The God Of The Philosophers And The Via Negativa
Generally speaking, we distinguish the God of the philosophers from the particular Gods, say Hindu vs Christian, in that philosophers are interested in God or Gods insofar as they are knowable or can be demonstrated.  In this way God is usually understood in terms of abstract concept like omniscience and omnipresence rather that as having a particular descriptive trait or mood tendency.  Let’s consider the God of the Philosophers. (1)  The Finite and Infinite Mind When philosophers characterize God in the western tradition they generally distinguish between the Finite mind of a human with the Infinite mind of God.  Infinite doesn’t mean Indefinite, in the sense that God has a human like mind like we do but knows ridiculously more than we do.  Rather, human experience fails to reach Godlike experience, which is not only a difference of degree, but also a difference of kind.  So for example, an omnipresent God would have its attention on the six people currently eating a ... Read Article
Christian Origins Web Project
Inquiry Question: What if the original meaning of the cross was not a penal substitution once and for all blood magic sin debt payment, but rather a supreme act of moral influence where a mirror was held up to the world so they could see their depravity and so be a catalyst leading to repentance before the imminent final judgment? To see my answer/project, click on my favorite T-Shirt below! "Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils - no, nor the human race, as I believe - and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day." Plato, “The Republic” ... Read Article
Survival Researcher or Christian Apologist? Could You Tell the Difference? (Part 2 of 3)
Continued from last time... 6. It's Depressing, Therefore It's False In my opening critique I quoted Dean Radin and co. stating: "Materialism tells us that there is no purpose to anything. When we die, we are forever extinguished, and our atoms are recycled into other purposeless creatures. Eventually, all the suns will burn out, the universe will grow cold, and by a random fluke, the whole meaningless cycle might begin again" (p. 33). What relevance does this true statement have to whether or not survival researchers are able to provide strong evidence for the existence of an afterlife? Does this appeal to emotion sound familiar? Like psychical researchers leaning on the same trope, in his opening statement in the Lowder-Fernandes debate above, Christian apologist Phil Fernandes seems to confuse the depressing with the meaningless. Of course, anyone who has lived long enough will recognize that life contains both uplifting and depressing aspects—c'est l ... Read Article
Psychologizing Jesus
If I may so express it, I was steeped in Dora. I was not merely over head and ears in love with her, but I was saturated through and through. Enough love might have been wrung out of me, metaphorically speaking, to drown anybody in; and yet there would have remained enough within me, and all over me, to pervade my entire existence... I was sensible of a mist of love and beauty about Dora, but of nothing else. He stood up sometimes, and asked me what I thought of the prospect. I said it was delightful, and I dare say it was; but it was all Dora to me. The sun shone Dora, and the birds sang Dora. The south wind blew Dora, and the wild flowers in the hedges were all Doras, to a bud. (Dickens, David Copperfield, Blissful, 33) One general rule of thumb of inquiry is that we don’t want arguments that depend on imputing emotional states on people,  because we have no real access to those.  As I said, this is a general rule, although the ancients viewed things differently.  One important bac ... Read Article
My Theory Of Christian Origins: Richard Carrier Reader Response
I can understand why Carrier is so upset.  He is a very smart fellow arguing a position that is, as a rule, argued most vehemently by people who are not, in fact, nearly as smart.  His view is not one that has a foothold – not even a toe hold – not even a toenail hold – not even… well, you get the picture – among respected academics who have devoted their lives to teaching the New Testament and early Christianity in accredited colleges, research universities, divinity schools, and seminaries throughout North America and Europe. (Bart Ehrman) One of the perennially interesting issues in New Testament studies is What Happens When You Review Richard Carrier. So, I've received a reader response about my approach to interpreting Christian Origins by Richard Carrier, who is a historian specializing in the intellectual history of Greece and Rome who holds the "minority" position that Jesus never existed but was originally believed to be a mythical entity who was never on earth but was cr ... Read Article
Christian Origins: Afterword
The origins of Christianity are inseparably linked to the Jewishness of Jesus and his relationship to the Jews of his time. Unless the picture is framed in this way, Christian origins are opaque. Dr. Amy-Jill Levine rightly points out Jesus was a lifelong observant Jew who didn't want to abolish the law, but make it more strict. She gives Jesus' example of how you are guilty of adultery merely for lusting in your heart. The law thus increased one's guilt to a greater degree than if someone was just acting badly without knowing the prohibition. The conspicuous theme across the gospels is the guilt of the Jews in the death of Jesus. The Jewish high council conspired against him, the crowd turned on him, and his disciples abandoned him. The idea was that God's mandates prevented the Jewish leadership from killing Jesus (as the gospel of John points out), but the Jews tricked Pilate into doing it. This was a deliberate transgressing of God's law. Paul's entire argument only makes sense in this conte ... Read Article
Easter 2023 Blog Post 3/3: Who Killed Jesus?
