Wednesday, May 14, 2014

“Dear Gary”…a continuing conversation

Gary asks:

Dagood: Is it possible that the correct answer to your question, "Would a modern jury be convinced of the evidence for the Resurrection" be... not "yes" or "no", but "depends"?

If the jury is composed of twelve "Dagood's" then the jury will definitely not find in favor of the Resurrection. However, if the jury is composed of twelve members who reflect the population at large of the United States, I think there would be a very good possibility that they would.


Studies show that 80% of Americans believe that miracles are possible.

Only if the jury is composed of persons like yourself who believe that miracles are impossible, would they definitely vote "no".

When I question, “What would a neutral jury determine?” I mean a neutral jury. A jury who has no stake in the claim; a jury who will not benefit if one side wins, nor be harmed if another side loses. We deal with neutral juries every day.

The jury doesn’t care whether the crime occurred on Monday or Tuesday or three years ago—they are neutral. They don’t care whether the defendant is alleged to use a knife, a gun or a pointing finger in a coat. If they decide the person is guilty, no juror will spend a single minute behind bars.

The neutral jury doesn’t care whether plaintiff breached the contract, or defendant did, or both or neither. The jury will not have to pay a single nickel if they award the Plaintiff a million dollars—nor will they receive a single nickel. The very reason they are neutral is their lack of benefit or harm regardless of outcome. Now if a juror is the wife of the Plaintiff, we immediately understand why such a person cannot be neutral.

Our neutral jury for theological claims doesn’t care whether there is a God or not. Doesn’t care whether it is Allah, G-d, Jesus, or Shiva. Doesn’t care whether there are inspired writings, let alone which writings qualify. They hear the arguments from all sides, with neutrality firmly in place, and make a determination what is more likely, based upon ALL the evidence. Let me reiterate this, as it will become important later—ALL the evidence.

I understand this is an ideal jury. I have heard the complaints such a jury doesn’t actually exist. So what? We deal with other such ideals without problem. For example, we hold people to a “reasonable person” standard—what a reasonable person would do in a situation. There is no actual reasonable person—we are not reviewing what some guy named “Bob Hendrickson” in Wichita does—this is an ideal. It is the jury thinking through common sense what is considered reasonable, given the various parameters of the situation.

Given all the information—what we know about Roman culture, and Hebrew Culture, and the First Century Mediterranean honor/shame society, and altered states of conscious, mixed with the language and writings of the time, combined with Christian documentation, archeology, geology, etc.—a jury neutral to the prospect of Jesus’ resurrection would determine it is more likely no resurrection occurred. This was a developed legend arising from disappointed followers of a perceived Messianic figure.

Your question about 80% of people believing in miracles only highlights how we can obtain neutrality. Why limit it to America? What makes America so special? How about we include the world?

23% of the world is Muslim. They believe in Miracles. They are not persuaded Jesus rose from the dead. 15% of the World is Hindu. Miracles = yes; Resurrection = no. 7% is Buddhist, 7% “other religions” and 16% non-religious. No miracles, no resurrection. Less than 1% is Jewish. Again yes to Miracles but no to Resurrection.

32% are Christians, the only possible hope for yes to both miracles and resurrection. From here.
On that number alone, the resurrection fails to preponderate, as 68% do not find it more likely. But even within Christianity, there is debate as to what constitutes a miracle. Pit a Pentecostal Catholic against a Cessationist; you will come up with a very different miracle list.

Gary, do you believe a miracle occurred when Grilled Cheese Jesus appeared? See, you may believe in miracles…but believing in miracles doesn’t mean you believe every miracle. The same way our jury may all believe in miracles, yet still be neutral as to the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection and determine it did not occur.

Look at it another way. (And I must credit Matthew Ferguson for this hypothetical.) Does your God have the ability to turn me into a giant pickle? I think we both agree if such a God exists, it could. And no matter how we define a miracle, this would qualify. Now, because (as you believe) your God raised Lazarus from the dead, does this make it more likely or less likely that God will turn me into a pickle? It doesn’t! Right? Even believing in God, even believing in a God who performs miracles, does not make a particular miracle more or less likely. Perhaps…just perhaps…one could argue if a God had performed a miracle before it makes it more likely He would do it again, but Jesus’ resurrection and my being turned into a pickle are unique events.

There are no previous claimed miracles making the Resurrection or my eventual pickledom more or less likely. So our neutral jury, even believing miracles occur may still be neutral toward whether a particular miracle happened.

I reviewed your current set of blog entries reiterating apologists’ attempts to provide evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus. Alas, they present a much skewed, (sometime downright incorrect) recitation to a favorable audience in assurance the vast, vast majority of Christians will swallow whatever they feed to gratify their own desire to justify rationality within the Christian belief.

I strongly encourage anyone (and everyone) to go to a motion hearing day in a local court. A day set aside for the Judge to hear numerous Motions on various cases where the litigants hope to compel a decision on a parcel of the case. When the first lawyer talks, they recite the facts, and the law, and one cannot help think, “Wow!—what a great case. That other side is a complete idiot to think they could possibly win.” But then the other side stands up, and informs how the facts were not exactly as portrayed by the first attorney. And the law is not so crystal clear. And then you think, “Hmmm…not so cut-and-dried after all.”

You begin to realize how we humans (and those arguing vociferously for a position) shade the facts, and put our best position forward, and downplay or outright ignore any opposing situation. This is what your apologists are doing.

Let’s look at one example—I’ve used this previously.

”But three days later the tomb was empty.”
”Number one is the empty tomb of Jesus--everybody agreed in the ancient world that the tomb of Jesus was empty. The question is, how did it get empty?”
”A hallucination would explain only the post-resurrection appearances; it would not explain the empty tomb,…”
”The tomb was empty on Easter”
”The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.”

Okay, okay, okay…I get it! Pretty solid fact the tomb was empty on Sunday, right? Almost every apologist you listed mentioned it, it is highlighted as a fact, how do those skeptics explain THAT!?

But what… that the actual fact?

Actually, the first written indication we have regarding the tomb being empty is the Gospel according to Mark. Written (by consistent methodology) after 70 CE, at least 40 years after the event. We do not know who wrote Mark, let alone where the person obtained their information. So instead of “The tomb was empty on Sunday” the actual evidence is “At least 40 years after the claimed event, an unknown person repeated what they heard from an unknown person who claimed the tomb was empty on Sunday.”

So skeptics do not have to answer the question, “How was the tomb empty on Sunday?” but rather, “How did the story of the empty tomb develop 40 years after the event?” As one can see, the actual evidence provides for an easy naturalistic explanation.

Reading through those blog entries I see error after unfounded claim after lack of evidence after unsubstantiated assertions. Sure it initially looks like strong arguments to those who want to believe it. Alas, once it is questioned, probed or researched, it is discovered to be a cardboard façade held up with tape and string.


  1. I think it is obvious that Gary has spent the last week or so furiously attempting to shore up his wavering faith. He is prime evidence of the idea that facts which counter a person's beliefs do not change those beliefs but actually have a backfire effect of strengthening those beliefs.

    He is not at the place yet where he can objectively look at things and understand what actually qualifies as "evidence". I don't say that to be mean. I think anyone who has lost faith has gone through this phase and can remember looking for what seemed to be the "theory of everything" that was going to make some semblance of continuing in the faith achievable.

    Gary keeps writing in comments at his blog that he thinks atheists and former believers are gleefully wanting him to deconvert. He does not understand that our interactions with him are not borne out of a desire to see him lose his faith but occur because we can see through the endless BS apologetic arguments developed to dismiss real problems with scripture, theology, and religion in general.

    It's hard to even know where to start in a conversation with him because there are too many layers of false assumptions, faulty premises, and simply incorrect facts to sift through.

  2. You might be interested in this article: Makessense Stop!. For some reason, I'm having a lot of trouble with Crooked Timber, so here's a cached copy.

  3. Dagood,

    My response to your comment above is so long, I couldn't post here, so I posted it as a new post on my blog. I hope you will "come over" and comment on it.

  4. My Christian faith is hanging by a thread. But this may have saved it.

  5. re: "And, is forty years enough time for a legend to develop? "
    yes, it is. see how quickly the cargo cults developed:

    furthermore, even if you think the resurrection is believable, you still have all the dogma that was developed over time -- is all that correct also? Paul and the other disciples argued over whether the gentile converts needed to become circumcised and keep kosher. was that an inspired decision? or a political compromise in order to keep gaining new recruits among the gentiles? (especially if conversion efforts among the jews may have been poor.) There was still argument over whether Jesus was human or divine in 381 during whatever conference was occurring then. and various heresies were declared by the church -- were they always correct? and yet we still have arminianism and calvinism, etc. which is the correct dogma? and salvation via faith alone, or via faith and good deeds? and how was luther able to excise all the corruption from the catholic church dogma, and yet keep all the inspired dogma? ultimately, you're relying on every church council being inspired in their selection of which books are canonical, and which theologies are heretical.

    and as i pointed out in a question put to you on the other thread, why did the story of lazerus seem to condemn him for poor behavior, rather than for lack of proper belief? why does the sermon on the mount talk about loving one another, instead of emphasizing proper belief? after all, (according to you) proper belief if what gets you into heaven, not loving your neighbor.

    seems like this "free gift" of salvation, at least as you seem to view it, comes with a huge number of strings attached! all the stress of trying to figure out exactly what the proper belief is from really ambiguous texts. and if you get it wrong, you burn in hell? that's a loving god?

    i've read enough history to realize that every culture is ethnocentric, and that most gov'ts and religions want to control people. thinking that god sent lots of prophets to the jews, and never sent a single prophet to any other area of the world, sounds far more like ethnocentrism rather than a loving god. ie, it's smells of egotistical controlling humans, not a divine and loving god.

  6. "And, is forty years enough time for a legend to develop? "

    Just as a practical matter, Gary, have you ever played the gossip game? The one where you get anywhere from a few people to a large group in a circle and one person tells a "truth". They whisper it in the ear of the person next to them and in turn that person whispers it in the ear of the next. This goes on until it's reached the last person. That person says out loud what they were told. Have you ever noticed just how quickly the first "truth" has changed? And that's in a matter of moments.

    Anecdotally, my large family played this game on Thanksgiving. There were probably twenty of us. The first person said, "Granny is wearing bright red pants."

