bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 12: Preliminary Investigation

WHERE WE ARE
I am working my way through Peter Kreeft’s 14 objections against the Hallucination Theory, the view that one or more of Jesus’s disciples experienced a hallucination or dream about Jesus after the death of Jesus, and this experience was mistakenly believed to be an ordinary sensory experience of a living and embodied Jesus who had risen from the dead, and that this experience (or those experiences) became the primary basis of the early Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  Kreeft’s objections against this theory are presented in Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA).
So, far I have shown that Kreeft’s first two objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:

OBJECTION #3: FIVE HUNDRED WITNESSES
Kreeft presents his third objection against the Hallucination Theory in a single paragraph:

The five hundred saw Christ together, at the same time and place.  This is even more remarkable than five hundred private “hallucinations” at different times and places of the same Jesus.  Five hundred separate Elvis sightings may be dismissed, but if five hundred simple fishermen in Maine saw, touched and talked with him at once, in the same town, that would be a different matter.   (HCA, p.187)

The term “witnesses” in this context has this meaning, as I have previously argued:

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

Recall that Kreeft’s second objection was that “The Witnesses were Qualified”, which turned out to mean the claim that the TESTIMONY of the WITNESSES of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus was CREDIBLE.  Kreeft’s first three objections against the Hallucination Theory are concerned with the TESTIMONY of WITNESSES, which evokes the idea of a court trial.
The idea of proving the resurrection of Jesus in a court trial has been around for at least a few centuries.  Back in 1729, Thomas Sherlock wrote a defense of the resurrection of Jesus called The Tryal of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus.   This idea is a common theme in Christian apologetics:

In his book The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell fully embraces this idea in his discussion of the alleged five hundred witnesses:

Let’s take the more than 500 witnesses who saw Jesus alive after His death and burial and place them in a courtroom.   Do you realise that if each of these 500 people were to testify only six minutes each, including cross-examination, you would have an amazing 50 hours of firstshand eyewitness testimony?  Add to this the testimony of many other eyewitnesses and you could well have the largest and most lopsided trial in history.  (The Resurrection Factor, 2005 edition, p.79)

This is a wild apologetic fantasy by McDowell, and I will throw some cold water on this fantasy right now.  There is ONLY ONE firsthand testimony of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus in the entire New Testament, namely that of Paul.  Speaking about Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and specifically about the opening verses of Chapter 15, the great New Testament scholar Raymond Brown points out Paul’s uniqueness in this regard:

…Jesus “was seen”…[by] Cephas (Peter), the Twelve, and more than 500; then James, all the apostles, and “last of all me.”  The concluding reference to himself is extremely important since Paul is the only NT writer who claims personally to have witnessed an appearance of the risen Jesus.  (An Introduction to the New Testament, 1997, p.534, emphasis added)

Paul never claims to have met or seen the historical Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, and as far as we know he never had met or seen the historical Jesus during Jesus’ earthly life, so Paul had no way to IDENTIFY anyone as being Jesus of Nazareth.  Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul’s “testimony” about seeing the risen Jesus is WORTHLESS as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Furthermore, Paul did not see the crucifixion or burial of Jesus, so Paul did not himself witness the death of Jesus.  Thus, Paul did NOT know that Jesus had in fact DIED prior to the alleged appearance of Jesus to Paul.  That means that Paul did NOT know that the person who he “saw” and who he identified as Jesus, had risen from the dead.  Thus, there is ZERO credible firsthand testimony of an appearance of the risen Jesus in the New Testament.
If we take the idea seriously of there being five hundred “witnesses” who “testify” in a court trial about having experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, this turns Objection #3 by Kreeft into a pathetic joke (as well as Objection #1 and #2).  So, that is precisely what I shall now do.
 
PREPARATION FOR A MURDER TRIAL
When a person is charged with the crime of “murder”, that is a very serious matter, because we usually punish murder severely, with the death penalty or with life in prison.  We expect that person to have a fair trial in which he or she will be vigorously defended by a competent lawyer, and we expect that the prosecuting attorney to attempt to build a strong case for the guilt of the accused person using both eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, and documentary evidence.   The accused should only be found “guilty” of murder if all twelve members of the jury are persuaded by the evidence and arguments that it is beyond reasonable doubt that the accused did in fact commit the murder in question.
Before a witness for the prosecution testifies in a murder trial, that person has already previously been interviewed two or three or more times by a police officer and/or by one or more homicide detectives.  The prosecution already has a very good idea of what that person claims to have seen (or heard, or felt, or smelled, or tasted) relative to the murder or the murderer or the victim, and thus what that witness is likely to testify during the court trial.
So, let’s back up in time, to before the trial, to the time when the investigation and interviews of witnesses are just starting.
There is typically at least a “preliminary investigation” and a “follow-up investigation” of a murder scene and of relevant eyewitnesses.
 
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SCENE OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a preliminary investigation of a crime scene (from p.14 & 15 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

An appearance by Jesus to a crowd of people was not a crime, so we would not expect there to be a criminal investigation of this event.  Nevertheless, the claim that “Jesus physically rose from the dead” is a central claim of Christianity, so whether a risen Jesus did in fact visit a crowd of people is an important issue that should be carefully investigated.

Was there a “preliminary investigator” who carefully gathered evidence from the location where this alleged appearance of Jesus occurred?

We don’t know.  However, it is highly improbable that there was a “preliminary investigator” who carefully gathered evidence from the location where this alleged appearance of Jesus occurred.  First of all, the whole idea of a “detective” who carefully investigates a crime scene and witnesses is a modern idea:

The first private detective agency was founded in Paris in 1833 by Eugène François Vidocq, who had also headed a police agency in addition to being a criminal himself. Police detective activities were pioneered in England by the Bow Street Runners and later the Metropolitan Police Service in Greater London. The first police detective unit in the United States was formed in 1846 in Boston.  (from “Detective” in Wikipedia)

So, the alleged appearance of Jesus to the crowd of five hundred people took place about 1,800 years before there were any people who were professional detectives.
Furthermore, these “witnesses” were “brethren” according to Paul (1 Corinthians 15:6), meaning that they were Christian believers.  They already believed in God, and in miracles, and that God had miraculously raised Jesus from the dead.  They were not the sort of people who would be skeptical about an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In fact, if one of them had “investigated” this event, we would have good reason to suspect that he or she was too BIASED to be an objective investigator.
Who else would carefully and objectively investigate an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus?  Non-Christian pagans would have little interest in this event.  Most pagans at that time believed in gods, ghosts, souls, magic, and other supernatural beings and forces.  They would not have been skeptical about an appearance of Jesus (although they might tend to think of the event as the appearance of a god or a ghost, rather than as the seeing of an embodied person who had previously died).
The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem generally were opposed to Christianity and wanted to suppress this religious movement, so they would not be interested in taking claims of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus seriously and doing a serious and objective investigation of such claims.  If they were really worried about stories of hundreds of witnesses to an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, they might try to hunt down and threaten or kill those witnesses, to silence them, but would not make a serious investigation into this event.

PI-B1. Did a preliminary investigator identify the person who had allegedly appeared to the crowd of five hundred people?

Probably not.  First of all, it is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this alleged event.   Second, even if there had been a preliminary investigator of this event, it is highly probable that he or she would not have investigated the event on the day it occurred, but rather some days or weeks or months later.  If there was no preliminary investigation on the day of the event, then whoever the person was who appeared to the crowd (if an actual physical person DID appear to the crowd), would have probably been long gone, so nobody could point this person out to the preliminary investigator at the time of the preliminary investigation.  The identification of this person would require descriptions and testimony from eyewitnesses who were present at the event.

PI-B2. Did a preliminary investigator determine/classify what crime or incident had occurred?

Probably not, because it is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  But if there had been a preliminary investigation, the investigator might well have tried to determine whether an actual physical man (whom some believed to be Jesus) had been visually observed by the crowd or if the experiences of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus were hallucinations or dreams or subjective visions.  Such a preliminary determination would probably be helpful to any later investigations, but because there probably was no preliminary investigator or investigation, we have no such determination to help us figure out what actually happened.

PI-B3. Did a preliminary investigator broadcast an updated description of the incident, perpetrator(s), and/or vehicle(s)?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that anyone began a preliminary investigation of this event, so it is highly improbable that anyone “broadcast” an updated description of the event, or of the man who had appeared to the crowd (whom some believed to be the risen Jesus).  Furthermore, there were no radios, telephones, cameras, video cameras, televisions, or newspapers in the first century, so “broadcasting” information about this event would be difficult, if not impossible, to do.  If some person was disguised as Jesus, or just happened to look like Jesus, and had appeared to the crowd, and then left town a short while later, it would have been difficult to track that person down, because of the lack of communication technology in the first century.

PI-B4. Did a preliminary investigator verify the identity of the witness(es)?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was any preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, if there had been a preliminary investigation, it probably did not occur on the same day as the event but took place days, weeks, or months later.
Since the five hundred people were Christian believers, they probably had gathered for a religious service or religious activity when the alleged appearance of Jesus took place.  But not everyone shows up for every religious service or every religious activity in their church or Christian community, so just being a member of that Christian community would NOT mean that one was present during this event.   Thus, it would be important for there to be a preliminary investigation on the same day as the alleged appearance, so that an accurate list of the names of people who were actually present during this event would be documented.
It would be too easy for people who were part of the local Christian community to later claim (and even believe) that they had been present during this event when they were in fact NOT present during the event.  Since it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation, and even more unlikely that someone conducted a preliminary investigation on the same day as the event or even the next day, it is extremely unlikely that anyone accurately identified and documented the names of the people who were actually present during this event.

PI-B5. Did a preliminary investigator separate witnesses and instruct them to avoid discussing details of the incident with other witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event, so it is highly improbable that anyone separated witnesses and instructed them to avoid discussing details of the incident with other witnesses.  Furthermore, the knowledge that discussion of details of an event between eyewitnesses to the event is likely to contaminate and distort the memories of those witnesses about the event is a very recent bit of scientific knowledge about the fragility of human memory.  So, even if there had been a preliminary investigator of this event, it is unlikely that the investigator would have cautioned the five hundred witnesses to avoid discussing details of the alleged appearance of Jesus with each other.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator separated witnesses and instructed them to avoid discussing details of the incident with each other.
Given that this event would have been viewed by the Christian believers who were present at the event to be a highly significant religious event, it is extremely probable that they would have discussed the details of this event with each other unless someone in a position of authority had instructed them to avoid discussing details of the event with each other.  In fact, even if there had been a preliminary investigator who instructed these Christian believers to avoid discussing details of this incident with each other, it is highly probable that they would have ignored this instruction and gone ahead and discussed the details of the event with each other.  Therefore, it is highly probable that the Christian believers who were present during this event discussed the details of the event with each other.  This is a serious problem for the credibility of any testimony of these witnesses to the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

PI-B6. Did a preliminary investigator canvass the area for other witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was any preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, since the event probably took place during a gathering of Christian believers for a religious service or religious activity, it would be very important to search for other witnesses who were NOT members of that Christian community, and thus who would NOT be subject to the religious biases and peer pressure of that Christian community.   An outsider could have provided a more objective point of view that would either confirm or disconfirm the testimony of the Christian believers who were present during the event.
A preliminary investigation is usually conducted at the scene of a crime, especially at the scene of a murder.  But it is highly improbable that a preliminary investigation took place in relation to the event where five hundred people allegedly had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  And even if there had been a preliminary investigation, it is unlikely to have satisfied the various criteria spelled out above for a proper preliminary investigation.  As noted in the guide by the National Institute of Justice, this has significant implications for any later investigation of this event:

The preliminary investigation at the scene forms a sound basis for the accurate collection of information and evidence during the followup investigation.  (Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement, p.15)

 
PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE WITNESSES OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
A very important part of a preliminary investigation of a crime concerns eyewitnesses. Here are guidelines provided by the National Institute of Justice for a preliminary investigation of eyewitnesses (from p.15 & 16 of Eyewitness Evidence: A Guide for Law Enforcement):

PI-C1. Did a preliminary investigator establish rapport with the witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Also, since there were no professional detectives around in the first century, it is unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event would know that it is important to establish rapport with a witness before and during an interview of the witness.

PI-C2. Did a preliminary investigator ask about the condition of the witness?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Also, since this would not be a criminal investigation, there would not be any particular reason to be concerned about an injury of the witness or about trauma to the witness because of having experienced a violent event.  This second question also seems closely connected to the first question.  Asking about the condition of the witness is a way to help establish rapport with the witness.
If a witness was seriously injured at the scene of a crime, then another reason to ask about the condition of the witness would be to determine if the witness was conscious and in a state of mind to be able to clearly understand and to provide reasonable answers to, questions about the crime or event in question.   That sort of question would also be relevant in the case of a witness to an alleged appearance of Jesus.  Is the witness currently in a state of mind to be able to clearly understand questions about the event and to provide reasonable answers to those questions?   There probably was no preliminary interview of any witnesses to this alleged appearance of a risen Jesus, so this question was probably not asked.  If there was a preliminary investigation of witnesses, we have no idea whether this question was asked.

PI-C3. Did a preliminary investigator ask open-ended questions; augment with closed-ended questions? and avoid leading questions?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, since there were no professional detectives around in the first century, it is unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event would know that it is important to ask questions in the manner described here and to avoid asking leading questions.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator of this event asked questions of witnesses in this manner and avoided asking leading questions.

PI-C4. Did a preliminary investigator clarify the information received with the witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  If there was a preliminary investigation, we have no idea whether the investigator clarified the information received with the witnesses.

PI-C5. Did a preliminary investigator document the information received from each witness, including the identity of each witness, in a written report?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Since most people in the first century were illiterate, even if there was a preliminary investigation of this event, the investigator probably could not write a report, and most other people would not be able to read a report if one had been written.  Since this was a matter of religious beliefs and disagreements and not a criminal investigation, it probably would not have been considered worthy of the effort to find investigators who could read and write reports of information obtained from witnesses to this event.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator documented the information received from each witness, including the identity of each witness, in a written report.

PI-C6. Did a preliminary investigator encourage the witnesses to contact investigators with any further information?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation of this event.  Furthermore, there were no telephones and no postal services available in the first century, so “contacting” an investigator in another city or town at a later date would probably be difficult to do.  A preliminary investigator would be unlikely to have significant power or authority over the witnesses (like a police detective or FBI agent has), so if there had been a preliminary investigator, that person would be unlikely to demand or even request that the witnesses contact them with further information after the investigator left the area.  So, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator encouraged the witnesses to contact investigators with any further information.

PI-C7. Did a preliminary investigator encourage the witnesses to avoid contact with the media or exposure to media accounts of the incident?

Mass media accounts of current events did NOT exist in the first century, so this question does not apply as it is worded.  However, the purposes behind this question do apply to a first-century preliminary investigation of witnesses to an event.  Gossip and word-of-mouth allowed stories about current events to spread across a city or town, and even between cities and towns.
There are a few problems with gossip spreading a story or account given by a witness to an event.  First, gossip and word-of-mouth is an unreliable way of accurately transmitting a story or account, so this means of communication creates changes and distortions to the original story.  Second, to the extent that the original story is preserved and communicated through gossip, it can influence and corrupt the memories of other potential witnesses to the event.  Similarly, listening to gossip about the event could impact and corrupt a witness’s memory of that event.  But since there were no professional detectives in the first century, an investigator into this event would be unlikely to understand the fragility of human memory, and would be unlikely to encourage witnesses to avoid communicating their stories to others (initiating gossip), and would be unlikely to encourage witnesses to avoid listening to any stories being told about the incident (exposure to gossip).

PI-C8. Did a preliminary investigator encourage witnesses to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses?

Probably not.  It is highly improbable that there was a preliminary investigator or investigation into this event.  Furthermore, there were no professional detectives in the first century, and knowledge about the fragility of human memory is a recent scientific discovery,  so even if there had been a preliminary investigator into this event, it is unlikely that the investigator would have encouraged the witnesses to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses.  Thus, it is extremely unlikely that a preliminary investigator encouraged witnesses to this event to avoid discussing details of the event with other potential witnesses.
 
CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF THE SCENE AND WITNESSES OF THE ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF JESUS TO FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE
First of all, it is highly improbable that anyone conducted a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people.
Second, if there was a preliminary investigator and a preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, it is very unlikely that this preliminary investigation satisfied the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation into an event.
Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that there was a careful and proper preliminary investigation into the scene and the witnesses of the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to five hundred people, in accordance with the above criteria for a careful and proper preliminary investigation.
 

bookmark_borderThe Forced Birth Movement Hates Real Religious Liberty – How to Use That Against Them by Making Abortion a Religious Right; Part 2

(Be sure to read Part 1 before starting this half)
The Rape Nonexception Factor
This is a good place to further explore the callous indifference of the hard right to rape that has a yet again naïve center-left wondering what is going on. In their twisted logic a woman who is truly Godly and virtuous cannot be raped to pregnancy because she will not dress or be provocative or intoxicated in a manner that entices a man to sexually assault her, and if one does he will not be able to achieve penetration because of her not being sexually aroused. In that theory only a woman who is sufficiently loose and in some way desiring the assault can be impregnated – remember if you will how during the 2012 election cycle some GOP pols made statements to this effect. The slander of women as the foolish temptresses is not at all novel, it goes back over millennia as per the story of sinful and seductive Eve and the apple. As vile as this deep patriarchal attitude appears to today’s ethical westerners, the traditional misogynist opinion was the norm in many societies until the modern feminist movement, and used to be used by defendants in rape cases. In some current societies a woman who was and claims to have been raped risks harsh penalties for her wantonness. At the theocon Liberty University female students who file a sexual assault complaint with school authorities are likely to find themselves charged with violating strict school rules banning sexual and related activity. It is the intent of many forced birthers to revive the legal concept that rape that can and does lead to impregnation is always a false claim. It follows that it is never justified to allow an abortion that resulted from a “rape” – incest included – that never truly occurred because she really wanted it.
Liberty for Godly Theocons, Ascendency over Secular Liberals
So do not be fooled, coming even close to actually stopping abortions is not the end goal of the forced birth agenda, making it legally and physically hard to do being part of a more important greater scheme. In concert with weaponizing abortion as an act worthy of criminalization, they use the sacred theme of All-American Religious Liberty to facilitate discrimination against those the religious right does not approve off, especially all those who are not life time monogamous heterosexuals, and allow theocon medical providers to deny reproductive services they do not approve of – do note that conservative calls for liberties religious and otherwise are carefully crafted to most favortheir liberties, for others not so much. Specific to the issue herein, SCOTUS has ruled in favor of red states that force abortion providers in violation of their free speech and religious rights and medical autonomy to inform clients of often false antiabortion information, while overturning blue state regulations that compel under handed forced birth clinics to openly inform their clients that they are expressly anti-abortion in nature because that breaches their free speech and religious rights. Got that one? And make divorce more difficult and less frequent. And don’t you pay any mind to how evangelicals denouncing masking and vaccines to protect schoolkids from covid yet further reveals how “prolife” Protestants do not truly care about young lives. And how the right demanding the liberty to not protect themselves, their children and others from covid as a prochoice position is directly contrary to their no choice about pregnancies.
Do observe that bringing deadly viruses to heel does nothing to bring back that old time culture. Banning abortions just might in theocon minds.
Not wanting to spill the beans when it comes to their true aims, birth enforcer theists I chat with are prone to start out saying they just want to save all the innocent preborn. When I ask why, they often claim it is murder. When I ask why they think that, they proclaim it a sin against God. After I point out the reasons that cannot be so – including how a million or so unborn naturally die off every day on the planet — they then resort to vaguely complaining about the decay of society and the need to bring the majority back to the good solid and sound traditional morals that are good for them. Exactly.
Up at the levels of the theocon power elites the protestations by Thomas, Alito and Barrett that the conservative wing of the court does not have a larger sociopolitical agenda in mind are very likely to be prove to be PR window dressing designed to mislead with comforting false assurances while they proceed to do what they need to do.
This giant sociopolitical power play centered on making abortion illegal started in the later 70s as the first born-again Baptist POTUS Jimmy Carter proved much too liberal for increasingly fearful and enraged evangelicals. To their growing horror they realized that the second rock and drug driven sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s they so loath, plus the similarly odious new wave feminism, were settling into being the national norm and their permanent sociosexual nightmare. Roe v Wade being a big part of the problem. The evangelicals and hardline Catholics had to suppress their age old acidic theological enmities to better face the growing cultural and political secular threat, and turned to their great grandfatherly hero and divorcee Reagan who rarely attended church. And liberalized abortion regulations when governor of California. Then the mediocre preppy Bushes. And now their manly man Trump who as their misogynist, racist, hard talking and chronic lying King Cyrus does their God’s will never mind his boorishly indecent, adulterous persona.
To sum up what theocons are up to, being a minority the largely white religious right is trying to force convert the nation into a theocratic Christian Dominionist republic in which the once traditional and dismally normal, and now radical and drearily oppressive, hard right mores are imposed on the majority for their own good. It is a classic and anti-democratic Tyranny of the Minority that cares not one wit about the opinions and desires and well-being of those they desire to bring to societal heel. Nor do they truly care about the legitimacy of SCOTUS among the American majority that theocons believe should all become theocons, and those who do not need to be under their wise thumb – what they do fear to some extent is a backlash of the majority that may for instance expand SCOTUS to negate a hardcore bench, but they have to sink or at least cripple RvW so they must run that risk. They cannot care because if they give any ground their project of national domination is moot. All the sincere stories by women who have had to obtain abortions often at great effort, or not been able to obtain one sometimes with terrible consequences, mean little to ardent abortion opponents no matter how trying the circumstances up to rape and incest because what happens to nonconservative women has no import to them and threatens their success (such stories are important for swaying fence sitters and rallying the troops as the help normalize the procedure). The women’s marches? They mean nothing to them. There is therefore no compromising. And to be fair the prochoice side cannot give any ground from their side when it comes to early term abortion — either women are full class citizens, or they are reproductive wards of the state once sperm merges with egg inside their no longer sovereign bodies.
The incredible, reckless extremes to which the theocons will cheerfully go have been laid bare by the Texas stratagem that employs citizens as cash collecting birth enforcers, forming a snitch society characteristic of the authoritarian regimes theocons pretend to despise as they work to set such up.
How Theocons Did It
A big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty it is. Young adults are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans. The one thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.
How We Blew It
In contrast to the theocon’s methodical and effective, offense-based operation to deny sexual and reproductive rights as part of a relentless, mammoth cultural war, the center-left has treated abortion as an important but not really extremely urgent issue that has been largely left to a weakening SCOTUS minority to take care of thank you, using the same justification utilized in RvW half a century ago without producing additional logical legal arguments. That being such a bother what when ancient Ginsberg who refused to preserve the legacy of her seat by resigning in 2013 and her liberal court comrades would take care of matters. Right? The amazing failure of a less organized and too defensive women’s right movement to push religious rights as a key need for protecting the gender from forced birth has been as illogical as it is remiss to the point of being disastrous. A basic strategy of a movement is to go on the offensive by turning a core argument and the language of the opposition into a weakness that now hurts them more than it helps. But, like most factions, liberals like to live in a comforting cultural bubble within which such internally reinforcing progressive clique code terms as personal autonomy and sexual freedom are deployed to defend reproductive rights. Such speaking to the choir dialectics have obviously not done enough to undercut the theocon argument, a new direction is badly needed. Yet in the only major opinion journal article looking at using religious freedom to defend abortion rights I know of, a brief news commentary in The Atlanticin 2016. the reluctance of the pro-choice side to utilize the Establishment Clause of the 1stAmendment due to cultural discomfort was covered, and the ensuing improbability of such ever being done observed. Liberals just don’t like all that chat about religion and liberty, that’s right wing stuff. That would be fine if abortion rights were secure. But they are not. Just repeating the same old same old to the masses and to the courts is hardly likely to recover the situation. Time to adjust tactics and talk 1stAmendment. Take the right’s terminology such as their favorite word liberty, particularly religious liberty, and throw it right back at them. As per how gays used the conservative themes of family values and marriage to seize the legal and public relations high ground. And things are changing on an informal basis – I have been noticing of late that prochoice advocates are starting to ad-hoc state that having the intimacy of their reproduction coming under the control of the religious right as a gross denial of their religious rights, something I had not heard often before if ever. It was that combined with the deteriorating national situation, the rapidly approaching SCOTUS cases, and my work on the natural mass losses of the unborn, that caused me to produce this piece.
That abortion as a 1stAmendment religious right was not inserted into Roe v Wade from the get go is as understandable as it was a long term mistake. A half century ago the illegality of abortion was seen as a relic of old fashioned Victorianism mixed with male MDs having wanted to knock midwives out of business. Most mid 20thcentury doctors were in contrast horrified by the constant stream of women into the health care system suffering from botched abortions, with some 200 dying each year. And among religious sects only the Roman Church was consistently forced birth, Protestants being all over the map even among the evangelicals. So there was little or no thought given to addressing the religious issues back in the day. Since then forced birth has moved to front and center to the CathoProtestant theoconservative struggle to reorder the national society, and it is nearly entirely their thing. And the reliance on one section of the Constitution, the 14thAmendment, has proven dangerously narrow. So hitting back by going on the attack when it comes to the religious and health aspects of the confrontation has become obvious and imperative.
How to Win
I am not a lawyer, but one does not have to be one to know that a basic legal strategy is too present a case that is broad-based and multi-faceted as possible. For one thing, that maximizes the possibility that at least some or one the arguments seals the legal deal and wins the day. Even better, multiple lines of argument can reinforce one another, making the entire package more difficult to dismiss. Consider the following. A possible fear of citing religious freedom as a defense of abortion rights is that theocons could then use that precedent to promote religious freedom as justifying discrimination against the LGTBQ, and those seeking reproductive services. But that premise is weak because of the lack of harm to the bigot. When someone does not want to provide service to a person who is not a monogamous heterosexual, they are not actually physically harmed if they are compelled by law to do so. For example, if — as once was very common — a person holds a sincere belief that blacks or Jews are in some manner defective in the eyes of God, and that justifies their refusal to treat the latter equal to whites, then having to do so because of the Civil Rights Act does not result in real damage being done to the bigot. So the CRA is constitutional. If a pregnant woman is forced to go through her entire pregnancy, then she may die or be badly injured – hundreds die from pregnancy in a given year, compared to about a dozen from early term abortions. Medical exemptions that allow those threatened with injury or death to terminate pregnancies is far from sufficient because such often is not apparent until late in the pregnancy, when an abortion is itself risky to the mother. And her risk of serious mental distress from a long term pregnancy is many times higher. The medical risks of pregnancy alone are sufficient to ban forced birth. But the combined religious, privacy, and medical rights of persons to not be pregnant (however they became so) are most powerful when they are used to support one another.
If theists proclaim it is their religious right to not aid reproductive practices they think a God rejects, then by that criteria a pregnant woman can proudly declare that as far as she can see any overseer of a planet that has with no apparent concern of that entity terminated countless billions of preborn is fine with her doing the same. Or there is no creator in the first place. Religious liberty is not just about the freedom to be religious as one wishes the way one wishes, it is the freedom from theism. It follows that the state and/or snitches preventing her from controlling what is happening inside her is moral and legal madness and barbarity that violate her Constitutional rights in enormous spades. One advantage of advancing abortion as a religious right will be to force theocon judges to reveal the extremity of their quasi legal inconsistency if they so tilt the scales of justice in favor one set of theorights over the other, exposing their rulings as bad law. That sets up the legal brief for constitutionally overturning forced birth laws.
Late is better than never, and time is a wasting. So what needs to be done to recover the situation in court and voting booths? Along with the standards of full citizenship via autonomous reproductive privacy rights for women, begin to focus on the religious and medical liberties of handling one’s own pregnancy without interference from hardline theoconservative based government edicts or religious right empowered vigilantes as a key Constitutional right under the First Amendment. Do that by building the following case. The Founders who wrote the document did not consider the issue, and had an abortion ban been raised by Catholics it would have rejected as an obvious contravention of the 1stAmendment. Nowadays forced birth laws are an unacknowledged insidious conspiracy from one religious world view designed by right wing Protestants and Catholics to above all else to try to massively reformulate the national culture to fit their traditional faith-based image. Although they won’t openly admit that, there is abundant public theocon discourse to present as evidential exhibits. The religious nature of antiabortionism is directly exposed when they say that their – i. e. theocon – values concerning preborn life are behind the laws they advocate. As for the narrow religious view of birth enforcement a few scholars such Barbara Pfeffer Billauer (https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmjowl/vol23/iss2/6) are documenting how forced birthism is limited to a narrow set of religious doctrines, while many others have disagreed, going all the way back in history, rendering forced birth laws a violation of Constitutional religious right (in contrast to murder which is condemned by all mainstream cultures). It is time for the women’s right cause to get off its liberal sensibilities duff and pay close attention to such meticulous academic work.
So, when and where theocon birth forcers win their case, then only one religious opinion on the matter becomes legally operative on all fertile women to the exclusion of all others regardless of their a/theist opinion on their pregnancies. That when imposing that extreme hardline view on women of differing a/theologies denies them control and maximal safety of their bodies for extended periods. Such theologically idiosyncratic laws lack practical secular justification on the following grounds. The status of a zygote or an early term fetus as a human being is very dubious and held nearly entirely by theocons, and aborting them does not have significant adverse impact outside the body of the woman. Emphasize the sheer impracticality of enforcing a feticide ban, and actually suppress abortion rates to low levels even via draconian decrees. That means that birth enforcement is a waste of law enforcement resources that will make millions of women miserable and/or criminals while maximizing their medical danger from either pregnancies gone bad or the numerous illicit abortions that will inevitably ensue, all the while massively interfering with the deepest privacy of persons. Far more so than the mask and vaccine mandates most theocons are out of the blue rejecting as outrageous violations of personal liberty. This when there is a major effort to relieve an already overburdened law enforcement and court complex.
The deeply disingenuous and misogynist nature of government paternalism on such a colossal scale is all the more true because the persistent claims by anti-abortionists that their reproductive regulations are intended to serve the interests and safety of pregnant women regardless of her opinion on the matter, are the opposite of actual medical truth, and violate their religious and medical sovereignty when their religious views are compatible with ending pregnancies. Making this yet all the more true is that forced birth for “alleged” victims of rape/incest is part of a depraved project to decriminalize rape by legally rendering it something that cannot happen to a proper and chaste woman who does not want to have her virtue sullied, much less be impregnated. Racism is also involved in the forced birth movement because minorities are more opposed to and afflicted by abortion restrictions than whites. So is eugenics in that preventing white women from failing to reproduce is a goal of some forced birthers. Then there is the sexism of targeting the commonly discriminated against female gender with such draconian restrictions that no man has to put up with and many men which to impose. Because abortion banning laws are evidentially imbedded in a large scale religious sociopolitical agenda they blatantly violate the Bill of Rights on multiple fronts. Core rights that cannot be trumped by the religious right via government authority to force those who are prochoice nontheists or theists to give birth, just as the state cannot force women to abort their pregnancies.
As explained by Aaron Tang (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/26/middle-ground-abortion-that-originalists-should-embrace) the original Constitution, and the 14thAmendment in association with how most state laws at the time did not ban abortion before quickening, support the right to early term abortion.
The profoundly theistic nature of the criminalize abortion movement is not being entirely ignored. Some atheosecular organizations have filed amicus briefs explicitly to that effect in relation to the Mississippi case this December (https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/AU%20Amicus%20Brief%2C%20SCOTUS%2C%20Dobbs%20v.%20Jackson%209.20.21.pdf; https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/192717/20210917120823669_Dobbs%20Final%20Brief.pdf). These petitions do a good job of detailing some of the clear cut religious statements and court briefs by forced birth theists. They not detail how anti-abortionism is part of a greater open conspiracy to remake the nation. In any case the religion factor must not be a legal issue raised just by nontheists, it must be mainstreamed. (A large number of center-left entities have submitted briefs to the top court, whether any cite religious freedom and how I do not know.) Pertinent to that need, one of the briefs very notably cites a 1989 opinion by Justice Stevens that has gone little noticed noting that government bans of abortion violate the Establishment Clause, that is an important mainline legal precedent by a SCOTUS jurist without an a/theistic bias to build upon.
In tandem, cite the mass death of youngsters to disprove the theocon pretense that they are merely doing the urgent bidding of a life loving creator. Same for the absence of forced birthism in scripture. Their real aims are much more theosocietal. And further seize control of the rhetoric war by saddling the prolife cause with the stark term forced birth. That is exactly what they are trying to do.
Also remiss has been the mainstream news media that has been slack in investigating and exposing the deep, extremist motives driving the opposition to legal abortion, and from that informing the nation of what they are up to. Do not, for example, merely ask an anti-abortion activist or politician if they do not want an exception for rape and why, and when they issue the standard line that they think the fetus is precious take that as a complete answer and move on to the next query. That is exactly what they want. At long last pin them down by asking if they think rape and abortion laws need to be revamped as part of a greater scheme to remake society along traditional lines. That will put the forced birth advocate in a bind — if they say yes then they will reveal their real plans and provoke harder opposition, if they say they no they may turn off their base, and if they dodge the question they risk doing both. The media needs to get on the coverage ball and do their jobs.
Is going on the offensive by bringing true religious liberty to the forefront of the pro-choice argument, going to abort the forced birth campaign in the next few years? That by compelling abortion stoppers to realize that they – seeing as how they claim to put such high priority on religious liberty and therefore should respect those who claim to be expressing such when they have an abortion — are manifestly and erroneously violating the theoliberty of theoliberals and nontheists? Considering their boldly self-sided view of liberties to date best not to hold one’s breath. But do not wave away the medium and longer term potential to seriously damage and perhaps someday sink anti-abortionism in legal venues and public opinion. Consider how marriage rights for all couples worked for gays over years, not long decades. Most critical is for the solid majority who favor women being full citizens to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who want to use reproduction to remake American women into unsullied subservient theocons. That can render forcing birth into a fundamental violation of a pregnant woman’s religious liberty and medical needs.
 

