its the best model we have, plus there are no tears when an old theory is supplanted by something new 🙂

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      • True that. However, the rub is that the general population isn’t so quick to turn on a sixpence, still being 50 years behind the progress that science makes in all fields. Unfortunately we humans have a nasty habit of indoctrinating ourselves with bits of knowledge like they are hard steadfast facts, building entire belief systems out of nothing because we can. If only everyone had the pure approach of unadulterated scientific inquiry, we might actually begin to catch up with the ‘elluminati’ and the other bigwigs who obviously know something that very few others do!
        Most people are scared of progress, and then there are those of us who push for it, but we are mere drops in the ocean my friend. It takes a bigger tide than that to level the playing field.
        You have my respect though for championing such a noble path of inquiry.

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  9. One of the things I think is true for all religions, is they started when man was still very ignorant and have been supported by credulity and fear since. Maybe we can exempt Mormonism from having started when men were still ignorant and say here it required very stupid men to believe it was true

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    • You can argue Mormonism was the first UFO religion. The first, at the very least, to place supernal ides in the shape of stars and planets. Poor old Joe Smith though didn’t quite understand enough about celestial bodies (no one did at that time) and his whole idea of the Celestial Kingdom is going to burn in a fiery shitstorm when Kolob goes supernova… as it must. 🙂

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  10. Religious arguments have always been un-winnable because of the lack of a standard platform on which to base said arguments. Some believe in the Bible, others the Quran; some cling to Sola Scriptura while others the doctrines of the Church… I could go on but this you already know. Of course there is also that word “faith,” which believers feel does away with need for proof, but, which, for the nonbeliever seems merely an escape for providing evidence for so-called “truth.”

    This is why I do not believe in any one religion that’s ever been envisioned on this planet. If there is a god, he is so much bigger than that.

    Great post.

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    • I think you just described why i don’t have any problems with deists. Their belief is personal and non-intrusive. They make no claims and certainly don’t promote any dogma.

      Hey, aren’t you supposed to be in the air flying to exotic locales?

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  11. right, and this is a basic premise that I pondered early in life yet have found that the question cannot be posed to a believer because they turn a deaf ear to what challenges the foundation of their beliefs.

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  12. John,

    your thrust and parry comments are every bit as enlightening as your original post. I do enjoy reading your defense against those theists who wander into this room.

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    • Cheers, Larry. It’s nice when a defender of the faith pops in. I was hoping more would engage this post as i’d honestly like to discuss what methods they use to distinguish right from wrong, if any.

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  13. On my way back from a long walk today I passed a sports ground where half a dozen possibly 8-year-old boys were playing with a rugby ball and full-sized goal. One lad gave an almighty punt and I saw a beautiful goal scored. Okay, the big heavy ball passed under the cross-bar instead of over, true … but his shoe went over perfectly. (If I’d been a referee I’d have been hard to put not give him that one …)

    Young idiot should have prayed first ; no credit there. Honestly, some brats~!

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  14. Pingback: Homepage

    • Thanks! Nate plays both sides. I think he’s a prisoner somewhere just getting his kicks 🙂

      The general consensus though is Yhw was from he south, probably Edom, which explains why the Judeans picked up on it, redressed it, then moved it north into Israel on their lang-grab. The funny thing is it was such a minor pantheon (and Yhw so meager) there’s just a few crumbs to pick over and try and piece he story together.

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  15. Re #1, so what? There’s no way to prove it true either way but regardless. Climate, culture, earth orientation to the universe vary. So why not hoe those things are executed. Read “The Joy of Sects.” What’s consistent is that humans consistently seek the divine or some system of life regardless of century or location.

    As for #2, the Dalai Lama, and athirst religious leader, disagrees. I mention him since I’m not famous. Hes easy to look up if you’re curious do I won’t waste your time further. Cheers!

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      • HHDL says repeatedly to practice the religion you were raised in rather than convert to another. It’s not the religion but what the person does with it. If they practice. Buddhism isn’t the only way to enlightenment. Regardless, the goal of Buddhism is to not be even a Buddhist. Another concept is the path less path.

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      • So no climbing stairs to worship sun gods, murder virgins, priests ripping hearts out of live enemies to appease the star and sun gods? I thought physical proof was the interest.

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      • Sure, if it’s actually applicable. Got any reference to the pyramids of Giza being used for mass sacrifices to appease harvest gods? 🙂

        Look, even Qin Shi Huang had a pyramid. It’s a nifty shape. I built a huge one while at uni. It was going to house a float tank but i never actually got around to finishing that part. Instead we used it as a pot smoking facility during parties. I’m not kidding, it was big; fashioned out of wood floorboards an even had a door. It could house 20 people pretty comfortably.

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      • It’s common knowledge the Egyptian pyramids had religious significance, worshiped Rah sun God, had a theocracy etc. I’m sure you know this. Have a good day I must skedaddle.

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      • Miss Keene falls at the first hurdle. Everyone knows that Christianity is the only path to God. Jesus Agnosticus Christos was/is (damn, it gets confusing~!) is/was/is the only son of God and it is repeated over and over that the only</em) way to his Father is through the son. So there.

        Christianity is the ONLY path to God (take your pick of franchise, and Gods help you if you get it wrong).

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      • Miss Keene left out a word or two in her “It’s common knowledge the Egyptian pyramids had religious significance“. I’d insert “widely accepted” in there somewhere.

        Certainly Saqqara and others with Pyramid texts may be assumed tainted a bit, but the GP of G is in a class of its own.

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  16. Re #1, so what? There’s no way to prove it true either way but regardless. Climate, culture, earth orientation to the universe vary. So why not hoe those things are executed. Read “The Joy of Sects.” What’s consistent is that humans consistently seek the divine or some system of life regardless of century or location.

    As for #2, the Dalai Lama, an atheist religious leader, disagrees. I mention him since I’m not famous. He’s easy to look up if you’re curious do I won’t waste your time further. Cheers!

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  17. Actually it is not known what the pyramids were originally used for. It’s been conjectured by many an archaeologist that they were used for worship as is their wont, and perhaps at some point they were later in their utilitarian lives. In fact it is known that no Pharaoh was entombed in the Great Pyramid at all. There was a lot of stuff added after the fact during the several thousand years that the dynasty of Pharaohs reigned. Point is, stick to the point. Red sauce or brown sauce… what was the question anyway? [super cheeky grin]

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  18. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Paarsurrey says:
    Referring to your question in the post; “are there any credible (confirmed) criteria for differentiating one’s religion as “true” and another’s as “false”?”

    Yes; there are five basic criteria:
    1. Belief in the one true God.
    2. Belief in the angels.
    3. Belief in the revealed books.
    4. Belief in the messengers prophets.
    5. Belief in the Day of Judgement.

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  19. Pingback: criteria for differentiating one’s religion as “true” and another’s as “false” | paarsurrey

  20. John, I first saw you on Nate’s Blog when I posted this comment. I enjoy your Blog as well !

    Being raised as a Christian, I have struggled with this myself. I am inclined to look to this “Father / God” figure instead as a “Creator” . I believe there is a “Creator” who caused the “Big Bang” to ocurr and I also believe our Soul has a Blueprint for our lives. Beyond that…..we’re on our own. I also try to be a good citizen of this planet including but not limited to the Golden Rule, because I am thankful for my existance here and now, not because of some reward that many religions teach you will receive if you jump through their hoops. If there is a reward beyond this life, great ! If not, I want to make my time here count in a positive way for me and those I effect around me. I think this world would be better off if we knew we had to make our life here count rather than being allowed to live any way we want as long as we make a confession of faith with our last breath in order to inherit a reward in the afterlife.

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  21. Well, I think you’ve finely honed this point to delightfully expressed perfection here! I just don’t get how the believers among your readers don’t read these words and say a big ‘ooops’. Seriously.

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    • They’re warming up to it. I did take the opportunity earlier today to tell a theist that it’s OK to admit its all nonsense. We won’t laugh. Just have a giggle about it all then move on 🙂

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  22. The three main religions of the world all believe they came from Abraham. All the places Abraham traveled through have been found by Archologist. The 8th day for circumcision is scientifically proven to be the best time for blood clotting. How did the writer of Geneses possibly know this. You may mock religion, but the more you try to disprove it the more it will be proven. Almost all the citys spoken of in the bible have been excavated proving the bible to be historically correct. DNA has recently been found to have no wastage, in other words all of it has a purpose currently in use. these new findings have disproven evolution, we just await the twist scientists will put on it.

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    • It’s hard to follow your line of argumentation. Just because some place names are accurate means nothing to the veracity of the Torah or the Christian bible. Heads up: Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October contains many real places (like Moscow and Washington) and even details technology used at the time Clancy was writing the story….. This doesn’t make The Hunt for Red October a work of non-fiction.

      You claim “Almost all the citys spoken of in the bible have been excavated proving the bible to be historically correct”… It appears you know nothing about the last 75 years of archaeological work in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, but I’d be happy to review what information you seem to believe you’re in possession of.

      DNA, no wastage, disproven evolution? What on earth are you babbling on about?

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  23. We really know very little of 4000 years ago other than what the bible has lead us to explore. The search for red October from less than 60 years ago doesn’t really compare to a writtings over 3000 years old and places we would not have ever found with out it.

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    • You obviously haven’t been to Egypt. They have thousands of writings on papyrus , temple reliefs, etc. We know a tremendous amount about the region long before the Bible was even thought of. We also have clay tablets in cuneiform. The cuneiform script proper developed from pictographic proto-writing in the late 4th millennium BC. Mesopotamia’s “proto-literate” period spans roughly the 35th to 32nd centuries. The first documents unequivocally written in the Sumerian language date to c. the 31st century, found at Jemdet Nasr. We know a lot from 6000 years ago .

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  24. The way I see it is Jews, Muslims, Christians (that’s nearly everyone on the planet by the way.) disagree. We all believe in the creator God, we all believe in Noah through to Abraham and that Jesus walked the earth. We have differing views as to wether Jesus was the son of God or a prophet.
    Nice debating with you wether you think I’m an idiot or not. It sharpen my axe.

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  25. A well written post, but as one other commentator stated, hardly an air-tight argument. You seem to be proposing that since there are multiple views on what God (or God’s) is, then God must not exist, however reality (especially when concerning human beings) doesn’t exist that way at all. If we have an event, told from multiple points of view, that event is often told in different, individual, ways. Now throw in an event (or a description) being told from multiple points of view, then being passed on by word of mouth, the given image gets distorted even more before it’s finally written down…. Now throw in the fact that the person / or thing (if you will) is an infinite being, beyond description, and it makes even more sense that there would be a variety views and interpretations. Do I even need mention that man is mixed up in all of that? Man that is frequently selfish and untrustworthy and distorts things to fit their own needs? Personally, I can see why there would be a variety of different visions and opinions about it. I know when friends and I recount things that happen to us together later that our stories are somewhat different. Even now, in an age where information is passed instantly people see things in different ways.

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      • Another interesting post which highlights how differently we see the world… The way I feel, is that the fact that mankind has almost always emerged on a belief in some sort of spiritual system, whether it be ancestor belief, polytheism, or theism (or whatever other varieties of spiritualism there are) seems to point to the existence of an actual spiritual realm that humanity has only caught glimpses of, which could explain why there are such a variety of beliefs. We may have lots of things wrong (and without a doubt, we all do…) but that doesn’t mean that God or the soul do not exist, it just means it is beyond our capabilities to understand at this point. Perhaps we aren’t mean to understand in this life?

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      • Sure, you could be lead to think that, but it’s more likely that the first Palaeolithic burials which included grave goods was the event (or series of events) which blew the protean human mind open. By adding tools and trinkets (things only useful to the living) our forebears shattered the terrestrial ceiling and for the first time imagined an existence outside of this one; a place where the dead could use tools, wear jewelry, and most importantly, look back on this world and in some way continue to influence it. Given that this type of burial was probably reserved only for chieftains it’s our first example of the notion of supernal, non-terrestrial authority. Somewhat paradoxically, it seems we birthed the first gods (the first notions of the gods) through the act of burial.

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      • Interesting speculation. Your posts and responses are definitely well thought out, so I look forward to reading some more of them. I’ll definitely post my thoughts 🙂

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