    By the time we were done, when the last person heard the story, they said, "Granny is wearing big red panties!". Everybody had a good laugh. While it wasn't a huge deal, the story's details had significantly changed. And in the end the last person admitted changing it because what he actually heard was, "Granny is wearing ugly big red panties." For some reason he thought the ugly part would hurt Granny's feelings. I'm not sure why he didn't thing the "big" part would.

    How do rumors get started? It wouldn't take any where near 40 years for a legend to develop. It happens within days in small towns all over the U.S. every single day!

    1. Do you think that if "Bobby Smith" is hung by his neck until dead in a small town's town square, and then buried in a grave in the town's cemetery, that someone 40 years later is going to get away with saying that Bobby rose from the dead three days later, was seen by 500 citizens within 40 days after his death, and then was witnessed by at least eleven of those citizens to levitate off the ground and disappear into the clouds?

      Possible? yes. Probable? no

      I know that atheists have answers for this argument: Jesus was just one in thousands of criminals executed by the Romans. No one would have paid attention to his execution or where he was buried if he was even buried.

      I don't buy it.

      I believe that the authors of the Gospels, whoever they were, were susceptible to the "Family Gossip Game". I don't think that any of them were written by an eyewitness (I am no longer a fundamentalist nor a inerrantist, thanks to you all! :) So these authors heard the story from multiple sources and put the story together as it came to them, from around the "gossip circle" and things got messed up...REALLY messed up.

      However, at the end of the gossip circle...Grandma was still wearing some form of clothing...and Jesus had still risen from the dead. The basic fact remained intact.

    2. I guess that depends on what you believe the basic fact to be.

      Do you think these writings were wide-spread at the time of their writing? Would any of those eye-witnesses have even known about these writings to dispute them? Of the 500 eyewitnesses that are mentioned how many are named? Who, unless they were an eyewitness would even know they were being referenced? If one wasn't an eyewitness, and wasn't named, how would they know they needed to give a testimony that this wasn't so?

      We are agreeing here that this was forty years later. Assuming that the eleven were around the same age as Jesus that would put them at between 70 and 75 years old at the time of the writing, if they were still alive. At what point were these eleven (apart from John) supposedly martyred? Were they even around to reject this idea? If so, did they even know the idea was being put forth since none of them wrote about it?

    3. Growing up, I heard stories about the appearances of the Virgin Mary at Fatima less than fifty years after the events were believed to have taken place. Tens of thousands of people were supposed to have seen the sun dance in the sky. I know many people who still continue to believe those stories are true. I never heard of anyone challenging the priests and nuns who told those stories.

    4. So can you prove, Vinny, that the Blessed Virgin Mother did not appear to these people?

    5. Gary, this is not how you critically answer these questions. The Catholic Church has claimed that Mary the Virgin Mother of Jesus appeared to three children in Portugal, and later to entire mobs of believing Catholic Christians. It is up to the Catholic Church to back these claims up, not for us to disprove them.

      I will disprove that Mary appeared in Fatima when you disprove that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Mormon from Refromed Egyptian engravings on golden plates.

    6. Of course I cannot prove that Mary did not appear, but I have learned since that the first hand reports were not nearly as impressive as the stories I heard from true believers fifty years later. I also know that the first hand accounts from Roswell in 1947 are not nearly as impressive as the tales told decades later by true believers. So I have no reason to think that true believers in Jesus couldn't have told whoppers about what happened to him forty years after the fact.

    7. Dear HeIsSailing and Vinny:

      You are both correct, Christians cannot "prove" the Resurrection, beyond a reasonable doubt, to a modern jury. We believe in the Resurrection based on "testimony". Whether that testimony is really eyewitness testimony can be legitimately questioned. However, just as in a jury trial, that "testimony" may be enough to convince some members of the jury, but not all.

      I believe the testimony. You do not.

      I cannot prove to you the Resurrection happened, but neither can you prove to me that it did not.

      Call it foolishness, fear, or faith...I still choose to believe.

    8. Whether it is "testimony" can be legitimately questioned as well. Anonymous writings based on unidentified sources which are removed an unknown number of times by decades of oral tradition from the originators of the stories who may or may not have any first hand knowledge of the events in question doesn't meet any definition of "testimony" that I know. .

    9. "However, at the end of the gossip circle...Grandma was still wearing some form of clothing...and Jesus had still risen from the dead. The basic fact remained intact."

      Really ?

      John 20:1-2 - Mary told the disciples that the body had been stolen

      Mark 16:11, Luke 24:11 - Everyone doubts and/or is scared at first, but eventually they go along with it

      Mark 16:14-19 - Jesus ascends while he and his disciples are seated at a table in or near Jerusalem
      Matthew 28:16-20 - Jesus’ ascension isn’t mentioned at all, but Matthew ends at a mountain in Galilee
      Luke 24:50-51 - Jesus ascends outisde, after dinner, and at Bethany and on the same day as the resurrection
      John - Nothing about Jesus’ ascension is mentioned
      Acts 1:9-12 - Jesus ascends at least 40 days after his resurrection, at Mt. Olivet

      These are your witnesses , Gary .

  7. We have seven sources that attest to the Resurrection: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, source Q, source M, and the non-canonical Gospel of Peter. Yes, Matthew and Luke may have borrowed from Mark, they aren't completely copies of Mark.