bookmark_borderThe Forced Birth Movement Hates Real Religious Liberty – How to Use That Against Them by Making Abortion a Religious Right; Part 1

(This being a big subject that has been largely ignored it needs a lot of explanation, the essay is split into two parts. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow)
It has not worked.
The pro-choice movement opposed by the religious right has been making an enormous mistake. We know that because it is facing disaster. That when a solid majority of Americans favor abortion rights. It is all too clear that what it has been done in support of women being full class citizens has been gravely defective. It follows that it is time to move on to a more effective strategy.
Roe v Wade rests largely upon the 14thAmendment principle of privacy as a legal and societal expression of individual freedom from invasive state control in favor of personal responsibility. The thesis is valid, but it is a defensive posture that has proven insufficient to fend off assaults from a dedicated forced birth campaign. The situation is so bad for the sovereign rights of American women that even as Catholic heritage nations like Mexico and Ireland place their trust in the gender to make the best choice, the USA is reverting to the paternalistic misogyny of the early 1900s.
The women’s right movement must go on the offensive to regain the legal and moral high ground over the force birthers. Doing that requires utilizing two interrelated lines of argument.
The Big Medical Lie
One issue that has for reasons obscure long been oddly underplayed is women’s health. The ant-abortion conspiracy promotes the anti-scientific disinformation that first trimester feticides are artificial and therefore bad for mothers, while child birth is natural to the point that the government must force all pregnant women to do what is good for their health physical and mental. Law enforcement must protect an apparently gullible gender from a diabolical abortion industry that is so clever that it somehow seduces many hundreds of thousands of each year — a third of the national female population over time – to commit a dangerous unnatural act that is against the wise ways of God’s benign creation. That when not getting an abortion is as easy as simply not going to a provider. Yet many go to great lengths to get to such, sometimes traveling long distances if necessary, knowing exactly what will happen when they do so, yet only a small percentage report having significant post procedure regrets [https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/01/416421/five-years-after-abortion-nearly-all-women-say-it-was-right-decision-study].
The hard truth is that nature is not always the best. Modern medicine is the artificial practice that has saved billions of lives from the deadly side of the biological world, including the many risks of pregnancy. Early term abortions surgical and medicinal are over a dozen times less lethal than going through the months long complexities and risks of pregnancy [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270271]. And because the latter pumps lots of mood altering hormones into mothers, they are highly likely to experience serious mental distress before and especially after birth, post-partum depression being very common and often serious. Early pregnancy does not involve such hormone loads, and mental trauma is much less frequent after termination. That is why the regrets are rare, of the many women I know who have had abortions none was gravely upset about it. Which makes sense since a woman is making the safest decision when ending a pregnancy as early as feasible. Legally sentencing a woman to bear her pregnancy violates her core medical rights. It’s like preventing someone from taking say statins, or forcing them to smoke or use mind altering drugs.
But there is another major right that the anti-abortion project violates big time. the one that the pro-choice forces have been resisting despite its potential potency.
Religious liberty.
Forced Birth, it’s a Religious Thing
Here’s the fact that is as screamingly obvious as it is irrationally paid much too little attention by the body politic. Almost the entire movement to render women second class citizens by making them reproductive slaves of the state once pregnant, stems from one source. The religious right. That is a historically rather novel entity formed by a once unimaginable collaboration of evangelical Protestants with the Church of Rome. The anti-abortion project is the core engine of a brazen attempt by one religious clique that constitutes about a third of the population to impose their hardline faith-based beliefs on everyone else. Outside of the religious right who opposes abortion rights? Nontheists against women’s full reproductive rights are as scarce as hen’s teeth, I personally know of only one. Polling suggests that one in ten atheists are forced birthers, but the sample is small and the figure appears inflated. Many if not most Christians — Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. of the center-left — favor reproductive choice, along with most Jews and other theists. That alliance of nonrelig0ious and believers form the solid majority who want broad abortion rights to remain in force in all 50 states.
The overwhelming and narrow religious basis of forced birth differs strikingly from other conservative causes such as limited government size and power regarding guns and economics, and heavy law enforcement against crimes and drugs. Those secular theses enjoy substantial support outside theoconservatism, including many nontheists — advocates of laissez faire capitalism for instance have included such prominent nonbelievers as Herbert Spencer, Ayn Rand, Milton Freidman, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer.
No God Opposes Abortion
That feticide has become such a fixation of the religious right is remarkably ironic for a reason too few are aware of. The startling fact is that forcing women to bear pregnancies to term lacks theological justification. The central motivating claim by theoconservatives that they are sincerely merely obeying the dictates of a prolife creator is patently false both on real world and scriptural grounds. Our lovely but child toxic planet provides the proof that a prolife creator cannot exist. In the academic journal Philosophy and TheologyI was the first to calculate and publish the telling and terrible statistics that remain scandalously ignored [http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf. I further detail the problem in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf]. The stats start with how it is well documented that about 100 billion people have been born to date. To that add how medical analysis indicates that about three quarters of conceptions naturally fail to come to term — about half failing to implant in the first place usually due to rampant genetic defects, the rest are later term miscarriages, many of which go unnoticed. The human reproductive complex is a Rube Golbergian mess that usually fails – far from the womb being a safe refuge for fetuses, it is where most lives come to a natural early end. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction] That means something like 300 billion pregnancies have been spontaneously aborted to date. Currently, somewhere in the area of 30,000 spontaneous abortions occur every day in the US, over ten times more than those that are induced. After birth half those born have died as children from a vast array of torturous diseases that infest our biosphere, so some 50 billion kids have not grown up. It is the artifice of medicine that has driven juvenile mortality down to a few percent, less can be done about our deeply dysfunctional reproductive system. As I detail in the P&Tand EPHstudies, it is demonstrably impossible for a supernatural creator that allows hundreds of billions of preadults to die to be prolife.
The mass loss of immature humans helps explain a stark scriptural truth birth enforcement adherents evade as much as they can. Neither the Jewish nor Christian texts come anywhere close to banning abortions. The only direct mention of the issue instructs that if someone accidently causes a miscarriage involving a woman who is not their wife, then the negligent party can be sued by the father who owns the fetus –  feticide is a civil property matter, not criminal murder in the Holy Bible. That the Biblical God orders the Israelite warriors to kill captive children as well as women even when pregnant reinforces the indifference of the deity to the lives of youngsters. The Gospels of Jesus have nothing to say about the topic. The abject absence of scriptural condemnation against abortion illuminates why most Bible believing Protestants, including the most popular evangelical of the day, Billy Graham, had no comment in the immediate wake of Roe v Wade. Then famed Southern Baptist leader W. A. Criswell did opine that he had “always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” The sanctity of preborn life was largely a Vatican thing — it cannot be overemphasized the degree to which the Roman and Lutheran churches despised one another; a few years ago a couple of evangelicals standing right in front of me bemoaned how a relation who had gone Catholic was now worshipping the clergy, not Jesus. So why the ensuing great evangelical Protestant switch — Graham and especially Criswell evolved into staunch forced birthers — to sociopoliically weaponizing abortion as murder via a new found alliance with the heretical Catholic clergy? First a little history.
A Little History
Abortion was the norm in largely Protestant colonial and early independent America — for that matter, early term feticide has always been very common in societies whether legal or not. The Puritans of yore were not as super repressive and chaste as usually thought, oops pregnancies outside of marriage were fairly frequent. And there were women who after having birthed a bevy of babies did not want to go through thatagain. All the more so because childbirth was very dangerous, about one out of fifty pregnancies killed the mother. “Mother” nature is not much kinder to mothers than their young ones. Early term termination with herbal toxins had its dangers, but to a lesser degree. Such abortions were not a concern to the authorities if it was done before quickening. When the all-male founders, nearly all Protestants and Deists, were assembling the Constitution that instituted separation of church and state they never imagined considering feticide, that being a women’s affair outside their manly concerns. The only faction that might have been interested in the issue were the few Catholics. That they made no attempt to mention much less ban abortion was logical because the rest of the patriots would have slapped that down as an attempt to subvert the intent of the 1stAmendment to keep specific religious cliques from seizing control of governmental policies and vice-versa. Duh.
In the 1800s going into the early 1900s repression of sexuality and women reached a peak in tune with Victorian culture. Also of growing concern was that abortions were killing women, albeit less often than pregnancy. At the same time the all-male profession of medical doctors wanted to suppress competition form midwives who often aborted the much bigger money to be made from full term pregnancies. And the nativist eugenics — based on agricultural selective breeding — favored by Protestants (but not Catholics) called for WASP women to bear as many children as possible to prevent the others from dominating the population. Laws banning abortions appeared for the first time, and quickly became the national norm. (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/abortion-in-american-history/376851.)
The result. A little over a century ago the religious right owned these United States. Well over nine out of ten were Christians, nearly all conservative. It was a culture of imposed Judeo-Christian “virtue.” A pious repressive hyper misogynist patriarchy in which women were second class citizens required to wear heavy clothing even at the beach, and mandated to remain nonsexual until marriage in which husbands could legally rape their wives and she had no legal choice but to bear the child – that by the way helps elucidate why modern forced birthers are often not concerned about if a pregnancy resulted from nonconsensual sex. The draconian Comstock laws banned mailing information on contraceptives in flagrant contradiction of the Bill of Rights. The culture of repressed sexual liberty had to have a heavy government hand to it. Lacking the force of law to keep people in reproductive line, most folks feel free to have way too much fun for the likes of the power craving forces who enjoy imagining they know what it best for all of us, feckless women especially. Note that the Dour Culture was to a fair extent a white matter, black culture was less uptight, as reflected in the advent of the “sex music”, jazz that quickly gained a following among white youth.
The rather Taliban like mainstream Christian scheme began to unravel what with women (mainly white) getting the vote, and the first sexual revolution of the Roaring Twenties. That unprecedented loosening of sexual habits was never entirely beaten back by the right, but as late as the 1950s women were still expected to be virgins on their wedding nights who then became stay at home housewives, access to contraceptives remained limited, and abortions forbidden. With blue laws keeping most retail closed on Sundays three quarters of American were church members according the Gallup, as virtually all professed a belief in God.
Since then it’s all gone to theocon hell. Even in the 50s the hot black culture continued to infiltrate the white majority via the first wave of rock-and-roll – previously black slang for intercourse. What was Elvis doing up there on the stage with his pelvis? Seeing the way things were going Billy Graham started his mass crusades to try to restore America to its righteous ways.
That did not work.
Nowadays, with women being emancipated, first class citizens free to have sexy fun, sinfully tempting females strut down streets in minimal clothing. Sex outside marriage is actually the accepted societal norm. Marriage rates are down while divorce rates are sky high – that started with the WW 2 generation in the late 60s BTW — including among conservative Christians. Birth rates are below replacement level – that when many on the right oppose the immigration of nonwhites that’s needed if an expanding population is to help grow the economy. On the networks people can say screw when not talking about hardware. Then there is cable and the web. Most women have careers. The grand corporate project to convert pious frugal church goers into hedonistic materialists and digital social media addicts has succeeded spectacularly as Gallup tracks church membership plummeting from 70% at the beginning of the 2000s to 50% today [https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx] as white Protestants are a fast shrinking minority, the religious right the once ran the country has been reduced to a widely disparaged subgroup, and the nonreligious balloon by an amazing tenth of the population each decade [for a look at that see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf]. Even Republicans are becoming less religious for Christ’s sake — listen to how the Trumpites swore like sailors as they stormed the capital, and denounce Biden with vulgarities like Richard Pryor.
Their Real Goal
That is what the forced birth movement is really about. Having lost the mainstream culture big time over the last century theocons have no viable means to recover it by persuasion, and deep down they know that bitter fact. All those crusades, religious TV channels, megachurches, and Christian rock are getting nowhere with the mainstream. What are they to do in their desperate power trip to return the country to the good old days of largely white righteous Christian domination?
It’s obvious. Try to do what worked up to the 1920s, and see if reapplying governmental coercion will get America back to its straighter laced Godly ways. There is nothing else for them to. This invidious strategy to employ laws to achieve religious aims requires the high grade hypocrisy of theoconservatives who love to proclaim individual liberty while decrying government power when the latter promotes what they see as ungodly secular-liberal values, but to without batting a cynical eye deploy said government power to lever America back to something like it was in the 1950’s. When father knew best and subservient women properly behaved themselves sex wise and raised their many kids and heaven forbid could not terminate their sacred pregnancies and the churches were packed on Sunday mornings rather than folks hitting Walmart and Home Depo.
It is not like it is a carefully hidden secret. The president of the U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Jose Gomez has railed against secular liberal movements such as social justice, wokeness, intersectionality, and critical theories that have arisen in recent years as part of a effort to “suppress any remaining Christian influences” and replace “traditional Christian beliefs.” That’s a clear enough clarion call of the dire need to try to recapture the culture by desperate means as necessary.
So. How to get the government back under the blessed control of the theocon minority? You have to be fairly sneaky about doing that. Openly admitting that the ultimate goal is to use the state to bring back the good old theoconservative days by banning abortion et al. would intensify majority opposition, while fatally undermining the legal case for making a private procedure that the Puritans were OK with into murder.
To try to rewin the culture wars via the law they have smartly gone on the sociopolitical offensive by putting a peculiarly lethargic prochoice side on the public relations defensive, to the degree that even liberals agree that the feticide that has always been common should somehow become uncommon. A hard and sad choice consistently avoided by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, rather than by barring terminations. It’s the abortion should be legal but rare line, rather than rare because it’s illegal. Both are naive fantasies that have never been achieved and never will be. Early term abortions are the norm in all societies because they involve a modest collection of cells whose humanity is problematic and mainly propounded by extremist theocons, they are fairly easy to do, in secret if necessary, and are not as dangerous as is pregnancy to the mother. At least a fifth of observed pregnancies are terminated, whether that being in advanced democracies with excellent safe sex programs, or where the procedure is illegal and riskier [https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343147586_Unintended_pregnancy_and_abortion_by_income_region_and_the_legal_status_of_abortion_estimates_from_a_comprehensive_model_for_1990-2019]. This is in stark contrast to murder, which is rare in many nations including most democracies — that these gun laden United States are the exception is pertinent because most who claim to be prolife support the widespread distribution of firearms that is the primary people killing device. Because murder involves a patent human being, can be difficult to do, produces an awkward corpse that is hard to secretly dispose of, and those who have been born are usually noticed to have gone missing, outlawing intentional homicide is correspondingly practical because only it renders only a tiny fraction of the population criminals while keeping the event highly atypical – there are under 4000 homicides in western Europe per annum for instance, many dozens of times less than feticides. Whatever success is or is not achieved by criminalizing the latter, it does not make much actual difference because the great majority of conceptions will continue to naturally abort, so what is the point? That when making abortion illegal means turning a fifth or more of knowingly pregnant women into lawbreakers each year, and a quarter to a third of all women over their lives, while not saving many preborn, but injuring or killing a number of pregnant women in the punitive process. It is probably not possible to drive yearly American abortions below a few hundred thousand whatever the methods used. Prohibiting abortion works about as well as banning alcohol, and we know how that worked out. A basic legal tenant is that all legitimate laws must be reasonably practicable to implement — the stop the abortions folks like to compare themselves to the abolitionists, but mass slavery can be ended simply by eliminating all laws that enforce bondage, leaving all slaves free to up and walk away from their masters — birth enforcement does not meet that feasibility criterion. Pro-choicers, use that fact.
The theocon grand Godly plan to try to overturn modernity is simple enough. Having concocted the notion that abortion is against the will of a prolife Lord Creator contrary to all worldly and scriptural evidence, make the private procedure illegal. Hopefully eventually nationwide as a form of outright murder if enough hardcore theocon justices can be plopped into SCOTUS and extend personhood to conception – the alternative is revision of the Constitution, perhaps via a constitutional convention dominated by theocons via the electoral manipulations they are working on. That doing so is not likely to actually protect enormous numbers of preborn is not the critical necessity. That would be nice if it happened in the opinion of many theocons, but the true activism driving societal hope of most forced birthers is that by making those who terminate pregnancies into criminals or at least subject to financial suits, that fear of having abortions will help tame wanton American women to be less willing to be get it on with men outside of holy matrimony. The idea is to discipline women into being both more chaste and fecund as the arrogant power hungry theocons want them to be. It’s the fear and shame factors of the rights massive national social engineering project. To that add putting strictures on contraceptives to further boost the righteous mission to reChristianize America – Catholics especially like that. That doing so may well increase induced abortions due to more unintended pregnancies is not the theoconservatives driving concern (with supreme irony, another side effect of protection reduction is a great increase in the rate of natural abortions).
The schemes of the right to push women into being proper theists are not just aspirationally hopeful via making forced birth a deterrent to women not being divinely virtuous. There are growing efforts to set up forced birth enclaves in which single pregnant women who cannot get legal abortions and desperately need maternity help will be pressured by their circumstances to retreat to (http://thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx). There they are and will be the target of heavy duty theocon propaganda designed to make them into women of God. State power will be used to boost church power.
The prochoice side often wonders – often with breathtaking naivety — why those opposed to abortion want to also cut back on the use of protection that can suppress said abortions. That is because abortion reduction is not the real point, lifestyle alternation is. Get that? That women will be injured and killed by unsafe outlaw abortions and by forced pregnancies is not a great concern of the birth forcers — those wayward women should have known better than to get pregnant out of wedlock in the first place, and if raped oh well, the growing soul inside them takes priority to its reproductive vessel who needs to understand their Godly prolife duty. If a woman who would have gotten a legal termination if she could because it is safer than not having one happens to die from what seemed like a normal pregnancy oh well that’s too bad, it’s God’s Will anyhow, and if she was right with Christ she is in a better place so what is the big problem. The wastage of pregnant women is well worth the glorious aims of the prolifers.
(Part 2 to continue 10/29/21)

