If I had to sit in Heaven forever, knowing that there are these people, millions and millions- probably billions of people, suffering these eternal horrible torments and there was nothing I could ever do for them, that, to me, would be Hell.
Richard Carrier, The God Who Wasn’t There (2005)
An interesting lecture by Prof. Richard Carrier, deunking Christianity (and religion as a whole)
(using plain historical and scientific evidence, logic and
He starts with a
simple historical timeline of religion, which started some 40.000 years before
Jesus ever showed up (also way before the universe even existed, according to
some bronze age belief systems).
Judaism is nothing
more than Ideas borrowed from other cultures and religions like Zoroastrianism
with some things added here and there for convenience. Christianity emerged
from Judaism, mixed with ideas from other local religions/traditions, and Islam
is basically plagiarized from Judaism and Christianity…
IMHO, a pretty watertight case for the idea that ALL religions are man
No one disbelieves the existence of God except the person to whom God’s existence is not convenient… there are no atheists so thoroughly sure of their unbelief as to be willing to die a martyr’s death for it. – Herman Bavinck
Given Tumblr’s formatting, I couldn’t reblog this directly, but I saw this quote over at @revelation19‘s blog. This quote has hidden misconceptions about atheists. They are, however, implied strongly enough, so we can draw them out and make them more explicit.
For starters, there’s the misconception that a) atheists enjoy sinning or choose non-belief because it allows them, at the very least, the semblance of avoiding culpability and accountability; or b) atheists suppress the truth of god in their unrighteousness, which is nothing more than a bigoted way of restating the previous statement. This line of thinking is problematic because Christians conveniently forget that we also lack belief in every other god. Thus, without justification, a Muslim could assert that Christians don’t believe in their god because his existence inconveniences them. A Hindu can say the same thing. It’s an assertion without qualification and can thus be dismissed.
The second half of the quote is the most inept part. Why should I be willing to die a martyr’s death for atheism? The Christian has once again conveniently forgotten that we have no belief in an afterlife. To the contrary, we maintain that this is the only life we will ever have the privilege of living. We therefore would not surrender it due to ideological or political views.
On top of that, it is implied that dying a martyr’s death for anything implies the truth of what the martyr died for. People have died for Jesus; people have died for Allah; people have died for Buddha; people have died for Marx. Richard Carrier puts it succinctly:
[T]he fact that believers are willing to die for their belief does not confirm their belief is true, since there have been willing martyrs for Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Marxism, even paganism, and many other religions and ideologies throughout history. In the right social conditions, such martyrdom doesn’t even slow recruitment because such willingness to die is normal for such movements, not unusual. As W.H.C. Frend says of that time, “there was a living pagan tradition of self-sacrifice for a cause, a preparedness if necessary to defy an unjust rule, that existed alongside the developing Christian concept of martyrdom inherited from Judaism.” Christian martyrdom particularly made sense from a cultural and sociological perspective. Many sociologists studying world martyrdom movements have found they have a common social underpinning throughout history, from aboriginal movements in the New World to Islamic movements in the Middle East. For example, Alan Segal says that in every well-documented case a widespread inclination to martyrdom “is an oblique attack by the powerless against the power of oppressors,” in effect “canceling the power of an oppressor through moral claims to higher ground and to a resolute claim to the afterlife, as the better” and only “permanent” reward. “From modern examples,” Segal concludes, “we can see that what produces martyrdom,” besides the corresponding “exaltation of the afterlife,” is “a colonial and imperial situation, a conquering power, and a subject people whose religion does not easily account for the conquest.” Some of these subjects are “predisposed to understand events in a religious context,” and are suffering from some “political or economic” deprivation, or even social or cultural deprivation (as when the most heartfelt morals of the subgroup are not recognized or realized by the dominating power structure).
Richard Carrier as quoted in Loftus, John W. “Christianity’s Success Was Not Incredible.” The End of Christianity. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2011. 64-65. Print.
The fact that an atheist is unwilling to die for the sake of non-belief isn’t a mark against atheism. It definitely doesn’t imply that lacking belief in gods is a demonstrably false position. If that were the case, given Carrier’s quote, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Marxism, and any religion or ideology people have died for are equally and incontrovertibly true.
Another point that can be made is that atheists are opposed to the rampant extremism found in the major world religions. Martyrdom is a symptom of such extremism and is therefore something we simply wouldn’t adopt. We don’t think it’s necessary to die for one’s beliefs or lack thereof. We think it more productive to sit at a table to discuss the (de)merits of the views in question. Sacrificing a life for sake of a favored view is means to draw attention to said view or a failed attempt to prove the presumed truth of a given view. For the religious, martyrdom is driven by the belief that the martyr will be eternally rewarded for sacrificing her terrestrial life. Atheists lack belief in such promise makers and therefore cannot believe in such promises. Martyrdom serves us no purpose.
Ultimately, if god existed, his existence wouldn’t inconvenience me. I’ve gone on record many times and stated that even if he existed, I wouldn’t worship him. He’s an assailable being in many ways similar to human beings and is therefore unworthy of obeisance. I have many times stood in agreement with Stoics and other Greek philosophers who have stated that good and just deities wouldn’t require my worship or punish me for denying them veneration. I cannot fathom an ego so fragile that it would require that of me, that it would corner me with an ultimatum: obey me or be cast out from my presence for all eternity. This quote is the height of Christian hubris and ineptitude, and serves as nothing more than another failed attempt to poison the well and mischaracterize what atheists actually stand for.
If God wants something from me, he would tell me. He wouldn’t leave someone else to do this, as if an infinite being were short on time. And he would certainly not leave fallible, sinful humans to deliver an endless plethora of confused and contradictory messages. God would deliver the message himself, directly, to each and every one of us, and with such clarity as the most brilliant being in the universe could accomplish. We would all hear him out and shout “Eureka!” So obvious and well-demonstrated would his message be. It would be spoken to each of us in exactly those terms we would understand. And we would all agree on what that message was. Even if we rejected it, we would all at least admit to each other, “Yes, that’s what this God fellow told me.”
Excuses don’t fly. The Christian proposes that a supremely powerful being exists who wants us to set things right, and therefore doesn’t want us to get things even more wrong. This is an intelligible hypothesis, which predicts there should be no more confusion about which religion or doctrine is true than there is about the fundamentals of medicine, engineering, physics, chemistry, or even meteorology. It should be indisputably clear what God wants us to do, and what he doesn’t want us to do. Any disputes that might still arise about that would be as easily and decisively resolved as any dispute between two doctors, chemists, or engineers as to the right course to follow in curing a patient, identifying a chemical, or designing a bridge. Yet this is not what we observe. Instead, we observe exactly the opposite: unresolvable disagreement and confusion. That is clearly a failed prediction. A failed prediction means a false theory. Therefore, Christianity is false.
Typically, Christians try to make excuses for God that protect our free will. Either the human will is more powerful than the will of God, and therefore can actually block his words from being heard despite all his best and mighty efforts, or God cares more about our free choice not to hear him than about saving our souls, and so God himself “chooses” to be silent. Of course, there is no independent evidence of either this remarkable human power to thwart God, or this peculiar desire in God, and so this is a completely “ad hoc” theory: something just “made up” out of thin air in order to rescue the actual theory that continually fails to fit the evidence. But for reasons I’ll explore later, such “added elements” are never worthy of belief unless independently confirmed: you have to know they are true. You can’t just “claim” they are true. Truth is not invented. It can only be discovered. Otherwise, Christianity is just a hypothesis that has yet to find sufficient confirmation in actual evidence.
Be that as it may. Though “maybe, therefore probably” is not a logical way to arrive at any belief, let’s assume the Christian can somehow “prove” (with objective evidence everyone can agree is relevant and true) that we have this power or God has this desire. Even on that presumption, there are unsolvable problems with this “additional” hypothesis. Right from the start, it fails to explain why believers disagree. The fact that believers can’t agree on the content of God’s message or desires also refutes the theory that he wants us to be clear on these things. This failed prediction cannot be explained away by any appeal to free will–for these people have chosen to hear God, and not only to hear him, but to accept Jesus Christ as the shepherd of their very soul. So no one can claim these people chose not to hear God. Therefore, either God is telling them different things, or there is no God. Even if there is a God, but he is deliberately sowing confusion, this contradicts what Christianity predicts to be God’s desire, which entails Christianity is the wrong religion. Either way, Christianity is false…
It seems obvious to me that the Freewill argument for God’s silence fails miserably as a half-baked post hoc excuse. How can we make a Freewill decision without clear choices? How does it protect our Freewill to hide from us? The Bible is chalk full of examples of God speaking to people directly, appearing to them in person, and performing miracles for them. Was he violating the Freewill of everyone in the old and New Testaments only to decide later on that he shouldn’t do that, and instead leave it to fallible charlatans and cryptic and multi-variable old stories to communicate his message for him? In Genesis, Adam and Eve knew him personally, yet apparently still had the Freewill to disobey him. Oddly enough, outside of the pages of the text He has been completely silent.
… fears of what the “true moral facts” may turn out to be are as irrational as fears of what the “true facts” may turn out to be on the origin of life or the universe or any other subject whose true results may contradict your cherished beliefs. And it’s always irrational to reject empirically established facts and replace them with what you prefer to believe.
Similarly the “fine tuning” of the universe’s physical constants: that would be a great proof—if it wasn’t exactly the same thing we’d see if a god didn’t exist. If there is no god, we will only ever find ourselves in a universe finely tuned (in that case, by random chance), because without a god, there is no other kind of universe that can produce us. Likewise, a universe that produced us by chance would have to be enormously vast in size and enormously old, so as to have all the room to mix countless chemicals countless times in countless places so as to have any chance of accidentally kicking up something as complex as life. And that’s exactly the universe we see: one enormously vast in size and age. A godless universe would also only produce life rarely and sparingly, and that’s also what we see: by far most of the universe is lethal to life (being a deadly radiation filled vacuum) and by far most of the matter in the universe is lethal to life (constituting stars and black holes on which no life can ever live). Again, all exactly what we’d expect of a godless universe. Not what we’d expect of a god-made one.
Thus, we have exactly the universe we’d expect to have if there is no god. Whereas a god does not need vast trillions of star systems and billions of years to make life. He doesn’t need vast quantities of lethal space and deadly matter. Only a godless universe needs that. I make a more detailed survey of this kind of evidence in “Neither Life Nor the Universe Appear Intelligently Designed” in John Loftus’s The End of Christianity. It also does no good to say such a random accidental universe is improbable, because the convenient existence of a marvelously “super-omni” god is just as improbable. Either way you are assuming some amazing luck. Which leaves the evidence. And the evidence is just way more probable if there’s no god. Thus, we’re forced to choose between which lucky accident it was, and the evidence confirms the one and not the other.
Likewise, any other evidence you care to mention. It always pans out the same: the evidence actually looks exactly like what you would expect if there is no god, but not what you’d expect if there is. Again, it does no good to make excuses and propose that maybe a god has weird motives and desires to make all the evidence and all the universe look exactly like there is no god. Because that requires a wild leap of faith—and to no purpose, since such a god obviously will never do anything for us (as that would then contradict his intent to make the universe look godless) and would have to be an unconscionable psychopath (as it would require callously ignoring all the pointless suffering this behavior causes and allows) and thus on neither account would such a god be worth believing in, much less worshiping. And there is no evidence for such a weird god anyway.
Contrary to popular belief, the names of the four Evangelists were assigned to their respective Gospels decades after they were written, and on questionable grounds. And Paul, of course, did not actually see the resurrection, since he only encountered Jesus years later in a vision, and he mentions no other kind of evidence than that.
Richard Carrier, “Sense and Goodness Without God.”
Unlike Jesus, we have over half a dozen relatively objective historians discussing the history of Alexander the Great (most notably Diodorus, Dionysius, Rufus, Trogus, Plutarch and more). These are not romances or propagandists, least of all fanatical worshipers, or anyone concerned about dogma, but disinterested historical writers employing some of the recognized skills of critical analysis of their day on a wide body of sources they had available that we do not. Which doesn’t mean we trust everything they say, but we still cannot name even one such person for Jesus, and ‘none’ is not 'more’ than half a dozen.
Lest one complain that these historians wrote 'too late’, this is actually of minor significance because, unlike Jesus, they still had contemporary eyewitness sources to work from. In fact, our best historian of Alexander is Arrian, who though he wrote five hundred years later, nevertheless employed an explicit method of using only three eyewitness sources (two of them actual generals of Alexander who wrote accounts of their adventures with him). He names and identifies these sources, explains how he used them to generate a more reliable account, and discusses their relative merits. That alone is quite a great deal more than we have for Jesus, for whom we have not a single named eyewitness source in any of the accounts of him, much less a discussion of how those sources were used or what their relative merits were. Not even for the anonymous witness claimed to have been used by the authors of the Gospel of John, which claim isn’t even credible to begin with, but in any case we’re not told who he was, why we should trust him or what all exactly derives from him.
And that’s not all. We have mentions of Alexander the Great and details about him in several contemporary or eyewitness sources still extant, including the speeches of Isocrates and Demosthenes and Aeschines and Hyperides and Dinarchus, the poetry of Theocritus, the scientific works of Theophrastus and the plays of Menander. We have not a single contemporary mention of Jesus–apart from, at best, the letters of Paul, who never knew him, and says next to nothing about him (as a historical man), or the dubious letters of certain alleged disciples (and I say alleged because apart from known forgeries, none ever say they were his disciples), and (again apart from forgeries) none ever distinctly place Jesus in history. The eyewitness and contemporary attestation for Alexander is thus vastly better than we have for Jesus, not the other way around. And that’s even if we count only extant texts–if we count extant quotations of lost texts in other texts, we have literally hundreds of quotations of contemporaries and eyewitnesses that survive in later works attesting to Alexander and his history. We have not even one such for Jesus (e.g. even Paul never once quotes anyone he identifies as an eyewitness or contemporary source for any of his information on Jesus).
And even that is not all. For Alexander we have contemporary inscriptions and coins, sculpture (originals or copies of originals done from life), as well as other archaeological verifications of historical claims about him. For example, we can verify the claim that Alexander attached Tyre to the mainland with rubble from Ushu–because that rubble is still there and dates to his time; the city of Alexandria named for him dates from his lifetime as expected; archaeology confirms Alexander invaded Bactria; etc. We also have archaeological confirmation of many of his battles and acts, including the exact time and day of his death–because contemporary records of these exist in the recovered clay tablet archives of Persian court astrologers. None of this is even remotely analogous to Jesus, for whom we have absolutely zero archaeological corroboration (e.g. none of the tombs alleged to be his have been verified as such), much less (as we have for Alexander) actual archaeological attestation (in the form of coins, inscriptions and statues…).
It’s ridiculous to claim the source situation is better for Jesus than for Alexander the Great (or indeed any comparably famous person in antiquity). The exact reverse is the case, by many orders of magnitude. This is not the way to defend the historicity of Jesus.
Carrier, Richard. On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt, p.21-23. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd, 2014. Print.
The Case Against Christianity - Dr. Richard Carrier
Dr. Carrier summarizes a short list of reasons he’s not a Christian.
1. God is silent - Only “revealing” conflicting info to certain people 2. God is inert - Not that he doesn’t do any specific thing, it’s that he doesn’t do anything. 3. We have the wrong evidence - the same kind of evidence that is given for all religions. 4. We have the wrong universe - vast, old, full of junk material. If humans are the point, the inefficiency is astounding.
On Wednesday, May 23rd, UCR hosted a debate between popular atheist Richard Carrier and Christian apologist Lenny Esposito. The event was coordinated by the Well Christian Club and Esposito’s Come Reason Ministries. I attended the debate and, to put a long story short, my mind was blown in all sorts of ways.