    How many other events in Antiquity have seven independent sources describing it?

    1. I wouldn't call them independent, Gary. That's like saying there were 12 Republicans who witnessed Ronald Reagan walking on water. :-)

  8. Gary,

    Of course the basic claim of Jesus rising from the dead is throughout Christian writings—it is the defining characteristic differentiating Christianity from the other religious beliefs of the time. This is a bit like saying all the stories regarding alien abductions disagree on the various individual facts, but the basic fact aliens are abducting is consistent throughout the stories.

    Of course it is—it is how we define an alien abduction story! Or bigfoot. Or Mormonism.

    Imagine if 5 people all testified you murdered me. Now the various details are different amongst the witnesses—one says you did it with a lead pipe in the Conservatory, another says you used a candelabra in the Library, another says you used a rope in the Kitchen…and so on. But the “basic fact” Gary murdered DagoodS remains intact. And we have no body.

    We would never accept even the mundane claim of murder in such varying tales—yet we are to accept the far more extraordinary claim Jesus raised himself from the dead with equally varying details?

    I am unclear what you mean by “independent.” If you are claiming there was a “Q” “M” and Mark, then Matthew is not independent—the very theories of “Q,” “M” and the Synoptic Problem require Matthew’s lack of independence. Likewise the solution utilizing “Q” in the Synoptic problem require Luke’s lack of independence.

    Mark has no actual resurrection (although one is implied.) Q, even under the theory it exists, has no resurrection—it was a saying’s gospel. “M” is simply Matthean additions to Mark. So really, your list should be 1 Cor. Tradition, Matthew, Luke, John and Peter.

    All disagreeing as to important details and giving those proposing hypothetical solutions migraines.

    1. DagoodS, Gary may be getting the idea of Q,M,L, etc being independent sources from Bart Ehrman. Dr Ehrman considers these to be independent sources in his latest book 'How Jesus Became God'. I don't buy it either.

  9. Gary,

    You have said, ‘Studies show that 80% of Americans believe that miracles are possible.’

    Assuming this unsubstantiated claim to be true, why would Americans not believe claims about a corpse rising from the dead, if it was also claimed that this person just happened to be the Son of almighty God? They do believe in miracles after all, don’t they?

    That may sound snarky. Let me approach the question from another angle.

    You and I both know that rumors can form overnight, and be taken as Gospel truth by the next day. I am just thinking about the office I work in, where half of all office drama comes from unfounded rumors that are eventually taken as absolute truth. This stuff takes no time at all to develop. Now you are saying that believing in mundane rumors is one thing, but nobody today would believe the truly miraculous.

    Gary says: ‘Do you think that if "Bobby Smith" is hung by his neck until dead in a small town's town square, and then buried in a grave in the town's cemetery, that someone 40 years later is going to get away with saying that Bobby rose from the dead three days later, was seen by 500 citizens within 40 days after his death, and then was witnessed by at least eleven of those citizens to levitate off the ground and disappear into the clouds?’

    Well no – they would probably not get away with trying to spread that rumor. Not where I live in the United States. Not in a relatively wealthy, educated, urban location. Not in the year 2014, where we have (presumably) been educated in the scientific method and developed critical thinking skills. You, Gary, can give your own answer based on your own tendency toward gullibility from your own perspective. What you cannot do is answer this question for everyone, globally from all times. You cannot answer what people in a Galilean culture from 2000 years in the past would not believe. You are assuming these people processed reality the same way that you do. No! This is a culture that had no conception of our methods of critical investigation. And this is where education comes in.

    Do you want to have an idea of how these people regularly thought, and what their tendencies towards, what we would consider, outrageous beliefs were? Don’t assume you know. Instead, read what they wrote. Read ancient but related writings outside of the Bible. Read what people contemporary to Jesus were saying to get an idea of how they thought and what they readily took to be the truth of the nature of reality. Read the apocryphal acts. Read Eusebius. Read Papias. Read Augustine, Philo, Clement, Polycarp, Turtullian, Justin, etc, etc, … before you think you can answer for these people. No – the Apocryphal Acts are not Gospel truth, but they will give you an idea of what they authors thought, and what that society in general thought, more than they will actual history.

    After reading for myself the bizarre, alien nature of these writers, I have no doubt in my mind that spreading a rumor and sparking a legend of the Resurrection of the Son of God would have been relatively easy to do in this culture. It would have been a wondrous miracle, but believable none the less. Because unlike us, they really did live in an age where everybody really did believe in miracles.

  10. I do not believe that any of the four Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. I believe that they were written by persons who wrote down the version of the story that each one of them heard from multiple sources.

    I believe that the authors of the Gospels wrote their stories probably 40 years after the fact, so therefore, a story whose details changed in small ways every time it was retold over 40 years, was eventually written down by the four authors of the Gospels, and Paul, who also was not an eyewitness, giving us very differing details but with these basic facts intact: The tomb of Jesus of Nazareth was found empty on the first day of the week, and at some point in time thereafter he appeared to his disciples.

    I believe this to be a true story due to the conversion of hundreds if not thousands of Jews at the risk of persecution and even death for their belief in a dead then resurrected Messiah, something that no Jew in that time period would have ever imagined.

  11. Gary,

    Yes, we can prove Jesus’ resurrection did not happen. If we use consistent historical method, and a burden of proof being “more likely than not” (or as commonly called, “preponderance of the evidence”), then we would win our case. We would prove it.

    Obviously you are a free person—free to believe what you desire. I would call it a combination of fear, indoctrination and longing that is keeping you believing. I understand—been there myself with the same combination.

    What you do with this information is entirely up to you. YOU have to live your life; not us. YOU have to live with the consequences you choose—not us. What makes life so interesting.

    1. How can you disprove the supernatural?

  12. I intend to do more study on this issue. I will listen to both sides and then make up my mind.

  13. Gary,

    Whether one wants to believe a supernatural causation is irrelevant. The claim is a historical event happening in our natural world. With a natural cave, and a natural rock and natural soldiers and natural shrouds and natural eyes seeing and natural ears hearing and natural fingers touching and so on.

    If you are arguing Jesus died, and then somehow is considered spiritually resurrected in some supernatural plane, without any return to our physical universe…sure…one cannot disprove such a claim. But once you claim Jesus walked amongst us again post-mortem—that is a historical claim one can investigate.

    1) Establish a method;
    2) Establish a standard of proof;
    3) Review all the facts and arguments both pro and con;
    4) Determine whether the standard is met within our method.

    We do this all the time; often without thinking. Only when it comes to something important to us do we need to fully engage and act precisely.

    1. I would like you to do just that on my blog. Present the four steps above "disproving" the Resurrection.

      I have asked seven Missouri Synod Lutheran pastors to engage you on my blog. I'm tired of being told "Go read ______ book".

      I want you and them to go head to head and I want to see who comes out on top. If they can't defend Christianity with nothing more than appeals to blind faith...then orthodox Christianity is on very shaky ground indeed.

      We will see if any of them are willing to challenge you on your comments on this post on my blog. It would probably start the discussion if you address the four points above first.

    2. Dagood,

      What do you think of this statement:

      Again, the conscientious Bible student does not have to pin down the exact answer to an alleged contradiction; he only needs to show one or more legitimate possibilities of harmonization in order to remove the initial sting of any “contradiction.” Regarding the thieves who died with Jesus, the skeptic cannot deny that both of the previous explanations are plausible answers to the question of why Matthew and Mark wrote of “thieves” reviling Christ, instead of a “thief.”

      Which of these possible explanations is correct? In the absence of more information, a definite answer is likely impossible. However, both answers possess merit. Either one is sufficient to answer the charge of error. Over a century ago, the reputable Bible scholar and gospel preacher J.W. McGarvey commented on this point as follows:

      We are not bound to show the truth of the given hypothesis; but only that it may be true. If it is at all possible, then it is possible that no contradiction exists; if it is probable, then it is probable that no contradiction exists…. It follows, also, that when there is an appearance of contradiction between two writers, common justice requires that before we pronounce one or both of them false we should exhaust our ingenuity in searching for some probable supposition on the ground of which they may both be true. The better the general reputation of the writers, the more imperative is this obligation, lest we condemn as false those who are entitled to respectful consideration (1886, 2:32, emp. added).
      One Bible antagonist cited a rather easy-to-explain alleged discrepancy and then proceeded to compare the Bible to a “cheating husband” who “has been caught in a contradiction, exposed as a liar, and therefore can’t be trusted to tell the truth” (Smith, 1995; cf. Lyons, 2004). In truth, however, the burden of proof was on the Bible critic to verify his allegations and he did not. One must remember how equally deplorable it is to draw up charges of marital unfaithfulness when there is no proof of such. In reality, the Bible should be likened to a faithful husband who has been wrongfully accused of infidelity by prejudiced, overbearing skeptics whose case is based upon unproven assumptions. The Bible is innocent until proven guilty. And no guilt has ever been proven. On the contrary, legitimate possible explanations exist for the difficult passages of Scripture.

  14. Gary,

    Why must the Bible be innocent until proven guilty?

    The argument that you have here which is taken from a longer post you duplicated on your own blog is doing nothing other than using emotion and manipulation to dismiss serious questions that people have about the text.

    All this talk of "justice" and "fairness" and "accusations" is simply ridiculous. The Bible is not a person. It is not entitled to having its feelings spared and not being "unjustly" criticized.

    What this author does is create san impenetrable barrier to protect his faith in the texts. Creating the caveat that as long as a possible or probable explanation exists for contradictions that the bible shouldn't be questioned...well that's just stacking the deck...because anyone can always come up with a possible explanation for anything.

    For any event that occurs...there are a multitude of possible and probable explanations. Just because one can imagine those explanations doesn't meant that any of them are true.

    Imagine a victim reporting a rape that occurred a few weeks previously. There is no actual, physical evidence left because time has passed. Her rapist declares that she is misrepresenting the event and he offers many possible or probable explanations for why she would accuse him.....revenge for rejecting her, she's mentally ill, she willingly had sex and got pregnant and is trying to cover things up so her parents won't be upset...etc.

    Anyone can come up with speculative, possible theories about anything. The human brain is actually wired to do just that when it is confused about something. It doesn't mean that any of those speculations are actually true.


    1. That is a good point, Liza, but I think that the point of the article is this: the Bible should be given the same test of credibility as that of any other document from Antiquity. I would add to that, "it should be given the SAME scrutiny and not held to any higher or lower standard".

      I am going to copy your comment and put it on my blog under the article you mention, which I have copied and posted on my blog.

      I am seeking the truth! I want both the atheists and Christians to give me all the evidence they have to back up their position. It is true that I am rooting for the Christians to win, but I am keeping an open enough that I have the Christians very nervous about whether or not they will "keep me in the fold".

      Here is another quote from the same article and the link to it on my blog. I very much welcome your thoughts and criticisms:

    2. The Law of Contradiction is one of the most fundamental principles of logic. In fact, the great fourth century B.C. Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote in his renowned philosophical work, Metaphysics, that this principle is “the most certain principle of all” (4:3). It is a principle “which every one must have who understands anything that is…and that which every one must know who knows anything” (4:3). What is the Law of Contradiction? It is, as Aristotle noted, “that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect” (4:3). In other words, if the same thing is said to be and not be (1) for the same person, place, or thing, (2) at the same time, and (3) in the same sense (or respect), then a genuine contradiction exists. For example, it is impossible for the same glass of water to be completely empty and completely full at the same time and in the same sense.

      However, if one of the three aforementioned variables is untrue or is unknown, a person cannot logically contend that a contradiction exists. Can we be sure that we are talking about the same glass of water at the same time and in the same sense? If so, then there is a contradiction. If not, then no contradiction exists. If the variables are unknown, then it cannot be proven that a contradiction exists, and principle #1 (discussed in Part I of this article) applies: The Bible writers are innocent until proven guilty.

    3. why don't christians learn arabic and meet the koran challenge which says to produce a chapter like the koran?

      this is a challenge for you TODAY.

      this is a challenge the moslim apologists wants you to meet TODAY

      so there you go. a non-miracle like an EVERLIVING god rising from death is a non MIRACLE for an EVERLIVING god.

      the moslim says that the koran CAN be disproved today today simply by creating a SHORT text with over 40 RHETORICAL devices.

      so will you apologists try to prove the koran is a non miracle ?

  15. Gary,

    If I wanted to have commented on your blog, then I would have. I don't particularly feel like refuting dumb, pseudo-intellectual, circular arguments with multiple apologists and pastors. Every single one of the,(incredibly long-winded) arguments you have posted are all fairly equivalent. They engage in demeaning the opposing viewpoints and their proponents by calling them duplicitous, scoffers, mockers, incapable of accepting the truth..etc. They quote reams of Scripture in an effort to explain why they don't have to have any explanations for contradictions. They make assertion after assertion without backing any of it up. They underline their points with subtle implications of hellfire and damnation for those who disagree ...and even for you in certain places.

    They don't fight "fair". There is no discussion to be had there because they do not see atheists/skeptics as equals. They see them as deceived, sinful people who only want to bring God down. They misconstrue what atheists think and their motives.

    You can't have discussions with people if you think the devil is working through them....unless you only want to "discuss" converting them.


    1. I see atheists as my equals. I do not look down on them. They are not possessed by the devil.

      I will ask any pastor who enters into discussion with any of you to refrain from using condescending language...if he persists, I will not post his comments.

  16. I go into great length comparing the methodology of “any logically possible solution” to “more likely a contradiction than not to neutral persons” here. The comments are insightful.

    Simply put, we do not use “any logical possibility” to resolve conflicts in any other story. Ever. Only religious texts are given such an extremely shallow method, ironically making them less noteworthy. Not more. I can resolve conflicts between grocery lists by “any logical possible” method, even when I am fully aware there is an actual contradiction.

    Does that make the grocery list as special as a religious text?

    I agree 100% the Bible should be given the same scrutiny and not held to a higher or lower standard. So what happens when we see other historical contradictions in written documents? They are shrugged off as…contradictions.

    1. I plan to study your article in depth over the weekend.

      You are becoming famous among the orthodox Lutherans, Dagood. A very prominent LCMS pastor discussed you on his podcast and challenged your criticisms of the Resurrection story.

      I would be very interested to see you go onto his blog and discuss this issue further. I hope you will.

    2. Be aware that he can be slow about posting comments. He uses moderation as I do but doesn't check for comments frequently as I do. Unless someone is rude or vulgar, he WILL post the comment, however.

  17. Thanks, Gary. I will listen to it this weekend. No time to post--off to a Soccer Tournament in South Bend, Indiana!

  18. the question is why did mark end the way he did?

    why did he end his gospel like the way he did when he knew that jesus was waiting around the corner ?

    why did he LIE and say that the women didn't open thier mouth's when he knew that the women called spoke to jesus and grabbed his foot?

    did he even know that jesus was waiting around the corner ?

    mark is gave the idea that the women sought SAFETY in flight.

    didn't the "good news" have any affect on thier brain?

    the greek is giving the idea that the women darted from the tomb , not because they were full of joy but because they were filled with fear. fear possessed them , not good news.

  19. I don't think that "Mark" lied...I don't think that Mark wrote it!

    I think that the Gospel of Mark was written by someone who received the story from other sources, who received the story from other sources, etc.., who received it from the original source, possibly Mark.

    I think the same happened for all the Synoptic Gospels. None of them were written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses.