bookmark_borderDiscrimination by Neglect: The Chronic News and Opinion Media Bigotry Against Atheists

Discrimination by Neglect: The Chronic News and Opinion Media Bigotry Against Atheists
Theists Get All the Breaks – Really, They Do
There is currently, in these United States, a form of casual and pernicious bigotry that continues to be directed against the fastest growing portion of the population. It is the big bigotry that hardly any pay attention to, and to a great extent other minorities subject to their own levels of prejudice also ignore or even participate in. It is the discrimination of paying as little mind as possible to the existence and especially the opinions of those who commit the culturally inconvenient social crime of lacking belief in the supernatural deities that the substantial but shrinking American majority persist in believing in.
What does continue to enjoy endless attention and media coverage is theism. That occurs in a number of ways. The mainstream media that tends to be centrist to liberal in sociopolitical sensibilities, and mainline or alternative theist to varying degrees, persistently promotes center-left versions of religion. Especially of the Christian and Jewish varieties, with a good deal of attention paid to alternate versions of spirituality, and to Islam on occasion. Much of this coverage is favorable or neutral, but considerable and sometimes hard criticism does occur when it seems that the circumstances require it. The Catholic Church is particularly interesting when it comes to the massive reporting it receives. Its sex scandals, after decades of significant but not sufficient exposure, finally became perpetually major news just after the turn of the century. On the other hand, the equally outrageous financial criminal actions of the Roman church in league with mob elements have never been exposed to the degree that is necessary, leaving most Americans ignorant on the subject (Europeans are more knowledgeable). At the same time major church events, most especially the enormous public relations spectacles of papal replacements, garner fawning 24/7 coverage. The relatively liberal Francis is generally treated favorably, including by very liberal theists such as Catholic Steven Colbert, as well as well known atheist Bill Maher. Also getting extensive coverage is the large minority that is the religious right. Much of that attention is sharply critical. Except at FoxNews and its allies that lavish praise on Judeo-Christian theoconservatism while bashing the religious center-left as well as Muslims, and taking occasional potshots at the atheists that the mainstream press pretty much simply ignores.
MSNBC et al.
To get a better appreciation of the absurd and unacceptable state of the situation, let’s look at the evening lineup on that bastion of liberal reportage and opinion, MSNBC. It starts with Joy Reid, who enthusiastically wears her joyous Godly Methodism on her broadcasting sleeve. Next is Chris Hayes who grew up Catholic but is now irreligious, I do not think has stated he is an atheist or not. In 2012 he dedicated his hour to an episode on atheism featuring Dawkins, Pinker and Jacoby that was seen as ground breaking. It was not, there has been barely a breath about nontheism on the channel since then. Rachel Maddow is a praying Catholic despite being lesbian — that explains something that had me scratching my head, earlier this year when Francis made the first papal visit to Iraq she ran an oddly long segment on the unimportant story that was dull as it was egregiously credulous. More ambiguous is the yet another MSNBC Catholic raised — which may be why he once bashed Mormonism as an invented religion — anchor Lawrence O’Donnell who wraps up the primetime lineup. Over on CNN they once, that’s once, ran an hour show on atheism in 2015. Such has not yet appeared on Fox. Matters are not better on public television or radio where there are also no known atheists, although one suspects there must be some but who keep quiet about it. Where is that epic program on American atheism? They did baseball and jazz. On NPR’s Saturday EditionScott Simon is a well-known centrist-liberal Catholic. On the Templeton Foundation funded On Being(ex Speaking of Faith) host Krista Tibbett’s mission is to present pablum opinions further softened by bland mood music that never in any way seriously challenges or upsets her middle of the road theist audience. Ever. Occasionally atheists are allowed on, but only those who can be relied upon to not be perturbingly uppity about it. While most liberal theists tend to avoid directly dumping on atheists, socialist Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges has harshly denounced atheism, especially of the sort that dares to be assertive. When he hosted The Daily Showsecular Jewish Jon Stewart was sometimes snarky about what he considered overly atheistic atheists, especially about the placement of a cross shaped piece of the World Trade Towers at the memorial site (that Stewart has been involved in the memorial project means his comment on atheist critics was of dubious ethics). Current TDS host Trevor Noah is a liberal Christian. John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, rejected the Anglican Church he grew up in and may be an atheist, but has not said so – he critiqued the money grubbing of evangelicals by legally setting up the Lady of Perpetual Exemption to expose how easy it is to dodge taxes with a religious exemption.
During the covid pandemic it has been one person of openly divine opinion after another who have again and again and again and again been asked to please offer divinely inspired advice, thoughts and comfort to a beleaguered world. Noting the irony inherent to doing so in view of the obvious truth that if a creator deity exists it has not done anything to put a stop to the deadly disaster, doing something so rational seems taboo. An especially egregious example has been on NPR’s weekend version of All Things Considered, with a repeat set of clerics explicitly asked to offer words of wisdom to listeners. Offering the usual theo clichés and platitudes, the existence of God and its goodness was not challenged as the NPR audience was allowed to hear only their biased worldview. Never asked for a more objective and cogent viewpoint on how mindless evolution is biting us, and how humanity can best deal with the dire situation, have been the godless.
The weekend edition of All Things Considereddid cover the accession of Greg Epstein to head chaplain at Harvard, and the interview was entirely respectful and intelligent. That is a case of the very rare exception proving the rule of discrimination. Very likely show host Michel Martin has no idea of the casual bias she is exhibiting in her subtly slanted programming, and she might be willing to change her ways if made aware of the issue. Coverage of and seeking the views of atheists should be the norm, not something done just when a once every few years head-turning breaking news story pops up.
Pundit panels are a news media norm. You know, the never ending lineups of experts and commentators and politicians who opine on this that and everything. How often do you see an open atheist on one of those? Including those discussing religious matters? A screamingly outrageous example of this particular atheists need not apply policy was in 2010 when Pew reported that it looked like nontheists knew more about the facts of theism than did theists. The seemingly startling result garnered lots of coverage, and so the programming staffs running on their automatic booking pilots rolled out panel after panel of ministers, rabbis and the like to pontificate about atheists whom they painfully knew nothing about, while nary a nonbeliever who actually knew the atheoscore was asked what was really going down. Perhaps even more discouraging is that when Pew got much the same results in 2019 the media paid it no mind to the theological acumen of atheists at all. News old and forgotten by then.
A Little “Balance”
Here’s another form of bigotry that is as subtle as it is invidious. Something I have noticed when doing on air interviews on nonatheist broadcasts. Very often, a theist of some sort is brought on the bring “balance” to the discourse. And who could be opposed to both views being presented? That would be more than fine if religious viewpoints were as often countered with those of atheists, but of course that never happens. They get to pontificate endlessly without counter argument. The “balance” line is really saying atheist views are so automatically controversial and potentially defective and/or offensive, that they need to be countered with the supernaturalistic perspective lest the delicate ears of theist listeners be afflicted. Now, sometimes having a theist to play off of can be an advantage if one knows how to deal with and exploit them. On the other hand, that cuts down on the time the nontheist has to directly present the rationalist case. If an atheist interviewee does not want opposition on a program that does not saddle theists with such, then they are free to put the producers on the fairness spot by asking if they have a consistent policy of balance which they never do, and protest the presence of the theist. If they insist on the latter then you can decline the interview, or try to use the arrangement to your advantage — perhaps by mentioning the issue during the program;)
The More Atheists There Are the Less Respect We Get
Statistical tracking is not on hand, but I get the strong sense that mainstream media interest in the irreligious has declined over the last decade plus, after having peaked if that is the correct term for what was at best a small hill in the post 9/11 brief era of the “New Atheism” and it’s then attention getting novel opposition to the religious extremism that was a hot topic of the time (until the secular financial collapse pushed all else aside, rather like the Beatles did to pop music), bolstered by the fleeting appearance of atheist best-selling books that went away almost as soon as they appeared. The atheism versus theism story was intense enough that PAX TV in 2004/5 ran Faith Under Fire, hosted by once atheist converted to bombastic theocon Lee Strobel. It was one of those theist items that while claiming to be fair and balanced definitely had its slant, but for a short while it was a forum via which a prominent American nontheists could have their say and be taken seriously. If I recall correctly, as time wore on it became increasingly theocon themed which is the evolutionary norm for such ventures, and it was canceled. Nothing has replaced it, leaving atheists with no wide broadcast channel forum at all.
A decline in coverage of atheism would make some sense if the opinion was on the way down, but as is well known that the opposite is true as America undergoes a remarkably radical shift towards nonreligion. That has been growing at the expense of theism by a stunning 10% of the American population per decade, leaving those who lack religion somewhere in the area of 40-50% of the population, with the latter value at least applying to young adults. Gallup has tracked church membership that was 80% in the 1950s and still 70% circa 2000 having nosedived to 50% as Amerofaith sharply contracts as it has done in the rest of the west. But this brings us to a polling problem that may help explain the lack of media interest in Ameroatheism. When the major organizations directly ask respondents whether they are atheists or agnostics only a few percent do so, misleading the news media into thinking there are not enough disbelievers to cover and reach out to as more than a fringe group (even though those low numbers exceed those of Jews or of Mormons or of Muslims). This is a serious polling, and coverage thereof, mistake. Although the bigotry is not as bad as it was, many and probably most who dare not believe in the supernatural fear the social including familial downsides of openly admitting such. And many nonbelievers do not like the term atheist, considering it a hardcore term of absolute nonbelief that does not describe their own more ambiguous opinion, or casual disinterest, concerning the mysterious gods. I do not know how many times I have met folks who clearly meet the broad and etymologically correct definition of atheist as a person who is not a theist (which includes most agnostics), adamantly deny being an atheist, even at atheist meetups. Others are startled to learn they are an atheist. Polls that ask the less denial inducing question of whether respondents believe in the existence of a god get substantially higher percentages of deity skeptics, and some sociodemographic studies estimate that atheists may make up 15-25+% of the nation. (I cover these issues in depth at http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf.) By this point, having achieved a level of popular opinion even the most optimistic of us did not expect circa 2000 – remember when many thought the USA would always be a religious nation? – atheism which in total easily outsizes Judaism, Islam and Mormonism combined should be a major influencer in the national zeitgeist. All the more so as it is becoming increasingly apparent that faith-based religion does not appear to offer practical solutions to the troubles of the real world.
One cause of the problem is simply that organized religion has vast resources to deploy in its chronic search for PR, and it is just so easy for a mass media on let’s keep doing what we always have autopilot to tap into that. Atheosecularism has nothing comparable and never will – although the situation can be improved as I note below. But it is the responsibility of the media to keep up with and change with the times, and there are plenty pf atheist voices more than happy to express themselves, so the media is slacking off.
My Beef is a Small Part of the Big Beef
I have a personal concern in these issues that helps illuminate the problem. Realizing that researchers were not systematically investigating the truth behind the common claim that religion must be popular for societies being successful, I published the first test of that hypothesis in the Journal of Religion and Societyin 2005. That was enough of a stunner that it got conservable press attention, including MSNBC labeling me the churches public enemy No. 1, and an appearance on FoxNews. I followed with a more thorough analysis in Evolutionary Psychologyin 2009 that got some coverage, and I placed a couple of online op-eds with the Los Angeles Timesand Wall St. J. Those studies, along with efforts by others, have dented the automatic assumption that religion is good for societies, but not to the degree they should. In part because of a lack of more recent, more extensive work, due in part to a shocking lack of funding for atheistic scientific research via a secular think tank that gamers coverage and discussion. My 2009 paper in Philosophy and Theologythat was the first to calculate the natural deaths of 50 billion children and how that disproves the existence of a moral creator got absolutely no attention despite my extensive efforts at PR.
What did get considerable attention is an op-ed I senior authored with Phil Zuckerman who runs the only secular studies department at a university (Pitzer) in 2011 in the Washington Post. Condemning the chronic bigotry against atheists it was very pleasing to see it receive 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 85K likes. Now, for all the rise of social media in recent decades, the importance of opinion venues such as the Post,The New York Times, and major magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harpers, New Republic, etc., remains paramount. Covering a vast variety of subjects, they have broad readership, and can present issues that their nonatheist readers might otherwise not be aware of. And the elite publications are critical in reaching the media elites that drive a lot of the coverage that receives that broad attention. A reason Ameroatheism remains in the shadows is because the atheosecular genre publications print and digital, and all the many blogs and posts and podcasts online, are largely preaching to the limited dedicated irreligious choir that reads them, and to the fairly small number of theists curious about nontheism. The vast majority of Americans will always be unaware of them.
Despite their responsibility to regularly cover the entire national scene, the Washington Postis typical of major news venues in its chronic casual bigotry against atheism via neglect. I know that because I am a regularly reader of their print paper, and their coverage of nontheism is nearly zero. Since the piece a decade ago by myself and Zuckerman, they have carried just one other opinion piece concerning atheism in the last ten years. That being in 2019 by one of their regular columnists, the atheist libertarian Max Boot. In a recent piece occasional columnist Kate Cohn noted her nonbelief in relation to the religious forced birth movement. Maybe because it is based in perhaps the most atheist city in the nation, the NYTimeshas run a few more atheist op-eds, albeit not a lot.
It is not the fault of atheists not sending in op-eds. Again personal experience illustrates the trouble. A standard way to become a regular in being able to place items in influential venues is to simply do it once, which gives one some leverage to get editors attention and publish more pieces in a feedback loop. All the more so if the initial piece attracts lots of attention which the WPop-ed did. So I have been regularly sending off essays and articles, many, many dozens of them, the leading opinion outlets that allow submissions on aspects related to nontheism – always being certain to note my past works academic and popular, and the coverage of my research. I have sometimes had professionals edit the pieces. But I stopped doing that because it made no difference. Not a single bite. That has included pieces noting the lack of coverage of atheism and suppression of our voices in the mainstream national discourse. They don’t run them. Also futile have been efforts to get a major trade publisher (not a university press, or something like the no longer sechum Prometheus Press whose sales were too limited to have major cultural impact) to contract a book in which I discuss my extensive scholarly work.
A Big Anniversary
This year it occurred to me. The 10th anniversary of the piece Phil & I placed was coming up. Surely the WP people would be interested in running an update on the situation of Ameroatheism, both its demographic rise, and the continuing societal bigotry against it. No reason the think the new piece would not be as popular as the last one what with atheists being all the more numerous now. Right?
Nope, they paid neither the shorter daily or longer Sunday section suitable versions I sent any mind. My complaints are not just personal. No doubt others have been sending in proatheist articles to mainstream venues and with very rare exceptions not getting them published, even as theists have far less trouble getting their prosupernaturalism items into the public eye — and getting onto those pundit panels. And anchor positions, etc.
Why the Bigotry
Is this occurring because those on position to choose what goes onto the pages of major publications or programming are inexcusably ignorant about the problem and their own casual biases and would change their attitudes and actions if they knew better, are indifferent to atheism that they see as a fringe element of no import and would pay more attention if informed otherwise, are afraid of being denounced as anti-religion if they OK presentations of atheist thinking, are concerned they will be tagged as the village atheist if they are an atheist who dares regularly cover atheism the same way other minority personalities do concerning their world view all the time, or are outright hostile? All are involved.
Then there is the trope of the “angry atheist” who harshly critiques theism. That is a bigoted stereotype, there being no statistical evidence that atheists are more angry than theists, there being many on both sides who are in a bad mood. As for those rationalists who are angry what is the big problem? Minority advocacy often has a hard edged component to it.
An example of directly suppressing, with clear cut prejudice, coverage of atheist viewpoints is Religious News Service, whose mission statement goes to lengths to claim its neutral objectivity to the news outlets it is paid to provide services to. One can for a modest fee post press releases on the RNS website. Most are little more than promotional ditties for various theists. When I tried to place a PR concerning my recent academic analysis on the theological implications of mass juvenile mortality in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanismit was not accepted.
We Too
Whatever the causes, the way atheists are being treated has parallels to how blacks were once largely limited to publishing their views in the black press that few whites read. Nowadays LGTBQ have a far better ability to appear in the mainstream press and media and influence the culture and alter politics in their favor than do atheists. That is not a complaint against the LGTBQ more power to them, it is a complaint about the media at large. Consider how it is well known and widely discussed that much of racism is unrecognized by those who are not as nonracist as they think they are and want to be, the same is often true of all bigotries including those directed towards nonsupernaturalists. And just as under the radar racism must be overcome, so must casual anti-atheism. It is a probable irony that blacks in the media are incidentally discriminating against atheists more than whites for the simply because the former tend to be more religious than the latter. Until atheists have the same access to prominent venues as pretty much all other minorities we will remain very limited in our ability to be a the normal, frequent contributor to the national discourse that we rationalists should be. And we will continue to be the targets of bigotry.
The Maher Exception
Currently there is only one major, nationally known American who is an open atheist, and hosts a widely recognized and viewed program, Real Time‘s Bill Maher. Although not shy about being ungodly, and more than willing to have prominent atheists on RT, Maher’s program is not a dedicated atheist promotional venue, it covering a wide range of political and cultural topics. That makes sense, but the program could do more to address the atheist movement, with some emphasis on how it is being ignored, all the more so since no one else is doing so via such a widely viewed show. In particular, to date RT, and for that matter Maher’s Religulous, has failed to persistently present to the public the sociological science showing the societal advantages of atheism, and help make that a part of the public consciousness.
What to Do
The question is what to do about this unacceptable situation. I am not sure myself, here are some options.
The task is complex and multi-faceted. A lot of media people, mainly seculars of various flavors, as well as open minded theists, may become more open to presented atheist viewpoints if simply alerted to the sheer existence and scale of the problem. Others need more persuading, and in some cases shaming. At the same time, atheists need to do what we can to get our ideas out to the general public outside of our own preaching to the choir venues.
Concerning the situation at the WP, A set of leading atheosecular persons could collaborate to send a letter to the WP opinion editors (there are two sets, one for the daily paper in which op-eds are limited to 800 words, and another for the Sunday Outlook section which runs longer items) alerting them to and protesting the virtual exclusion of items from an explicitly atheist perspectives, and how and why this is discriminatory and adverse to their readers who are missing out on a major and fast growing perspective of American opinion. This can be done in the context of urging publication of my 10thanniversary piece (with editing as necessary), or of another related item.
Or, collaborate on a multi-author essay op-ed decrying the near exclusion of atheists from the American scene, signed by prominent nontheists, and submit that to the WP. If they fail to publish it then try the NYTimes, if they do not move on from there.
If either of the above are not successful – or even if they are — go public with a protest both concerning the attitude of the WP specifically, and the news media in general. That can include press releases to religion reporters, and wide distribution to media personalities in all news and opinion venues. Perhaps place an ad in the WP.
The failure of Religion News Service to meet its own criteria of objectivity needs to be exposed as the scandal it is and challenged, which would have the side advantage of further bringing atheism to the attention of the public.
In conducting the above it is necessary to take the mainstream media to task for the errors of their ways. But being critical should not be the sole tactic. Alerting media personalities that they are discriminating against atheists while perhaps not even realizing it might be appreciated by a number of them, opening their eyes to new possibilities. That brings us to how it is important to present the positive side of regularly covering atheism, and including atheist opinions on a regular basis. Not doing so is a major and self-injurious mistake. Much of media coverage is formulaic and standardized, rendering it we-have-heard-and-seen-that-before dull. Yet anothertheists prattling on about this and that? Snore. How about an atheist commenting on that matter from the nontheist perspective. Now thatcan generate some what did that person just say attention and controversy that gets the viewers tuning in. Media personalities and programmers are often looking for novel and in some cases controversial ways to cover the news to boost those all-important ratings, so tapping the atheist perspective to do so can be a selling point when doing outreach to the news and opinion community.
Approaching Real Timeto better cover the issue could be effective, as well as other liberal venues. Chris Hayes could be a likely person to approach and alert regarding the scope of the problem. There is John Oliver. Worthy of consideration is a joint effort by entertainment/opinion atheists that have popular mainstream followings to mount a professional Pay Due Attention to Nonbelievers Please PR campaign – names aside from those above I have come up with include Aziz Ansari, Jodie Foster, Ricky Gervais, Amber Heard, Penn Jillette, Hugh Laurie, Seth MacFarlene, Abby Martin, Sean Murphy, Brad Pitt, Ron Reagan, Keanu Reeves, Adam Savage, Dan Savage, Julia Sweeney.
Most ambitious would be to see if an explicitly atheist broadcast program can be produced, or one that gives truly balanced coverage to both nontheism and theism, hosted by a person from each side. Could be on telly and/or radio. Not sure how feasible that is, would probably require the efforts of at least one of the major atheosecular organizations, and perhaps a collaboration between two or more of them.
The Urgent Need for a Secular Think Tank and News Service
Whether or not any of the above works, that is just a start. To get persistent attention and coverage in the press requires a major change in the way atheosecular institutions reach out to the rest of society via the mainstream media. Doing that will probably require the establishment of an explicitly atheosecular think tank that constantly puts out the science based research and position papers that the atheosecular community should obviously be doing as a matter of course, and that the press can then pick up on. And/or a Secular News Service to compete with the highly successful Religion News Service by directly feeding nontheist news and opinion to the news media.
It’s a Wrap
Wish to aid the above effort or have any ideas on how to get them achieved?  All would be appreciated. If a collaborative effort can be mounted, then a more formal proposal and outline of possibilities and needs can be produced.
One way or another something needs to be done. The perpetual casual dismissal of atheists from the national discourse has got to end, and that is not likely to happen unless strong action is taken by the atheosecular community to break out of the media bubble we have been stuck in. The largely theistic media is not going to just up and do it on their own.
 

bookmark_borderWhy This Skeptic is Secular Blogging – It’s a (Fairly) Long Story

My religious history that led to yours truly becoming a skeptical intellect doing research and commentary is complex. And rather interesting. Not my father’s side of our (rather dysfunctional) nuclear family. Indiana Hoosier from corn country, a Cold War United Methodist Republican to whom atheism was Godless Bolshevism. Yawn. To his credit when he found out I was an atheist in 2002 he was not happy, but did not make too much of a fuss, and did not reraise the subject prior to his death last year at 94.
 
Ye Olden Times
 
Over on my mother’s side is where it was very interesting. Some of her folk where associates of the Joseph Smith who made up Mormonism, one being a body guard, they made the trek to Utah, and had multiple wives (check out https://gatheringgardiners.blogspot.com/2010/03/noah-guyman-1819-1911.html, it’s pretty cool). Ah the good old days. My grandmother Zella who I knew very well, and was a quietly devout believer, was born in a central Utah desert town out of the old west and lived to 2002. She wrote an account of her life in which she as a teen she longed to be married in the Temple – very important in Latter Day Saint theology. She may have come close to doing so, gleaning from her autobio and what she told a relation she almost married a churchly distant (via polygamy) cousin, but he suddenly died in the Great Flu Pandemic. Then for reasons obscure she married a man who was never especially observant – I suspect my grandfather was not into paying that critical 10% per year tithe – and they never had that Temple ceremony. None of their five offspring remained in the church. My teen mother became something of a wild child in Salt Lake City during the world war, she was drinking and smoking heavily then and would only stop the former at fifty because her alternative was death. After both my parents ended up in the Virginia burbs of DC because of the war, in the late 40s they married and had two sons.
 
The Wonder Years
 
The result of all that was an incoherent religious upbringing. Until I was 9 we regularly attended the Alexandria ward grandmother went to. Why my father was into that I do not know – Mormonism is extremely heretical relative to Christianity, he probably did not know that. He was considering joining until his smoking prevented that, but he did not reconsider after he quit soon after. I hated church like Tom Sawyer (I was a much better behaved kid though). Boring. I was baptized at 7 in a water dunking ceremony that meant nothing to me. I believed in God there being no alternative that I knew of. I looked down on other churches from what an old friend much later told me. But problems arose. In a Sunday school class the young female teacher informed me I was wrong about the existence of the dinosaurs I already adored. What the…. Did not believe such a stupid thing for a second. She was an idiot, all the more so because LDS dogma has nothing to say about dinosaurs and deep time, they being matters of choice what one thinks about them, and a number of competent paleozoologists and geologists are active LDS.
 
In my preteens and into my teens I was learning about prehistoric beasts and humans from the likes of the cheap How and Why Wonder Books and lavishly illustrated Golden Books for children (for an account of my paleo upbringing see http://www.gspauldino.com/autobiography.html). They discussed an item called evolution discovered by Darwin as a matter of course. Made sense to me. After all, we were living in a new and exciting age of science, driving in autos when my grandmother had rode horses and buggies as a child, jetliners for long range travel, able to talk remotely via telephones, watching the new wonder of TV (The Flintstones!, Star Trek! The Avengers!), antibiotics. I sort of noticed they were not the wonders of some remote gods, they were the human result of science.
 
It is logically common for those who are deep into deep time astronomical and earthly, and bioevolution, to become atheists if not already raised that way. With a scientific explanation of the origins of the universe and us on hand supernatural alternatives become redundant and flippant. Evolutionary scientists and paleozoologists who have become prominent atheists (as I define below) include Thomas (Darwin’s Bulldog) Huxley (who also proposed a later verified link between dinosaurs and birds, one of my areas of research), Louis Leakey, Stephen Gould, and Richard Dawkins. So my course is not unusual.
 
Sunday June 21st 1964 was my day of sweet freedom. From church. Continuing the white privilege flight of the time made possible by the automobile we moved further out in the burbs, to just beyond the then new DC beltway. There were no nearby wards, none of the rest of the extended family except Zella were LDS churchgoers, my mom probably reeked of embarrassing smoke smell when attending, my dad was not churchly, and we stopped going in June. Freedom!
 
I spent some summers with relations in the Salt Lake Valley. Loved it. The big skies, the snow-capped Rockies, the dinosaurs. My Great Aunt Laurel. An artist-naturalist who when I think about it showed no signs of being religious, she encouraged my interests, including dinosaurs. When I was 13 a 11 year old distant cousin took a shine to me. Awww. She really liked my dinosaur drawings. I do not remember exactly why the subject came up, but at her place we were chatting and casually I mentioned how humans evolved from apes. Suddenly her eyes widened, she started backing away saying her parents had told her that was not true, and the rest of the day she would not stay in the same room. Apparently I was under the influence of that rebel against god Satan. I was amused. And theism was going downhill. Fast.
 
Back in the Church – Sort of
 
Things got more complicated. As I was turning 14 Brother Evans dropped by. A hyper evangelical Mormon (and as I later learned a beater of his sons), his trying to recruit me back into the church was going nowhere until he said the magic words. Boy Scouts. So I was a sort of LDS church attending slacker during my teens. I took none of it at all seriously. When I said a curse word in front of one of the Evans sons his silly warning that I could be struck by lightning did not help my theism. But I had fun Scouting et al.
 
Next summer was another in Utah, and by then I was an de facto atheist. When one of my nonLDS cousins discussed his interest in the occult I rolled my rationalist eyes.
 
Then something very important happened.
 
Although they were both intelligent – dad scored an IQ of 140 in 1944 – my parents were intellectually vacuous. All my dad really cared about was making it big in business. He subscribed to pulp magazines like Argosy and True Tales. They featured articles on alien visitations. I took those seriously – with their detailed descriptions of events that appeared inexplicable by earthly standards they seemed scientific, and of course adults would not publish items that were demonstrably untrue. Right? I loved the TV SciFi drama Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea which I would later realize was an example of the clunky boiler plate SciFi pablum offered up by cheap skate Irwin Allen. A first season episode featured the Sea View encountering a flying saucer!!!! I was thrilled. Of course they would not do that unless it had been okayed by the authorities. Right? At the same time the likes of Frank Drake and Carl Sagan were saying that extraterrestrial were statistically probable. Yet they were denying aliens visiting earth. Hmmm.
 
The Book
 
First time into the high school library I saw on the shelf a book titled UFO’s Explained. Like wow! Finally a big grown up book that would settle the question, maybe showing that extraterrestrials were the real deal after all. Checked it out and read it. Written by aviation expert Philip Klass, it is renowned as the first skeptics book. Case by case Klass debunked every classic UFO story up to that date. I got it. That is how scientific analysis is done. Cold, hard, objective, rational yet flexible and nondogmatic examination of the available data. Go where the data goes, not on what your opinion favors. Have been a skeptic ever since.
 
Including of the gods. Religion is not as is often claimed a search for the truth, or to be moral or altruistic. It is looking for boons supernatural – al theists are expecting stuff in return ofr adherence. It’s the prefect recipe for waving away awkward counter evidence.
 
There was nothing dramatic or agonizing about my going science-based, it was fun knowing that most folks were being absurd in believing in matters magical. I did not have much in the way of deep discussions with my parents who while they had their positives – including being largely supportive of my science interests and art — were too dysfunctional and nonintellectual for me to admire, seek their approval, or care what they thought. Moderate-liberal suburban northern Virginia was not especially churchly like the SE tidewater Virginia where and aunt and uncle lived, and this was before the rise of the religious right, creationism was not much of an issue. So theo talk was not all that common. Somehow the God subject came up with a young substitute teacher I think in art class. She and another student derided my nontheism, the teacher demanding I offer up a single great thinker who was an atheist. Could not come up with one – this was long before the atheist flourishing of more recent times – awkward. Did not change my mind though. Senior year in English the apparently nontheist teacher was for reasons I do not recall discussing issues godly. The student counter arguing happened to be the daughter of the ward bishop. Because of that I kept my mouth shut. As she was being shot down – at one point she was queried as to the physical condition old people would be in in heaven — she looked to fellow Vienna ward attendee me (but not a friend) with a facial appeal for support which I was not about to deliver. With the Boy Scouts thing winding down, the Evans having moved away, my interest in Mormonism still nil, LDS services as always excruciatingly dull – stay away from them for your own sake — and the ward bishop pressuring me to tithe while warning me to stay away from the atheist University of Utah I was toying with attending, I eased myself out.
 
When I moved at 20 I was careful to not let the church know my new address. I got a call from a church official at the work number I had earlier gave them silly me. They use the insidious techniques of salespeople. Start out nice and if that does not work ramp up the pressure until the mark caves just to stop the unpleasant situation. When the manipulative ass realized I was holding my ground he got nasty and threatened excommunication. Like I cared. This century one of my uncles deliberately got excommunicated to stop LDS operatives from pestering him. Another uncle had converted to the Greek Orthodoxy of his wife – those are the cool people I visit when in Utah;) Aside from a couple of missionaries who thought it cool I had ancestors who knew Smith while politely deriding their faith, I have not had contact with an active Mormon for decades. Yay!
 
The Book II
 
At 20 another book had a big and conclusive impact. A personal life item was going so well I imagined it must show the favor of a deity – classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. When that situation did not work out I thought it discreditable to now abandon the belief – another classic theogullible superficial grade thinking mistake. I do not recall how I learned about it, but I purchased a copy of Mark Twain’s theonotorious Letters from the Earth to see what he had to say about the God thing. Like most Christians I had never read the damn Bible (I did much later as a research project, I survived). Twain was the first person to with his brilliant literary wit tell me the appalling truth about the book of horrors and its barbaric god, while attending to its cruelty to humanity. Here is a brief sample.
 
The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions harmoniously…. For each one of these thousands of mechanisms the Creator has planned an enemy whose job it is to harass it, pester it, persecute it, damage it, afflict it with pains, and miseries, and ultimate destruction. Not one has been overlooked….  It is the Creator’s Grand Army, and he is the Commander-in-Chief. Along its battlefront its grisly banners wave their legends in the face of the sun: Disaster, Diseases and the rest…. It is wonderful the thorough and comprehensive study which the Creator devoted to the great work of making man miserable…. All of the Creator’s specially deadly disease-producers are invisible.  It is an ingenious idea. For thousands of years it kept man from getting to the root of his maladies, and defeated his attempts to master them. It is only recently that science has succeeded in exposing some of these treacheries.
 
(I strongly recommend LFTE to all — be cautioned that a lot of the book is criticism of literature by the inventor of modern non/fictional literature Clemens, not that that is a problem.)
 
I realized that I had been lied to by the churches. I hate being lied to, propaganda is vile and I try to avoid deceiving others. By the time I finished the sections on theism I said “I get it Twain,” and I have never had reason to modify my atheism since.
 
What is Rattling Around Between My Ears
 
So what is my atheism? I am not a theist, a person who has a belief in one or more deities/gods. Broadly and correctly etymologically defined, a-theism is the lack of theism, ergo I am an atheist. I am not an absolute atheist who is completely certain there are not any gods because that cannot be entirely proven – such folk are rare, a hot Hopkins undergrad I knew back in the day who was quite ticked when I denied absolute disproof of deities is the only one I have met. In that sense I am an agnostic as defined by the person who coined the term Thomas Huxley. So by his own statements so is Dawkins, we are both agnostic atheists. My position is based entirely on data analysis. I always follow the data as best I can, and if it supported the probability or certainty of some form of deity or deities being around and about I would opt for that and would not be writing this – as I will discuss in a later blog, if god/s existed there are many circumstances in which it would be obvious and not a matter of debate. As it is the evidence for the presence of anything supernatural is pathetic, and the possibility of their existence is about as close to zero as one can get without quite getting there.
 
Although the basic existence of a god and many other items supernatural cannot be entirely disproven, the existence of a decent, loving, benign moral creator that has the best interests of his human creations can be scientifically tested. I am the person who literally has done the most to prove that a Good God simply cannot exist because of the deadly nature of our planet to children. And that worshipping a creator god in search of boons is inherently immoral. I am also the leading researcher when correlating the relationship between levels of popular a/theism and socioeconomic conditions, which leaves no statistical doubt that the more atheistic democracies are, the better off are their citizens, and for inherent reasons it is not possible for highly religious societies to be highly successful. I am therefore anti-theism, similar to say Dawkins. As such I am not like many atheists tolerant of religion and belief, it is bad idea in terms of truth and for societies. That does not mean atheism cannot have its own downsides as I shall discuss in these blogs. I try to be fair and objective, and am often vexed when other atheists are not that. Or well informed. I am often aghast at the limited knowledge base of attendees at atheist groups. Lots of them don’t know that our planet is 4.5 billion years old. Sheesh.
 
I am an equal opportunity skeptic. Our society is deeply, cynically hypocritical, that being true of most of the majority who are theists here and abroad. Belief in supernatural deities for which evidence of their existence is extremely weak and their goodness is readily disprovable is widely seen as normal if not noble, while a host of other paranormal beliefs that are no better founded are commonly derided and condemned as baseless and mere superstitions. These days I have people asking this dinosaurologist if it is really true that aliens killed off the dinosaurs to pave the way for humanity, an item they picked up from cable and online “documentaries.” That outlandish notion lacks any actual evidence, but it is no more or less plausible than the conceit that a transcendent entity created our universe and planet. I am not a hypocrite when it comes to matters paranormal godly and secular, they are all bogus as far as can be determined. Faith is not truth, it is sheer opinion.
 
Becoming an Atheosecular Researcher
 
Having meme evolved into a strongly convinced but not absolutist agnostic atheist by 20 and not having seen anything close to suggesting I should change my mind since, I spent the mid 70s to the mid 90s focusing on my paleozoological research and art. Including doing the primary design work for the Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park (do not blame me for the flawed appearance of the rest of the JP dinos, and the original King Kong is a way better dinosaurs and other monsters on an island movie, albeit typically racist per the times). Although not the very first I was among the very few illustrating smaller dinosaurs with feathers and fuzz which would be verified in the 90s, was the first to note that some dinosaurs might also be secondarily flightless birds, was the first to calculate that the bigger flying pterosaurs were massive monsters weighing as much as lions and tigers and bears, and named a number of dinosaur groups and genus-species (some of which remain in force) – you can check out my paleo work and art at www.gspauldino.com. Being an iconoclastic polymath is my thing. Did little about the nonreligion thing even as I was appalled by the anti-scientific religious right and its perverted consort creationism. In the mid 90s I started attending local atheosecular groups, partly for social reasons. On the positive side of matters in those days of post cold war optimism I was pleased to see the poll data indicating that the USA was in fact becoming increasingly irreligious, as I documented in my first atheism themed article in a 2002 Free Inquiry.
 
But I was a very frustrated fellow. About the scientific investigation of the societal impacts of religion and nontheism. In order to understand that and many other things you have to have the comparative stats on hand. Duh. Lots of people were claiming mass deity belief is critical for societies to be well run, others denied it. But where were the objective, large scale statistical comparisons needed to test who was right? When I realized the correlations had not been produced which was an enormous failure of the sociological community, I went ahead and did them my little self, establishing a new field of research without really trying in the process. I was being innovative in this arena as I had in paleo. It was a fairly extensive project, but there was plenty of data available and the results were fascinating. I published them in the peer reviewed J Religion & Society and Evolutionary Psychology (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/147470490900700305), as well chapters in academic books. The research – which has never been refuted because it is objectively not possible to do so — got a fair amount of media attention. Including being labeled the church’s public enemy #1 by MSNBC (https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna10351693) which I am quite proud of, and an appearance on FoxNews which I parried the sleazy reporter fairly well. The work, bolstered by the efforts of others, has done a fair amount to shift the public discourse more towards the favor of atheism.
 
In a statistics tells us a lot about morality parallel line of analysis, I had known since reading the first sentences of Arthur C. Clarke’s book version of 2001 A Space Odyssey that around 100 billion people had been born. I also knew that juvenile mortality rates are around 50%, so that meant some 50 billion children had been tormented to death by the diseases as outlined by Twain, and even greater numbers have miscarried. This was another ground breaking look at the old problem of how a perfect God and our imperfect planet do not go along with one another. I published an analysis in Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf) – no other atheists have scored the coup of publishing anti-theistic works in mainstream religious journals – that was the first publication to ever present the number of deceased children, and showed how theologians have bent over backward to evade the problem for ages that because mass death of youngsters directly refutes the belief that God is Good and deserves admiring worship, and that such is not at all noble. Very frustrating is that my efforts to get media attention for the core refutation of religion, and a response from the theists who have no means of producing a plausible counterargument, went nowhere. In order to tale another shot and that while updating the analysis I am publishing a two-parter on the subject in Essays on the Philosophy of Humanism (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1). So far that has not been more successful at getting wide attention, with Religion News Service cynically rejecting my press release the theocads.
 
A major achievement was in 2011. I kept sending op-eds to major venues without success. Then it occurred to me to do one on the chronic discrimination against atheists, and do it in association with others. That worked, the Washington Post carried it. The piece garnered 1500 comments before those were timed out, and 80,000 likes. Nice. But that was the end of such major consideration of my work in the mainstream media and press. Dozens of efforts to place pieces in mainstream opinion venues have gone nowhere. And it is not just me. A big running problem is the stunning lack of attention paid to atheists by the mainstream news media, my next blog will be on that issue.
 
My atheo frustrations do not end there. Fact is that institutional atheosecularism has not been as effective as it needs to be. Basic means for promoting a world view include setting up think tanks to generate data driven information, and a news service to help distribute it. For reasons obscure to me this has not yet happened, despite my and others efforts to get such going. The lack of financial support had severely hindered the research and analysis by myself and others that would likely improve the situation for atheists around the globe. More about that later on this site.
 
Starting in 2017 I have had a regular column in Free Inquiry. That’s a major audience, but one can read my tomes only if one subscribes to the magazine which I suggest people do, and only nontheists subscribe. This blog expands the audience for my popular articles beyond FI. Also, those columns are limited to something over 1000 words, which is too short to fully address many issues. Things are complicated. One of the reasons why we are in the global discourse pickle we are in is because many pieces are more propaganda presentations than well thought out arguments backed up by solid data.
 
Coming Features
 
I will be covering a lot of cool topics. How the failure to develop fusion power has greatly slowed down the decline of theism and bettering the global economy – the former is dependent on the latter — while aiding theoradicalism. How the giant New Zealand moas and elephant birds of Madagascar disprove the contention of William Lane Craig that the good God has to allow predators to mug and chow down on other creatures – don’t get me started on how theists say animals do not really suffer because they are too dumb. Why the scandalous failure of nontheists to vote at the same per capita rate as theoconservatives is why the religious right minority is still a major political power in this country. How about how conservative Christianity is backing the right wing autocratic forces of Europe. Then there is how Dwight Eisenhower was the president who initiated modern government promotion of religion. Did you know that Yosemite Valley is one of the best disproofs of the Biblical creation story, and why – think granite. Here’s a goodie. Few realize that the establishment of the national parks was to a great extent an effort to promote god belief among White Americans at the expense of the Original Peoples, that’s a reason why park ranger uniforms are based on old US Army garb. Bet you did not know that. You may know that the antiabortion movement is really an effort to return the nation to its godly traditional ways of the 1950s, but if not I shall explain.
 
What virtually no one knows is that it was the Catholic Church that did more than anything else to put Hitler into power, largely to ensure the stream of tax revenue they still enjoy. Everyone knows about the pedophile scandals that have rocked and damaged the church, but not about the incredible links between the Vatican and mob elements that used to generate international headlines and inspired the Godfather III, but have been shunted aside. Do not forget how the Manifest Destiny that drove the ethnic cleansing of the America’s was a Godly project made possible by the diseases of Twain’s God liquidated most of the population.
 
Ever wonder why the American religious right is all for fossil fuels oil especially? I’ll explain that one. And don’t you believe that nonsense that while Jesus was probably not divine, he was a man of peace. He was not. If he existed.
 
And there’s a lot more.
 
Since I got into active atheism the good news has been how theism has been declining way faster in the USA than even I hoped, with nonreligion soaring by an astonishing 10% of the population each decade, and atheists as broadly defined now making up perhaps a fifth or a quarter of nation (for the stats see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf). Gallup found church membership was at 70% in 2000, now is only 50%. On the disappointing side the atheist movement is not expanding in tune with the population dynamics, perhaps because of the general decline is social organizations. On the very bad side theoconservatism has, despite losing some demographic ground – even white Republicans are less religious than they used to be – retained a much more powerful grip on much of the government than I predicted. And in their fury to maintain their power are going increasingly bizarro world toxic and autocratic here and abroad. Meanwhile other versions of paranormal thinking are doing all too well, especially concerning alien visitors and even flat-earthism which is a religious movement if you don’t know. But don’t blame everything on the theists. The virulent Chinese government is atheist.
 
Hope you find my coming pontifications of interest, and even better of use.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 11: The Group Hallucinations Historical Claim

WHERE WE ARE
On page 187 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft presents his second of fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7 of this series,  I clarified, analyzed, and evaluated Peter Kreeft’s Objection #2 (Witnesses Were Qualified) against the Hallucination Theory, and in Part 7  I concluded that this objection FAILS.
On page 186 of HCA, Kreeft presents his first objection against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 8 of this series, I clarified Peter Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory.
In Part 9 of this series, I clarified the group-hallucination principle that is a key premise of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
In Part 10 of this series, I argued that we have good reason to doubt the group-hallucination principle that is a key premise of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses), and thus we have good reason to reject Objection #1.
In this post, I will examine the historical claim that is another key premise of Objection #1.
 
THE KEY HISTORICAL CLAIM IN THE ARGUMENT  CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1
Here is the core argument in the larger argument that constitutes Peter Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

This is a SOUND argument only if the group-hallucination principle in premise (B) is true AND the historical claim in premise (3a) is true.  I have previously argued that we have good reason to doubt that premise (B) is true.  It is now time to examine the key historical claim in Objection #1, namely premise (3a).
 
KREEFT’S ALLEGED EXAMPLES OF GROUP EXPERIENCES OF APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
In Part 3 of this series, I pointed out that the examples provided by Peter Kreeft of alleged experiences of alleged appearances of a risen Jesus include both individuals and groups:
INDIVIDUALS

  • Mary Magdalene
  • James (the “brother” or cousin of Jesus)

GROUPS

  • the disciples minus Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • the disciples including Thomas
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • Andrew (Peter’s brother)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Philip
    • Bartholomew
    • Matthew
    • Thomas
    • James (son of Alphaeus)
    • Simon (called the Zealot)
    • Judas (son of James)
  • two disciples at Emmaus
    • Cleopas
    • an unnamed disciple at Emmaus
  • the fishermen on the shore
    • Simon (whom Jesus named Peter)
    • James (son of Zebedee)
    • John (son of Zebedee)
    • Thomas
    • Nathanael (= Bartholomew?)
    • the beloved disciple (not one of “the twelve” disciples)
    • a second unnamed disciple by the Sea of Tiberias
  • five hundred people
    • unnamed males and females in an unknown location and with unknown religious and cultural backgrounds

The argument constituting Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) is based on a principle concerning GROUP hallucinations, specifically where more than two people have an experience at the same time that seems to them to be an experience of the risen Jesus.  Individual experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus are thus IRRELEVANT to Objection #1.   That is why I have used strikethrough font for the examples of individuals who allegedly experienced an alleged appearance of a risen Jesus.  I have also used strikethrough font for the example of the “two disciples at Emmaus” because the argument constituting Objection #1 is about when more than two people have an experience at the same time that seems to them to be an experience of the risen Jesus.  So, that example is also IRRELEVANT to Objection #1.
The example of five hundred people allegedly having an experience at the same time, an experience that allegedly seemed to them to be an appearance of the risen Jesus, obviously satisfies the requirement of being an experience where more than two people have such an experience at the same time.  However, I am excluding this example for now, because Kreeft uses this “evidence” as the basis for his Objection #3 (Five Hundred Witnesses), and it is UNFAIR and UNREASONABLE for him to use this same “evidence” twice, making basically the same objection twice.  Since Kreeft clearly wants this “evidence” to be considered a third objection, I will exclude consideration of this “evidence” in evaluating his Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
 
PREMISE (3a) IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL
That leaves us with just THREE alleged group experiences of the risen Jesus that are based on THREE different passages from the 4th Gospel:

  • the disciples minus Thomas (John 20:19-25)
  • the disciples including Thomas (John 20:26-28)
  • the fishermen on the shore (John 21:1-14)

Because all three alleged examples of group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus are based on the 4th Gospel, premise (3a) is DEAD ON ARRIVAL.  The 4th Gospel is the least historically reliable of the four gospels.  It was written in the closing decade of the first century, about sixty years after Jesus was crucified.  Most mainstream NT scholars conclude that it was NOT written by an eyewitness, but was likely written by an unkown disciple of an unknown disciple of Jesus, and that, at best, it contains some bits and pieces of historical data from the sermons of an unknown disciple of Jesus (who was NOT one of “the Twelve”).  Most of this gospel is fictional, and until recently the 4th Gospel was ignored by scholars who were interested in studying the historical Jesus, because it is so historically UNRELIABLE.
Apart from some careful scholarly arguments in defense of these particular stories from the 4th Gospel, one should be VERY SKEPTICAL about the historical reliability of these stories.  Since Kreeft only provides us with four fucking sentences on Objection #1, there is clearly no scholarly argument presented about any of these passages being an exception to the general unreliability of the 4th Gospel.  So, one could reasonably conclude at this point that premise (3a) is either FALSE or DUBIOUS, and this gives us a good reason to reject Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).

Ending of Luke and Beginning of John on the same page of Codex Vaticanus (c. 300–325)

KREEFT’S FIRST TWO EXAMPLES OF GROUP EXPERIENCES ARE PROBABLY FICTIONAL STORIES
The fact that the 4th Gospel is generally UNRELIABLE gives us a good reason to doubt the story about the alleged group experience of “the disciples minus Thomas”  and to doubt the story about the alleged group experience of “the disciples including Thomas” because both stories are found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel.  However, this is not the only good reason to doubt the historicity of these two stories.
No other Gospel has the “doubting Thomas” story that constitutes Kreeft’s second example of an alleged group experience of the risen Jesus.  So, this second example is without confirmation by any other Gospel.
Luke does have a story about an alleged appearance of Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday, so that is a partial confirmation of “the disciples minus Thomas” story found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel.  But there are inconsistencies between Luke’s story and the story found in the 4th Gospel.  Luke, for example, talks about “the Eleven” being present, which directly contradicts the claim that Thomas was absent for this alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!”
35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
(Luke 24:33-36, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

If Luke’s account is accurate, then Thomas was present during this group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday, because Thomas was one of “the eleven”.  But if Luke’s account is accurate, then the whole “doubting Thomas” story in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel is clearly fictional, and the story of “the disciples minus Thomas” in that same Chapter of the 4th Gospel is at least mistaken on the important detail of whether Thomas was present or absent during the alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on the first Easter Sunday.
There are other details that differ between Luke’s account of this event and the account in the 4th Gospel.  For example, in Luke Jesus shows his hands and his feet to his disciples, but in John Jesus shows his hands and his side to his disciples.  Showing his side to the disciples is a reference to an alleged wound in Jesus’ side, a wound that is ONLY mentioned in the Gospel of John.  No other Gospel account of the crucifixion mentions a soldier stabbing Jesus in the side with a spear.  No other Gospel account of an appearance of the risen Jesus mentions a wound in the side of Jesus.  Those details about a wound in Jesus’ side are found ONLY in the 4th Gospel.   So, it looks like the spear wound in Jesus’ side is a fictional element in the 4th Gospel that is carried through to the fictional story of “doubting Thomas” which is also found ONLY in the 4th Gospel.
The contents of what the risen Jesus allegedly says to his disciples on Easter Sunday differs between Luke’s account and the account in the 4th Gospel, so that is another reason to doubt the historical reliability of the stories in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel. In Luke’s account Jesus tells his disciples that he will send the Spirit of God upon them in the near future:

46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”                                   (Luke 24:46-49, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

But in the 4th Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples the promised Spirit of God right on the spot:

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.
(John 20:21-22, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

In Luke’s account of this alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, Jesus makes a big deal about eating some fish in front of the disciples, to prove that he is not a ghost:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.  (Luke 24:46-49, New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added)

According to Luke, the disciples were “terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”  Furthermore, Jesus explicitly speaks about their being “frightened” and shows his hands and feet BECAUSE he wants to PROVE to them that he is NOT a ghost.  Nobody who was a disciple of Jesus who had such a terrifying experience, where Jesus explicitly talks about NOT being a ghost and takes steps to PROVE that he was NOT a ghost would have forgotten this very emotional event.  Yet the account given in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel says NOTHING about the disciples being “terrified”,  NOTHING about the disciples thinking Jesus was a ghost, NOTHING about Jesus eating a piece of fish “in their presence”, and NOTHING about the actions of Jesus being motivated by the purpose of PROVING that he was NOT a ghost.  So, the absence of these closely-related details in the 4th Gospel’s account of this alleged appearance of Jesus is clearly inconsistent with the account in Luke’s Gospel, and raises doubt about the historical reliability of both accounts of this alleged appearance of Jesus to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday.
The Gospel of Luke gives us a good reason to reject the “doubting Thomas” story from Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel as fictional, and thus to reject “the disciples with Thomas” example of an alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus from the 4th Gospel, and the Gospel of Luke partially corroborates “the disciples without Thomas” example from the 4th Gospel, but also casts doubt on the accuracy and reliability of both versions of this story, because of various inconsistencies in important details between Luke’s account and the account in the 4th Gospel.
But the most serious problem here is that both Mark and Matthew agree that Jesus did NOT appear to his disciples in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, but appeared to them for the first time in Galilee a week or more after Jesus was crucified, and thus his first appearance to his disciples was NOT in Jerusalem and NOT on the first Easter Sunday.  Because Mark is the earliest of the Gospels, and because both Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus, Mark’s account of what happened on the first Easter Sunday should be given preference over the accounts found in Luke and John.
In terms of objective historical investigation, IF some of the disciples of Jesus actually did experience an alleged appearance (or appearances) of the risen Jesus, THEN the most likely scenario is that the experience(s) of the alleged appearance (or appearances) of the risen Jesus first took place in Galilee a week or more after Jesus was crucified.  (NOTE: Jesus and his twelve disciples had walked from Galilee to Jerusalem prior to Jesus being crucified in Jerusalem, and it would take a number of days for the disciples to walk back to Galilee from Jerusalem.  So, if the disciples started walking back to Galilee from Jerusalem on Easter Sunday or on Monday after that Sunday, then they would not have arrived back in Galilee until about a week after the crucifixion.)
The problem is not merely that the 4th Gospel has been found by NT scholars to be historically UNRELIABLE, but that the other Gospel accounts of what happened on the first Easter CONTRADICT the accounts of alleged group experiences of alleged appearances of Jesus found in Chapter 20 of the 4th Gopsel.   The CONTRADICTIONS are not limited to details (like Luke’s account implying that Thomas was present with the other disciples on Easter Sunday), but concern basic historical claims, like that there was a group experience by several of Jesus’ disciples of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus on Easter Sunday.  The earliest Gospel, Mark, clearly implies that this DID NOT HAPPEN, and the Gospel of Matthew agrees with Mark on this basic historical question.  Therefore, the stories about alleged group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem found in the 4th Gospel are not just questionable or dubious, they are PROBABLY FICTIONAL; they are PROBABLY FALSE.  They certainly cannot be used to PROVE premise (3a), or even to provide solid evidence for premise (3a).
 
ONE EXAMPLE OF A GROUP EXPERIENCE OF AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE IS INSUFFICIENT
Kreeft’s first two examples of group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were DEAD ON ARRIVAL, because the 4th Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE, and we have just seen that a more in-depth examination of those two particular stories reveals that they are PROBABLY FALSE and that IF some of the disciples of Jesus experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, this probably first occurred in Galilee a week or more after Jesus had been crucified.  So, we are left with ONLY ONE alleged example from Kreeft about an alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

  • the fishermen on the shore (John 21:1-14)

This example can be challenged on the basis of the view of most NT scholars that the 4th Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE, and thus, apart from a careful scholarly argument that this particular story is an exception to the rule, we have good reason to doubt the historicity of this story.   However, this appearance story takes place in Galilee at least a couple of weeks after Jesus was crucified, based on the 4th Gospel.   So, this appearance story, unlike the first two examples from Chapter 20 of the 4th Gospel, does not directly contradict the Gospels of Mark and Matthew.  Furthermore, advocates of the Hallucination Theory agree with Kreeft on the following point:

A disciple (or some disciples) of Jesus experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at some time after he was crucified, and that experience (or experiences) led them to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.

The disagreement they have is NOT that such experiences occurred, but is over the nature of those experiences, whether they were actual sensory experiences of an actually present living and embodied Jesus or hallucinations about Jesus or dreams about Jesus (without a living and embodied Jesus being present).  So, some advocates of the Hallucination Theory might be willing to accept the historicity of “the fishermen on the shore” example of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
It should be noted, however, that ONE EXAMPLE of such a group experience is NOT SUFFICIENT to support the key historical claim made by premise (3a):

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

This premise asserts that such group experiences took place on “multiple occasions”.  One example of such a group experience is NOT ENOUGH to prove that this happened on multiple occasions.  So, because two of Kreeft’s three examples of alleged group experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus have been shown to be PROBABLY FALSE, the ONE questionable example that remains FAILS to establish his key historical claim.  Because Kreeft has only provided us with ONE questionable example of such a group experience, we have good reason to doubt premise (3a) and to reject Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).
 
THERE ARE NO WITNESSES TO GROUP EXPERIENCES OF AN ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF THE RISEN JESUS
The word “witnesses” does not appear anywhere in the clarified version of the core argument of the argument constituting Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  But note that this objection is labeled “Too Many Witnesses”.  So, if there are actually ZERO “witnesses” related to the alleged group experiences that are asserted to have occurred in premise (3a), then that should give us another good reason to doubt or reject Objection #1.  It seems to me to be the case that there are ZERO “witnesses” related to the alleged group experiences specified in premise (3a), so I will now attempt to argue for this view, and then see whether this thinking does provide us with another good reason to reject Objection #1.
In Part 2 of this series, I argued that the term “witness” as used by Kreeft in his case against the Hallucination Theory, should be understood one of two ways:

6a. One who can potentially furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.

6b. One who actually furnishes evidence by giving a firsthand account of something.  

In Part 4 of this series, I argued that definition (6a) will not work for Kreeft to make his case, because his focus is on the credibility of the testimony of various people.  In order for the credibility of the testimony of various people to be of any help to his case, there must BE actual TESTIMONY that we now possess from some “witness”.  The fact that someone merely had the POTENTIAL to furnish evidence by giving a firsthand account of an event is of no significance if that person NEVER ACTUALLY PROVIDED any testimony about that event.  So only a “witness” in the strong sense spelled out in definition (6b) will be of use for Kreeft to make his case against the Hallucination Theory.
But there is no account of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus that constitutes a firsthand account of that event.  The ONLY firsthand account that we have of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus comes from Paul, who wrote most of the letters in the New Testament.  The Gospels were NOT written by eyewitnesses to a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  The authors of Mark and Luke do NOT claim to be disciples who traveled with Jesus and do NOT claim to have ever laid eyes on the historical Jesus, and they do NOT claim to have seen an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  NT scholars don’t believe that Mark and Luke traveled around as disciples of the historical Jesus, nor that they personally experienced an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.
The author of Matthew does NOT claim to be a disciple who traveled with Jesus, does NOT claim to have ever laid eyes on the historical Jesus, and does NOT claim to have seen an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  There are very good reasons to doubt that “Matthew the tax collector” was the author of the Gospel named “Matthew”, one such reason being that there was probably no such person.  Jesus probably had a disciple named “Matthew” but that disciple was NOT a tax collector.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew borrows a story from the Gospel of Mark about Levi the tax collector and makes it into a story about “Matthew” one of the twelve disciples in the inner circle of the followers of Jesus.
Clearly, the real Matthew would not borrow a story from another Gospel about another person and make it into a story about himself.  The real Matthew would be able to tell lots of stories about himself and his relationship with Jesus, without having to borrow material from an author who never even met the historical Jesus.  Since the author of the Gospel named “Matthew” borrows a story from Mark about the disciple Matthew, that is a powerful reason for rejecting the view that the disciple of Jesus named Matthew was the author of the Gospel named “Matthew”.   Since the author of Matthew never claims to have been a direct disciple of Jesus, and never claims to have been an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel, and since there are good reasons to doubt that the disciple named “Matthew” was the author of this Gospel, there is good reason to doubt and to reject the view that the account of the alleged group experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus found at the end of this Gospel is an eyewitness account.  The author of Matthew was NOT an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel.
The author of the 4th Gospel was traditionally believed to be John the son of Zebedee, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  But most NT scholars do NOT accept this traditional view, and even some Evangelical NT scholars doubt that John was the author of the 4th Gospel.  A common view, argued by the great Catholic NT scholar Raymond Brown is that the 4th Gospel was composed by an unknown disciple (or disciples) of an unknown disciple of Jesus.  On this view, there may be bits and pieces in the 4th Gospel that are based on sermons given by an unknown disciple of Jesus (not one of the twelve).  But the material in the 4th Gospel has been strongly shaped by dramatic and theological and ideological purposes, and it has been significantly revised by a second or third-generation Christian believer (or believers) who was NOT an eyewitness to the events described in the 4th Gospel.
The strong shaping of the 4th Gospel by dramatic, theological, and ideological purposes, combined with the fact that the author and revisers of this Gospel were NOT eyewitnesses to the events described in the Gospel explains why this Gospel is so historically UNRELIABLE, and why it would contain stories about alleged group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus that are FICTION.
In short, the Gospels do NOT provide us with any eyewitness accounts of any alleged appearance of Jesus.  The one possible exception to this is the story of “the fishermen on the shore” found in Chapter 21 of the 4th Gospel.  But the problem with that story is that the 4th Gospel is in general historically UNRELIABLE, and was NOT composed by an eyewitness, so this is at best a secondhand telling of this story by an unknown disciple of a disciple of Jesus, and there is no way of telling, with any degree of certainty, whether this particular story originated with a disciple of Jesus or if it came from the imagination of an unknown disciple of an unknown disciple of Jesus.
The ONLY firsthand account of an alleged appearance of Jesus found in the NT is in the letters of Paul.  Paul claims to have had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  But Paul was NOT a disciple of the historical Jesus, and so far as we know Paul NEVER SAW the historical Jesus in person prior to having an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Since Paul had NOT previously seen the historical Jesus, Paul was in no position to identify anyone as BEING Jesus, so Paul’s experience has no real significance as EVIDENCE for the resurrection of Jesus.  Furthermore, Paul was NOT part of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, so his individual experience is IRRELEVANT to Kreeft’s key historical premise in Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory.
 
CONCLUSION
Two out of three of the alleged examples provided by Kreeft of group experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus are PROBABLY FALSE.
That leaves only ONE example of a group hallucination (experienced by more than two people at the same time), but ONE example is INSUFFICIENT to show that the key historical claim of Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) is true.
Furthermore, the ONE remaining alleged example provided by Kreeft of a group experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus is DUBIOUS, because it comes from the historically UNRELIABLE 4th Gospel, and because that Gospel was NOT composed by a disciple of Jesus nor by someone who was an eyewitness to the events described in that Gospel.
There are NO ACCOUNTS in the NT of a group experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus that are provided by an eyewitness who was actually present during that event.
For these reasons premise (3a), the key historical premise of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses), is DUBIOUS.
I previously argued in Part 10 that premise (B), the group-hallucination principle, which is another key premise of Kreeft’s Objection #1, is DUBIOUS.
Since both key premises of Kreeft’s Objection #1 are DUBIOUS, we have good reason to reject that objection, and thus Kreeft’s Objection #1 FAILS.

bookmark_borderEvidence that Doesn’t Demand a Verdict

I am a left-wing atheist who hates Donald Trump and who is disgusted with every White Evangelical Christian SHITHEAD who supports Trump and his evil racist, sexist, anti-immigrant basket-of-deplorables.
I spend much of my time critically examining the arguments of Evangelical Christian apologists like Norman Geisler, Peter Kreeft, and Josh McDowell.  I have come to the conclusion that the intellectual efforts of these apologists amount to stinking piles of dog shit.  They present mountains of unclear, illogical, ignorant, dubious, and false BULLSHIT as if they were presenting intelligent arguments, thus polluting the minds of millions of Christians by presenting paradigm examples of IDIOCY and STUPIDITY as if they were presenting examples of intelligent reasoning.  I have little respect for these Evangelical Christian apologists and significant contempt for them.
NEVERTHELESS, the recent criticisms of Josh McDowell as being a “racist” strike me as UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED.  So, although I have significant contempt for McDowell and for White Evangelical Christians in general, I am going to BRIEFLY DEFEND McDowell against what seems to me to be UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED criticism.  Even IDIOTS like McDowell can be good-hearted people who are decent and morally upright in character.  In any case, the EVIDENCE presented fails to justify the strong moral condemnation of McDowell.
Part of my strong reaction to recent criticisms of McDowell concerns the sloppy use of the word “racist” and “racism”.  These terms are at least ambiguous and so when used to criticize and to morally condemn a person should be CLARIFIED, at the very least.  Furthermore, since one of the meanings of these terms is particularly odious, to fling these words around in a sloppy and careless way is offensive and is counter-productive in the battle against racism and racial prejudice.

In my view, nobody should be morally condemned as being a “racist” simply on the grounds that he/she has said or done something that indicates racial prejudice.   Racial prejudice is wrong and should be called out whenever it occurs, but the reality is that virtually ALL white people have some degree of racial prejudice which on occasion influences the words and actions of a white person.
Furthermore, racial prejudice is generally NOT as evil and as harmful as the conscious belief that one race is superior to other races or that one race is inferior to other races or that some races are inferior to other races.  One of the meanings of the word “racism” is the belief that some particular races are inferior to other particular races (e.g. the belief that black people are morally and intellectually inferior to white people by nature, because of their race).
When people say that Josh McDowell is a “racist” this is a very strong moral condemnation of him because ONE meaning of “racist” implies a person who holds the belief that some particular races are inferior to other particular races.  But there is NO EVIDENCE that McDowell holds such a belief or advocates such a belief.  So, the use of the word “racist” about Josh McDowell is SLANDEROUS because it suggests a claim about McDowell that IF TRUE would justify strong moral condemnation, but this is a claim for which there is NO EVIDENCE.
 
THE OFFENDING WORDS OF MCDOWELL
Here is a tweet that provided a quote from McDowell that led to the moral criticism and condemnation:

Another person who was present provides a bit more extensive quote of McDowell:

 
MY VIEW OF MCDOWELL’S OFFENDING STATEMENT
First of all, it is patently OBVIOUS to anyone who has two brain cells to rub together that McDowell’s comment is about NURTURE rather than NATURE.  This is clearly NOT a comment about the genes or inherited traits or the natural character of black people.  This is CLEARLY a comment about how black children are generally RAISED or SOCIALIZED.  So, it is clear and obvious that this quote has NOTHING to do with “racism”; that is to say, there is NO EVIDENCE here that McDowell believes that black people all belong to a race that is intellectually or morally inferior to white people who belong to a superior race of humans.
To use this quote as the basis for condemning McDowell as being a “racist” is SLANDEROUS because ONE clear meaning of this term is that the person in question consciously believes that some races are inferior to other races, and in this context, that means holding the belief that black people all belong to a race that is morally and intellectually inferior to the race to which white people allegedly belong.
Second, it is NOT clear that McDowell’s statement is FALSE.  IF McDowell’s statement is in fact TRUE, then we ought to be cautious about morally condemning McDowell for making this statement.   Do we really want to go around morally condemning people for making TRUE statements?  Before people get too bent out of shape, they need to study the relevant FACTS and DATA about how black children are raised in the USA and about how white children are raised in the USA.  Perhaps McDowell’s statement is TRUE, or perhaps it is partially TRUE and partially FALSE, or perhaps it is totally FALSE.  Until one studies the relevant sociological FACTS and DATA, one should not presume to know what those FACTS and DATA show to be the current social reality in the USA.
Third, McDowell probably does deserve some degree of chastisement and criticism, because he probably made this statement on the basis of PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPE, rather than on the basis of sociological FACTS and DATA.  If McDowell had studied the sociology of black families and of the rearing of black children (in the USA), and also studied the sociology of white families and of the rearing of white children (in the USA), then he might have had FACTS and DATA that supported his statement.
However, McDowell has quickly apologized for making this statement, and I think it is very unlikely that he would apologize for making this statement if he made the statement on the basis of FACTS and DATA that he learned from studying the sociology of black families and child-rearing vs. white families and child-rearing.  So, it seems very likely that his statement was NOT based on FACTS and DATA, and thus it was likely made on the basis of PREJUDICE and STEREOTYPE.  In short, it does seem to me that McDowell should be chastised and criticized, but that he is guilty of racial prejudice in his thinking and speaking, and NOT guilty of RACISM.  There is NO EVIDENCE here that McDowell is a racist.
Fourth: “There but for the grace of God go I”.   I am a left-wing atheist, and I HATE racism and racists.  I hate NAZIs.  I hate the KKK.  I hate the alt-right.   I hate skinheads.  I hate yahoos who wave the Confederate flag (particularly the SHITHEAD who waved the Confederate flag in the Capitol Building during the Trump-inspired insurrection). But I am a white guy, and I am aware that us white guys (and white gals) all have some degree of racial prejudice.  Our culture in the USA is saturated with racial prejudice.
So, I might one day say (or write) something STUPID that comes from a PREJUDICE or STEREOTYPE about black people (or about some other people of color).  I don’t want a FREE PASS if that happens.  I hope that I would be called out and criticized for speaking or writing something that arises from racial prejudice in my thinking.  But I would OBJECT to being called a “racist” and to being accused of “racism” and to being morally condemned for the sin of “racism” on the basis that I manifested some racial prejudice in my thinking.  I would view such a strong moral condemnation as being UNFAIR and UNFOUNDED and SLANDEROUS because I do NOT believe that some races are inferior to other races, and I am firmly opposed to such a belief or ideology.
This is the standard that I would insist upon for how other people treat me, so this is the standard I will insist upon for how people treat Josh McDowell.  Yes, he made ONE statement that reflects PREJUDICE or STEREOTYPE about black people, and this does reflect racial prejudice in his thinking.  But that is NOT equivalent to being a “racist”.  This is NOT EVIDENCE that McDowell believes that black people belong to an inferior race of humans, nor that white people belong to a superior race of humans.  Making a statement that reflects racial prejudice in one’s thinking is NOT as bad and as evil as holding (or promoting) the evil belief that some people belong to an inferior race of humans.
 
MCDOWELL’S APOLOGY FOR HIS STATEMENT
Here is McDowell’s apology for his offending statement:

I see nothing wrong with this apology.  It is a clear and straightforward apology.  If I had made a stupid statement like McDowell did, based on racial prejudice or stereotypes, then I would apologize in a similar manner.
McDowell could have gone a bit further by admitting that he made a statement that “does not reflect reality” BECAUSE of his own racial prejudice, because of prejudice and stereotypes in his own thinking about black people.  But he did identify the specific problematic statement as being WRONG, and he affirms his opposition to racism.
I think in this context McDowell is using “racism” in the weaker sense of “racial prejudice”, which makes it harder for him to admit that his statement arose from racial prejudice in his own thinking (because that would be admitting that he was involved in and was promoting “racism”).    Racism is indeed one reason why equality for blacks has not yet been achieved, but another important factor is racial prejudice, such as we see in the thinking and words of Josh McDowell.
This apology would have been a bit better and a bit clearer if McDowell had drawn the distinction between the evil of RACISM and the evil of RACIAL PREJUDICE, and confessed to having made a statement that came NOT out of RACISM but out of RACIAL PREJUDICE in his own thinking.
NOTE: Given the general sloppiness and unclarity of McDowell’s thinking, it is not a surprise to me that he failed to notice this important distinction, and failed to make use of it in his apology.

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory – Part 10: Evaluation of the Group-Hallucination Principle

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 9 of this series I began to examine the core argument of Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses) against the Hallucination Theory:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

I pointed out that it is natural for skeptics to raise objections to the historical claim made in premise (3a), but that premise (B), a generalization about group hallucinations, is in need of further clarification, and that I suspected that when the meaning of (B) became clear, it too would turn out to be FALSE or DUBIOUS.  So, I worked on clarifying the meaning of premise (B).  Probably the most important bit of clarification is that the term “hallucination” should be understood in a broad way, such that it includes DREAMS as being examples of hallucinations.  Here is the definition of “hallucination” that I proposed:

An apparent sensory experience S that seems to be of a person or object is a hallucination IF AND ONLY IF
there is no corresponding external object or actual person present during apparent sensory experience S.

Kreeft needs the term “hallucination” to be understood in this broad manner, otherwise, his case for the resurrection of Jesus immediately FAILS, because if “hallucination” is understood more narrowly, in a way the excluded DREAMS, then Kreeft would have no objection against, and thus no refutation of, the skeptical theory that one or more disciples had a DREAM about Jesus that they mistakenly believed to be experiences of a real and embodied risen Jesus, and that these dream experiences became the basis for their belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
KREEFT’S ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (B)
Here is the argument that was given in support of premise (B):

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

Neither Josh McDowell nor Peter Kreeft provides a clear argument in support of premise (2a).  However, McDowell mentions the “details” of hallucinations as being a key idea in support of premise (2a) and that suggests a line of reasoning that I will now spell out.
 
THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
Even just a few “details” about a dream or hallucination can imply a huge number of possible alternative DESCRIPTIONS of that experience.  For example, a person might describe a portion of a dream this way:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

Each element of this sentence describing the dream could be replaced by some alternative possibility.  Instead of a full-grown cat, one could have dreamed about a kitten.  Instead of an orange cat, one could have dreamed about a black cat.  Instead of a tabby cat, one could have dreamed about a hamster or a puppy dog.  Instead of the cat walking slowly, one could have dreamed that the cat ran quickly.  Instead of the cat walking across the foot of a bed, the dream could have been about a cat walking across the floor or across the top of a table.
For the simple description “a full-grown orange tabby cat slowly walking across the foot of my bed” we can abstract various general categories:

  • AGE (newborn, infant, young, full-grown, old)
  • COLOR (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, purple, gray, black, brown)
  • TYPE/ANIMAL (tabby cat, Shetland pony, pointer dog, rattle snake, Angus cow, etc.)
  • LOCOMOTION (walking, skipping, hopping, running, tumbling, crawling, etc.)
  • SPEED (very slowly, slowly, moderately, quickly, very quickly, at full speed)
  • LOCATION (the foot of, the middle of, the top of, underneath, along the side)
  • OWNERSHIP (my X, your X, Our X, Sam’s X, Mary’s X, etc.)
  • FURNITURE (bed, couch, dresser, table, easy chair, nightstand, bench, shelf, desk, etc.)

The possible permutations exceed five possibilities for each of eight categories, so the possibilities exceed 5 to the 8th power or 25 to the 4th power or 390,625 different possibilities.  If we identify six different alternatives for each of the eight categories, then the number of different possible scenarios would be 6 to the 8th power or  36 to the 4th power, or 1,679,616 different scenarios.  Therefore, the description “a full-grown orange tabby cat walked slowly across the foot of my bed” suggests well over a million different alternative scenarios, with just a little bit of thought about different possibilities concerning each of the eight categories referenced in that brief description.
This thinking is what I believe is behind McDowell’s reference to “great detail” in the “descriptions of the appearances” in his presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory:

Christ appeared to many people, and descriptions of the appearances involve great detail… (TRF, p.84)

Detailed descriptions of experiences are significant because they suggest millions of possible alternative descriptions, and thus millions of alternative possible experiences/hallucinations/dreams.  Because there are millions of alternative possible dreams/hallucinations relative to a brief detailed description of one such experience, it seems highly unlikely that more than two people would experience the “same dream” or the “same hallucination” at the same time.
 
FACTUAL PROBLEMS WITH THE THINKING BEHIND PREMISE (2a)
It seems, at first thought, that because the following brief description suggests well over a million alternative scenarios, that it would be very unlikely for more than two people to have a hallucination or dream that fits this description:

I watched a full-grown orange tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of my bed.

However,  as I have argued elsewhere, people in fact often do have similar dreams, and it is quite possible for two people to have the “same dream” at the same time:

The above example of two people dreaming about a full-grown orange tabby cat shows not only that it is possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, but that there is a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this happening.  There might be a full-grown orange tabby cat living in the house with this couple, and that cat may sometimes walk slowly across the foot of their bed.  In fact, the tabby cat might have slowly walked across the foot of their bed just before they went to sleep on the night in question, and thus it would not be a huge coincidence if both of them happen to dream that night about their cat slowly walking across the foot of their bed.  So, it is not merely possible in principle for two people to have “the same dream”, there is also a SIGNIFICANT CHANCE of this actually happening, from time to time.     (from my post on McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection)

Although more than two people having the same dream at about the same time is less likely than just two people having the same dream at about the same time, there is still a significant chance for this to happen (for example, if three people were in bed together and saw the tabby cat walk slowly across the foot of the bed, then it would be quite possible for all three people to dream of this happening that night).
Because dreams are based on our experiences, beliefs, and memories, and because the memories, beliefs, and experiences of groups of people can be similar, the contents of dreams by different people can be similar:

The subjects of the studies by Zadra and Nielsen were STUDENTS.  Note that some of their most common dreams involved common experiences and fears of students:  school, teachers, or studying,  and arriving too late, and failing an examination.  This is a strong indication that the contents of dreams are often related to the sorts of emotions and events that the dreamers have commonly experienced in their waking lives.
It is also important to note that according to one study of dream contents one of the more common types of dreams that people report is “A person now dead being alive”!!

 
Jesus was a religious preacher and teacher.  The word “disciple” basically means student.  So, people who devote their lives to following a particular religious teacher, are people who are likely to have dreams about that person and dreams about being taught by that person.  Furthermore, if their beloved teacher dies, then there is a good chance that some of the students or disciples of that religious teacher will experience dreams about that teacher who was then dead being alive.
So, the chance that some of the disciples of Jesus had dreams about Jesus being alive and about Jesus teaching people is quite good, and thus the possibility of two people having the “same dream” about Jesus at about the same time after Jesus died is much greater than one might initially think.  Although there are billions of different possible descriptions of different dream contents that we can imagine, the dreams people actually have are NOT random combinations of people and events; they are based largely on the past experiences and memories of the dreamers.  If a group of people share many common experiences, beliefs, and memories about a particular person (like Jesus), then the chances that two of these people will have a similar dream or even the “same dream” about that person are significant.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (2a) and PREMISE (B)
I have previously argued that the term “hallucination” must be interpreted broadly so that it includes DREAM experiences, otherwise the cases for the resurrection of Jesus presented by Josh McDowell and by Peter Kreeft will immediately FAIL.   Here is premise (2a):

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

This premise is TRUE only if the following claim is TRUE:

2b. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same DREAM at the same time.

But we have seen that premise (2b) is initially plausible because we are aware that there are billions of different possible alternative descriptions of dream experiences, and because we are tempted to assume that all of these billions of possible descriptions of the contents of a dream are equally likely to occur in a dream, and that each different dream description has only a very tiny probability of actually occurring in a particular dream.  But we have seen that people do in fact often have similar dreams because dreams are based largely on the experiences, beliefs, and memories of the dreamers and because groups of people can have very similar experiences, beliefs, and memories (e.g. college students or devoted followers of a religious teacher).  Therefore, claim (2b) is FALSE or at least DUBIOUS.
But if claim (2b) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, then premise (2a) is also FALSE or DUBIOUS.  But (2a) is the reason given in support of premise (B) in the argument for Kreeft’s Objection #1 (Too Many Witnesses).  So, the reason given in support of premise (B) is FALSE or DUBIOUS, and thus we have good reason to doubt premise (B), and a good reason to reject the core argument for Objection #1 against the Hallucination Theory.