Pilate Washes His Hands by James Tissot  For my previous 2 posts in this Easter 2023 miniseries, I talked about: Happy Easter: My Favorite Easter Joke It’s Holy Saturday, So What Happened To Jesus Between Good Friday And Easter? Piggybacking off of those, especially the first one, I'd like to conclude in the following way: It's not academically controversial to concede there are exegetical allusions in Mark's crucifixion narrative that have to be "put out of play" or "bracketed" as to their historicity because they are rewrites of Psalms and 2nd Isaiah, and so the early church would have had motivation to invent such theologically charged passages out of whole cloth. That's not to say they did, but who knows? As I said previously, this gets really interesting with allusions to Psalm 22:16b LXX and especially Paul in Galatians 3:13 which is appropriating Deuteronomy 21:23 because perhaps the crucifixion itself is an invented detail, whereas Jesus actually died by ot ... Read Article
Survival Researcher or Christian Apologist? Could You Tell the Difference? (Part 1 of 3)
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.     — Bertrand Russell, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" (1943) In my critique of the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS) essay competition on the "best" evidence for life after death and my response to the summer and winter commentaries on it, I made reference to striking similarities between the arguments made by Christian fundamentalists and survival researchers (i.e., those who purport to investigate survival of bodily death scientifically). In this three-part guest post, I'd like to highlight or elaborate on fifteen or so examples of how those at the forefront of "scientific" research into an afterlife—or in BICS' framing, the survival of human consciousness after death—have consistently used fallacious arguments that mirror parallel arguments prominent among fundamentalist Christians. Here I'll only note instances ... Read Article
It’s Holy Saturday, So What Happened To Jesus Between Good Friday And Easter?
The Harrowing of Hell, Petites Heures, 14th-century illuminated manuscript commissioned by John, Duke of Berry. So what did Jesus do between Good Friday and Easter? One old tradition is the Harrowing of Hell where Jesus descended to Hell and liberated the captives there. Christ's descent into the world of the dead is referred to in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult), which state that he "descended into the underworld" (descendit ad inferos), although neither mention that he liberated the dead. The Harrowing of Hell interpretation is popular, but it is mostly inferential guesswork that has little scriptural basis. Here's some wisdom from Wikipedia: Although the Harrowing of Hell is taught by the Lutheran, Catholic, Reformed, and Orthodox traditions, a number of Christians reject the doctrine of the "harrowing of hell", claiming that "there is scant scriptural evidence for [it], and that Jesus's own words contradict it". John Piper, for example, says "there is no text ... Read Article
Happy Easter: My Favorite Easter Joke
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, c. 1602 Regarding Good Friday, I've talked before of the well known point in academic New Testament studies that Jesus' passion is basically a creative re-write of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, so it's questionable that there is any historical material in there. Our earliest detail of the crucifixion is from Paul that Christ died according to the scriptures, which could mean anything from Christ died in agreement with what is said in the scriptures, to we learn how Christ figuratively died by reading the scriptures. And, there's lots of room in between these 2 poles of the spectrum. But, what about the crucifixion? Was Jesus crucified? Again, this may be a creative re-write of Psalm 22:16b LXX, and more directly Galatians 3:13 which is appropriating Deuteronomy 21:23. Intertextuality aside, Paul may have introduced the crucifixion element into the Jesus tradition because it seems to be absent from the inherited material (in the 7 authentic letters o ... Read Article
Unhooking The Bra Of Mystery
"Free the Springfield 2 Marge, free the Springfield 2!" In the previous 3 posts in this series I talked about brainwashing and indoctrination in (1) Religion: (a) Religion as Undue Influence (kiosk article) (b) Religion And Brainwashing (2) Sexuality: (2/2) Brainwashing and Indoctrination in Culture and Sexuality But if we are ethically compelled, as Foucault said, to battle fascisms both in society and in ourselves, what does such a process look like? For instance, we know female breasts are experienced as sexual by many males, even though this is not an objective feature of them since gay men don't experience them as sexual. Moreover, "In African tribal societies breasts are not considered sexual organs and women carry on topless without a care in the world. (Koraly Dimitriadis, Why can’t women take their tops off in public?) One of the most important continental philosophers of the 20th century, Gilles Deleuze (along with ... Read Article
Jesus and Satire (2/2)
For more on Jesus and satire (lampooning, exaggerating for effect, etc), please see my three Modern Library articles: The Justified Lie By Jesus In The Gospel Of John A Critique Of The Penal Substitution Interpretation Of The Cross Of Christ Jesus Mythicism And Penal Substitution ps: Also check out my other Christian Origins posts on this blog. The Dramatis Personae in ancient comedy. “The Knights”is a comedy by the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes. It won first prize at the Lenaia festival when it was produced in 424 BCE. The play is a satire on political and social life in 5th Century BCE Athens, and in particular a diatribe against the pro-war populist politician, Cleon. In the play, a sausage-seller, Agoracritus, vies with Paphlagonian (representing Cleon) for the confidence and approval of Demos (an elderly man who symbolizes the Athenian citizenry) and Agoracritus emerges triumphant from a series of contests and miraculously restores Demos to his former youth and glory. ... Read Article
Jesus and Satire: A New Darth Harley Video!
Aside from doing the blog here, I do Secular Web Kids where the fictional Darth Harley is the mascot. I thought I'd talk about that process a little, so upcoming will be a new Darth Harley video about Jesus and satire. I talk about this topic in my critique of penal substitution essay AND my mythicism and penal substitution essay - I'll introduce some new material about Jesus and satire in the video, specifically around Socrates and Aristophanes' "Clouds." So you can get a feel for this, here is the early stage script of the conversation between teacher Ed and Darth Haley, Havanese Hell Hound and Bark Lord Of The Sith: E: So boys and girls, today in "READING BETWEEN THE LINES" we were talking about some of the silly things in the story of Jesus that lets us know the writer is making fun or doing a “parody” of Jesus’s world. Can anyone give some examples? Harley? DH: Sure. Some of the more silly ones are: All the Jewish customs the trial broke, like the nonsense of the high Jewish council ... Read Article
(2/2) Brainwashing and Indoctrination in Culture and Sexuality
I recently did a kiosk article on brainwashing and religion. This talked about something called undo influence or brainwashing with religion that we are born into and/or come to. To more fully explore this, consider the following ancient Greek statues: Images source: What we learn when we survey ancient Greek art is we see that the Greeks idealized the male form as having a small penis, a sign of youth, intelligence, and self control. By contrast, a large penis was seen as representing uncivilized lack of self-control and barbarism. By contrast, for our culture, a large penis has become the standard to have, and even heterosexual males tend to prefer porn with porn star men that have large penises. Women seem more flexible on the issue, and so even in masturbating a woman might prefer a small pocket rocket to a large dildo. And in fact, there is a niche market for small penis porn. When it comes ... Read Article
Deconstruction and Religious Studies Blogging
What I tried to do with the previous Christian Origins posts was what Nietzsche called spurs or traces, the idea that "a little something" is found whereby if you pull on it enough it can unravel the sweater of the popular interpretation.  For instance, it is generally agreed Mark's crucifixion account is creatively retelling Isaiah and Psalms, so the account of Jesus's passion built out of those scriptures in Mark may be completely fictional.  However, it is still held (with the exception of some Muslim scholars) that it is still historical bedrock that Jesus was crucified, either on earth (via historicists) or in the celestial realm (via mythicists).  What problematizes this fork in the road is that Paul says he understands Christ crucified "according to the scriptures," not simply Isaiah and Psalms as with Mark, but in Galatians as hung on a tree and seen as a curse via Deuteronomy.  This Galatians reference to Deuteronomy should send up a whole army of red flags as to the historical truth of the cru ... Read Article