    I am debating this point right now with a Southern Baptist pastor on my blog if anyone cares to join in:

  20. Hello, dagoods. I hope the family is well. I see you're still an atheist trying to cast aspersions on the existence of the God who loves us. I need to first point out that your assumption of neutrality is absolutely false. No one ever existed who didn't care whether there was a God or not. Even the lizards here in South Florida know that God commands them to strut out the red dewlap in their throat to attract females when the high temperature hits 90 degrees. And you say juries are neutral. Really?
    An honest person on a jury represents God, not their own fractious logic, which is your hopelessly flawed concept of neutrality.
    Nice to read your blog again. It's been a while. God bless you.

  21. Hi Dagood,

    Doesn't seem like any LCMS pastors want to get into an online discussion with you. That's a shame. I think that both Christians and atheists might learn something from such a discussion.

    If you would be interested in conversing with Pastor Cooper or another LCMS by email, let me know, and I will ask their permission to send you their email addresses.

    The LCMS pastors seem really reluctant to let go of "Biblical Inerrancy". I understand their fear: once Pandora's Box is opened with the admission that the Bible does contain errors, then what can orthodox Christians trust as being God's Words?

    However, after my interaction with you and other ex-Christian atheists I have come to the conclusion that the Doctrine of Biblical Inerrancy is the cause for many Christians falling into unbelief and atheism. Any educated, thinking person can see the errors, such as in the Resurrection story.

    Orthodox Christians should just admit that the Bible is a product of human authors and all human authors are capable of making mistakes. The message of God is there, even with the errors in the details. The errors in the details do not change the core doctrines of orthodox Christianity.

    I really wonder if you, Bart Ehrman, and other ex-Christian atheists would have deconverted if you had been taught from childhood that the Bible is NOT inerrant, that it contains the Word of God, but not every fact, historical detail, and archaeological statement is absolute, unquestioned fact.

  22. You and your readers will find this interesting: An orthodox Lutheran pastor from whom I asked assistance in dealing with the discrepancies that you and other atheists have posed, is telling me to shut down my blog and to humble myself (stop asking questions).

  23. Sounds like the pastor is getting uncomfortable with the discrepancies.

  24. I’m sorry, Gary. If your journey is even remotely similar to my own—you will find more and more Pastors who run away.

    I could give numerous examples where I would happily discuss topics with individuals, and they declined to continue. And…to be fair to them…I am a hurricane force to be reckoned with. I speak very quickly—you have seen my verbosity in writing, imagine how many more words I can cover while speaking. I argue for a living; I am familiar with how to do so, style, content and presentation. And…worst of all…I know the topic at least as well as they do.

    It is little things like Pastor Cooper relying upon J.A.T. Robinson’s dating of New Testament documents, yet disagreeing with Robinson’s very premises in doing so. Like saying, “The points in your argument are incorrect, but the conclusion you derive from those points is correct.”

    Now recognizing the (Protestant) Bible was made by humans capable of making mistakes and there are errors within, just like other documents in history, , the next question would be this—What method do we use to determine what is historical and what is legendary within the Christian accounts?

    1. I have found an orthodox Lutheran pastor who says he will engage you in discussion. He is my own pastor. He has a doctorate in divinity and teaches at a local university so he should be a good debate opponent for you. May the best man win.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Dagood,

      Pastor Bombaro will engage you in discussion under this post on my blog:

  25. Dagood and those interested:

    Pastor Bombaro has initiated the discussion with Dagood regarding the historicity, and evidence thereof, for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. To keep the conversation on track, I will only be allowing comments under this particular post, on my blog, from Dagood and Pastor Bombaro.

  26. Dagood:

    Here is something else to chew on. I have learned that there is a difference between how orthodox Lutherans use the word "inerrancy" and that of fundamentalists and evangelicals. This definition if not the same as what is stated in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, which some LCMS leaders did sign. (I don't think they should have, but this document is not binding on the denomination). I also believe that the LCMS Doctrinal Statements infer a "fundamentalist" definition of inerrancy, but according to the LCMS pastors, it is not the same.

    It is a very interesting definition, but I will bet that you still won't buy it:

    1. Dagood,

      I was wondering why we haven't heard anymore from Pastor Bombaro, but I just found out that a family in the church just suffered a terrible tragedy, so that is probably what has detained him.

      However, a Southern Baptist pastor has taken up the cause of defending the Resurrection. I would be interested to see your counter arguments to him since the three of us all come from a Baptist/evangelical background. Here is the post he commented under if you care to engage him:

  27. Dagood,

    Do you have any other information on the issue of the lack of archaeological evidence for the Patriarchs, the Exodus, wandering for forty years in the Sinai, the conquest of Canaan?

    It seems to me that it is this lack of evidence that seals the doom of orthodox Christianity.

  28. Hey Dagood,

    You are either not checking your comments box or you don't like my question. What do you think of the lack of evidence for the Exodus?

  29. Sorry ‘bout that Gary. I thought you were doing a fine job on your blog covering the topic.

    If ever entering a discussion, the first and foremost item is to nail down when the Christian claims the Exodus occurs. I find they want to bring in all sorts of evidence from various times, and never commit to a particular century.

    The Exodus saga contains three basic parts—the Israelites in captivity with the Ten Plagues, the Travel, and then the conquest of Canaan. I find Christians often pull evidence from the 25th century BCE to prove the Plagues, the 16th Century BCE to prove the Exodus and then the 14th Century BC to prove conquest. As one can see, this is a huge difference.

    Egypt could not have survived the Ten Plagues as described. Even the most stringent inerrantist I have ever talked to admits there is some exaggeration going on there. Otherwise Egypt would have disappeared from the map. As you point out, there is no archeological evidence for the Exodus itself (certainly nothing for the month or so the Red [or Reed] Sea would be stopped up to allow passage across.) And while we can obtain bits and pieces of battles in Canaan, again there is no evidence of a massive invasion and conquest by foreigners.

    Oddly, the philosophical questions (assuming the story is allegory) raise even bigger issues. Can God interfere with Free Will like he did with Pharaoh? Did God order the rape and murder of innocent Midianites? What does a God need with virgin females and gold? How could God wipe out the entire Egyptian army, but the Philistines are too scary for Him?

    No…this is a nationalistic tale by Canaanites to justify their entitled to land where many tribes once roamed. Simple as that.

    1. Thanks! May I copy and paste your comment to my blog?

    2. Or better yet, would you copy and paste it and put it under today's post: "Did Jesus kill millions of Children and Babies?"

  30. Dagood,

    The orthodox Lutherans put a Christian attorney/apologist on their national public radio show to discuss the evidence for the Resurrection. In his discussion, he scoffs at any attorney who questions the idea that there is not enough evidence to prove the Resurrection in a court of law. I bet you will find him very amusing:

  31. I don't know if I have left you this message, Dagood, but I will now: THANK YOU.

    Thank you for helping me to see the superstitious cult that is fundamentalist Christianity. I have deconverted. I believe that there may be a Creator God, but he is not the Christian god. There is too much evidence that the Christian god Yahweh is nothing more than the imagination of ancient, superstitious, ignorant Canaanites.

    Thank you to you, to Bruce Gerencser, to Ruth, Zoe, and so many others.

  32. Dagoods,
    Hello from a fellow (former) Michigander. I discovered your deconversion story a few days ago and have read every chapter. It's all SO familiar; you could have been in my youth group growing up. Because I too am the wife of a deconvert, I was very interested in your wife's reaction, and wonder if you are at liberty to give an update on what has happened in the intervening years.

  33. Dagood,

    Nice to know you are still kicking! I was getting a little worried about you.

    I have a question for you. You and I were both raised Baptist/evangelical and we have both now completely deconverted from any form of Christianity. How long did it take you to get over your fear of Hell? That nagging fear that maybe you made a mistake by abandoning your Faith and now when you die you will writhe in horrific torment, burning forever in the flames of Hell? Or worse, you will be the cause of your children burning in hell for all eternity?

    It has been three months since I deconverted from Christianity and I am feeling better and better about it every day, but every once in a while, the fear of eternal damnation rears its ugly head. How did you get over it, or did you?

    My brain tells me it is silly nonsense, but the little child in my psyche still remembers all those hellfire and damnation sermons.

    1. I am not Dagoods...but i will offer a reply. Once I really understood the evolution of the idea of hell, and that it was something added to Christian belief, I very rarely ever worried about it any longer.

      That may be because losing my belief in hell was the starting point in losing my faith. It was the moment where I finally realized that I believed things that had just been completely made up over time. Initially, I thought that losing the idea of hell was a step in getting closer to the real truth about God and what I should believe. I certainly wasn't entertaining losing my faith. I was actually trying to refine it. However, once you see behind the curtain of one doctrine, you begin to see behind them all.

      When you start to worry about hell, you need to talk yourself down from the panic. Remind yourself about what you know about how the idea came into being.

      Also, remind yourself how illogical and vindictive it would be for an all-knowing and all-loving God to create people that would suffer eternally for simply thinking/believing the wrong thing.

      When you realize that a person's version of God is worse than a serial killer, or is competing with Hitler for "most psychotic personality" then it is easy to talk yourself down.


    2. Very good analogy, Liza.

    3. searching dagoods blog for "hell" and "fear of hell" turned up a number of posts, of which the 2 below seemed the most relevant:

  34. Dagood,

    Have I done something to offend you? I have tried to think of what it might be and the only think I come up with is that your photo appears on my blog.

    However, I did not put your photo there. Blogger did. When you left your comments with Rev. John Bombaro, the photo you have on this blog appears. Somehow Blogger pulled that photo onto my blog.

    If it offends you, I am willing to delete the entire post.


  35. Oh, my no, Gary. I am just terribly busy at the moment. Autumn is always quite hectic. My son plays soccer, I play soccer (two teams), we both referee soccer, and between all that I am keeping up my running to do a ½ marathon in October.

    Not to mention work, family, etc. In about 3 hours I am off for the weekend with a bunch of fellows to play golf & footgolf.

    Just that sort of life.

    I was going to write out a response to your question on Hell, but I see sgl very kindly did all the heavy lifting and searched what I had said about it in the past. I recommend reading the first link in his comment. That DagoodS person says it as well as I can! *grin*

  36. Thanks. Good to hear from you.

  37. If anyone wants to jump in on a fascination conversation with my former fundamentalist Lutherans and evangelicals, click here: