bookmark_borderLeviticus and Homosexuality – Part 12: More Bad Guidelines

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 1 through Part 10 of this series, I have presented some reasons for rejecting the idea that the book of Leviticus was inspired by God, and for rejecting the view that this book is a reliable source of truth or wisdom. In Part 11 of this series, I began to discuss, two more reasons for rejecting the idea that Leviticus was inspired by God, or that it is a reliable source of truth or wisdom:

5. Leviticus contains bad moral guidelines.
6. Leviticus contains bad laws and bad social guidelines.

The Bible in general, and the first five books of the Bible in particular, is supposed to provide us with excellent moral guidelines, and exemplary laws and social guidelines.  The book of Leviticus, however, is FILLED from start to finish with BAD moral guidelines, BAD laws, and BAD social guidelines.  If the book of Leviticus contains messages from Jehovah (as most Christians and Jews believe), then we may reasonably infer that Jehovah is either a SHITHEAD and/or an ASSHOLE, based on the lousiness of his rules, laws, and guidelines.
In more philosophical terms, we may reasonably infer that Jehovah is a morally imperfect person or an intellectually imperfect person, or that Jehovah is both morally and intellectually imperfect.  If Jehovah is either morally or intellectually imperfect, then Jehovah is NOT God, because God, by definition, is morally and intellectually perfect.  In any case, the BAD moral and practical guidelines presented in Leviticus show that this book was clearly NOT inspired by God, and that we have very good reason to reject this book as having any sort of authority or credibility as a source of moral or practical truth.
The book of Leviticus promotes sexism.  The book of Leviticus promotes slavery and discrimination.  The book of Leviticus promotes violence and wars of aggression.  This book is better at instructing us about how NOT to behave, or about how to behave without regard to basic morality and without regard for basic fairness, and without regard for basic human rights, than it is at providing instruction about how to be a good and just person.  Leviticus is better at teaching people how to be SHITHEADS and ASSHOLES than to be decent human beings.
Not only do we find this ignorant and unjust sexism consistently promoted throughout the entire book of Leviticus, but we also find other stupid and unjust views, laws, and guidelines promoted in Leviticus.  For example, there is no hint that DEMOCRACY is of any value; instead we get a big fat helping of brutal authoritarianism.  There is no hint that FREEDOM OF RELIGION has any value; instead, religious beliefs and practices are repeatedly DICTATED by laws and ENFORCED by the threat of the DEATH PENALTY.
In Part 11 of this series, I argued that SEXISM is rampant in Leviticus, from start to finish, I pointed out sexist passages in Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, and Chapter 4 of Leviticus.
As I argued in Part 6 of this series, killing thousands of mammals and birds every year to atone for sins when only the death of Jesus can atone for sins is not just stupid, it is morally wrong.  It is wrong to kill thousands of mammals and birds every year for no good reason, and according to the teachings of the New Testament, sacrificing animals does NOTHING to atone for anyone’s sins.  If animals sacrifices worked to atone for sins, then there was no need for Jesus to die on the cross to atone for anyone’s sins.
So, if one accepts the Christian belief that Jesus’ death was necessary to accomplish atonement for the sins of all humankind, then animal sacrifices to Jehovah were superfluous and thus immoral.  Either Jehovah was IGNORANT about the fact that only the death of Jesus could atone for sins, or else Christianity is a false religion, and the death of Jesus was NOT necessary to atone for the sins of humankind.  So, if one insists on maintaining the basic truth of the Christian faith, then one must also conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
In Part 11 of this series, I also argued that the dietary laws in Chapter 11 of Leviticus are STUPID, and that the prohibitions against eating various animals show that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
 
CHAPTER 17: THE DEATH PENALTY FOR FAILURE TO SACRIFICE ANIMALS TO JEHOVAH IN A PARTICULAR WAY
The whole practice of animal sacrifices demanded by the book of Leviticus is immoral and contrary the basic Christian theology, but setting those problems aside, the book of Leviticus uses the DEATH PENALTY to force people to not only worship a particular god (JEHOVAH), but to worship him in a very particular way through animal sacrifices:

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded, saying,
3 “Anyone from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox, a lamb, or a goat in the camp, or slaughters it outside the camp,
4 and has not brought it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the LORD in front of the tabernacle of the LORD, bloodshed is to be counted against that person. He has shed blood, and that person shall be cut off from among his people.
5 This shall be done so that the sons of Israel will bring their sacrifices which they were sacrificing in the open field—so that they will bring them to the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting to the priest, and sacrifice them as sacrifices of peace offerings to the LORD.
[…]
8 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Anyone from the house of Israel, or from the strangers who reside among them, who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice,
9 and does not bring it to the doorway of the tent of meeting to offer it to the LORD, that person also shall be cut off from his people.
(Leviticus 17:1-5 & 8-9, New American Standard Bible)

Exodus 31:14 states that a person shall be “cut off from his people” if that person violates the Sabbath day, and there this clearly means that such persons are to be put to death.
The use of the DEATH PENALTY to force people to (a) worship a particular god, and to (b) worship that god in a very particular way, is the sort of thing that a totalitarian government would do, and this shows very clearly that Leviticus is completely opposed to freedom of religion.  So, not only are the religious laws of Leviticus STUPID, and contrary to basic Christian theology, but they are also antithetical to freedom of religion and to democracy.  These laws support totalitarianism.  So, if Jehovah inspired Leviticus, then Jehovah is opposed to democracy, opposed to freedom of religion, and Jehovah supports totalitarianism.  But if democracy and freedom of religion are good things and reflect basic human rights, and if totalitarianism is evil, then Jehovah is NOT God, and thus Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.
 
CHAPTER 18: THE DEATH PENALTY FOR CHEATING WIVES (NOT CHEATING HUSBANDS) & FOR HAVING SEX WITH A WOMAN ON HER PERIOD
It is morally wrong to enforce marital fidelity by the use of the DEATH PENALTY, so the fact that Leviticus does this shows that this book was NOT inspired by God.  Furthermore, it is EXTREMELY SEXIST to use the DEATH PENALTY on wives who cheat, but not on husbands who cheat, which is exactly what the book of Leviticus insists upon.  A husband is free, according to Leviticus, to have sex with an unmarried woman, but a wife has no such freedom.  She is considered to be the property of her husband, so if she has sex with a man other than her husband, she is helping that man to “steal” the property that belongs to her husband (i.e. her body).  But the husband is NOT considered to be the property of his wife, so he can have sex with any woman he wants to have sex with, so long as that woman does not “belong” to some other man:

1 The Lord said to Moses, 
2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God.
19 “‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.
20 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.
29 “‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people.
(Leviticus 18:1-2, 19-20, 29,  New International Version)

Exodus 31:14 states that a person shall be “cut off from their people” if that person violates the Sabbath day, and there this clearly means that such persons are to be put to death.  A  wife having sex with any man other than her husband was clearly to be punished by the DEATH PENALTY, as well as the man who was not her husband but who had sex with her:

10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
(Leviticus 20:10, New Revised Standard Version. see also Deuteronomy 22:22)
So the phrase “must be cut off from their people” means “must be put to death”.  Using the DEATH PENALTY to keep men from having sex with a woman on her period is stupid and morally wrong (this prohibition is repeated in Leviticus 20:18).  If Jehovah inspired Chapter 18 of Leviticus, then Jehovah is NOT God, because God is perfectly good and perfectly intelligent. We may once again conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.

Leviticus 20:10 says nothing about a husband having sex with an unmarried woman (who is not his wife), nor is there any such prohibition anywhere in Leviticus.
 
CHAPTER 18: NO PROHIBITION OF A FATHER HAVING SEX WITH HIS DAUGHTER
There are all sorts of prohibitions in Leviticus against various sexual acts.  There is a long list of prohibitions concerning having sex with a family member or close relative.  Given that sex with a family member or close relative carries the risk of producing children with serious physical defects or genetic-based diseases, and given the temptation of adult or older family members to use their authority or physical strength to force or manipulate children and younger family members to engage in sex with the adult or older or stronger family member, such prohibitions seem reasonable.
However, there is one such prohibition that is of OBVIOUS importance that is MISSING from the long list of sexual prohibitions in Leviticus.  There is no law in Leviticus against a father having sex with his own daughter!  See for yourself:

6 “‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.
7 “‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.
8 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.
9 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
10 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.
11 “‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.
12 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.
13 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.
14 “‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.
15 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.
16 “‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.
17 “‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.
18 “‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
(Leviticus 18:6-18, New International Version)
There is no prohibition here against having “sexual relations with your daughter” nor “sexual relations with your step-daughter”.  One might argue that such a prohibition is IMPLIED by verse 17 which prohibits “sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter”, but there are significant problems with that interpretation.

First, this appears to be a prohibition against alternating between having sex with a woman and having sex with her daughter while both are still alive.  It appears that a man was ALLOWED to have sex with a woman for a period of time, and then if she died, the man was then ALLOWED to have sex with her daughter.  That sort of qualification is mentioned in the very next verse about not having sex with your wife’s sister “while your wife is living”, implying that it was ALLOWED for a man to have sex with his wife’s sister after his wife died.  So, if a man and his wife have sex, and as a result she gets pregnant and has a baby daughter, and if the wife dies during childbirth or dies years later when the baby girl has grown into a child or young woman, Leviticus 18:17 would not prohibit the father of that girl (his daughter) to have sex with her, because her mother was no longer alive and thus no longer a “rival” for the man’s sexual interest and attention.
A second problem with the proposed interpretation of verse 17 is that a man could have a daughter by a woman who is NOT his wife, stop having sex with the woman, and then start having sex with her daughter.  In this case he would be having sex with his own daughter. This too appears to be ALLOWED by this rule in Leviticus, since he would not be alternating back-and-forth between having sex with the woman and having sex with her daughter.
A third problem with the proposed interpretation of verse 17 is that a man can have have a daughter with his wife, and then divorce his wife and start having sex with his daughter.  If the man divorces his wife, he is no longer obliged to have sex with her, and can stop having sex with her for the rest of his life.  That would mean that if he starts having sex with that woman’s daughter, he would not be alternating between having sex with the woman and having sex with her daughter over a period of time.  In this case the man would be having sex with his own daughter.
A fourth problem is that a man could marry a woman who has a step-daughter from a previous marriage.  The step-daughter is NOT a blood relative of the woman, so the prohibition would appear to NOT apply in  such cases.  The husband would be free to have sex with the step-daughter even while continuing to have sex also with his wife, her step-mother.  The step-daughter would probably not be a blood relative to the man, but she might well be a girl or young woman who was under the authority of the man, a man who took on the role and responsibility of being her father.  So, although the genetic problems with having sex with a close relative would probably not apply in this case, there would still be the very serious problem of an adult or older family member abusing their authority or physical strength to force or manipulate a child or younger family member in order to gratify his sexual desires.
So, either the author of Leviticus was an IDIOT, or else the author was OK with fathers having sex with their daughters.  Since the author of Leviticus viewed daughters as the PROPERTY of their fathers, it is quite possible that the latter is the case.  In any case, this is yet another good reason to reject the claim that Leviticus was inspired by God.  Note that there is also no prohibition against a father having sex with his own son, which is a real problem that an all-knowing God would have recognized and addressed, but that never crossed the ignorant and sexist mind of the author of Leviticus.
 
CHAPTER 19: VARIOUS TRIVIAL LAWS
While there is no law prohibiting a husband from cheating on his wife, and no law prohibiting a father from having sex with his daughter, and no law prohibiting a father from having sex with his son, there are various trivial laws that serve no significant practical purpose:

 19 “‘Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:19 & 27-28, New International Version)
Clearly, the author of Leviticus was stupid or mentally ill.  To insist on obedience to such trivial demands, while ignoring very significant issues, like husbands cheating on their wives, or fathers having sex with their daughters (or sons), is clear evidence of intellectual deficiency and moral imperfection. God is all-knowing and all-wise, so clearly God would NOT have such idiotic and uncaring priorities.  This is another good reason to conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.

 
 CHAPTER 20: THE DEATH PENALTY FOR CHILDREN WHO CURSE THEIR PARENTS
 Leviticus demands that children show respect for their parents, which is a reasonable demand, at least in cases where the parents are responsible and loving parents to their children.  But some parents are assholes and do not deserve respect from their children.   In any case, Leviticus also demands that the DEATH PENALTY be used against children who curse their parents:

9 All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them.
(Leviticus 20:9, New Revised Standard Version)

No responsible and loving parent would want their child put to death for such misbehavior.  The idea of using the DEATH PENALTY on children for such misbehavior is both idiotic and immoral, providing another good reason to reject the claim that God inspired Leviticus.  Scold the child, explain to the child why this behavior is wrong, send the child to bed without supper, but kill the child? That is the idea of a demon or a psychopath, not an idea from God.
 

The “baptism by fire” of Old Believer leader Avvakum in 1682 by Pyotr Yevgenyevich Myasoyedov

CHAPTERS 20 & 21: BURNING PEOPLE TO DEATH 
It is hard to imagine how the morally disgusting use of the DEATH PENALTY promoted by Leviticus for such minor things as children cursing their parents, men and women having sex when the woman is on her period, for doing any work on a Saturday (including cooking a meal!), or for sacrificing an animal in a way different than the manner described in Leviticus, could be topped by even worse commands and rules, but Leviticus goes beyond the extreme use of the DEATH PENALTY to the psychotic requirement that we punish some “bad behavior” by BURNING PEOPLE TO DEATH:

14 If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you. 
 (Leviticus 20:14, New Revised Standard Version)
9 When the daughter of a priest profanes herself through prostitution, she profanes her father; she shall be burned to death.
(Leviticus 21:9, New Revised Standard Version)
Nero’s Torches by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1876.

You would think that a perfectly wise and perfectly good God would be opposed to torturing people to death, even for horrific crimes, and you would be right.  So, this is yet another excellent reason to conclude that the book of Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  If Leviticus was inspired by Jehovah, then we may reasonably conclude not only that Jehovah was stupid, and extremely sexist, but was also a psychotic bastard who loved nothing more than blood and violence and extreme cruelty.  Jehovah was truly a sick motherfucker.

The burning of a 16th-century Dutch Anabaptist, Anneken Hendriks, who was charged with heresy.

Jews burned to death in the Strasbourg massacre. A contemporary drawing of the 2000 Jews of Strasbourg being burned to death over a pit on Feb. 14, 1349 in the Strasbourg Massacre during the Black Death persecutions. The Jews were accused of causing the Black Death by poisoning the wells. Babies thrown out to be saved were thrown back into the fire. The monument to this massacre erected in the early 20th century was removed by the Nazis.

 
CHAPTER 20: THE DEATH PENALTY FOR MEDIUMS AND WIZARDS
According to Leviticus, we are supposed to impose the DEATH PENALTY on anyone who is a medium or wizard:

27 A man or a woman who is a medium or a wizard shall be put to death; they shall be stoned to death, their blood is upon them.
(Leviticus 20:27, New Revised Standard Version)

 
I am a skeptic, so I believe that mediums are usually con artists, although a few may be sincerely deluded into believing they can actually communicate with the dead.  So, as far as I am concerned all mediums are either crooks or kooks.  Although I have no fondness for mediums, I would never advocate that we impose the DEATH PENALTY on mediums.  Crooks and con artists should be arrested, tried, and sent to prison (at least for a while) when they deceive and defraud people, but it would be cruel and extreme to KILL a crook or con artist for merely duping some naïve person and taking their money.  It would also be wrong to imprison someone for merely being deluded and believing that they really could communicate with the dead, so imposing the DEATH PENALTY on such deluded people, who identified themselves as mediums, would be absurd and clearly immoral.
I also don’t believe that there are wizards or witches, nor that there ever have been people who have magical powers.  Again, anyone who claims to be a witch or wizard is either a con artist or a nutcase.  It is wrong to impose the DEATH PENALTY for con artistry, and it is absurd and clearly immoral to impose the DEATH PENALTY on people for having idiotic supernatural beliefs, such as the belief that one possesses magical powers or magical potions or magical spells.  The very possession of such idiotic beliefs is sufficient punishment by itself for such foolish people.
Furthermore, if some people really can communicate with the dead, and if some people really do have magical powers or magical potions or magical spells, then these are amazing and extremely valuable and important people from whom we could learn a great deal of important truths.  Killing such valuable and important people would deprive humankind of important and useful knowledge about life after death, about events in the past (observed by people who are no longer alive), and about magical powers and forces.  If any crime was deserving of the DEATH PENALTY it would be the crime of KILLING such important and valuable people as mediums and wizards (assuming they truly had the supernatural powers they claim to have).
So, if you don’t believe that we can communicate with the dead, and you don’t believe that some humans have magical powers, then the use of the DEATH PENALTY against mediums and wizards is both STUPID and IMMORAL, which means that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  On the other hand, if you believe that some people can communicate with the dead, and you believe that some people have magical powers, then the use of the DEATH PENALTY against mediums and wizards is both STUPID and IMMORAL, which means that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  Either way, Leviticus is bullshit.
 
CHAPTER 21: STIGMATIZING BIRTH DEFECTS, PHYSICAL DEFORMITIES, HANDICAPS, SERIOUS INJURIES, AND SOME DISEASES
According to Leviticus, Jehovah stigmatized birth defects, physical deformities, handicaps, serious physical injuries, and even some diseases:

16 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:
17 Speak to Aaron and say: No one of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the food of his God.
18 For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, one who is blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long,
19 or one who has a broken foot or a broken hand,
20 or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a blemish in his eyes or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles.
21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the food of his God.
(Leviticus 21:16-21, New Revised Standard Version)

 
Many societies, unfortunately, stigmatize birth defects, handicaps, and physical deformities.  Such stigmatization causes many people to be ignored, shunned, isolated, abused, mocked, hated, beaten, and even killed.  Such stigmatization results in a great deal of suffering and pain and sorrow to people who are good and innocent people who have done nothing wrong, and who do not deserve such ill treatment.  This is a great injustice in this world.
Empathy is a basic element of good moral character.  If we have empathy towards others, then we will realize that those who have birth defects, handicaps, and physical deformities deserve to be treated with love and respect, and that we ought to help such people to live full, productive, and happy lives, at least as full and as productive and as happy as is practically possible for each such person.  To stigmatize such people the way that Leviticus says Jehovah did, is morally reprehensible.  So, if Leviticus is accurate here, then Jehovah is a cruel and cold-hearted bastard, and thus Jehovah is NOT God.  But if Leviticus is WRONG here and this is a FALSE characterization of Jehovah’s words, then Leviticus was written by someone who had FALSE BELIEFS about Jehovah, or it was written by someone who LIED about Jehovah.  Either way, Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  God is all-knowing and so does not have FALSE BELIEFS, and God is perfectly good, so God would not tell horrible lies about himself or about another person.
 
CHAPTER 25: LEVITICUS PROMOTES SLAVERY BASED UPON PREJUDICE
Leviticus promotes SLAVERY, and it promotes slavery on the basis of PREJUDICE:

 39 If any who are dependent on you become so impoverished that they sell themselves to you, you shall not make them serve as slaves.
40 They shall remain with you as hired or bound laborers. They shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee.
41 Then they and their children with them shall be free from your authority; they shall go back to their own family and return to their ancestral property.
42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt [i.e. Israelites]; they shall not be sold as slaves are sold.
43 You shall not rule over them with harshness, but shall fear your God.
44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that you may acquire male and female slaves.
45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property.
46 You may keep them as a possession for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat as slaves, but as for your fellow Israelites, no one shall rule over the other with harshness.
(Leviticus 25:39-46, New Revised Standard Version)

 
SLAVERY is a horrible evil, so the fact that Leviticus promotes slavery is a very powerful reason to conclude that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.  But Leviticus tops even the morally disgusting promotion of slavery by encouraging slavery on the basis of PREJUDICE, namely sociocentrism, the widespread (cross-cultural) tendency of peoples and nations to believe they are better than, superior to, and more important than, OTHER peoples or nations.  White people of European heritage justified the evil of slavery in the USA on the basis of the sociocentric PREJUDICE that white Europeans are smarter and morally superior to black Africans,  and thus that it was a good thing for white people to own black people and treat them as slaves, and as sub-humans.  We can see the roots of this rationalization of slavery here in Chapter 25 of Leviticus.  It is NOT OK for Israelites to treat other Israelites like slaves, like property, and it is NOT OK for Israelites to treat other Israelites “with harshness”, but it IS OK to treat foreign people as slaves, as property, and to treat them “with harshness”, according to Leviticus.
Sociocentrism is not just a problem for the Israelites, it is a serious problem for all or nearly all peoples and nations.  This is a great human evil that the book of Leviticus promotes, especially in Chapter 25.  This SHIT in Leviticus polluted and corrupted the minds of white Europeans, because they were already naturally inclined towards sociocentrism, and the Holy Book of Judaism and Christianity blessed these evils in their minds and societies.  It blessed the evil of SLAVERY, and it blessed the PREJUDICE upon which slavery is based.  Chapter 25 of Leviticus provides a very powerful and conclusive reason, all by itself, to reject the now obviously absurd claim that Leviticus was inspired by a perfectly good and perfectly wise person (i.e. God).
 
CONCLUSION
The following two claims have been established beyond any reasonable doubt:

5. Leviticus contains bad moral guidelines.
6. Leviticus contains bad laws and bad social guidelines.

Because Leviticus is clearly filled from stem to stern with bad moral guidelines, bad laws, and bad social guidelines, it is obvious to any objective and clearheaded person that Leviticus was NOT inspired by God.

Death By Tire Fire: A Brief History Of “Necklacing” In Apartheid South Africa – by Mark Oliver

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 4: More Problems with Objection TRF5

WHERE WE ARE
TRF5 is the fifth objection presented by Josh McDowell against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF).
The objection TRF5 can be stated in terms of a brief argument:

1. Hallucinations REQUIRE that a person who has an hallucination of circumstance C previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, to which the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

3. After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to Jesus’ disciples having experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead, his disciples did NOT have a hopeful expectation or wish that Jesus would rise from the dead and be alive again.

THEREFORE:

4. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the experiences of Jesus’ disciples of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead were NOT hallucinations. 

In Part 3 of this series, I argued that there were at least three problems with premise (1) of this argument:

PROBLEM #1: McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

PROBLEM #2: Other apologists who make this objection also provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

PROBLEM #3: The psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 is clearly and obviously FALSE.

Those problems are sufficient to show that TRF5 is a weak and defective objection against the Hallucination Theory, and that it FAILS to refute, or even to seriously damage, the Hallucination Theory.
 
A MODIFICATION OF PREMISE (1)
It appears, however, that McDowell at some point realized that premise (1) of his argument was FALSE, because he modified that premise in the more recent presentation of this objection in his book Evidence for the Resurrection (hereafter: EFR).  McDowell revised the psychological generalization that he bases this objection upon so that it was no longer obviously FALSE:

A fourth principle is that hallucinations usually come to people with an anticipating spirit or hopeful expectancy that causes their wishes to become the stimulus of the hallucinatory illusion. (EFR, p.209, emphasis added)

Now instead of “hopeful expectancy” about a circumstance C being REQUIRED (i.e. being a necessary condition) for the production of an hallucination in which circumstance C occurs or is confirmed, the generalization is significantly weakened to the idea that this is USUALLY the case with hallucinations.  So, the fact that hallucinations are often unpleasant or frightening is no longer a clearcut counterexample to the psychological generalization.
We can modify premise (1) of the above argument to reflect this significant modification of the original psychological “principle” that was stated in TRF:

1a. It is USUALLY the case that when a person has an hallucination that seems to be of circumstance C (or that seems to confirm circumstance C), that person has previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, so that the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment of that wish (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

 
PROBLEMS WITH PREMISE (1a)
PROBLEM #1: The qualified version of this psychological generalization in EFR is VAGUE.
What does “usually” mean?  Because of this qualification, premise (1a) is VAGUE.  Does it mean that such hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 50%” of hallucinations?  or that such hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 60%” of hallucinations? or “more than 70% of hallucinations”? or “more than 80% of hallucinations”? or “more than 90%” of hallucinations?
If the claim is merely that hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 50%” of hallucinations, then this principle is too weak to be of any significance in this context.  If the claim is merely that hopeful expectancy precedes an hallucination in “more than 60%” of hallucinations, then this principle is still too weak to be of significance.
In order for objection TRF5 to be a strong objection against the Hallucination Theory, I would expect the psychological generalization or principle to be at least in the 90% range, so that hopeful expectancy of circumstance C precedes at least 90% of hallucinations in which circumstance C seems to occur in the hallucination (or in which circumstance C seems to be confirmed in the hallucination).  For example, if only about 80% of hallucinations have this character, then that means that about 20% of hallucinations (2 out of 10 hallucinations) LACK this character.  That would make this a fairly WEAK objection to the Hallucination Theory.
PROBLEM #2: Because ZERO EVIDENCE was provided to support this psychological generalization, we have no reasonable basis for clarifying the meaning of the VAGUE term “usually”.
Because McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists have provided ZERO EVIDENCE from psychological studies or experts in support of his psychological generalization, we have no clue how to interpret the VAGUE term “usually”.    Given that there are no facts provided in support of the claim, the term “usually” might well mean only that “more than 50%” of hallucinations have this character of being preceded by a hopeful expectancy of the circumstance that seems to occur (or be confirmed) in the hallucination.
Furthermore, since it is clear that McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists MADE NO EFFORT to study scientific articles and books about hallucinations authored by recognized psychological experts, McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists had NO FACTUAL DATA in front of them to shape their own understanding of the strength of the term “usually” in the psychological generalization upon which TRF5 is based.  They basically just made this claim up without having any actual facts or data.  This psychological generalization is pure bullshit.  So, they themselves might well have no clue as to how to clarify the meaning of the term “usually” in this context.
Since they have NO FACTUAL DATA to support their psychological generalization, they have no justification for making even the very weak claim that “more than 50%” of hallucinations have the character that they claim.
PROBLEM #3: It is OBVIOUS that a significant portion of hallucinations are NOT based upon “hopeful expectancy” and “wishes”, so the qualifier “usually” cannot be stronger than something like “about 70 percent of hallucinations” are based upon hopeful expectancy and wishes.
Because we are all aware that hallucinations are often unpleasant or frightening, it is VERY UNLIKELY that the strong claim that “more than 90%” of hallucinations are the result of a hopeful expectation of circumstances that the hallucination appears to manifest or confirm.  At most, it might be the case that the term “usually” can be interpreted as meaning that “about 70%” of hallucinations have this character.  But in that case objection TRF5 is a rather WEAK objection, since it allows that about 3 out of 10 hallucinations LACK this specified character.
Furthermore, since McDowell and his fellow apologists have no facts or data to support even the much weaker claim that “more than 50%” of hallucinations were the result of previous “hopeful expectancy” or “wishes” in the mind of the person who has the hallucination, the claim that “about 70%” of hallucinations have this character is very dubious.  So, if we clarify “usually” to mean that “about 70%” of hallucinations have this character, then objection TRF5 has at least two different dubious aspects: (1) the assumption that this psychological generalization is true, and (2) even if it were true it is too weak to constitute a strong objection against the Hallucination Theory.
I have not been able to find data about what proportion of hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.  But clearly even if most hallucinations are pleasant and NOT frightening, “bad trips” occur often when people use hallucinogenic drugs, so we can reasonably infer that a significant portion of drug-induced hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.
I have, however, found some data on the prevalence of bad dreams, which supports the view that a significant portion of hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.  Dreams and hallucinations are different phenomena, but in both of these phenomena our minds and imaginations appear to draw upon our previous experiences and feelings to generate visual and emotional experiences that seem real but that are purely subjective.  If a significant portion of our dreams are unpleasant or frightening, then it is reasonable to infer that a significant portion of hallucinations are probably unpleasant or frightening, especially given that we already know that “bad trips” or unpleasant or frightening hallucinations often occur when people take hallucinogenic drugs.
NIGHTMARES ARE COMMON
Psychologists usually distinguish between “nightmares” and “bad dreams”.  Nightmares are basically bad dreams that result in the dreamer waking up. Nightmares are a fairly common experience, especially for children.  One out of four children have nightmares more than once a week:

Children ages 8 to 14 report having had 11 nightmares (on average) in the previous year:

 
But nightmares are also common for college students:

College students report having had 9 nightmares (on average) in the past year:

So, both children (ages 8 to 14) and college students report that they had roughly 10 nightmares in the past year.  However, when children (aged 8 to 14) kept daily journals of their dreams, they recorded an average of about 1 nightmare in two weeks, and when college students kept daily journals of their dreams, they too recorded an average of about 1 nightmare in two weeks.  That means that both children and college students seriously under report the number of nightmares they had for the past year.  Based on daily dream journals, both children and college students have about two dozen nightmares a year, on average:
Adults aged 40 and above report having far fewer nightmares a year than what children and college students report:

However, given that both children and college students seriously under report the number of nightmares they had in the past year, adults 40 and older probably also under report the number of nightmares they had in the past year.  In any case, up to 85% of adults report having had at least one nightmare in the past year, and between 8% and 29% report having monthly nightmares, and between 2% and 6% of adults report having weekly nightmares:

A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF DREAMS ARE BAD DREAMS
Nightmares are fairly common, but since all nightmares are bad dreams, but some bad dreams are NOT nightmares (because some bad dreams don’t result in the dreamer waking up), it follows that there are more bad dreams than nightmares, and thus that bad dreams are even more common than nightmares.
One scientific experiment about bad dreams involved waking several subjects up several times each night and then asking them if they remember dreaming and if so whether they experienced fear in the dream.  The results of this experiment showed that a significant portion of the remembered dreams were “bad dreams” in that the dreamer felt fear in the dream.  Here is an excerpt from the article describing some results of that experiment:

In this experiment there was a total of 66 dream reports where the subject remembered the content of his/her dream. In 26 of those dream reports the subject reports the experience of fear in the dream (in about 39% of dreams), and in 40 of the dream reports, the subject reports not having fear (in about 61% of dreams).  So, in this experiment about 4 out of 10 dreams involved the experience of fear, and about 6 out of 10 dreams did NOT involve the experience of fear.  Since the experience of fear in a dream generally correlates with having a “bad dream”, about 4 out of 10 dreams in this experiment were bad dreams.
Because this experiment only involved a small number of subjects, we cannot confidently infer that in general 4 out of 10 dreams that people have are bad dreams.  However, this scientific data does confirm what was already a plausible hypothesis based on ordinary experience: people often have bad dreams, and it is reasonable to infer that a significant portion of our dreams are bad dreams, are dreams that are unpleasant or frightening.
Given that people who take hallucinogenic drugs often have “bad trips”, we can reasonably infer that a significant portion of drug-induced hallucinations are unpleasant or frightening.  And given the additional assumption that a significant portion of dreams are “bad dreams” (i.e. involve unpleasant or frightening experiences), we have very good reason to suspect that a significant portion of hallucinations in general are of an unpleasant or frightening character.  Thus, we have very good reason to suspect that a significant portion of hallucinations in general are NOT the result of “hopeful expectancy” or “wishes” on the part of the person who had the hallucination, even if it were true that MOST hallucinations (i.e. more than 50% of them) are the result of “hopeful expectancy” or “wishes” on the part of the person who had the hallucination.
PROBLEM #4: Given that we should interpret “usually” as meaning something no stronger than “about 70% of hallucinations” are based upon hopeful expectancy or wishes, the conclusion of objection PF5 must be seriously revised to make a much weaker claim.
The psychological generalization that “about 70% of hallucinations” are based on hopeful expectancy or wishes, means that as much as 30% or three out of ten hallucinations are NOT based on hopeful expectancy or wishes.  But if three out of ten hallucinations are NOT based on hopeful expectancy or wishes, then  objection PF5 is very weak and not only FAILS to “refute” the Hallucination Theory, but also FAILS to show it to be highly improbable.
 
 
PROBLEMS WITH PREMISE (2)
Premise (2) is a general historical claim that must be shown to be TRUE in order for objection TRF5 to be a strong objection:

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

Premise (2) summarizes many beliefs that Christians have about who among Jesus’ disciples had experiences that seemed to them to be of a living, physical, risen Jesus, and when and where those experiences occurred, and about the specific content of those alleged experiences.  I myself do not accept any of those beliefs as being FACTS.  Every one of those beliefs is a conclusion that is based on passages from the gospels or from some other NT writings.
I do NOT view the gospels or the writings of the NT to be historically reliable documents.  They are sketchy and unreliable documents.  So, all of these conclusions about the ALLEGED experiences of Jesus’ disciples that allegedly seemed to be of a living, physical, risen Jesus are based on sketchy and dubious evidence, in my view.  There are many such beliefs that Christians have, so carefully reviewing all of the relevant claims or beliefs and discussing the NT evidence and the reasoning upon which they are based would be a rather long and time-consuming task.
I will not attempt to perform that task here and now.  However, the burden of proof rests on Christian apologists here.  It is NOT sufficient to merely point to some Gospel passage, and conclude that the events described in that passage are actual historical events that are accurately described in that Gospel passage.  As the Christian apologist William Craig once said,

Far from being easy, historical apologetics, if done right, is every bit as difficult as philosophical apologetics.  The only reason most people think historical apologetics to be easier is because they do it superficially.  (Reasonable Faith, revised edition, p. 253)

Premise (2) requires a lot of clarification, in terms of the specific historical claims behind it, concerning specific people allegedly having specific experiences at specific times and places, and these various specific claims each needs to be carefully supported with extensive evidence and arguments.  Nothing like that is provided in any of the works of apologetics that make use of objection TRF5.  So, as far as I am concerned premise (2) remains both VAGUE and DUBIOUS.  There is no good reason to believe premise (2) is true, at least not in the works of apologetics that I have mentioned here as works that make use of TRF5.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 3: The “No Expectancy” Objection

WHERE WE ARE
I generally argue in defense of the Apparent Death Theory, not in order to prove it to be TRUE, but in order to show that this skeptical theory about the alleged resurrection of Jesus is still viable and that the objections raised against  it by Christian apologists FAIL to refute it.  However, I am now in the process of arguing in defense of the Hallucination Theory and am arguing that the objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor (1981; herafter: TRF) are weak and defective, and that McDowell FAILS to refute this skeptical theory.
Here are McDowell’s seven objections in TRF against the Hallucination Theory:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I argued that Objection 1 (Only Certain People) is clearly defective and FAILS.
In Part 2 of this series I argued that Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough) both FAIL miserably.
 
THE FOUR REMAINING OBJECTIONS
I have quickly eliminated three of McDowell’s seven objections to the Hallucination Theory.  That leaves us with four more objections to consider.  I have plucked the low hanging fruit first, eliminating the most obviously weak and defective objections.  My impression is that McDowell’s remaining four objections are also weak and defective, but they deserve a closer examination than Objection 1, Objection 3, and Objection 6, and I expect that it will require more work on my part to show that the remaining four objections also FAIL to refute the Hallucination Theory.
I think the most important objections, and perhaps the objections that will require the most effort by me to show they FAIL, are Objection 2 (Very Personal), and Objection 7 (Doesn’t Match the Facts).  So, I will deal with those objections last.  I expect Objection 4 (No Favorable Circumstances) and Objection 5 ( No Expectancy) to require a medium level of effort to show that they FAIL, and I suspect that Objection 5 will be the easiest of the remaining objections for me to deal with.
So, the order that I plan to address the remaining four objections is this (I am labelling them “TRF” because I plan to refer to objections from other books as well):

TRF5: No Expectancy

TRF4: No Favorable Circumstances

TRF7: Doesn’t Match the Facts

TRF2: Very Personal

These objections are also presented by Josh McDowell (and his son Sean) in the more recently published book Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, see pages 206-211; hereafter: EFR).  You can see how the objections in EFR line up with the objections in TRF in the following chart:

TRF5: THE “NO EXPECTANCY” OBJECTION
McDowell summarizes a number of his objections against the Hallucination Theory this way:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

 If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence firmly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for an hallucination to occur.

In order to provide evidence firmly supporting claims of this form, McDowell should consult hundreds, or at least dozens, of peer-reviewed books and journal articles by people who are recognized experts in psychology, preferably by psychologists who have specialized in the scientific study of hallucinations, or in the scientific study of mental diseases or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  But we shall soon see that McDowell (and his fellow Christian apologists) clearly MADE NO EFFORT to investigate such articles and books on this subject.
Here is how McDowell presents the “No Expectancy” objection to the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

A fifth principle is that hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy which causes their wishes to become father of their thoughts and hallucinations.  As we look at the disciples, the last thing they expected was a resurrection.  They thought Christ had been crucified, buried. …That was the end of it.   (TRF, p.85-86, ellipses were in the original text)

This objection against the Hallucination Theory is also presented by McDowell in Evidence For the Resurrection (as objection #4  on page 209), as well as in Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 252 of the Revised Edition), and in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 277).
This objection to the Hallucination Theory is used by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Handbook of Christian Apologetics (as objection #7 on page 187), by William Craig in The Son Rises (as objection #3 on pages 120 and 121), and by Gary Habermas in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories” (objection #1 on page 5).  Habermas also uses this objection in his interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ (see page 239).
This objection is also used by J.N.D. Anderson in A Lawyer Among the Theologians (see pages 92 and 93), by Murray Harris in Raised Immortal (see page 61), as well as by Winfried Corduan in No Doubt About It (on page 221), by Hank Hanegraaff in Resurrection (on page 46 he quotes Gary Habermas from the interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ), and by Paul Little in Know Why You Believe (objection #5 on page 56 of the 3rd edition).
McDowell’s reasoning here in TRF can be spelled out in a brief argument:

1. Hallucinations REQUIRE that a person who has an hallucination of circumstance C previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, to which the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

3. After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to Jesus’ disciples having experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead, his disciples did NOT have a hopeful expectation or wish that Jesus would rise from the dead and be alive again.

THEREFORE:

4. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the experiences of Jesus’ disciples of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead were NOT hallucinations. 

The logic of this argument is fine.  However, I would contend that each one of the premises of this argument is problematic, so TRF5 FAILS.  I will argue that premise (1) is clearly false, that an improved version of premise (1) is dubious, that premise (2) is dubious, and that premise (3) is  dubious.  Furthermore, I will argue that IF premise (3) were true, THEN this would give us a powerful reason to reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
 
PROBLEMS WITH  PREMISE (1)
PROBLEM #1: McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.
Josh McDowell FAILS to provide ANY significant evidence in support of the psychological generalization that he asserts in objection TRF5:

  • In The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence for the Resurrection, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Revised edition), McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.

McDowell provides thirteen quotations in support of TRF5 in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and also in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, but NONE of the quotations is from an expert in psychology.  They are all quotes from ministers, evangelists, theologians, biblical scholars, and Christian apologists.
It is crystal clear that McDowell made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to read or study scientific articles or books about hallucinations written by psychological experts.  Therefore, his claim that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” that “hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy” has ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS in fact, as far as the intellectually lazy Josh McDowell is aware.*
Sadly, the same unmitigated ignorance of the scientific literature about hallucinations appears to be the case with McDowell’s fellow Christian apologists.
PROBLEM #2: Other apologists who make this objection also provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

  • Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
  • William Craig provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book The Son Rises.
  • J.N.D. Anderson provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book A Lawyer Among the Theologians.
  • Murray Harris provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Raised Immortal.
  • Winfried Corduan provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book No Doubt About It.
  • Hank Hanegraaff provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Resurrection.
  • Paul Little provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Know Why You Believe (3rd edition).
  • Gary Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories“.

It should be noted that Gary Habermas, alone among these Christian apologists, does quote from a bona fide psychologist, named Gary Collins, in his interview by Lee Strobel.  However, the quote is NOT from a peer-reviewed article or book, but from personal correspondence from Gary Collins. Furthermore, Gary Collins is a devout Evangelical Christian who was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where the Christian apologist Dr. William Craig also taught, so Collins is clearly a biased source of information on this subject.
Furthermore, Gary Collins specializes in Christian Counseling, and he appears to have no particular expertise in the study of hallucinations, nor in the study of mental illnesses or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  Finally, the quote is about the obvious point that hallucinations are subjective in nature (a point that requires no psychological expertise because this is a conceptual point that requires only a good understanding of the meaning of the word “hallucination” in the English language).  The quotation of Collins by Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the specific psychological generalization asserted as part of objection TRF5.
PROBLEM #3: The psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 is clearly and obviously FALSE.
There is actually no need to consult the scientific literature on hallucinations (which NONE of the above apologists made any effort to do), because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE, it is extremely unlikely that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization.  In any case, even if “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization, that wouldn’t change the fact that the generalization is FALSE.
Frightening Hallucinations
I can only recall one time in my life when I experienced an hallucination.  I was a young child (a toddler?); I was sick and had a fever.  I remember looking around in my room, and being frightened because the whole room was filled with fish and sharks swimming around in it.  This was an hallucination presumably caused by my sickness and fever.  We all know that hallucinations can be frightening, like this hallucination that I experienced as a young child. So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.  As a young child I had no hopeful expectation or wish to spend the night underwater in the presence of large hungry sharks!
We all know that there are such things as “bad trips” that can occur when someone uses a mind-altering drug.  Evangelical Christians have been obsessed with opposition to “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” for decades.  Many of them have come to embrace rock-n-roll, but still froth at the mouth when talking about drugs and sex.  So, if anyone is aware that drugs can sometimes cause “bad trips”, it is Evangelical Christians.  But a “bad trip” often includes unpleasant or frightening hallucinations.  For example, the man who discovered LSD relates a “bad trip” experience he had:

One of the earliest documented bad trips was reported by Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD. He had started experiencing a bad trip, and in an attempt to soothe himself, requested some milk from his next-door neighbor, who appeared to have become “a malevolent, insidious witch.”  (“What is a Bad Trip?” by Elizabeth Hartney)

We all know that hallucinations can be unpleasant or frightening, because we all know that mind-altering drugs can sometimes result in a “bad trip”.  So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.
Evangelical Christians are very well aware of this fact about hallucinations.  So, if Josh McDowell, or any of the Christian apologists who follow him in his complete ignorance about the scientific literature on hallucinations had simply thought seriously about the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 for a few minutes, they probably would have come to the realization that it is CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY FALSE.  But in addition to being completely ignorant about the scientific literature on hallucinations, McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists apparently were also uninterested in giving any serious thought to the question of whether the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 was true.  So, this objection is not only WITHOUT ANY FACTUAL BASIS, but it also reveals a complete lack of critical thought among Christian apologists, at least on this important issue.
 
CONCLUSION
I have more problems to discuss with objection TRF5, but the above problems are more than sufficient to show that objection TRF5 FAILS, and that this objection does NOT refute, or even significantly damage, the Hallucination Theory.
 
To Be Continued…
 
*McDowell does include ONE reference to ONE book by a psychologist (Outline of Psychiatric Case-Study by Paul William Peru), but he does NOT provide any quotations from that book, and the book was published in 1939, so it does not represent the state of the art in the scientific study of hallucinations.
Furthermore, I have read the three pages of Peru’s book that McDowell references (pages 97 to 99), and in those pages Peru does NOT assert the psychological generalization that PF5 is based on, nor does Peru provide evidence in support of that generalization, and in fact those three pages are filled primarily with QUESTIONS that Peru thinks a psychologist should ask a patient who seems to be experiencing, or seems to have experienced, an hallucination.  Peru does NOT make any relevant psychological generalizations about the causes of hallucinations in those pages.  So, McDowell just made this generalization up (or perhaps he accepted this empirical claim on the basis of the pseudo authority of an evangelist, minister, theologian, bible scholar, or Christian apologist who lacks expertise in the field of psychology).
=========================
Christian Apologetics books referenced in this post:
Norman Anderson, A Lawyer Among the Theologians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1973, first American edition published February 1974)
Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997)
William Craig, The Son Rises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981)
Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville, Tennessee: Word Publishing, 2000)
Murray Harris, Raised Immortal (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1983, this American edition published in 1985)
Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994)
Paul Little, Know Why You Believe, expanded and updated by Marie Little (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 3rd edition 1988)
Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Revised Edition (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1979)
Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1981)
Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999)
Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998)

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 2: More Objections to the Hallucination Theory

In The Resurrection Factor (1981; hereafter: TRF), Josh McDowell raises seven objections against the Hallucination Theory, a skeptical theory that explains the origin of the early Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead in terms of one or more of his followers having an “hallucination” (or non-veridical sensory experience) of Jesus being alive sometime after Jesus was crucified.  The report or reports of this/these experience(s) became, according to the Hallucination Theory, the erroneous source of the Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
Here are his seven objections against the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 of this series I argue that McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, because his objection works, at best, against one particular version of the Hallucination Theory, but does NOT work against another important version of the Hallucination Theory (namely, the view that reports of dream experiences of a living Jesus after his crucifixion, resulted in the early Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead).
A second problem with McDowell’s first objection is that he gives NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER to support his psychological claim that

…only particular kinds of person have hallucinations–usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals… (TRF, p.84)

He doesn’t quote any psychological expert or any authoritative psychology reference work, nor does he provide even a single footnote pointing to some book or article that supports this claim.  We are just supposed to take this assertion to be a fact because some dimwitted Christian apologist tells us that this is a “fact”. You would think that someone who went to law school would have a clue that psychological generalizations need to be backed up with empirical evidence, not just asserted by someone who has no established expertise in psychology.

The term “schizophrenia” was coined by Eugen Bleuler.

So, McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory FAILS because (a) it is based on a questionable and baseless factual generalization, and (b) even if the generalization was completely true and accurate it has no relevance to at least one important version of the Hallucination Theory, namely the view that dream experiences of a living Jesus (after his crucifixion) led to the Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
TWO MORE REALLY CRAPPY OBJECTIONS
The fact that McDowell’s very first objection FAILS is a sign of the complete FAILURE that is to come as his objections continue.
Two of the remaining objections are particularly crappy.  In fact, they are so crappy that even McDowell was able to eventually see that they were crappy, and toss them out.  In his much more recent book on the resurrection of Jesus, called Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, co-authored with Sean McDowell, Regal Books; hereafter: EFR), McDowell eliminates two of the seven objections from The Resurrection Factor: Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough).  These two objections stink like a steaming pile of dog shit, so I’m not surprised that McDowell tossed them out.
Most of the seven objections in TRF fall under the following general description:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

This seems questionable on its face.  I’m skeptical that most psychological experts agree that “various conditions…must be present” for hallucinations to occur.  If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory based on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence strongly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for a hallucination to occur.

Would it surprise you to find out that McDowell provides ZERO such evidence?  In other words, he NEVER provides ANY evidence in support of his various psychological generalizations that are the basis of most of his objections against the Hallucination Theory.  I hope that McDowell did not ever actually practice law, because he would have tried to prove the guilt (or innocence) of accused persons without ever bothering to provide factual evidence to support his case.
This problem alone means that McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, or at least that most of his objections against this theory FAIL.
Objection 3 (A False Response) is in even worse shape than his other psychological-generalization objections.  McDowell speaks of this objection as being based on such a psychological generalization:

Another principle is that an illusion is an erroneous perception or a false response to sense stimulation. (TRF, p.85)

McDowell is making a conceptual point here, but is confusing this point with being an empirical psychological generalization.  First of all, he fucks up by using the word “illusion”.  Like dreams, EVERYBODY can see illusions.  Illusions are not generally the result of mental illness.  So, he used the wrong word here. The issue is about “hallucinations” NOT about “illusions”.  So, if he did not have his head up his ass, McDowell would have said “an hallucination is an erroneous perception…”  and that would be a correct statement.
But this is merely an analysis of the meaning of the word “hallucination”; this is NOT a psychological generalization or fact that can help us evaluate the Hallucination Theory.  Clearly McDowell would agree that experiences of a living Jesus had by followers of Jesus after the crucifixion would have been “perceptions”, so he is not rejecting that aspect of the concept of an “hallucination”.  That means that he is rejecting the qualification “erroneous”.  But in doing so, McDowell blatantly BEGS THE QUESTION.
The whole point of the Hallucination Theory is to support the skeptical idea that the early Christian belief that Jesus was literally seen by his followers to be actually and physically alive was FALSE, that is to say “erroneous”.  But to object to the Hallucination Theory because it implies that this Christian belief is wrong is to obviously BEG THE QUESTION against this skeptical theory.
McDowell does not need to provide any factual or empirical evidence to support the “principle” behind Objection 3, because (contrary to his confused thinking) he is NOT asserting a useful psychological generalization in this objection; rather he is merely pointing to a reasonable analysis or definition of the term “hallucination”, and then objecting to applying this term to early Christian experiences, because that implies those experiences to be FALSE or “erroneous”.  We should toss Objection 3 aside, just like McDowell himself did, because it clearly BEGS THE QUESTION, and is therefore an intellectual piece of dogshit that we must scrape off our shoes.
Objection 6 (Not Enough Time), unlike Objection 3, does rely on a psychological generalization or principle:

Hallucinations usually occur over a long period of time with noticeable regularity. (TRF, p.86)

First, this is an UNCLEAR generalization.  The term “usually” is VAGUE, and the phrase “a long period of time” is VAGUE, as is the phrase “noticeable regularity”.
Does “usually” mean “more than 50% of the time” or “more than 60% of the time” or “more than 70% of the time” or…?
Is an hour a “long period of time”? Is a day a “long period of time”? a week? a month? a year? a decade?
What kind of “noticeable regularity” is McDowell talking about?

  • Time of day? (Does the experience always happen just after 5pm?)
  • Physical circumstances? (Does the experience always happen when the person is hungry? or sleepy? or cold?)
  • Emotional circumstances? (Does the experience always happen when the person is angry? or sad? or anxious? or joyous?)
  • Sensory content of the experience? (Does the experience always include a bright flash? a blue tint? a loud noise? the sound of a door creaking?)
  • Significance of the experience? (Does the experience always include seeing your mother smile? hearing your sister sing? seeing someone you love be injured or killed?).

This VAGUE and UNCLEAR principle is worthless for evaluating the Hallucination Theory.
A second problem here is that McDowell provides ZERO evidence in support of this psychological generalization.  There is no good reason to believe that this principle is a fact or that it is a generalization that is widely accepted by psychological experts.
A third problem, is that this psychological generalization seems dubious on its face.  It seems like similar hallucinations sometimes occur only once or twice to a person in one day or one week, sometimes similar hallucinations occur several times for a few weeks and then stop, and sometimes similar hallucinations occur over and over again for a period of months.  It is very questionable that similar hallucinations “usually occur over a long period of time”, particularly if “usually” means “more than 80% of the time”. (If “usually” here means only “more than 50% of the time” or “more than 60% of the time”, then this objection would be extremely weak).
Finally, McDowell provides ZERO evidence that the experiences of early Christians of Jesus being alive (after the crucifixion) did NOT “occur over a long period of time”.  The NT might not report the occurrence of such experiences as happening several months after the crucifixion of Jesus, but that does NOT mean that no such experiences happened several months after the crucifixion of Jesus (duh!).
How would one provide strong evidence for this negative claim?  Suppose the author of Acts boldly asserts:  “There were no more appearances of the risen Jesus that occurred more than two months after the crucifixion.”  Why should we believe this assertion to be true?  Even if we take the author of Acts to be honest and to be aware of many events in the Jerusalem community of the first generation of Christians in the months following the crucifixion, how could one person have exhaustive knowledge of the personal experiences of hundreds or thousands of early Christian believers?
Objection 6 is about as crappy and as worthless as Objection 3.  We should toss Objection 6 aside, just like McDowell himself did, because it is so weak and FAILS so clearly, and is therefore an intellectual piece of dogshit that we must scrape off our shoes.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 1: The Hallucination Theory

On the issue of the alleged resurrection of Jesus, I usually argue in defense of the Apparent Death Theory.
I do this NOT because I believe that the Apparent Death Theory is true, but in order to show that, contrary to the claim of Christian apologists, the Apparent Death Theory is a viable theory, that there is a significant chance that it is true, and that it has NOT been disproven by Christian apologists.
One cannot prove that Jesus rose from the dead.  But one also cannot prove that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross, and that his being seen alive after the crucifixion was the result of his surviving his crucifixion.  Nor can one prove ANY of the skeptical/naturalistic theories to be true.
The basic problem is that the evidence we have is very sketchy and very dicey,  so it is insufficient to prove ANYTHING about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus:

  • We don’t know if Jesus actually existed.
  • We don’t know who actually wrote the Gospels.
  • The Gospels were probably written decades after the events they describe.
  • The Gospels are written in Greek by literate educated authors, but Jesus and his disciples probably spoke Aramaic, and were probably uneducated and illiterate.
  • The Gospels provide conflicting stories and details in general.
  • The Gospels provide conflicting stories and details about the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection appearances of Jesus.
  • We know very little about the traditional “authors” of the Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
  • The Gospels were written by religious Christians who were trying to promote Christian beliefs.
  • The Gospels are at best historically unreliable accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, and are possibly fictional stories about a fictional character named “Jesus”.

Because of the sketchy and dicey nature of the evidence we possess concerning Jesus, it cannot be proven that Jesus existed, and it cannot be proven that Jesus died on the cross.  However, IF we assume that Jesus existed, and IF we assume that the Gospels are not purely fictional but contain some historical information that can be gleaned by means of careful critical analysis, THEN it would be possible to show that one of the skeptical theories was probable, or that one of the skeptical theories was improbable.  It might also be possible to show that a disjunction of various skeptical theories was probable (“Either skeptical theory A or B or C is true.”), or that such a disjunction of skeptical theories was improbable.
Christian apologists attempt to “refute” skeptical theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus on the basis of questionable historical claims and assumptions.  They interpret some particular Gospel passage in a way that supports a particular historical claim, and they assume not only that their interpretation of that passage is correct, but that the author of that passage was merely recording an historical event that the author observed first hand, or that some reliable eyewitness conveyed that observation directly to the author.  Such assumptions are gratuitous and dubious, and there are often good reasons to reject these assumptions.  As a result, every attempted “refutation” by every Christian apologist of every skeptical theory FAILS.  Or, at least every attempted “refutation” that I have read of every skeptical theory FAILS, and I have read many such attempted refutations, so I have good reason to believe that no such attempts have ever been successful.
I have focused my attention on the defense of the Apparent Death Theory, but attempts by Christian apologists to refute other skeptical theories are as weak and defective as their attempts to refute the Apparent Death Theory.  So, for this particular post (or series of posts), I will focus in on a different skeptical theory: the Hallucination Theory.
The basic idea of the Hallucination Theory is that one or more of Jesus’ followers had some sort of experience after the crucifixion of Jesus that they took to be an experience of a living Jesus.  This experience, when reported to others then became the basis for the belief among followers of Jesus that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  The Hallucination Theory further claims that the original experience or experiences of this sort were NOT actually experiences of a risen Jesus, but were dreams or hallucinations or mistaken or misleading experiences of someone other than Jesus.

My Eyes at the Moment of the Apparitions by German artist August Natterer

I have described this theory in a fairly broad and general way here, which favors the truth of this theory.   Strictly speaking, a dream is NOT an hallucination, but a dream of Jesus being alive that is interpreted by the person who had the dream to be a real experience of an actual living Jesus is very similar to the idea of a person experiencing an hallucination of Jesus and then interpreting that to be a real experience of an actual living Jesus.  So, it makes sense to include “dreams” of Jesus under the same category as “hallucinations” of Jesus, so long as such experiences were (a) interpreted as being real experiences of an actual living Jesus, and (b) reports of such experiences became the basis for the early Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
Christian apologists, however, tend to interpret the Hallucination Theory more narrowly, in order to make it easier to “refute” this theory.  It is in some ways better to define a theory narrowly, because then it is easier to think about and evaluate such a theory.  We don’t have to worry about various different possibilities and variations that are encompassed by a broader interpretation of the theory.   However, if one defines the Hallucination Theory narrowly, as Christian apologists tend to do, then this opens the door to OTHER alternative skeptical theories that are similar to the narrowly defined Hallucination Theory.  
For example, if we distinguish dreams from hallucinations, and exclude dreams of Jesus from counting as potential examples of the Hallucination Theory, then a refutation of the Hallucination Theory might well FAIL as a refutation of the alternative skeptical view that dreams of Jesus after the crucifixion became the basis of the early Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.  So, narrow definitions of the Hallucination Theory might make it easier for Christian apologists to “refute” this theory, but this comes at a significant cost to their defense of the resurrection: this opens the door to MORE skeptical theories about how belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus came about.
We can see a related problem of ambiguity in Josh McDowell’s defense of the resurrection in The Resurrection Factor (1981, Here’s Life Publishers, Inc. ; hereafter: TRF).  On the one hand, McDowell defines “hallucination” in a fairly broad way:

The American Psychiatric Association’s official glossary defines a “hallucination” as “a false sensory perception in the absence of an actual external stimulus.” The Psychiatric Dictionary defines it as “an apparent perception of an external object when no such object is present.”  (TRF, p.83)

Notice that visual experiences in dreams fit these definitions.  So, based on these broad definitions of “hallucination”, visual experiences in a dream constitute hallucinations.  Based on these broad definitions given by McDowell, the Hallucination Theory would include dream experiences of Jesus (after the crucifixion) by followers of Jesus that (a) were interpreted as being real experiences of an actual living Jesus, and (b) became the basis for the early Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.
However, as McDowell begins his attempted refutation of this theory, he immediately attacks a narrower interpretation of the Hallucination Theory:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak?
[…]
…only particular kinds of people have hallucinations–usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals, with schizophrenics being the most susceptible.  (TRF, p.84)

This objection only works against a very narrowly defined interpretation of the Hallucination Theory.  It clearly does NOT work against the theory that dream experiences of Jesus led to belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.  EVERYBODY has dreams.  Dreams are NOT exclusively experienced by “only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals”.  So, although McDowell begins his discussion of the Hallucination Theory with a very broad definition of what constitutes an “hallucination”, his very first objection against this theory assumes a much narrower interpretation of what constitutes an “hallucination”, and therefore his objection only applies to some versions of the Hallucination Theory but not to others.
McDowell’s defense of the resurrection FAILS, because his attempted refutation of the Hallucination Theory FAILS.  His attempted refutation of the Hallucination Theory FAILS because some of his objections DO NOT APPLY to versions of the Hallucination Theory that claim that dream experiences of Jesus were the basis for the early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, and the STRAW MAN fallacy here.  He initially defines the Hallucination Theory in a way that is fairly broad (and that includes dream experiences of Jesus), and then proceeds to raise objections that apply only to some particular versions of Hallucination Theory but not to others (e.g. not to versions about dream experiences of Jesus).
This is the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION because the term “Hallucination Theory” is used ambiguously by McDowell.  He attempts to refute the “Hallucination Theory” in one (narrow) sense of that term, but he claims to have refuted the “Hallucination Theory” in a different (broader) sense of the term.  This is the STAW MAN fallacy, because it is EASIER to attempt a refutation of the Hallucination Theory that is based on a narrow definition of what constitutes an “hallucination” than it is to attempt a refutation of this theory that is based on a broader definition of what constitutes an “hallucination”.
Furthermore, it is clear in the overall LOGIC of McDowell’s case that he needs to refute the Hallucination Theory that is based on his broader definition of what constitutes an “hallucination”.  McDowell categorizes some skeptical theories as being “Occupied Tomb” theories.  His complete list of “Occupied Tomb” theories includes the following five theories (see the diagram in TRF on page 83):

  1. Unknown Tomb
  2. Wrong Tomb
  3. Legend
  4. Spiritual Resurrection
  5. Hallucinations

Note that there is no Dream Theory in this list.  So, if the Hallucination Theory  is interpreted narrowly, and thus EXCLUDES dream experiences of Jesus as a possible explanation for early Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, then he has left out an important skeptical theory in this list of “Occupied Tomb” theories, and thus he has FAILED to refute all of the skeptical theories in the general category of  “Occupied Tomb” theories, and thus FAILED to refute all of the major skeptical theories.
In order for McDowell’s LOGIC to work, he must interpret the Hallucination Theory in a broad way that includes dream experiences of Jesus as an explanation for early Christian belief in the resurrection.  McDowell FAILED to present his case against the Hallucination Theory in a way that was consistent with his own broad definition of “hallucination”, and thus he FAILED to refute the Hallucination Theory, understood in this broad sense, and thus he FAILED to defend the belief that Jesus actually rose from the dead.