bookmark_borderThe Historical Jesus and John The Baptizer

I just wanted to share this interview from today with Dr. James McGrath by Derek on Mythvision podcast. It’s interesting because it shows how historical reasoning works when we try to sift through the evidence to find historical nuggets. So, for instance, of John the Baptizer Jesus was recorded as saying things like:

  • “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28)”
  • “The Law and the Prophets were until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is being proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force (Luke 16:16)”

You can see the problem for Jesus mythicism here, since it’s hard to imagine the early church inventing Jesus saying that John the Baptist was greater than him, or that the turning point in history was John, not Jesus.

Anyway, it’s a fun interview, so check it out!

bookmark_borderBlogging Through Augustine/Martin’s Anthology “The Myth Of An Afterlife” Part 6

Blog Post 6 on “The Myth of an Afterlife”

The Myth of an Afterlife

Chapter Two: Dead as a Doornail Souls, Brains, and Survival 

by Matt McCormick

Augustine summarizes that

 In chapter 2, Matt McCormick presents a strong probabilistic case that human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness are dependent upon the brain to occur/ exist and thus cannot survive the death of the brain. McCormick makes his case by providing a broad overview of the general lines of evidence that even the highest mental functions are produced by brain activity, evidence that does not sit well with the notion of any sort of soul or ethereal double that can function completely independently of the brain. Yet this notion is presupposed by all versions of the survival hypothesis that do not depend exclusively upon miraculous bodily resurrection.

McCormick outlines his general argument as follows:

1. Human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness (in short, the features that we attribute to the personal soul) are dependent upon the brain to occur/exist. 2. The brain does not survive the death of the body 3. Therefore, the personal soul does not survive the death of the body.

To begin with, McCormick makes the general point regarding the dependency of the mind on the brain.

Decades of evidence from stroke victims, motorcycle accidents, car wrecks, construction site accidents, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, brain imaging, and other medical studies have given us a detailed picture of which portions of the brain are active in conjunction with specific cognitive abilities and mental states. What that research has shown is that minds depend upon brains. Damaging a part of the brain destroys a part of our thoughts, eliminates a cognitive ability, or alters some personal or emotional capacity. Restoring the electrochemical functions of the brain renews the mental function.

McCormick argues what science teaches is that brain damage can pinpoint the section of the brain responsible for which cognitive functions, and that the mind is best explained as being entirely dependent.  Even something as basic as awareness can be wiped away and leave a person in a permanent vegetative state.  Even at the simplest level the physical can alter the mental, such as with a pill or caffeine.  Mental functions are directly proportional to their physical brain complexity in creatures, and even humans in their evolutionary history became more cognitively apt as their brains developed.  So why did consciousness develop?

There are countless neural assemblies that register various aspects of our environments and internal states. With conscious awareness, natural selection found a mechanism for summarizing many of the most pertinent facts quickly, making these discriminations available to executive planning faculties. The biological usefulness of conscious awareness is to “produce the best current interpretation of the visual scene, in the light of past experience either of ourselves or our ancestors (embodied in our genes), and to make available, for a sufficient time, to the parts of the brain that contemplate, plan and execute voluntary motor outputs (of one sort or another)” (Crick & Koch, 1995, p. 121). Memory, emotions, awareness of self and others, attention, and other elements of our cognitive constitutions fit into this general evolutionary picture as adaptations, byproducts, or kludges (improvised assemblages).

This goes beyond McCormick a little, but it would seem too that categorizing serves a further evolutionary function, and provides an interesting explanation of the relationship between particulars and universals beyond mere abstraction: so, a particularly scrumptious meal may have presenced to primitive man as “dinner incarnate (like we say of a Van Gogh we say “Now that’s a painting, Art incarnate) to the man’s aroused physiology; an average meal comparatively less so; and week old food hardly at all.   

McCormick argues the belief in the soul also has an evolutionary ground and relates to our tendency to assign minds to things even that don’t have minds

The animism of primitive religions is a result of imbuing the weather, the oceans, and other natural objects with spiritual forces. This overactive propensity to find minds where they are not feeds the belief that souls survive or are autonomous. If we are prone to find minds where they are not, then it is only natural to conceive of minds as unhinged from brains. Minds then become things that can exist in anything, whether they have brains or not. And it is a small step from here to the idea that perhaps minds don’t need to inhabit any physical object at all. Ironically, evolution produced brains that are conscious, as well as a powerful tendency to attribute consciousness to things that don’t have brains.

bookmark_borderPaul through the lens of Luke

It is fascinating to think along with Bart Ehrman and the idea that Luke had a Moral Influence interpretation of the cross rather than a Paying Sin Debt interpretation. But what about Paul? Paul was the great hero of Luke’s work Acts. It seems that Luke had not read Paul’s letters nor seemed to be aware of them. Just the same, it is not unreasonable to suppose Luke would have known the core of what Paul was teaching about the cross, and then conveyed it in Luke-Acts. Perhaps reading Paul as a cross sin debt payment advocate is wrong? This takes us back to the core teaching of the cross, of whether Jesus died to pay our sin debt, or rather to make our hidden sinful nature conspicuous to inspire repentance? Clearly, there didn’t seem to be any theological significance attached to Jesus’ death before he died. If the disciples thought Jesus was supposed to die for theological reasons, they wouldn’t have gotten violent at the arrest. It’s much easier to see how the death of the Davidic heir Jesus would have blossomed into a Moral Influence sense of the cross after his death, as opposed to suddenly a blood magic sin debt atonement interpretation appeared.

See my other post on this here:

bookmark_borderSome July 4th Reflections

In the aftermath of Roe being struck down so close to July 4th, it’s important to remember that rights and freedoms, and even democracy, are a work in progress, and are always tentative because as Reich pointed out, if history has taught us nothing else it’s that the people can and will demand their own repression. A few days ago, a 10 year old pregnant rape victim was forced to go out of state from Ohio to Indiana for her abortion:

On this July fourth, I hope my American friends understand how important their country is, but also that there is a lot of work left to be done. Back in 2018, Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks posted this viral video of the anger many feel at religious people who want to impose their beliefs eliminating abortion rights:

A great difficulty in all this is that conservatives are arguing that liberals want to kill “human person babies,” while liberals want to argues conservatives are demanding women lose their right to autonomy over their own body for an unborn that is in no sense a “person.” Clearly, a lot can be resolved here if conservatives can clarify in what sense the unborn is a “person,” since they are the ones making the positive claim.

Also see the previous post here:

bookmark_borderJune 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival

Carnival in Rome circa 1650 From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

** Check out Secular Web Kids!

Welcome to the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival at The Secular Frontier, the official blog of The Secular Web.  The Secular Web is owned and operated by Internet Infidels, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting a naturalistic worldview on the Internet. Naturalism is the “hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system” in the sense that “nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it.” As such, “naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities,” such as gods, angels, demons, ghosts, or other spirits, “or at least none that actually exercises its power to affect the natural world.” And without miraculous interventions into nature from a spiritual realm, neither prayer nor magick are more effective than a placebo.

So what is a Biblical Studies Carnival? Prof. Phil Long explains:

  • In the early days of blogging, people would collect blog posts on a particular topic and call it a carnival. I have no idea why a carnival (as opposed to a yard sale, a circus, or a monthly index… it’s an internet thing). There were psychology carnivals, sociology carnivals, etc. In March 2005, Joel Ng posted the first Biblical Studies Carnival at his now defunct blog, Ebla Logs. But nothing is really dead on the internet. You can still read that first carnival on The Wayback Machine. The first link is to Jim Davila, at, a remarkable blog still going strong after all these years. I notice the one-time keeper of the Biblioblog Top Fifty list, Peter Kirby (although his blog Christian Origins is now gone). Jim West hosted in November 2006, although that version of his blog no longer exist (as far as I know). Some of the older blogs have (sadly) been taken over by spammers.
  • Prior to 2012, Jim Linville kept the list of Biblical Studies Carnivals. When Jim retired from this role in August 2012, I volunteered to be the “keeper of the carnival list.” This means I try to draft (harass) people into volunteering to host the Biblical Studies Carnival. I keep a master list of Carnivals with links here on Readng Acts (in the banner, or click here).
  • Blogging has come and gone, and maybe come back again. Some bloggers moved into podcasting or producing YouTube videos. Others remembered they had a real life beyond blogging. Sometimes students blogged for a few years then graduated and got jobs that took them away from regular posts. Nevertheless, some have persisted. Even though I would love to see the return of N. T. Wrong, there is a new generation of biblical studies bloggers.

Our Sections This Month are

(A) Hebrew Bible

(B) New Testament

(C) Secularism

(D) The Bible And Current Affairs: Dueling Reactions To SCOTUS Overturning Roe v Wade

(A) Hebrew Bible

James Davilla: Did Syriac reveal the origin of the Black Death?

Who Was Josephus?

Matt, Becoming Elijah (Yale)

Jim West:  Prof. Amy-Jill Levine to be awarded first “Seelisberg Prize” HEPPENHEIM, GERMANY AND SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

 Clint Archer: The Creator’s Concern for Creatures

Peter Goeman: When did Israel Stop Being God’s People?

Phil Long: A New English Translation of Strack and Billerbeck, Commentary on the Talmud, Volume 2, ed. and trans. by Jacob N. Cerone

Tim Bulkeley Would a rose smell as sweet? What’s in a name? Genesis 22

Krista Dalton et al (Judith Newman) Jonah and Prayer

Prof. Rabbi David Frankel The Story of the Anonymous Scouts, Modified by the Book of Numbers

Dr. Sarah Schwartz The Scouts’ Report: From Rhetoric to Demagoguery

James Tabor Reading Genesis–Are You Lost in Translation?

(B) New Testament

Καταπέτασμα: My king upon Zion: Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Temple

Gary Greenberg shares about his new book: Update: The Case for a Proto-Gospel

David T. Koyzis: Healing Comes with the Sabbath

Claude Mariottini The Death of Death

Bob MacDonald: Brokenness

Ian Paul: Why does Jesus make being a disciple so hard in Luke 9? Video discussion

David Turner: Preaching Hebrews means preaching like Hebrews preaches.

Margaret Mowczko: Is the Beloved Disciple in John’s Gospel a Woman?

Jacob Prahlow: How Can We Respond?

Peter Gurry: Recent Writings on Textual Criticism

James McGrath: John the Baptist and the Mandaeans

Emily Belz: Can the Church Still Enact Justice When a Pastor Sues His Accusers?

B. J. OROPEZA: Becoming Seven Times Worse than Before: Understanding Matthew 12:43–45

Andrew Perriman: When prophecy mostly didn’t fail

Brian McLaren: In the Kentucky Derby of Religions: Do we have a winner?

(C) Secularism

In this section, we have provided a selection of readings of bible-related material from a secular point of view.

John MacDonald: My post with links to (i) Penal Substitution vs Moral Influence interpretation of the cross, and (ii) The Noble Lie Theory of Christian Origins

Edouard Tahmizian:

Article God is Either the Efficient or Final Cause of Evil » Internet Infidels  ,

Interview: Edouard Tahmizian & Dr. John Dominic Crossan (2nd Interview) – YouTube

Gregory Paul:

(a) How the Suffering and Death of Billions and Billions of Kids Completely Disproves the Existence of a Good and Loving God – Including Wrecking Free Will Theodicy in the Process

(b) [For the Philosophy and Theology paper]

The Bible makes the grand claim that the creator of our planet is perfect in all its aspects including morality, and loves the innocent preborn and children, a view believed by billions. But the testaments make no mention of the fate of the souls of humans who die before they have matured enough to decide whether or not to worship God in its flawless heaven. That’s because some 50 billion children have died, and a few hundred billion preborn, due to natural causes no creator has put a stop too. My ground breaking 2009 Philosophy and Theology study was the first to calculate the shocking death toll of the young, and show how it wrecks classic Free Will Theodicy, and the possibility that a prolife God exists.

(c) [For the Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism paper Pt 1]

The Philosophy and Theologystudy disproving the existence of a moral creator was ignored by the theologians who continue to push the false concept, while paying no attention to the mass death of kids and the preborn, as well as the news media that failed to cover it. And even atheists have not caught on to the implications of the Children’s Holocaust. So I did a follow up study in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, updating some of the analysis, and adding a section on the Brutalization of the Animals that a creator if it exists has been callously fine with. 

(d) [For the Essays in the Philosophy and of Humanism paper Pt 2]

Part 2 of my Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism studies starts by continuing to discuss how it is not possible for the good God of the Bible to exist because it set up a planet so toxic to children that it has killed tens of billions of them, while imposing immense suffering on the other innocents, the animals. It goes on the describe how worship of such a cruel creator in search of boons is deeply immoral, and poses the Moral Challenge to theists to either at long last confront the Megadisaster of the Innocents, or admit they are wrong. It concludes by describing what atheists need to do to get the word out about the premature death of most humans and the vast suffering of animals, and how that doing so has the potential to accelerate the decline of theism here and abroad. 

Keith Augustine selected articles from the Secular Web Kiosk and Library

(1) Christian Salvation? (B. Steven Matthies)

Ever wonder how you can be saved? Christians can’t agree, and the confusion is embarrassing. A survey of sixteen major denominations proves the point.

It should be noted that my reasons for writing this article were as follows: (1) A response to well-meaning Christians who try to reconvert me; (2) a way to deal with my own church-indoctrinated fear of hell (and possibly help others deal with their own fear); and (3) to get both Christians and non-Christians to examine Christianity. The article also has the ancillary intent of casting doubt on the truth of Christianity as revealed by the Bible, but this was not my main intent. Nor should this article be seen as a formal proof or technical essay for the nonexistence of God.

(2) Introduction to the Bible and Biblical Problems (Donald Morgan)

Is the Bible the work of God? Is it a valid guidebook? How can we know? This introduction serves as a very basic preface to the makeup of the Bible and to how the Bible came about, as well as to some basic kinds of possible biblical problems–especially the kinds of problems inherent in a fundamentalist/literalist approach to the Bible that views the Bible as the inerrant, infallible, inspired, and plenary “Word” of a perfect, omnipotent, and loving God.

(3) The Euthyphro Dilemma as it Applies to the Doctrine of Atonement (Brian Vroman)

Is something good because it is pleasing to God, or is something pleasing to God because it is good? Is something good because God commands it, or is what is good inherently good regardless of what God or anyone else happens to think about it? If “the wages of sin is death,” how does the death of an innocent satisfy such an obligation? How one answers these questions has profound implications.

(4) The Lowdown on God’s Showdown (Edward Babinski)

For two millennia in Christendom every generation has been the last generation. Just in time, Edward Babinski is here to explain the delay.

(5) The Argument from the Bible (Theodore M. Drange)

Almost all evangelical Christians believe that the writing of the Bible was divinely inspired and represents God’s main revelation to humanity. They also believe that the Bible contains special features which constitute evidence of its divine inspiration. This would be a use of the Bible to prove God’s existence within natural theology rather than within revealed theology, since the book’s features are supposed to be evident even to (open-minded) skeptics. Furthermore, since a divinely inspired work must be true, those features are thereby also evidence of the Bible’s truth, and thus can be used in support of Christianity as the one true religion. When expressed that way, the reasoning can be construed as an argument both for God’s existence and for the truth of the gospel message from the alleged special features of the Bible.

(6) To Galilee or Jerusalem? A Response to Apologetics Press (J. C. Jackson)

There’s a discrepancy between the Gospel of Luke on the one hand, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew on the other, as to where Jesus’ disciples were instructed to stay after Jesus’ resurrection. Luke has the post-Resurrection Jesus instructing them to stay in Jerusalem, whereas Mark and Matthew have him telling them to stay in Galilee. In an article for Apologetics Press, Eric Lyons attempts to explain away this discrepancy by positing that Jesus’ post-Resurrection instructions to his disciples in Luke didn’t necessarily happen on Easter Sunday, but could have happened on a subsequent day. In this response to Apologetics Press, however, J. C. Jackson points out that this interpretation is flatly inconsistent with the conclusions of innumerable Christian scholars and theologians. Worse still, it’s inconsistent with the understanding of early Christians themselves, who were willing to simply remove references to an event in Luke’s Gospel altogether in order to smooth over the timeline problems that keeping them would lay bare. But most damning of all, Jackson’s direct analysis of the context clearly demonstrates that Apologetics Press’ rationalization of the discrepancy immediately falls apart.

(7) The Rivalry Between Religions (Raymond D. Bradley)

In this highly original and challenging essay, Raymond Bradley develops an argument that all religions are probably false inspired by David Hume’s famous discussion of the ‘contrary miracles’ of rival religions. According to Bradley’s argument from contrariety, any one of the vast numbers of religions ever conceived (or to be conceived) makes factual claims contradicted by the claims of all of the other religions. Moreover, the claims of any particular religion are generally as well-attested as the claims of all of the others. Consequently, given the “weight” of the “evidence” of all of the other religions, the probability that the claims of any one religion are true is exceedingly low. From this it follows that all religions are probably false.

Bruce Ledewitz: The Future of Secularism

John W. Loftus: I’ll be debating WLCraig in absentia!

HEMANT MEHTA: Gallup: Americans’ belief in God just plunged to an all-time low

ERIN LOUIS: How humanism helped me let go of God

Randal Rauser: Does Progressive Christianity Lead to Atheism?

BRUCE GERENCSER: Are Marriage Equality and the Right to Obtain Contraception Next on Right-Wing Supreme Court Justices Agenda?

Via George Hahn on Twitter, short video

(D) The Bible And Current Events: The Dueling Reactions To SCOTUS Overturning Roe vs Wade


(D1) PRO SCOTUS Striking Down Roe

Trent Horn

~ Franklin Graham and others via Fox News:

~ Brownsville Diocese


“I want to give thanks to the Virgin Mary because today the unborn in our country are little more protected; this is the work of God,” @bpdflores at Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle.

~ William Lane Craig short video Twitter response

~ Gregg Jarrett: Supreme Court decision restores constitutional principles

Roe v Wade ruling just one of more than 230 times the court has overruled precedent

~ Frank Turek


·The SC decision today vindicates every Christian who voted for Trump despite their understandable concerns about some of his personal behavior. Life and death policy always trumps personality. Millions of babies will now live because enough people voted policy over personality.

~ @RandalRauser

·Twice yesterday, I heard  @CNN hosts ask “but what about all the unwanted children that will be born?” Can we please retire that talking point? 1. There are long adoption waiting lists; 2. Even if a child will be unwanted that isn’t a morally sufficient reason to kill it in utero.

~ Sean McDowell


ROE is overturned. Amazing. I honestly never thought I would live to see the day.

~ Trump: When asked whether he feels he played a role in the reversal of Roe v. Wade, after having appointed three conservative justices to the high court, former president Trump told Fox News: “God made the decision.” see:

~ Darrell B. Harrison


Pray for those, many, in fact, who undoubtedly are angered over the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe v. Wade. A heart that is convinced it is justifiable to murder an unborn child is a heart that is in desperate need of transformation, which only God can accomplish.

~ Lee Strobel


·On all levels, Roe v Wade was an abomination. Thank God it was overturned today by a courageous court. Pray for safety of pro-life centers that are already being attacked by domestic terrorists. Now this becomes a state-by-state struggle for the lives of the unborn.

~ Edward Graham


·Thank you @FoxNews  for having me on @foxandfriends this morning to speak on the historic Supreme Court ruling resulting in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. God said in Jeremiah 1:5, “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…”

~ Trent Horn


·Big thanks to  @JohnBlakeCNN for including me in this article that is currently on the @CNN homepage. I hope many people will read it and see why, not just Christians, but any reasonable person should support legal protection for the unborn:

‘A LIFE IS A LIFE’:  @kayleighmcenany  blasts the Left for framing abortion rights around bodily autonomy only.

~ toddstarnes


·Praise God and thank you President Trump!

~ Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸



~ United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

“Now is the time to begin the work of building a post-Roe America. It is a time for healing wounds and repairing social divisions; it is a time for reasoned reflection and civil dialogue, and for coming together to build a society and economy that supports marriages and families, and where every woman has the support and resources she needs to bring her child into this world in love.”

~ And, Judge Thomas is suggesting going after gay marriage and contraception next:

Mike Pence Calls for National Abortion Ban

The former vice president and other prominent Republicans are not only praising the end of Roe v. Wade but signaling bigger plans to strip women of their rights

(D2) AGAINST SCOTUS Striking Down Roe:

~ Ana Kasparian

Short Video Retweeted by Ana from 2018

~ Amanda Tyler


·As a woman, as an American, and as a Christian, I am mourning today’s devastating SCOTUS decision in the Dobbs case. I look with dread at what the future might hold for the health and welfare of women, for our individual rights and liberties and for equality under the law.

~ Michael Moore


·Make no mistake: The Supreme Court — 2/3 men & 2/3 Catholic — today forced its religious zealotry and bigotry upon an entire nation. We are now all told we must adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church and Jerry Falwell. A fertilized egg is a full blown human being! SHAME!

~ Andrew Copson


An excellent point by the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion or Belief. In addition to all its other horrendous aspects, the end of a right to abortion is a massive violation of women’s freedom of conscience.

~ Ahmed Shaheed


 ·A huge setback for freedom of religion or belief of women and girls. There should be a renewed effort to reclaim equal rights for women & girls!

~ Barack Obama


·Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.

~ Michelle Obama’s thoughts:

~ John Gehring


Catholics on the right spent decades reducing church teaching to a single issue and linked arms with a conservative movement that is hostile to the church’s teachings about a consistent ethic of life and the common good. This ruling is the culmination of that misguided campaign.

~ Andrew L. Seidel


·Please listen to the brilliant @LeahLitman @kateashaw1 and  @ProfMMurray break down this absolute trash opinion. No law, no rule of law, just vibes. Stay until the end, especially to hear Prof. Murray’s last lines.: see Episode 56: Roe is Dead.  Now What?

~ Michael Shermer


·I’m disinclined to catastrophize but I know religious conservatives well so believe me when I say that overturning Roe is just the beginning. They absolutely want it banned in every state. Some (a minority) would also like to ban contraception & same-sex/interracial marriage.

~ Commonweal

The End of Roe: A test for American democracy

~ Kamala Harris


The Supreme Court decision calls into question other rights that we thought were settled.

~ Eric Vanden Eykel


·For those senators who feel hoodwinked by the justices who lied to you in order to get your vote, please remember that YOU ARE THE BRANCH OF GOVERNMENT THAT LITERALLY MAKES THE LAWS. You CAN do something beyond just clutching your pearls for the cameras.

~by Bob Smietana

Fall of Roe met with rejoicing, dismay from faith groups

~ The Editorial Board in The New York Times: The Ruling Overturning Roe Is An Insult To Women And The Judicial System

~ “But these historical facts don’t matter to Alito and the antiabortion movement because they undermine the version of American history they subscribe to what sociologist @GorskiPhilip  calls ‘white Christian nationalism.'” (via Nick Fish)

~ Perspective by Samira K. Mehta and Lauren MacIvor Thompson

The Supreme Court’s abortion decision is based on a myth. Here’s why:

How a history rooted in White Christian nationalism drove the court’s reasoning, despite being false.

~ David Plouffe


-The messaging needs to be clear, consistent and true. “Congress can override what the Supreme Court did and pass a law to legalize abortion.  To do that, we need to elect 2 more Democratic Senators and to hold the House. Pres Biden will sign a law codifying Roe if that happens.”

~ Pastor Zach W. Lambert

I really wish the Christians who are celebrating the overturning of Roe could see the anxious and fearful messages I’ve been getting from women in our congregation all day.  Maybe take a break from your online victory laps and listen to people who are really hurting right now.

~ Rev. Dr. Charles Allen on why the Supreme Court decision effectively establishes religion:

“To speak from my own religious tradition, the biblical writers themselves seem to imply vastly different viewpoints on the status of the unborn (Jeremiah 1:4-5, Psalm 139:13-16, Exodus 21:22-25, Numbers 5:27, Ecclesiastes 11:5), so it’s really dishonest to say that the Bible clearly says anything in particular about it.”

~ Robert Reich


Forced birth in a country with:

—No universal healthcare

—No universal childcare

—No paid family & medical leave

—One of the highest rates of maternal mortality among rich nations

This isn’t about “life.” It’s about control

~ Ana Navarro-Cárdenas


If you’re against abortion, don’t get one.

If you’re against contraception, don’t take any.

If you’re against same-sex relationships, don’t have one.

If you’re against same-sex marriage, don’t marry someone of same gender.

Do not impose your beliefs & religion on all Americans.

~ RUTH SMITH:  The death of Roe, and the three prongs that killed her

~ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


·Overturning Roe and outlawing abortions will never make them go away.

It only makes them more dangerous, especially for the poor + marginalized.

People will die because of this decision. And we will never stop until abortion rights are restored in the United States of America.

~ Right Wing Watch


·Emboldened by Roe’s reversal, far-right activists are eager to enact the rest of their agenda. The common theme? Christian nationalism.

~by Mike Bendzela

Abort All Thought That Life Begins

~ Center for Inquiry


·”Today’s ruling was not the act of a secular court but of a religious tribunal.”

~ The Daily Show short video:

~ Prof Francesca Stavrakopoulou


On #abortion and the Bible, see Numbers 5:11-31, which presents an ancient abortion ritual. It is commanded by God. Performed by a priest.

~ Daniel K. Williams: Who Will Bear the Cost of America’s Crisis Pregnancies?

~ Mariana Lenharo: After Roe v. Wade: US researchers warn of what’s to come:

Years of studies point to the negative economic and health effects of restricting access to abortions.

~ Ahmed Shaheed


And while the Justices are at it, may be they can relocate the Supreme Court to Kabul, Tehran, Riyadh, Moscow or the Vatican. As a father of three girls, I take any assault on women’s rights & gender equality both a personal & professional challenge.

~ United Nations


“Access to safe, legal and effective abortion is firmly rooted in international human rights law” @mbachelet says Friday’s US Supreme Court ruling is “a huge blow to women’s rights and gender equality.”

~ Kyle Griffin


Clarence Thomas writes, in a concurring opinion, that the Supreme Court should reconsider Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell — the rulings that now protect contraception, same-sex relationships, and same-sex marriage.

~ Richard Dawkins on the biology of the abortion debate

~ –JL Martyn “History and Theology in the fourth gospel.

One thing, at least, is shared by all New Testament authors…none of them merely repeats the tradition. …everyone shapes it, bends it, makes selections among its riches, and even adds to it.

~Andrew Rillera


&, if personhood starts at conception, then what about identical twins? Do they split one & the same “personhood”? If not (as seems obvious), what do we call that thing that existed prior to it splitting? Terminating it cannot be terminating a human *person.*

~ Charlie Savage (New York Times): Decades Ago, Alito Laid Out Methodical Strategy to Eventually Overrule Roe


A slow-burning hostility to constitutional abortion rights runs through the career of the author of the Supreme Court opinion overturning them.

~ James F. McGrath


“In the 18th century, abortion was completely legal before what was called the ‘quickening’ of a fetus – when a woman could first feel fetal movement, or roughly four and a half months through a pregnancy.”

– Law Prof. Geoffrey R. Stone

My Opinion

There was a push in the last century by postmodern philosophers such as Jacques Derrida and Emmanuel Levinas that Ethics, not Metaphysics, needed to be first philosophy.  Some have extended this to the idea that Ethics needs to be first religion as well.    Clearly, it is possible to come up examples, analogies, etc to illustrate contradictory positions like pro-life vs pro-choice, so obviously we need to do better in our ethical reasoning than just endlessly throwing examples at one another. In many ways, the debate seems odd.  Being alive doesn’t carry with it a right to stay alive, and so we kill carrots, mushrooms, insects, chickens, etc.  If the debate is to be framed in terms of the right to life of the human baby trumping a woman’s autonomy over her own body, I suppose a beginning point would be for conservatives to show, say, at 6 weeks that an unborn is not merely alive, but a person, however you’d like to define person.   Conservatives are the ones making the positive claim, so the responsibility is on them to clarify in what sense the unborn is a person.

It would seem that at some stage the embyo isn’t a person, such as with identical twins before the single organism separates into 2. Similarly, conservatives appealing to the bible is no real help here, since the Hebrew scriptures permit abortion (though, as RHIANNON GRAYBILL AND JILL HICKS-KEETON point out, for instance, while abortion is prescribed in Numbers 5 it isn’t related to females having autonomy over their bodies). It doesn’t help to say God forms the unborn at conception with a plan for his/her life, since this is an evidence-based conversation and there certainly isn’t evidence for that miracle, since for instance cats conceive all the time without anyone thinking God is involved.  In and of itself abortion seems fine, and is routinely done to dogs and cats, for instance, even though, like with humans, it is a crime to harm or kill grown cats and dogs. Moreover, on meeting the criteria for personhood as an elephant, see

Why would someone equate being an embryo with being a person? …

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

and before you were born I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Certainly, a human embryo becomes a lot more sacred if it is viewed as endowed with a life plan by God, rather than a human just being a evolutionary member of a DNA group that includes rodents (rats and mice) and rabbits.  Still, it’s hard for me to watch 2 year old children dying of starvation and cancer, and still entertaining the possibility that despite this there is nonetheless a benevolent creator with a divine plan hidden in such horror. Human life seems to be so obviously not lived according to a plan of a loving creator, that claims we can’t terminate pregnancies because God intended the embryo to be the next Einstein seems absurd. So, let’s talk …


John MacDonald

President, Internet Infidels / The Secular Web

Blogger, The Secular Frontier

Website: Secular Web Kids

bookmark_border(Conclusion) The Godlessness Of The Philosophers: From Beginning To End

I just wanted to conclude this small series of posts that began with movedness/presencing and provide a little ancient philosophical context.

“Being” for the Greeks basically means “presence,” and so Plato says with the beautiful thing beauty is “present.”  Similarly, with the piece of chalk materiality is co-present.  Before I said presence means presencing, and so Aristotle makes the point that with the beautiful mansion beauty is presencing through it, it is Beauty incarnate, the universal presences through the particular.  Heidegger, commenting on Aristotle’s Physics 193 a 31-b3, says

  • Aristotle begins the demonstration in a wholly extrinsic way with a reference to a way of speaking, one that in fact we still use. For example, we may say of a painting by Van Gogh, “This is art,” or, when we see a bird of prey circling above the forest, “That is nature.” In such “language use” we take a being that, properly considered, is something by virtue of and on the basis of art, and we call this very thing itself “art.” For after all, the painting is not art but a work of art, and the bird of prey is not nature but a natural being. Yet this manner of speaking manifests something essential.  When do we say so emphatically, “This is art”?  Not just when some piece of canvas hangs there smeared with dabs of color, not even when we have just any old “painting” there in front of us, but only when a being that we encounter steps forth preeminently into the appearance of a work of art, only when a being is insofar as it places itself into such an appearance. And the same holds when we say, “That is nature.” (Heidegger, 277).

So with the mansion being is experienced in terms of movement, presencing beautifully for one person, gawdy for the next, and mere presencing for the average house (houseness is merely present in the average house)..

Being allows beings to step forth as what they are, and so already having seen “quality” allows the being to step forward in its yellowness.  Similarly, the prior to production idea of “table” in the craftsman’s mind is what allows the final produced table to stand forth

Similarly, in order to be able to intelligibly encounter this being as the being it is, it must already be “recognized” generally and in advance as a being, i.e., with respect to the constitution of its Being.  Plato gives the example in the Sophist that the dog is not just a “this here,” but is already being made intelligible by an understanding of Einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself.  I encounter the dog as a “not me,” for example.  To be particular is clearly a universal characteristic of things  Also, we could not have the experience of beings that we do unless we had in view such things as variation/equality by the mind’s eye in order to encounter various things; a view of sameness/contrariety to encounter ourselves as self-same in each case; a view of symmetry and harmoniousness allow us to arrange and construct things; etc.

Aristotle said the being-true of beings, the true beings (in the sense of “true-friend”), were of course the most proper beings (the on alethes are the kuriotata on).  We don’t usually intuit “houseness,” but rather understand it.  Similarly, when I go to the grocery store, I have grapeness invisibly before my mind’s eye, which is the basis of successfully completing the shopping trip.    What we have perceived is the range of possible appearing as such, or, more precisely, we have perceived that which cultivates this range, that which regulates [rules and regulations] and marks out how something in general must appear in order to be able, as a house, to offer the appropriate look.

The universal is what allows the particular to stand forth as what it is, so we never simply sense the individual “something” (a sound), but “something as some” (the sound as violin music).  Similarly, experience is a “taking-as,” in the sense we hear a living thing at our feet in the forest, only to look down and see dead leaves rustling in the wind.  This mis-taking shows regular experience is “taking-as,” “something as something,” of that which is presenting itself:

  • We are able to address a present thing as a house or a tree only insofar as we have already beforehand, and without words, addressed what we encounter i.e., have brought it into our open field of “vision” as something standing-on-its-own, a thing. Likewise, we can address a garment as “red” only if from the outset and without words it has already been addressed in terms of something like quality. Standing-on-its-own (“substance”) and quality (“of-what-sort-ness”) and the like constitute the being (beingness) of beings. (Heidegger, 252)

Work Cited

ON THE ESSENCE AND CONCEPT OF Physis IN ARISTOTLE’S PHYSICS B, 1English translation by Thomas Sheehan Published in Martin Heidegger, Pathmarks, ed. William McNeill Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998pp. 183-230.

For the previous 2 posts in this mini series, see

bookmark_border(2/2) The Godlessness Of The Philosophers: From Beginning To End

Last time I mentioned that:

  • “Homer talks about the gods not appearing to everyone in their fullness (enargeis), with the example of Odysseus experiencing the full radiance of the goddess presencing through a woman, while the next person wasn’t experiencing her that way. Or, of a beautiful mansion we say “Now that’s a house!” though the next person may experience it to be presencing in a gawdy manner: The universal appears or manifests through the individual/particular.” 

This has interesting philosophical implications for the foundations of religious life, specifically the experience of the holy (sometimes called the numinous). If, for instance, you feel the presence of God while listening to some gospel music, there is no reason to think this really is contact with God, but rather just the mind acting on itself, because if the same gospel song is played 30 times in a row, it goes from presencing as holy to presencing as irritating. So, it is something our mind is doing to itself, analogous to us experiencing boringness as a trait of the book, though we know the next person need not experience this stretching out of time in relation to the book at all. Nietzsche called this the death of God, the destroying of the bridge between God and humans. We may be experiencing God, but there is no reason to think so. Analogously, you can suppose LSD give you access to another reality, but the more likely explanation is the mind is playing tricks.

As Nietzsche pointed out, beings lose their luster simply as a functions of our spending time with them, like a worn out recording of a favorite song. We experience time as eternal return of the same, experiencing beings as though we’ve experienced them countless times before. Some examples are from (1) Ecclesiastes, (2) Seneca, and (3)Schopenhauer:

  • (1) “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes)
  • (2) “26.  Some people suffer from a surfeit of doing and seeing the same things. Theirs is not contempt for life but boredom with it, a feeling we sink into when influenced by the sort of philosophy which makes us say, ‘How long the same old things? I shall wake up and go to sleep, I shall eat and be hungry, I shall be cold and hot. There’s no end to anything, but all things are in a fixed cycle, fleeing and pursuing each other. Night follows day and day night; summer passes into autumn, hard on autumn follows winter, and that in turn is checked by spring. All things pass on only to return. Nothing I do or see is new: sometimes one gets sick even of this.’ There are many who think that life is not harsh but superfluous. (Seneca ep. mor. 24. 26).”
  • (3)  “He who lives to see two or three generations is like a man who sits some time in the conjurer’s booth at a fair, and witnesses the performance twice or thrice in succession. The tricks were meant to be seen only once; and when they are no longer a novelty and cease to deceive, their effect is gone.” (Schopenhauer, “Essays on Pessimism”)

For more posts on this see my 2 blog posts from my previous blog here:

ALSO, see the other posts in this series on this blog here:

Edward Babinski has also spoke to the phenomena of beings losing their luster through spending time with them, although I don’t know if he formulates the problem in terms of a Nietzschean repetitious experience of time as eternal return.

bookmark_border(1/2) The Godlessness Of The Philosophers: From Beginning To End

Democritus (center) and Protagoras (right)
17th-century painting by Salvator Rosa Πρωταγόρας; c. 490 BC – c. 420 BC
  • “Concerning the gods, I have no means of knowing whether they exist or not, nor of what sort they may be (Protagoras, On the Gods)”

Protagoras was a proponent of either agnosticism or, as Tim Whitmarsh claims, atheism, on the grounds that since he held that if something is not able to be known it does not exist. This reflects my own position of theoretical agnosticism but pragmatic atheism, since life clearly does not seem to reflect the hand of a responsible God (eg., hurricanes, three year old’s dead from cancer), but since an immaterial, supernatural being is unfalsifiable, who knows? I live my life as though immaterial goblins aren’t the cause of quantum gravity, since to live otherwise would be odd.

By God or theos Heidegger has in mind the notion of an arche that we find with the PreSocratics rather than the later Christian notion of a supernatural entity of faith.  This is why Heidegger says 

  • “Faith has no place in thought (Heidegger, Anaximander’s Saying in Off The Beaten Track, 280).”  

Exploring what Heidegger “faith-less-ly” understands in terms of theos (God) and theology, we read:

  • “In its formal meaning, pantheism means: pan-theos, ‘Everything – God’; everything stands in relation to God; [this means] all beings are in relation to the ground of beings. This ground as the One, hen is as ground what everything else, pan, is in it, in the ground. Hen kai pan. The One is also the whole and the whole is also the One … Hen kai pan, this followed Heraclitus’ fragment hen panta einai, Fr. 50, and was according to the spirit of the time the chosen motto of the three young Swabian friends, Schelling, Hegel, and Holderlin. (Heidegger, Schelling’s Treatise on Human Freedom, 68)”

So, for the Greeks theos is understood in terms of the event, movement.  Motion is characterized by a changing away from something, toward something else, which, as Aristotle sees it, need not involve a change of place, since the quality of something can change without it going anywhere. We say, for instance, the supremely beautiful woman is like Aphrodite incarnate, like Aphrodite presences through her.  Homer talks about the gods not appearing to everyone in their fullness (enargeis), with the example of Odysseus experiencing the full radiance of the goddess presencing through a woman, while the next person wasn’t experiencing her that way. Or, of a beautiful mansion we say “Now that’s a house!” though the next person may experience it to be presencing in a gawdy manner: The universal appears or manifests through the individual/particular.  Modern Analytic philosophy ignores the foundational concept of movement/presencing and so creates for itself the imaginary problem of transcendence when trying to understand how the universal applies to the individual. This doesn’t mean there is an extant goddess Aphrodite existing somewhere, we are just describing what the experience feels like (Phenomenology).  This is the sense in which Aristotle understands God in terms of movement as arche or originating principle, not in the later way Christian philosophers appropriated Aristotle. 

Characterizing the Greeks and gods, we read from Calasso:

  • But how does a god make himself manifest? In the Greek language the word theos, “god,” has no vocative case, observed the illustrious linguist Jakob Wackernagel. Theos has a predicative function: it designates something that happens. There is a wonderful example of this in Euripides’ Helen: “O theoi. theos gar kai to gigno’ skein philous”–“O gods: recognizing the beloved is god.” Kerenyi thought that the distinguishing quality of the Greek world was this habit of “saying of an event: ‘It is theos.'” And an event referred to as being theos could easily become Zeus, the most vast and all-inclusive of gods, the god who is the background noise of the divine. So when Aratus set out to describe the phenomena of the cosmos, he began his poem thus: “From Zeus let our beginning be, from he whom men never leave unnamed. Full of Zeus are the paths and the places where men meet, full of Zeus the sea and the seaports. Every one of us and in every way has need of Zeus. Indeed we are his offspring.”

So for example Holderlin speaks of the blueing of the sky after the storm where the contrast phenomenalizes that the sky is always blueing, just that this becomes conspicuous in contrast with the grey stormy skies. Similarly, when I turn down an unknown street looking for the yellow house, when I see it the yellowness leaps out at me, yellows, which it does so normally too to a lesser degree though we don’t usually notice the appearing.

It’s amazing that so long ago Protagoras basically summed up what we know about the divine, which we are now still struggling to catch up with.

For the next posts in this 3 part series, see:

bookmark_borderAfterword: The Christ Myth Theory

In this series of posts, one side issue I tried to argue was the idea of Jesus as a mythical entity who was crucified in outer space as Richard Carrier argues for doesn’t make sense of the evidence, primarily because the crucifixion is trying to arouse guilt to inspire repentance and this theme doesn’t fit with sky demons executing Christ. But there is another related issue.

Carrier argues original Christianity was just another dying-rising God cult that were numerous at that time. The problem is that if original Christianity was just another one of these, it would make sense to the Gentiles. But, Paul says the gentiles found the idea of the religion centered around the cross to be ridiculous:

  • 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23)”

The idea of an executed deity as a object of worship in the ancient world was looked upon as ludicrous, hence the parody of Christian worship from around the year 200 with the The Alexamenos graffito (also known as the graffito blasfemo, or blasphemous graffito):

Ben Witherington comments:

 The gist of this graffito is ridiculing the idea that a God could get himself crucified.  The inscription speaks of Alexamenos worshipping his God, and the one of the cross has a donkey’s head. The implication is that this is an assine practice, so the graffito is strongly pejorative.

So, the first Christians were not just trying to sell another dying-rising God that were plentiful in the ancient world, because we have from multiple sources that the gentiles saw such ideas as silly.

My solution is that the gentiles would have been familiar with the idea of a personal and societal transformational death such as that of Socrates, but would have thought it foolish to think such a death would have the ability to have as profound personal and societal transformation as Jesus’ death was supposed to have. To overcome this unlikelihood, people would have to come to see Jesus as the specially chosen by God Davidic heir who was wrongly humiliatingly executed as a criminal. The more one sees Jesus as the specially and profoundly favored one of God, the more individual and societal hidden vileness is disclosed and hence the opportunity for repentance.

For the gathering post for this series of posts, see:

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading!