Discussion - J.P. Holding (Bob Turkel)

I'll make this page prettier with more links and further explanations ASAP, although there is currently the occasional email from another person included below. The current state of this page is for those who were interested in my end of this interaction with JPH. I'll update it as new emails are sent and received. 

These emails were sent to a list including James Patrick Holding, Ed Babinski, G. Zeinelde Jordan and others. I have not included the list in the "To" field in the emails reported as a quick fix in order to keep email addresses hidden from spammers. (Easier for me just to delete the list of names rather than edit out all the addresses for now!)

Otherwise these emails are all unedited.

For those confused by the dates of the first few emails, I have inserted Bob's replies after the relevent emails from myself even though I sent the first few all at once.

From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 12:26 AM
Subject: Re: Why did Christianity succeed in a world of polytheism (and Judaism?)

BOB
Simple.
http://www.tektonics.org/nowayjose.html

STEVE
For rebuttals:
http://humanknowledge.net/Philosophy/Metaphysics/Theology/ThePossibleFaith.htm
http://exposed.faithweb.com/faith.html


Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: "James Patrick Holding"
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 12:49 PM
Subject: Re: Why did Christianity succeed in a world of polytheism (and Judaism?)

For destruction of alleged rebuttal see
http://www.tektonics.org/nowayjose_CC1.html


From: Brian Holtz
 
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2004 12:31 AM
Subject: RE: Why did Christianity succeed in a world of polytheism (and Judaism?)
 
[J.P. Holding] (whose real name is a big secret) wrote:

For destruction of alleged rebuttal see
http://www.tektonics.org/nowayjose_CC1.html

For an evisceration of this response to my rebuttal, see http://humanknowledge.net/Philosophy/Metaphysics/Theology/ThePossibleFaith2.htm

Bob, it's been almost a year since I posted my Atheist Cage Match Challenge (and cc'd you on it). Let me know if you're ever up to it -- or if you ever come up with the answers that in Oct 2001 you said you'd give to my questions for theists. Also, let it be known when you're satisfied with your most recent response in our Trilemma debate. Then again, the increasing weakness and incontinence of your multiple responses have been a good way to forestall the final edits on my pending reply...


From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 12:27 AM
Subject: Re: I am asking the most obvious question(s), Bob

>>Tell me than: What is Christianity? Belief in Jesus?  Come on, if this
will be your reply, than I hope you can do allot better!

BOB:
I already have to the tune of 1300+ articles.

STEVE:
Bob, do you have a reply to http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=242 on
your site?

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: "James Patrick Holding"
 
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 12:47 PM
Subject: Re: I am asking the most obvious question(s), Bob

Yes -- http://www.tektonics.org/whatfaith_CC1.html


 
----- Original Message -----
From: Steve Locks
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 12:28 AM
Subject: Re: I am asking the most obvious question(s), Bob

> ED: The most obvious question is why anyone would believe and seek to
> defend every miracle, every science-related point, the veracity of every
> point related to history, and otherworldly doctrines no one can directly
> verify like "a Trinity,"


BOB:
Because it is true? Isn't that the obvious answer?


STEVE
Because it is true?? If something's in the Bible then will you automatically
defend it? How else do you explain this:

From http://members.aol.com/bbu85/hold.htm


 

Turkel's Software Blunder

This is actually an essay from The TEKTONICS.ORG EXPOSED site. The essay details a very revealing mistake Turkel made when, in a discussion with Farrell Till, he tried to explain a repeated word in the book of John. Turkel claimed that the author of the book repeated the word twice for emphasis:

"First let's understand exactly what is in John here. The words are 'rise again from the dead' -- 'rise again' is the Greek anistemi used twice for emphasis. In fact this we will see is the key to the whole issue; the word is commonly used for anyone just getting up from their place."

Unfortunately for Turkel, the word was not actually repeated twice. Software that Turkel was using repeated the word and he didn't catch the error. Turkel's explanation of why the author repeated the word is simply bogus-something he made up off the top of his head. This reference has now disappeared from Turkel's site. 

    See here for article
http://web.archive.org/web/20021205031149/http://exposed.faithweb.com/blunder.html



    Steve
    ======================================
    Leaving Christianity
    www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From:James Patrick Holding
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 12:48 PM
Subject: Re: I am asking the most obvious question(s), Bob

Old news, Steve --
 

From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 1:23 AM
Subject: Re: A note to Bob and Harry

BOB:
Tell me what happened to the body of Jesus.

STEVE
http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm concludes with:
"The evidence has shown that even though Roman authorities like Pilate might
sometimes have left crucifixion victims hanging, they often allowed bodies
to be buried. Such allowances, in fact, were all the more likely during a
religious holiday, or when the crucifixion was not part of a mass operation
to suppress an open and armed revolt, or when the request for the body came
from a person who was cooperative with Rome. The evidence has further shown
that the Jewish leaders who participated in the proceedings against Jesus
had strong religious and cultural motives for seeking to bury him in shame.
Such motives came not from any secret allegiance to Jesus, but from
observance of traditional law and custom. Finally, the
evidence has also shown that the early followers of Jesus described his
burial in terms which were dishonorable. They dignified it as much as
possible but did not deny its shame.
On the basis of the evidence, then, the following scenario emerges as a
likely course of events for the deposition of Jesus' body: late on the day
of his death, one or more of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem--later
personified by Christian tradition as Joseph of Arimathea--requested custody
of the body for purposes of dishonorable burial. These leaders, having
collaborated with the Romans in the condemnation of Jesus, had both the
means and the motive to bury him in shame: means, in their access to Pilate,
and motive, in Jewish law and custom. Pilate did not hesitate to grant
dishonorable burial to one of their condemned criminals. Only the most
rudimentary burial preparations were administered--the body was wrapped and
taken directly to the tomb, without a funeral procession, eulogies, or the
deposition of any personal effects. By sunset on the day of his death, the
body of Jesus lay within a burial cave reserved for criminals condemned by
Jewish courts. No one mourned.
The shame of Jesus' burial is not only consistent with the best evidence,
but can also help to account for an historical fact which has long been
puzzling to historians of early Christianity: why did the primitive church
not venerate the tomb of Jesus? Joachim Jeremias, for one, thought it
inconceivable (undenkbar) that the primitive community would have let the
grave of Jesus sink into oblivion. [36] Yet the earliest hints of Christian
veneration of Jesus' tomb do not surface until the early fourth century CE.
[37] It is a striking fact--and not at all unthinkable--that the tomb of
Jesus was not venerated until it was no longer remembered as a place of
shame. [38]"


In What Really Happened to Jesus Lüdemann says "given the significance of
tombs of saints in the time of Jesus, it can be presupposed that had Jesus'
tomb been known, early Christians would have venerated it, and traditions
about it would have been preserved." He quotes Joachim Jeremias: "The world
of sacred tombs was a real element of the environment in which the earliest
community lived. It is inconceivable that, living in this world, it could
have allowed the tomb of Jesus to be forgotten." If a tomb location is
unknown then it could not have been seen empty. Don Cupitt said poignantly,
"the Easter faith preceded the Easter events."


Rabbinic law specifies that criminals may not be buried in tombs; rather, it
instructs Jews to bury criminals in a common grave. Tosefta Sanhedrin 9:8;
Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:5-7.  m. Sanh. 6:6 says that criminals condemned by a
Jewish court were not interred "in the burial place of their fathers," but
in a separate places kept by the court specifically for that purpose.
(http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm
http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/thomas_sheehan/firstcoming/two.html#10)

However, Ludemann's "What really Happened to Jesus" claims that Jesus was
not likely to have been buried in a criminals' grave (a Jewish practise)
because he was not executed by the Jewish authorities (Ludemann also doubts
the historicity of the Jewish condemnation of Jesus - due to his other
criticisms of anti-semitism in the NT). However, others point out that an
ignoble burial in accordance with the Mishnah Sanhedrin would have been
necessary, if the passion story is to be believed, because Jesus was
condemned by the Jewish authorities in the NT as discussed at
http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm. (Also see
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/jreply2.html#maet).

St. Paul explicitly says Jesus was condemned by the Law, (which would invoke
the ignoble burial code), quoting the Torah law: "Christ redeemed us from
the curse of the law, having become a curse for us--for it is written,
cursed is everyone who hangs on a post" (Galatians 3:13).  And in accord
with the Torah law condemning blasphemers to death (Leviticus 24:16), three
of the four Evangelists state unequivocally that Jesus was condemned to
death for blasphemy by the Jewish high council (Mark 14:64, Matthew
26:65-66, John 19:7).  Mark (10:33) and Matthew (20:18) even have Jesus
predict he will be condemned to death by the Jewish council.

Therefore if Joseph of Arimathea (or another Jew/Jews) really buried Jesus,
then he/they would have had to follow the code in the Mishnah Sanhedrin
above. Since at least a few of the Jewish leaders had been involved in the
condemnation of Jesus, they had an obligation to bury him in shame.

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 

From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 8:32 PM
Subject: Re: A note to Bob and Harry

STEVE
I should have included a highlight in anticipation of a possible response
from Bob (such as at http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_02_03_01.html#g). This
is that footnote 9 at http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm
addresses such criticisms as to the value of the Mishnah Sanhedrin in the
matter of the burial.

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: "James Patrick Holding"
 
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 1:09 PM
Subject: Re: A note to Bob and Harry

I'm asking what happened AFTER burial, Steve.


From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Saturday, January 17, 2004 1:30 AM
Subject: Re: Not "begging the question" just asking them

BOB
My argument has been that the language of the text is equivocal on such
matters -- open so that no one can find a specific view clearly stated
there.

STEVE
Bob, are the following from the bible equivocations or literal?
Creationism
Adam and Eve
Noah's Ark

Did Paul think these things actually happened? Did Jesus?

Bob, at http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_03_03_01.html you attempt to make it
look like ancient people did not have ancient notions of cosmology and
astronomy, so we can take it that incorrect scientific ideas in the bible
are not ideas you would be happy to see there. Unfortunately by your stand
on creationism, etc. you have undermined your whole thesis.

But even if we admit that Christianity does not fall due to the insistence
of the inclusion of beliefs such as those at
http://www.answersingenesis.org/
(there are other Christian interpretations on the market) it surely even
worse than this. Christianity is predicated on the idea that mankind is
fallen and in need of  atonement with God. For most of Christian history
this was based on a literal belief in the Adam and Eve story. Despite all
the mythical and liberal interpretations of the Adam and Eve story in
recent times, the originators of Christianity (Christianities) thought
Genesis was literally true.

As Mark McFall  (http://www.frontline-apologetics.com/) said to me:
"So you see, if you cast aspersions on the historical record surrounding
Adam and Eve, you must also question the inspiration and authority of the
Bible, the genealogical and archaeological accuracy of Scripture, the
problem of sin, Christ's vicarious atonement, salvation by the grace of God
alone, and much more. I've been laugh (sic) at before for holding this view.
But you know what, that's what the Bible teaches."



Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: "James Patrick Holding"
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 1:08 PM
Subject: Re: Not "begging the question" just asking them

Yo Steve,

I see no reason to think they were not understood literally. Josephus sure
thought so.

I have taken no "stand" on creationism beyond a bare minimal, fideistic
endorsement. What in the world are you talking about?

 


From: "Steve Locks" <slocks@globalnet.co.uk>
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 10:50 PM
Subject: Re: Not "begging the question" just asking them

Thanks Bob,

I am sorry if I have misrepresented your position. I know your policy is not
to take much of a stand on or defend creationism etc. which I wasn't meaning
to get into the technicalities of, rather I wish to make a point about the
implications of a theology built on a false view of the world. Given your
linking to AiG and pages such as http://www.tektonics.org/evologic.html I
think I am correct not to characterise you as a fence sitter, despite your
policy of not wishing to be drawn on areas you outside your speciality.
Since you mention that your stance is a "fideistic endorsement" then I take
it that you see such views as important to have as part of Christian faith
and therefore could cause problems for faith if not accepted. Therefore
if Creationism, Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark did not really happen
then this should not be a neutral issue for you or for the veracity of
Christianity both in your opinion and more generally.

On a previous version of your site at least, I remember seeing you linking
favourably to a Noah's ark apologetic site. (Rummage...) here - found it at
http://web.archive.org/web/20000929025428/www.tektonics.org/lynks.html where
you linked to a number of creationist sites including the Noah's ark
apologetic I was thinking of
http://web.archive.org/web/20001017071102/www.users.bigpond.com/webfx/cyber/crsbk21.htm

That said, your own particular stance on this, whilst relevant to the
grounding of your apologetics, is not the most important thing. (Surely
a Christian apologist could make mistakes and yet Christianity remain true).
Rather it is what the writers of the biblical texts took as literal that is
so damaging to Christianity.

Assume, for the sake of argument at least, that Adam and Eve story,
Noah's ark, creationism etc. are not true and yet St. Paul, Jesus etc.
thought they were absolutely so and built their whole system of sin
and redemption on such tales.

This would mean that their theology was based on a literal reading of
things that didn't happen. Mark McFall represents the view (and goes to some
pains to biblically prove it) that the whole thing would then collapse as
built on sand, "therefore" we must take Genesis literally (see
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/mark_mcfall2.html#mr).
Whilst I have (or at least had) some sympathy for the more psychologically
based liberal readings of Genesis, this is (as you agree) not what the
originators of Christianity (Christianities) had in mind. Rather they would
have been pretty cross (to the point of heretic burning) had anyone dared
suggest that there wasn't really a talking snake. So Christianity is all
predicated on a gross falsehood.


So, in response to your question: << What in the world are you talking
about? >>
What I am talking about is:
Would you agree that beliefs predicated on a gross falsehood are likely to
be erroneous?


As an addendum, since you agree that "I see no reason to think they were not
understood literally" why do you see the need to imply at
http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_03_03_01.html that the writers did not have
a false cosmology/astronomy?

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 11:10 PM
Subject: Re: Ground control to Jesus Christ: "We Have Lift Off"

Did you know that Jesus recently miraculously appeared before 6,000 in
Nairobi? There are even photos of him and testimonies to his miraculous
appearance and disappearance. http://www.mcn.org/1/miracles/Nairobi2.html

This time he went off in a car though, but then vanished without ascending.

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity


From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Sunday, January 18, 2004 11:17 PM
Subject: Re: A note to Bob and Harry

If Jesus was buried in shame as discussed at the URL I gave, then there
would not have been a visit to an empty tomb with the attendant appearances
as per the Gospels.

As I said previously:
"If a tomb location is unknown then it could not have been seen empty."

You asked "What happened to the body?"
The body rotted. It must have because it was buried in a shameful way in a
shameful place, not the known tomb portrayed in the Gospels.

Do you have a rebuttal of
http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm ?

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: "James Patrick Holding"
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 2:05 PM
Subject: Re: Not "begging the question" just asking them

Steve,

> it that you see such views as important to have as part of Christian faith
> and therefore could cause problems for faith if not accepted. Therefore
> if Creationism, Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark did not really happen
> then this should not be a neutral issue for you or for the veracity of
> Christianity both in your opinion and more generally.

I don't deny that it would for some people. It would not for me.

> This would mean that their theology was based on a literal reading of
> things that didn't happen.

If so then we just end up with a Bible like any other historical or other
text that makes claims that must be independently evaluated on their own
merits. The "slippery slope" of "if we can't trust it here, then we can't
trust it anywhere" is logically fallacious and would not enter my mind.

> understood literally" why do you see the need to imply at
> http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_03_03_01.html that the writers did not
have
> a false cosmology/astronomy?

Because the data offered does not indicate it.

>>>If Jesus was buried in shame as discussed at the URL I gave, then there
would not have been a visit to an empty tomb with the attendant appearances
as per the Gospels.

Why not? Those who saw him and went to the tomb are those who would wish out
of love to make any effort to restore his honor.

As for Kenya, get back with me in 5 years and let me know how the movement
that surrounds this event is doing.


From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 11:30 PM
Subject: Can't "Adam and Eve" it. (That's Cockney rhyming slang).

Thanks for your reply Bob,


STEVE WROTE
(regarding your (Bob's) statement that you take a bare minimal, fideistic
endorsement of creationism):-
> Since you mention that your stance is a "fideistic endorsement" then I
> take it that you see such views as important to have as part of Christian
> faith and therefore could cause problems for faith if not accepted.
> Therefore if Creationism, Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark did not really
> happen then this should not be a neutral issue for you or for the veracity
> of Christianity both in your opinion and more generally.

BOB
I don't deny that it would for some people. It would not for me.

STEVE
Okay, I don't want to dwell on your personal beliefs overmuch, but the fact
that you think creationism is worth believing (is it a fact you think so?)
must mean that you see some value in it surely - why else do you endorse it?
If not and you really are not on the creationism side of the fence then I
think your website is a bit misleading and you should make your position
clearer if you wish to reduce misunderstanding of your position. I take it
you disagree with Mark McFall's analysis at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/mark_mcfall2.html#mr ?


Since you said:
<< I don't deny that it would for some people. It would not for me. >>
How would you see the fall and atonement if Genesis is mythical rather than
literal?

Also what would you think of the biblical writers for taking the stories in
Genesis literally? (You did say << I see no reason to think they were not
understood literally. >>)


STEVE
> This would mean that their theology was based on a literal reading of
> things that didn't happen.

BOB
If so then we just end up with a Bible like any other historical or other
text that makes claims that must be independently evaluated on their own
merits. The "slippery slope" of "if we can't trust it here, then we can't
trust it anywhere" is logically fallacious and would not enter my mind.

STEVE
Not just their own merits - as I think you really agree, as you have to
understand how a text was written, the times it was written in etc. etc.
etc. just as you do yourself at length. The bible is not the only book you
have read to understand the bible better. Also, it really is relevant to
check the claims of Genesis against modern science, even if you want
to argue about it. Who was it of one book who said "if it's in the Koran
we know it already, if it's not then we don't need it!"

Now, if the atonement is predicated on something that didn't happen then
the atonement is not required. This is not a "slippery slope" argument. If
someone hasn't eaten poison then they don't need an antidote.

BOB
"if we can't trust it here, then we can't trust it anywhere" is logically
fallacious and would not enter my mind.

STEVE
I did not say that we can't trust the Bible anywhere. In a large
diverse book it is unlikely that the whole thing is without any human
insight. Indeed,  contrary to what we're led to believe as Christians,
for most ex-Christians deconversion comes as a feeling of awakening
and  spiritual enrichment, rather than the feeling of empty nihilism that
we are led to expect. No baby out with bath water, although the
transition can be painful initially for some.
See http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/posts.html#trauma


BOB
"if we can't trust it here, ...."

STEVE
Unfortunately if the bible claims things which didn't happen did, and those
things are the very heart of the matter (for supernatural believing
Christians e.g. St. Paul), then the central message of Christianity (that
Jesus died for to rectify the fall) is false. The reason this is so
problematic for Christianity is because St. Paul was not a liberal but
rather intended his theology as a consequence of a literal reading of
Genesis. Hence if there was no talking snake then St. Paul was
mistaken in his interpretation of what Jesus was about. That is not
the "whole thing." It is the difference between evangelical/fundamentalist
Christianity and liberal Christianity or beyond.

So Adam and Eve doesn't destroy a less supernatural Christianity
as plenty of liberals and leftish mainstream Christians get on fine without
a literal belief in Genesis or even a physical Resurrection, as you know
(so why were you worried that this might be a "slippery slope" argument?).
They would argue that there is still plenty of room for manoeuvre.

So back to my question (about literal Genesis and its supernatural
solution). Yes or no, would you agree that beliefs predicated on a
gross falsehood are likely to be erroneous?


Another point about my question:
(Reworded for clarity) "If creationism is false, would that cause a problem
for Christian belief?"
You replied:
<< It would not for me.>>
 So to what are you referring when you wrote:
<< claims ... must be independently evaluated on their own merits.>>
If it doesn't matter about creationism for Christian beliefs (for you), why
do you present creationism favourably on your apologetics website?

Do you think it would have upset St. Paul if he was shown that the Adam and
Eve story did not happen? Didn't he therefore not have a real problem (the
fall) requiring a solution (the atonement) but rather a pseudo-problem for
which a solution is therefore not required?


STEVE
> understood literally" why do you see the need to imply at
> http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_03_03_01.html that the writers did not
> have a false cosmology/astronomy?

BOB
Because the data offered does not indicate it.

STEVE
Would it cause any embarrassment to Christianity if the biblical authors
*did* literally have false astronomical and cosmological notions?


Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 11:49 PM
Subject: Tomb and body

STEVE
>>>If Jesus was buried in shame as discussed at the URL I gave, then there
would not have been a visit to an empty tomb with the attendant appearances
as per the Gospels.

BOB
Why not?

STEVE
Because there would not have been a known tomb for them to go to.
As I said previously (twice):
"If a tomb location is unknown then it could not have been seen empty."

As per the argument at
http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm

Do you have a rebuttal to
http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm ?

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 11:52 PM
Subject: Christ seen by 6,000 in Kenya

BOB
As for Kenya, get back with me in 5 years and let me know how the movement
that surrounds this event is doing.

STEVE
That was 1988 and they're still talking about it. The movement is
Christianity BTW. At least it was 6,000 Christians who were calling him
"Jesus." Although others later claimed him to be Maitreya, the crowds were
calling "Jesus! Jesus! Jesus of Nazareth!". As it says on the website 6,000
believed they saw Jesus Christ, in broad daylight. They are not the only
Christians who have claimed to see Christian figures to the embarrassment
of other Christians as I know you are well aware.

http://www.mcn.org/1/miracles/Nairobi2.html was for light relief mostly, but
with one serious point which I wondered if anyone would pick up on. That is
the gullibility of crowds. 6,000 puts 500 to shame - and see how easily they
believed this was Jesus. First hand witnesses even testified with multiple
attestations and photographs which is far more impressive than what 1
Cor. 15:6 gives us.
This is of course quite apart from a point Ed makes in his book:
Viz.:
"...when Paul states that Jesus "appeared" to "over 500 brethren at once" (1
Cor. 15:6), that would have been to a far greater number of "brethren"
than were said to have existed before Jesus' physical body supposedly
rose into the clouds. (Only 120 "brethren" existed at the time - Acts 1:9,
14-15, 22). So by the Bible's own admission, whoever or whatever may
have "appeared" to "over 500 brethren" could not have been a physically
resurrected Jesus, since his body left the Earth before that many
"brethren" existed."

More on this at
http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/jreply3/emails1.html

I know you have lots of URLs for rebuttal, but it would be more interesting
to see your specific answers, although give URLs as well of course!

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

From: James Patrick Holding
 
Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 9:00 PM
Subject: Re: Tomb and body

Um,
 
>>>Because there would not have been a known tomb for them to go to.
 
Beg pardon, but McCane's thesis is exactly the OPPOSITE, that there would be a known tomb.
 
>>>That was 1988 and they're still talking about it. The movement is
Christianity BTW
 
"Still talking about it" means very little sociologically. And it does not appear to be any sort of new movement from what you describe, just a slathering onto an old one.

>>>"...when Paul states that Jesus "appeared" to "over 500 brethren at once" (1
Cor. 15:6), that would have been to a far greater number of "brethren"
than were said to have existed before Jesus' physical body supposedly
rose into the clouds. (Only 120 "brethren" existed at the time - Acts 1:9,
14-15, 22).
 
That's a very poor reading. It only says that 120 brethren were assembled at the place, not that this was the whole of the ekklesia. The vast majority would be Galileeans who would need to stay home and farm.
 
>>>>Okay, I don't want to dwell on your personal beliefs overmuch, but the fact
that you think creationism is worth believing (is it a fact you think so?)
must mean that you see some value in it surely - why else do you endorse it?
 
It is closer to the truth than materialistic versions of origins. I would also endorse ID and refer people to articles on that subject.
 
>>>f not and you really are not on the creationism side of the fence then I
think your website is a bit misleading
 
How so? What specific statement is misleading?

>>>Now, if the atonement is predicated on something that didn't happen then
the atonement is not required. This is not a "slippery slope" argument.
 
It certainly is. There is no problem with the idea that Genesis 1-3 represents an ideological fact about human nature.
 
>>>\Jesus died for to rectify the fall) is false. The reason this is so
problematic for Christianity is because St. Paul was not a liberal but
rather intended his theology as a consequence of a literal reading of
Genesis
 
Then we are still left with something that must be evaluated on individual merits.
 
>>>(so why were you worried that this might be a "slippery slope" argument?).
 
I am not worried that it is, as I think I made clear. :-)

>>>solution). Yes or no, would you agree that beliefs predicated on a
gross falsehood are likely to be erroneous?
 
No. That's far too simplistic a statement.
 
>>>Would it cause any embarrassment to Christianity if the biblical authors
*did* literally have false astronomical and cosmological notions?
 
Not really. We are again left with a need to evaluate individual claims. Only fundamentalists (and ex-fundies) have such a fallacious black and white mentality.
 
JPH


From: "Steve Locks"
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2004 10:14 PM
Subject: Anyone has access

BOB
Because the matters central to salvation do not rely on such a high level of
expertise. Anyone has access.

STEVE
I occasionally get Muslims writing to me who tell me the same thing about
Islam. All I need to do is study it a bit, open my heart and all will be
clear!

"[ I ] knew why Muslims are the hardest people in the world to convert
to Christianity. Why? Because there is nothing to offer them!! (In
Islam) There is a relationship with Allah, forgiveness of sins,
salvation and promise of Eternal Life." ... "I also like very much the
rule of forgiveness in Islam and the direct relationship between God and
His servants."

["Former Christian Priests and Missionaries who have Embraced Islam"
http://www.thetruereligion.org/priests.htm]


Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2004 10:54 PM
Subject: Fundies

STEVE
>>>if not and you really are not on the creationism side of the fence then I
think your website is a bit misleading
 
BOB
How so? What specific statement is misleading?
 
STEVE
I guess it is not misleading since you've admitted being on the ID side of the fence. It just appeared that you were ambivalent from earlier emails, but it seems that is not the case after all. I would like to be clear though - is it irrelevant (as far as you are concerned), for the truth of Christianity whether or not we evolved as mainstream science teaches, and if Adam and Eve and the Flood literally happened or not?
 

STEVE
>>>Now, if the atonement is predicated on something that didn't happen then
the atonement is not required. This is not a "slippery slope" argument.
 
BOB
It certainly is. There is no problem with the idea that Genesis 1-3 represents an ideological fact about human nature.
 
STEVE
I have already agreed that liberals have room for manoeuvre. It is fatal for fundamentalists if Genesis is not literally true though. It is no good asserting this is a slippery slope. If Adam and Eve are mythical then there was no literal talking snake QED and Paul was mistaken to believe that there was. However if you want to reinterpret Genesis 1-3 as an ideological "fact" about human nature then you're more of a liberal than I had you down for - my apologies (no sarcasm meant!)
 
It is also a problem for non-fundamentalists who seek to see Paul as inspired, or indeed knowing enough to be our guide in theology. Since you do not think that beliefs predicated on a gross error are likely to be erroneous, how about: "The chance of being right when your system is predicated on a gross falsehood is less secure than the chances of being right when predicated on an accurate picture of the world." Will you at least consent to that?

STEVE
>>>\Jesus died for to rectify the fall) is false. The reason this is so
problematic for Christianity is because St. Paul was not a liberal but
rather intended his theology as a consequence of a literal reading of
Genesis.
 
BOB
Then we are still left with something that must be evaluated on individual merits.
 
STEVE
We are left with the fact that Paul believed something false. There is a difference between St. Paul's belief that Adam and Eve were real people and those who do not. This is the difference between fundamentalism (Paul would have been a fundamentalist) and the non-fundamentalist view. If you take Genesis 1-3 as representing an ideological rather than a literal view then would you be happy to disagree so fundamentally with St. Paul? i.e. does it not disturb you that the most important thing in the universe to you has a literal falsehood at its very core?
 
 
STEVE
Yes or no, would you agree that beliefs predicated on a gross falsehood are likely to be erroneous?
 
BOB
No. That's far too simplistic a statement.
 
STEVE
If we evolved from animals with a gradually changing consciousness over the aeons, our complex psychology is hardly something we need to be condemned for. So no it's not too simplistic to say that if it is a gross falsehood that we have (paraphrasing common Christian claims) "deliberately chosen to go our own way rather than (the Christian) God's" (whether believed to be through our psychology or the false tale of Adam and Eve) then the remedy of Christianity is an unnecessary and erroneous cure looking for a pseudo-disease. There is no need for the Christian God to be so condemnatory of us in the first place - He really should be more understanding and less touchy about being defiled by our presence! (Generously) "if" creationism, Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark etc. are false then aren't we justified in saying "Get a grip on reality you deities!" Okay - I know you'll disagree... maybe instead you could give your interpretation of the fall?
 

STEVE
>>>Would it cause any embarrassment to Christianity if the biblical authors
*did* literally have false astronomical and cosmological notions?
 
BOB
Not really. We are again left with a need to evaluate individual claims. Only fundamentalists (and ex-fundies) have such a fallacious black and white mentality.
 
STEVE
The modern Christians in Kenya would know that above the clouds lie miles of atmosphere and billions of light years of space. Therefore they saw Jesus just disappear, whereas the ancients saw him rise up in the air - but to where? False astronomical and cosmological notions are clearly belying made up stories, so they should be an embarrassment to Christians who believe in a supernatural God.
 
BOB
Only fundamentalists (and ex-fundies) have such a fallacious black and white mentality.
 
STEVE
But weren't the biblical authors fundamentalists - with a literal belief in Genesis? Did they therefore likely have a fallacious black and white mentality?


Regards,
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html
 
P.S. I'm not personally an ex-"fundie", but I know lot's of nice ones!


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2004 10:57 PM
Subject: 6,000 see Jesus

Regarding the 6,000 Christians who took photos of the person they believed was Jesus miraculously appearing, walking amongst them, talking then disappearing, you wrote:
 
BOB
"Still talking about it" means very little sociologically. And it does not appear to be any sort of new movement from what you describe, just a slathering onto an old one.
 
STEVE
It was yourself (not me) who initially referred to this as a "movement" and I who pointed out it was not a new movement, but Christianity, so there is no need to pick me up on that. Anyway, the point is that large Christian crowds can be easily credulous and can believe they see Jesus (complete with materialisation miracles) when it is not really him. Do you agree?
 
STEVE
>>>"...when Paul states that Jesus "appeared" to "over 500 brethren at once" (1
Cor. 15:6), that would have been to a far greater number of "brethren"
than were said to have existed before Jesus' physical body supposedly
rose into the clouds. (Only 120 "brethren" existed at the time - Acts 1:9,
14-15, 22).
 
BOB
That's a very poor reading. It only says that 120 brethren were assembled at the place, not that this was the whole of the ekklesia. The vast majority would be Galileeans who would need to stay home and farm.
 
STEVE
Good point that 120 might not the whole lot. I should have spotted that and I accept it for now. Also I usually check your "Apologetics Encyclopedia" before asking a question of you but I forgot to here - apologies! To firm this up, is there any way we can be sure that's what the passage means or if it's reliable and how large the whole of the ekklesia was before the ascension? Do you have a reference?
 
Why though (assuming the Gospels are reliable and your point about Galilean farmer brethren is correct) would the majority of the Galilean brethren who had recently known Jesus to have been crucified and entombed, and then upon surely hearing some of their fellow brethren talking about him appearing to them all over the holy land for the last few weeks, want to stay on the farm? Wouldn't they feel like giving the farming a miss for a while? Wouldn't they more likely go to stay as nearby the others as possible (begging off the streets if necessary if you claim food is the issue) in the hope of seeing Jesus alive again? "Shall I go see the risen Christ or muck out the pigs?..."
 
I guess you'll claim the disciples kept it quiet until Pentecost, but they were clearly telling each other (they told Thomas) the Women told the men (according to some versions). The brethren were the "in crowd" already - not the target of the "Great Commission." So it just doesn't seem plausible that they would prefer pigs, or even making food, to the chance of seeing Jesus risen.
 
 
500 also doesn't sit well with Acts 10:40-41
"But God raised him from the dead three days later
and caused him to appear, not to everyone, but only
to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that
is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death."
 
I've checked all the versions I can find on this at http://www.ntgateway.com/ and it does look like this is an exclusive eating group - indeed of just the apostles.

This seems to imply that unless there was a mass banquet, there was
no 500 appearance. Or in other words, the writer of Luke-Acts knew
nothing of the 500 as purportedly written by Paul.
 
 
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 

 

From: Steve Locks
Sent: Friday, January 23, 2004 11:01 PM
Subject: Re: Tomb and body

STEVE
>>>Because there would not have been a known tomb for them to go to.

BOB
Beg pardon, but McCane's thesis is exactly the OPPOSITE, that there would be a known tomb.

STEVE
Quoting from McCane's thesis (my italics):
"Accordingly, this chapter will draw upon evidence from archeology and literature, along with theory from anthropology and sociology, to argue that Jesus was indeed buried in disgrace in a criminals' tomb....
...The Jewish leaders in first-century Jerusalem would have thought of it as only natural and right to take Jesus' body down from the cross at sunset. They would not have thought it natural and right, however, to bury Jesus like most other Jews. For there was also a long-standing that some bodies ought to be buried differently from others....
...m. Sanh. 6:6 says that criminals condemned by a Jewish court were not interred "in the burial place of their fathers," but in a separate places kept by the court specifically for that purpose....
...Jewish religious cultural norms would have prompted them to see that Jesus was buried in shame at sunset on the day of his death....
...ancient texts often depict extravagant preparations for the burials of important people. In both of these cases, John has added details which advance a theological purpose, and that in a nutshell is the basic historical problem with the burial narratives....
...the well-known fact that the Gospels embellish and glamorize the burial of Jesus. Many scholars have already commented on this tendency in the Gospels....
...Virtually all studies agree that as the tradition develops, every detail in the story is enhanced and improved upon....
Indeed, the evidence from Roman, Jewish, and Christian sources all coheres around a single conclusion: Jesus was buried in shame. Someone from the Council approached Pilate about the body and put it in an underground tomb reserved for Jewish criminals....
...On the basis of the evidence, then, the following scenario emerges as a likely course of events for the deposition of Jesus' body: late on the day of his death, one or more of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem--later personified by Christian tradition as Joseph of Arimathea--requested custody of the body for purposes of dishonorable burial. These leaders, having collaborated with the Romans in the condemnation of Jesus, had both the means and the motive to bury him in shame: means, in their access to Pilate, and motive, in Jewish law and custom. Pilate did not hesitate to grant dishonorable burial to one of their condemned criminals. Only the most rudimentary burial preparations were administered--the body was wrapped and taken directly to the tomb, without a funeral procession, eulogies, or the deposition of any personal effects. By sunset on the day of his death, the body of Jesus lay within a burial cave reserved for criminals condemned by Jewish courts. No one mourned.
The shame of Jesus' burial is not only consistent with the best evidence, but can also help to account for an historical fact which has long been puzzling to historians of early Christianity: why did the primitive church not venerate the tomb of Jesus? Joachim Jeremias, for one, thought it inconceivable (undenkbar) that the primitive community would have let the grave of Jesus sink into oblivion. [36] Yet the earliest hints of Christian veneration of Jesus' tomb do not surface until the early fourth century CE. [37] It is a striking fact--and not at all unthinkable--that the tomb of Jesus was not venerated until it was no longer remembered as a place of shame. [38]"

So how have you come to the conclusion that:
<< McCane's thesis is exactly the OPPOSITE, that there would be a known tomb. >> ?
 
Do you agree that McCane's thesis is that Jesus was buried in a criminals' tomb? He does explicitly say so. Do you mean that it was the criminals' tomb that was known? Is this the grave depicted in the Gospels?
 
Even worse, this whole argument also fits in neatly with Richard Carrier's suggestion at
 
McCane suggests that the tomb was not venerated because it was a shameful place. Only when this was forgotten did Christians start venerating it (in two different places eventually). But even this is not enough if this is what you mean by "opposite" of unknown, as McCane also mentions how "Joachim Jeremias, for one, thought it inconceivable that the primitive community would have let the grave of Jesus sink into oblivion." Easy though if they didn't know where he was which would be the case if he was in the criminals tomb (presumably not the only body there and so how to find him?) or he was moved from a less ignoble place as he would have to have been before the tomb visits (Mishnah law) and the subsequent triggers to the assumption of resurrection as per
 
Anyway, all this puts too much emphasis on the historical validity of the Gospels and my money's on Cuppit's understanding of what happened.
 
Too much to read though on both sides, I know....
 
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2004 9:45 PM
Subject: Re: Bob-non-answers, and Holy Exaggerations

> ED:  Non-answer.  Anyone has access to Mormonism too.  The book of Mormon

BOB
There you go again with misdirections. That's not an answer to the point
that research on matters of centrality is a piece of cake. Pointing to
another instance of "accessibility" isn't relevant.

STEVE
This is not a misdirection (on Ed's part). Ed has correctly pointed out a case of special pleading.
Remember that Ed's comment about Mormon accessibility was in response to the following:
 
 
*********************
ED
And how can people be blamed eternally simply for relying on experts to
fill in the gaps concerning things in which none of us has thorough expertise?
 
BOB
Because the matters central to salvation do not rely on such a high level of
expertise. Anyone has access.
*********************

 
STEVE
i.e. Bob said the reason people can be blamed eternally is because they could easily have found out about matters central to (Christian) salvation (despite unmentioned difficulties regarding such "ease" such as
Christianity (Christianities) is (are) not the only religion (s) do damn outsiders (and other Christians) for not believing "easily found out" things. (Just how do people believe things they do not believe anyway?)
 
It is easy to find out that you must not believe in the trinity:

Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah himself said, "O Children of Israel, you shall worship GOD; my Lord* and your Lord." Anyone who sets up any idol beside GOD, GOD has forbidden Paradise for him, and his destiny is Hell. The wicked have no helpers. Pagans indeed are those who say that GOD is a third of a trinity. There is no god except the one god. Unless they refrain from saying this, those who disbelieve among them will incur a painful retribution. [Koran 005:072-73]

It is easy to find out that you must believe in Allah and His Apostle:

"And whoever does not believe in Allah and His Apostle, then surely We have prepared burning fire for the unbelievers." - The Koran

It is easy to find out that you must love and have your rest in Krishna who is the way and the seed of eternal life, known only by love but hated my malignant men destined for hell:

"He who in this oneness of love, loves me in whatever he sees, wherever this man may live, in truth this man lives in me...I am from everlasting the seed of eternal life...in its delusion the world knows me not...all beings have their rest in me...I am the way...he who loves me shall not perish...only by love can men see me, and know me, and come unto me...malignant men hate me...they come not to me, but they go down the path of hell".

Krishna - the Bhagavad Gita (c. 500 B.C.)

From "Straight and Crooked Thinking" by Robert H. Thouless:- "There is a common fault in argument arising from the influence of prejudice which may be employed deliberately as a dishonest trick but which is more commonly used unwittingly by a speaker who is mislead by his prejudices. This is the use in one context of an argument which would not be admitted in another context where it would lead to the opposite conclusion. This is special pleading." Many Christian claims are special pleading and therefore at fault. To claim something for Christianity (e.g. the reason you're damned is because you could easily have found out what was important to Christian salvation) that you would not accept for another religion (e.g. the reason you're damned is because you could easily have found out what was important to Muslim/Hindu etc. salvation) is special pleading.
 
 
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 

From: James Patrick Holding
Sent: Monday, January 26, 2004 2:52 AM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

Steve,
 
Can I ask you to please compress all replies into one letter?
 
>>>It was yourself (not me) who initially referred to this as a "movement" and I who pointed out it was not a new movement, but Christianity, so there is no need to pick me up on that.
 
Then what was the point of bringing it up at all? If that is so then it is no parallel.
 
>>Anyway, the point is that large Christian crowds can be easily credulous and can believe they see Jesus (complete with materialisation miracles) when it is not really him. Do you agree?
 
No, because all this proves is that one large crowd in one part of the world at one particular time was credulous. Anachronistically arguing as though the social and practical situation were the same is nothing but an assumption. 
>>> To firm this up, is there any way we can be sure that's what the passage means or if it's reliable and how large the whole of the ekklesia was before the ascension? Do you have a reference?
 
The surety only lies in that 1) it does not name this as the whole party; 2) practically, most of the brethren could not be there, having other commitments (like farms). To argue otherwise is to argue from silence. The 500 reference is the only one that hints at the size of the ekklesia at that time.
 
>>>and entombed, and then upon surely hearing some of their fellow brethren talking about him appearing to them all over the holy land for the last few weeks, want to stay on the farm?
 
Because presumably, they still had to eat. :-)
 
>>> Wouldn't they feel like giving the farming a miss for a while? Wouldn't they more likely go to stay as nearby the others as possible (begging off the streets if necessary if you claim food is the issue)
 
As shameful as begging was to do, that is unlikely to have happened.
 
>>>in the hope of seeing Jesus alive again?
 
AFTER he ascended?
 
>>>500 also doesn't sit well with Acts 10:40-41 "But God raised him from the dead three days later
and caused him to appear, not to everyone, but only
to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that
is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death."
 
That sits fine with 500. The ekklesia would have been a table fellowship group, and it is not at all unlikely that the appearance to them involved table fellowship, per Jesus' normal mode of operation on earth. So yes, a mass banquet is not out of the question. Such banquets were typical for fellowship groups.
 
>>>concerned), for the truth of Christianity whether or not we evolved as mainstream science teaches, and if Adam and Eve and the Flood literally happened or not?
 
I can live with a situation in which that would be the case.
 
>>> It is fatal for fundamentalists if Genesis is not literally true though
 
Well, thankfully, I am not one.
 
>>>However if you want to reinterpret Genesis 1-3 as an ideological "fact" about human nature
 
I do not, but I am saying it would not bother me to have to resort to such a view.
 
>>> theology. Since you do not think that beliefs predicated on a gross error are likely to be erroneous, how about: "The chance of being right when your system is predicated on a gross falsehood is less secure than the chances of being right when predicated on an accurate picture of the world." Will you at least consent to that?
 
Perhaps not in context. we can hardly expect Paul to know if Gen. 1-3 was fiction. He could still be right about the need, while being wrong about the nature of the reason for it.
>>>If we evolved from animals with a gradually changing consciousness over the aeons, our complex psychology is hardly something we need to be condemned for.
 
The rub of this is that I do not accept that as a possibility either. Let me be clear: If Gen. 1-3 is not literally true, I do not consider that "evolved from animals" is the only option open otherwise. What I would next consider -- unattested, obviously -- is some other special creation model not in line with a literal view of Gen. 1-3. The fall would then be represented by a general rebellion of all humanity.
 
>>>But weren't the biblical authors fundamentalists - with a literal belief in Genesis? Did they therefore likely have a fallacious black and white mentality?
 
If they did, there was not much they could do about it, not having disproving arguments at hand.
 
>>Quoting from McCane's thesis (my italics):
 
Yes, I have read it. McCane agrees that Jesus was buried in Joseph's tomb, even though he does not agree on the particulars of the extravagance. He does not say the tomb was unknown.
 
>>Even worse, this whole argument also fits in neatly with Richard Carrier's suggestion at
 
Well, I think you have seen Miller's detailed answer to that...I know Carrier has issued a summary retort, but so far most of Miller's reply remains untouched, last I checked...
 
>>> occasionally get Muslims writing to me who tell me the same thing about
Islam. All I need to do is study it a bit, open my heart and all will be
clear!
 
That's not quite what I am talking about. My point is that these are not difficult issues to get answers to, whether you become a believer in them or not. For Ed to answer my point he needs to show that, in the example given, it is hard to figure out the plan of Christian salvation. Your cites from the Quran only illustrate my point: How hard are those passages to grasp?
 
Bob

 

 


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 11:39 AM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

 
Hi Bob,

Thanks for your friendly reply. I read your discussion with Kyle Gerkin a few months ago and know that friendly, diplomatic exchanges are possible.

BOB
Can I ask you to please compress all replies into one letter?

STEVE
If it helps, although I prefer topics were separated to stay focused. Unwieldy emails tend to get points lost in my experience, but I guess you're suffering from too many emails - so okay then as much as possible!

STEVE
>>>It was yourself (not me) who initially referred to this as a "movement" and I who pointed out it was not a new movement, but Christianity, so there is no need to pick me up on that.

BOB
Then what was the point of bringing it up at all? If that is so then it is no parallel.
 
STEVE
The point is as I say next (i.e. it's Christians)

STEVE
>>Anyway, the point is that large Christian crowds can be easily credulous and can believe they see Jesus (complete with materialisation miracles) when it is not really him. Do you agree?

BOB
No, because all this proves is that one large crowd in one part of the world at one particular time was credulous. Anachronistically arguing as though the social and practical situation were the same is nothing but an assumption.

STEVE
Social and practical situations are second order effects. The most relevant is human psychology which is not so changeable over cultures and time periods. I had already pointed out in an earlier email that Christian groups had throughout history claimed to have visions. Richard Carrier points out there were also reports of multiple and widespread reappearances of Jesus at later times that were clearly hallucinations which were an embarrassment to the Church and had to be suppressed. As you know other groups through history have seen things as well, from the talking statue of Tyche, through those who saw Sabbetai Sevi describing visions in which they had seen him seated upon a throne. In Daniel Defoe's description of the great plague of London he draws on his own experience to tell how all it took was for one person to say they saw a vision of an angel clothed in white in the clouds brandishing a fiery sword for whole crowds to gather round and testify to "seeing" the same thing. Throughout Christian history there has been a litany of visionaries and mystics. Even during the funeral of Princess Diana people in the crowd reported visions of her looking down from heaven. On the TV coverage I saw one bystander say "this reminds me of when Jesus died" (I'm not making this up!) Similar descriptions of crowd behaviour in NT times (even assuming that the 500 is historical) is hardly an anachronism since such behaviour is seen across cultures and time periods. The early Christians were humans and humans have "seen" things that were not there across cultures and time periods - even in groups. So no anachronism there. If you still don't believe me that Christians "see things" then remember St. Paul and St. Stephen's visions. Also Christians clearly made stories up about what was "seen" and we know Christians made stories up about Jesus to suit their theology, so why could the "500" not be one of them? We have the false ending of Mark and the gospels considered apocryphal (although some are not apocryphal to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) some with quite fantastic stories about Jesus that you wouldn't entertain as true for a minute. But the point is that Christians clearly were making up false stories about Jesus!
 
 
Regarding whether 120 was not the whole ekklesia I asked:
STEVE
>>> To firm this up, is there any way we can be sure that's what the passage means or if it's reliable and how large the whole of the ekklesia was before the ascension? Do you have a reference?

BOB
The surety only lies in that 1) it does not name this as the whole party;

STEVE
That's a possibility, not a surety. Indeed it is an assumption and above you implied that you were against assumptions.
(Quote: "Anachronistically arguing as though the social and practical situation were the same is nothing but an assumption").

BOB
2) practically, most of the brethren could not be there, having other commitments (like farms).

STEVE
I've already argued against this. Who out of the Christian brethren would prefer farming to the chance of seeing the risen Christ?

BOB
To argue otherwise is to argue from silence.

STEVE
I've argued not from silence but from criticising the scenario as implausible.

BOB
The 500 reference is the only one that hints at the size of the ekklesia at that time.

STEVE
Then you have a circular argument - using the bible to prove the bible which is a fallacy. Even worse you are using the only text on this to "hint at" *itself*! Would you let anybody outside of the bible get away with an argument like that?


STEVE
>>>and entombed, and then upon surely hearing some of their fellow brethren talking about him appearing to them all over the holy land for the last few weeks, want to stay on the farm?

BOB
Because presumably, they still had to eat. :-)

STEVE
I anticipated that response in the email you're responding to  - i.e. where I wrote:

STEVE
>>> Wouldn't they feel like giving the farming a miss for a while? Wouldn't they more likely go to stay as nearby the others as possible (begging off the streets if necessary if you claim food is the issue)

BOB
As shameful as begging was to do, that is unlikely to have happened.

STEVE
Why? Would you give up the chance of seeing the risen Christ even if it meant begging or even fasting for a few weeks? Jesus managed 40 days without food and David Blaine managed 44. The world record is a Hindu called "Heras" who managed 80 days in 1953.

STEVE
>>>in the hope of seeing Jesus alive again?

BOB
AFTER he ascended?

STEVE
Remember that they wouldn't have known that the ascension was going to happen when they were already gathered and my point is that surely they would have gathered rather than gone farming. The speech to the 120 happens immediately after the ascension and so the ekklesia wouldn't have know that the ascension would have happened by then. The whole Ekklesia should have still been there. According to Acts1:12-15 they all went to the same place afterwards - there is nothing there about 380 going back to the fields. If you are going to argue that Acts 1:15 ("in those days...") implies a break in time then remember they had been told (commanded) by Jesus (Acts 1:4) to not depart but wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, so why would 380 of them go off to muck out the pigs? (Always assuming the NT is reliable!)
 
I was perplexed the first time I saw a Christian claim that 500 people saw the ascension, as I was always under the impression that only the apostles were meant to have been there (reading from the implication in Acts 1:2). However if a Christian is to accept the 500 vision as historical then I see how they would be forced to argue that 500 must have seen him ascend. Unfortunately this then makes the whole thing even more implausible as I've been attempting to explain. If 500 saw him ascend them since they were commanded to stay in Jerusalem by Jesus, why did 380 not do so?
 
If you are going to say that 500 did not see him ascend, then why would they have not been there at the ascension given that news of Jesus resurrection appearances should have been going around? You yourself said they would have been having table fellowship at the time and that is how the 500 saw Jesus - i.e. before the ascension. Why then would they have returned to their farms and miss out on the chance of another visit? Hence they must have been there at the ascension and commanded by Jesus not to leave Jerusalem. So why did only 120 stay?
 
Hence your options are
or
  • 380 brethren disobeyed Jesus command.
Which is more likely?
 

STEVE
>>>500 also doesn't sit well with Acts 10:40-41 "But God raised him from the dead three days later
and caused him to appear, not to everyone, but only
to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that
is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death."

BOB
That sits fine with 500. The ekklesia would have been a table fellowship group, and it is not at all unlikely that the appearance to them involved table fellowship, per Jesus' normal mode of operation on earth. So yes, a mass banquet is not out of the question. Such banquets were typical for fellowship groups.

STEVE
Why do you think the Gospel authors failed to mention a banquet of 500 brethren with the risen Jesus? It is no use just replying that's an argument from silence if there is no plausible alternative. Do you have a reference that the ekklesia would have been a table fellowship group? At  http://www.ntgateway.com/ it does look like this is an exclusive eating group - indeed of just the apostles according to the commentaries on Acts 10:40-41 which refer me back to Acts 1:8 which refers to the "witnesses" who are identified at Acts 1:2 as the Apostles (e.g. http://www.bible.org/cgi-bin/netbible.pl#note_26). Indeed at http://bible.crosswalk.com/Commentaries/GillsExpositionoftheBible/gil.cgi?book=ac&chapter=10&verse=41 it even explicitly states that this was just the apostles.
even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead;
namely, to the apostles, with whom he familiarly conversed by times, for the space of forty days after his resurrection
 
Not now to all the people - As before his death; to us who did eat and drink with him - That is, conversed familiarly and continually with him, in the time of his ministry.
 
Who was conversing familiarly and continually with Jesus in the time of his ministry - the apostles of course.
 
So once again, no 500 vision.
 
BOB
...not out of the question...that is unlikely to have happened....and it is not at all unlikely that...
 
STEVE
I've noticed a number of times in your replies and at your website that possible scenario (however slim) is piled upon possible scenario. Whilst some of these could be accepted for the sake of argument the overall scenario is a multiplication of hopeful, but less than unity, possibilities. These are "AND statements" all required for your apologetic to work. Multiply a lot of numbers smaller than one together and you soon get close to zero.


STEVE
>>> Since you do not think that beliefs predicated on a gross error are likely to be erroneous, how about: "The chance of being right when your system is predicated on a gross falsehood is less secure than the chances of being right when predicated on an accurate picture of the world." Will you at least consent to that?

BOB
Perhaps not in context. we can hardly expect Paul to know if Gen. 1-3 was fiction. He could still be right about the need, while being wrong about the nature of the reason for it.

STEVE
Yes, that's the interpretation I had as a Christian too. Unfortunately Paul reasoned from the false premise therefore his argument is invalid and we cannot rely on him.
 
 
STEVE
>>>If we evolved from animals with a gradually changing consciousness over the aeons, our complex psychology is hardly something we need to be condemned for.

 
BOB
The rub of this is that I do not accept that as a possibility either. Let me be clear: If Gen. 1-3 is not literally true, I do not consider that "evolved from animals" is the only option open otherwise. What I would next consider -- unattested, obviously -- is some other special creation model not in line with a literal view of Gen. 1-3. The fall would then be represented by a general rebellion of all humanity.

 
STEVE
I'm glad you want to be clear so I hope you'll bare with me as I'm afraid that's not clear to me at all. What could the "general rebellion of all humanity" actually be and how does it hold up if mainstream science is correct? And what is the "special creation model?" Is the "special creation model" a necessary part of your beliefs to make the fall and atonement work? Is any of this predicated on evolution as understood by mainstream science being false?
 

STEVE
>>>But weren't the biblical authors fundamentalists - with a literal belief in Genesis? Did they therefore likely have a fallacious black and white mentality?

 
BOB
If they did, there was not much they could do about it, not having disproving arguments at hand.
 
STEVE
The points remains that as guiltless as they were for their fundamentalist condition they nevertheless had a fallacious black and white mentality by your own description of fundamentalists. (Quote: "Only fundamentalists (and ex-fundies) have such a fallacious black and white mentality.") We should therefore not trust their judgements. You did say their (i.e. fundamentalists' - hence all bible authors') mentality was fallacious!

STEVE
>>Quoting from McCane's thesis (my italics):

BOB
Yes, I have read it. McCane agrees that Jesus was buried in Joseph's tomb, even though he does not agree on the particulars of the extravagance. He does not say the tomb was unknown.

STEVE
He argues that the tomb was a criminals' common grave and gives good reason for that from Jewish law. Do you agree with that? If not why not? Now if the tomb was a criminals' common grave then there are associative problems of how to locate it. If its location wasn't known to the disciples then they would not have been able to go to it to see it empty.

STEVE
>>> occasionally get Muslims writing to me who tell me the same thing about
Islam. All I need to do is study it a bit, open my heart and all will be
clear!

BOB
That's not quite what I am talking about. My point is that these are not difficult issues to get answers to, whether you become a believer in them or not. For Ed to answer my point he needs to show that, in the example given, it is hard to figure out the plan of Christian salvation. Your cites from the Quran only illustrate my point: How hard are those passages to grasp?

STEVE
Exactly - they are easy to grasp. The point is that your reply to Ed (see my other email "Re: Bob-non-answers, and Holy Exaggerations" 24 January 2004 21:45) was not initially about "is the Christian salvation plan easy to understand" but about the reason people can be blamed eternally. i.e. the whole point of mentioning that it is (allegedly) easy to understand the Christian salvation plan is that such ease justifies our damnation for not accepting it. Since the reason is the same for a number of religions then your answer is a case of special pleading and hence a fallacy. If your point is merely to say the plan of Christian salvation is easy to figure out, then the obvious reply is - so what? So is the plan for other religions. i.e. it is irrelevant that (or if the) plan for Christian salvation is easy to figure out.
 
Anyway given the kind of arguments such as http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=192, the 60,000 current Christian denominations and the litany of schisms, mutual ex-communications and heretic burnings throughout church history, I'd say that the plan for Christian salvation is anything but easy to figure out - or at least there are many different "clear and easily fathomed views" of what that plan is!
 
Now if the plan of Christian salvation is easy to figure out, why do you think people leave Christianity? From my website:
Nobody really "chooses" to disbelieve in Christianity whilst a Christian - as if they were looking for a reason to reject it - quite the opposite is the case! How we can testify to pouring over books of apologetics and asking in prayer for guidance as our faith was crumbling! It is a gut-wrenching discovery that Christianity is untenable. Plenty of current Christians appear to have enormous difficulty understanding this. Most people become ex-Christians because their closer examination of Christian claims convince them that supernatural Christianity is unwarranted. We neither choose to disbelieve in Christianity nor are we responsible for the beliefs that happen to us.
 
What's more this also frequently happens within a Christian environment when one is looking deeper into Christian issues in an attempt to deepen ones faith, that the problems become convincing, rather than debates with critics. People being debated out of Christianity (although it happens) is actually a much rarer exit scenario than personal exploration from my collecting of deconversion stories. Since we leave Christianity despite our attempts to deepen our faith then Jesus' purported exhortation "Seek and ye shall find" is false. http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/seek.html
 
Christians often exhort people to believe. Do you know how someone can choose to believe things they don't believe? Since not believing easily understood plans will lead to our damnation then there ought to be an answer to that one!
 
Regards,

Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html
 

 

 


From: James Patrick Holding
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004 6:13 PM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

Howdy,
 
>>>If it helps, although I prefer topics were separated to stay focused. Unwieldy emails tend to get points lost in my experience, but I guess you're suffering from too many emails
 
About 100 a week, yes, not counting all the virus emails that I delete from the server before using Outlook. Had 90 of those yesterday. The compression is appreciated.
 
>>>Social and practical situations are second order effects. The most relevant is human psychology which is not so changeable over cultures and time periods
 
I have to say that such a claim is, at the very least, uninformed. Human psychology is vastly different in modern, Western society from what it was in the ancient world, and in roughly 70% of the world today. The interaction of collectivist thinking, and honor and shame, are the two most prominent differences. Of the things you named I only know much about Sevi, and because of his apostasy, there can really not be a comparison to Christianity because his movement never entered into a serious "trial" phase. I ask you: What social pressures were on those who would have seen Defoe's angel or Diana? Would they have been threatened with social ostracization? Was it shameful and dishonorable to believe in seeing such a thing? (I know it was not: Those two examples are Western ones, where honor and shame play virtually no role!)
 
>>> We have the false ending of Mark and the gospels considered apocryphal (although some are not apocryphal to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) some with quite fantastic stories about Jesus that you wouldn't entertain as true for a minute.
 
Yes, but for reasons of the late date of the material, not because of any philosophical presupposition.
 
>>But the point is that Christians clearly were making up false stories about Jesus!
 
"Christians"? By what route are Gnostics, for example, so declared?
 
>>>That's a possibility, not a surety. Indeed it is an assumption and above you implied that you were against assumptions.
 
I feel that my assumption accords with available evidence.
 
>>>(Then you have a circular argument - using the bible to prove the bible which is a fallacy.
 
I don't see how this is any different than making an appeal to any other claim in a secular document.
 
>>> Would you let anybody outside of the bible get away with an argument like that?
 
Yes. Why? Though of course I also rely on external vectors of reliability.

>>Why? Would you give up the chance of seeing the risen Christ even if it meant begging or even fasting for a few weeks?
 
In an honor and shame society, no. Besides, it would not just be for a "few weeks" -- agriculture at that time was fairly primitive; you didn't have sprinkler systems or fertilizers, and if you missed the growing season, you'd be likely to be starving for a year or more, to say nothing of your family doing it with you.
 
>>>Jesus managed 40 days without food and David Blaine managed 44. The world record is a Hindu called "Heras" who managed 80 days in 1953.
 
The latter, I note, a professional faster; the first, by my paradigm, divinity incarnate; the middle one, a professional illusionist. Certainly representative experience of typical Galileean peasants of the first century who were already on the edge of survival as is. :-)

>>>Remember that they wouldn't have known that the ascension was going to happen
 
Um, John 20:17? Besides, you are assuming here a modern obsession with sentimental personal interaction. These people's lives were governed by more practical concerns; they had a "present orientation" and far less concern for the future, and truly "knowing"someone as an individual was practically unknown. If anything a table fellowship meeting would have been a far more substantive experience for them, given that this was the premier means of personal interaction for the period.
 
>>>there were only 120 before the ascension - hence no 500 vision, it's an interpolation as e.g. per http://www.depts.drew.edu/jhc/rp1cor15.html
 
You actually think Robert Price has it on here? Um -- http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_01_05_02.html
 
>>>Why do you think the Gospel authors failed to mention a banquet of 500 brethren with the risen Jesus?
 
Because the Gospels are biographies of Jesus written for people who are already believers, not kerygmatic documents trying to provide as much verification as possible to those who do not believe.
 
>>> Do you have a reference that the ekklesia would have been a table fellowship group?
 
Any social group, whether a Jewish synagogue or a Mithraic assembly or a funereal club, practiced table fellowship in the ancient world.  Acts 10:41 only indicates that the apostles were part of that group, not that they were the sole members.
 
>>>I've noticed a number of times in your replies and at your website that possible scenario (however slim) is piled upon possible scenario.
 
Such is the necessity of the practice of historical reconstruction: Inferences drawn from background data. What you need to do is show that they are not "less than unity" which I do not see happening. :-)
 
>>>Yes, that's the interpretation I had as a Christian too. Unfortunately Paul reasoned from the false premise therefore his argument is invalid and we cannot rely on him.
 
You merely say so but do not explain why a second reason unknown to Paul cannot be supplied.
 
>>>I'm glad you want to be clear so I hope you'll bare with me as I'm afraid that's not clear to me at all. What could the "general rebellion of all humanity" actually be and how does it hold up if mainstream science is correct?
 
If you mean about evolution, I think I have made clear that it would not. The general rebellion I speak of would be historically unrecorded.
 
>>>And what is the "special creation model?" Is the "special creation model" a necessary part of your beliefs to make the fall and atonement work? 
 
No, but the issue does not even get that far since I can in no way conceive of "mainstream science" being correct about materialistic evolution.
 
>>>The points remains that as guiltless as they were for their fundamentalist condition they nevertheless had a fallacious black and white mentality by your own description of fundamentalists
 
I find quite a difference between being "black and white" because one chooses to ignore colors, and black and white because one is color blind. Lack of trust is earned only by those who fit the former condition, and for the others, does not invalidate the whole of their arguments.
 
>>>He argues that the tomb was a criminals' common grave and gives good reason for that from Jewish law. Do you agree with that? If not why not?
 
I can agree that Joseph's tomb was used under such constrains. Indeed I'd consider it likely that he took advantage of the procedure to give Jesus a better burial than he otherwise may have gotten.
 
>>> If your point is merely to say the plan of Christian salvation is easy to figure out, then the obvious reply is - so what?
 
That is indeed my point, and thus as well that Ed's original remark, to which I replied, deserves a "so what" as well.
 
>>>Anyway given the kind of arguments such as http://www.secweb.org/asset.asp?AssetID=192, the 60,000 current Christian denominations and the litany of schisms,
 
 
>>>Now if the plan of Christian salvation is easy to figure out, why do you think people leave Christianity?
 
I don't make broad judgments about people as a whole. On particulars I have found ignorance of their own alleged belief system to be a prime cause, with bad behavior by the likes of televangelists a second.
 
Bob

 

From: Steve Locks
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2004 8:54 PM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

Hi Bob,
 
I sympathise with the email load!
 
I just wanted to check something with you. How many people do you believe were at the ascension?
 
I'll get back to your replies and other points I feel need attention later.
 
Regards,
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: James Patrick Holding
Sent: Friday, January 30, 2004 6:29 PM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

Howdy,
 
>>>I just wanted to check something with you. How many people do you believe were at the ascension?
 
I see no reason to think more than the 11 were.
 
You have the TheologyWeb address right. It is co-founded by one of Tekton's most ardent readers, though Tekton is not officially associated with it.
 
Bob
 

 


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2004 9:19 PM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

Thanks Bob,
 
Yes, 11 disciples (well, 10 I guess - no Judas) is what I've always taken the text to mean, as I said earlier, although I still think there are some internal difficulties as I've also discussed (more later).
 
Jordan - you mentioned a number of times on your website that there were 500 at the ascension. In your "Birth and Death of an Atheist" http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/docs_files/birth_files/02birth.htm you wrote "I also reject that the apostles and the 500 witnesses to His ascension into Heaven experienced joint hallucinations." I was wondering how you personally got the figure of 500?
 
If I understand you correctly I appreciate that you no longer hold as much sway with the 500 as you initially appeared to, (you wrote later: "Understand that I neither accept nor reject the 500 passage") but what I want to know is how did you arrive at your original "500 witnesses to His ascension" figure?
 
 
 
Thanks to all,
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2004 11:53 PM
Subject: Re: 6,000 see Jesus

Oops 12-1=11.
 
my mistake!
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 

 
From: Steve Locks
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2004 9:58 PM
Subject: Psychology

Due to many points not being addressed adequately (and many not at all)  I'm reverting to shorter individual emails, rather than trying to cover everything at once and have points dropped. However I will endeavour to keep emails well spaced apart, so this should reduce the overall work burden whilst hopefully keeping "no stone unturned!"
 
***********Begin Recap************
 
STEVE (regarding http://www.mcn.org/1/miracles/Nairobi2.html)
>>Anyway, the point is that large Christian crowds can be easily credulous and can believe they see Jesus (complete with materialisation miracles) when it is not really him. Do you agree?

BOB
No, because all this proves is that one large crowd in one part of the world at one particular time was credulous. Anachronistically arguing as though the social and practical situation were the same is nothing but an assumption.

STEVE
Social and practical situations are second order effects. The most relevant is human psychology which is not so changeable over cultures and time periods. I had already pointed out in an earlier email that Christian groups had throughout history claimed to have visions. Richard Carrier points out there were also reports of multiple and widespread reappearances of Jesus at later times that were clearly hallucinations which were an embarrassment to the Church and had to be suppressed. As you know other groups through history have seen things as well, from the talking statue of Tyche, through those who saw Sabbetai Sevi describing visions in which they had seen him seated upon a throne. In Daniel Defoe's description of the great plague of London he draws on his own experience to tell how all it took was for one person to say they saw a vision of an angel clothed in white in the clouds brandishing a fiery sword for whole crowds to gather round and testify to "seeing" the same thing. Throughout Christian history there has been a litany of visionaries and mystics. Even during the funeral of Princess Diana people in the crowd reported visions of her looking down from heaven. On the TV coverage I saw one bystander say "this reminds me of when Jesus died" (I'm not making this up!) Similar descriptions of crowd behaviour in NT times (even assuming that the 500 is historical) is hardly an anachronism since such behaviour is seen across cultures and time periods. The early Christians were humans and humans have "seen" things that were not there across cultures and time periods - even in groups. So no anachronism there. If you still don't believe me that Christians "see things" then remember St. Paul and St. Stephen's visions....
 
***********End Recap************
 
BOB (quoting STEVE's line "Social and practical situations are second order effects. The most relevant is human psychology which is not so changeable over cultures and time periods")
I have to say that such a claim is, at the very least, uninformed. Human psychology is vastly different in modern, Western society from what it was in the ancient world, and in roughly 70% of the world today. The interaction of collectivist thinking, and honor and shame, are the two most prominent differences. Of the things you named I only know much about Sevi, and because of his apostasy, there can really not be a comparison to Christianity because his movement never entered into a serious "trial" phase. I ask you: What social pressures were on those who would have seen Defoe's angel or Diana? Would they have been threatened with social ostracization? Was it shameful and dishonorable to believe in seeing such a thing? (I know it was not: Those two examples are Western ones, where honor and shame play virtually no role!)
 
STEVE
Where is your source of information that human *psychology* (not culture) is "vastly different in modern, Western society from what it was in the ancient world, and in roughly 70% of the world today"? Grief, love, hope, fear, aggression, competition etc.? I have never encountered such a claim in any psychology book, including psychology of religion texts. Indeed quite the reverse, including those which seek to explain many of the peculiarities of our behaviour in the modern world by human psychology that was evolved over the vast time periods humans evolved in the African Savannah. What social pressures indeed did the NT peoples have against believing John the Baptist to have been resurrected? They seemed to cope. Why would groups of Brethren/disciples gathered together have any pressure *not* to see Jesus? Other people without social pressures include the desert fathers who were renowned for their fasting and subsequent graphic visions. You yourself said that the peoples of that time were often hungry. They would also have been in a state of grief. Grief studies demonstrate that visual and auditory apparitions of deceased loved ones (especially after traumatic separation) are extremely common and vivid, even to the point of having conversations and feeling physical contact. If anyone is dubious of this claim then go to The National Library of Medicine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/ using search strings such as +grief +hallucination. Grieving and hallucination are far from anachronisms or a recent or culturally dependent phenomena. As my examples showed, all it takes is for one person in a crowd to have such an experience for the rest to claim the same thing.
 
Even if  "threats of social ostracization" was a factor (the belief in JtB bought back to life belies the relevance of it), what lack of religious believers are there, in any religion, due to worrying about that or even worse? All over the world and through history families and social groups have been broken up through religious differences. Even today in conservative Muslim cultures "crimes" ""worthy"" of "honour killings" are still perpetrated within strict "honour and shame" societies and fathers and brothers kill their daughters and sisters out of "honour." And yet this still doesn't stop more women subsequently going against their society's code.
 
As for "threats of social ostracization" consider ex-Christians! I could tell you a story or two about those who lost their beliefs in the middle of the Bible belt, religious marriage, seminary, mission field...
 
So do you still contend that "threats of social ostracization" count as a evidence for the truth of the belief that engenders such threats?
 
Regards,
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: James Patrick Holding
Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2004 8:45 PM
Subject: Re: Psychology

Okey dokey,
 
>>>Where is your source of information that human *psychology* (not culture) is "vastly different in modern, Western society from what it was in the ancient world, and in roughly 70% of the world today"? Grief, love, hope, fear, aggression, competition etc.?
 
I have several books you can check: the best intros are Handbook of Biblical Social Values by Pilch and Malina, and Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology of Ancient Personality by Malina and Neyrey. You have perhaps not seen such things in psychology texts because most or all such texts are written by Western psychologists for Western people.
 
>>> What social pressures indeed did the NT peoples have against believing John the Baptist to have been resurrected? They seemed to cope.
 
Merely being resurrected? None. However, you have selected an apple to an orange. That was hardly all that the disciples of Jesus proclaimed; they claimed it not of one who had died a shameful death, and they didn't try to claim it to Gentiles who thought resurrection was ridiculous as a concept in the first place.
 
>>> Why would groups of Brethren/disciples gathered together have any pressure *not* to see Jesus?
 
The question here and what you say beyond is not related to what I am talking about. I am referring to public proclamation of a message and the reaction to it.
 
>>> Grief studies demonstrate that visual and auditory apparitions of deceased loved ones (especially after traumatic separation) are extremely common and vivid
So how do "grief studies" provide a falsifiable option, which would show that what was seen was indeed real and not a grief-induced hallucination? Moreover, even if applicable to ancient psychology, a vision of Jesus would NOT have been understood as him resurrected, but as his guardian angel (who were thought to take the appearance of those they watched over; cf. Acts 12:15).
 
>>>dependent phenomena. As my examples showed, all it takes is for one person in a crowd to have such an experience for the rest to claim the same thing.
Quite convenient, and again I ask, in what way falsifiable?
 
>>>daughters and sisters out of "honour." And yet this still doesn't stop more women subsequently going against their society's code.
 
I'm afraid all these articles illustrate is how the "old way" of honor vs shame is interacting with nations appropriating Western values. This is hardly applicable to the situation of the ancient world in which there was no such dichotomy to begin with.
 
>>>As for "threats of social ostracization" consider ex-Christians!
 
Who suffer, what? The need to get a new job? Can marry into a new family (a la Dan Barker) of supportive people? Who have support groups, and live in a world of individual rights?
 
>>>So do you still contend that "threats of social ostracization" count as a evidence for the truth of the belief that engenders such threats?
 
Yes, and your counters are far too simplistic. With due respect, I'm afraid you need to delve much more deeply into the social world of the ancients; as of now, it is clear that you are not prepared to address the matter in detail.
 
Cordially,
 
Bob

 


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Wednesday, February 11, 2004 10:30 PM
Subject: Re: Psychology

 
Thanks Bob for the friendly and stimulating reply,
 
STEVE
>>>Where is your source of information that human *psychology* (not culture) is "vastly different in modern, Western society from what it was in the ancient world, and in roughly 70% of the world today"? Grief, love, hope, fear, aggression, competition etc.?
 
BOB
I have several books you can check: the best intros are Handbook of Biblical Social Values by Pilch and Malina, and Portraits of Paul: An Archaeology of Ancient Personality by Malina and Neyrey. You have perhaps not seen such things in psychology texts because most or all such texts are written by Western psychologists for Western people.
 
STEVE
I read what was available at amazon.com (and the previews) of your recommendations. The general thesis that we understand what people mean better by understanding their culture is obvious, so no problems there. Unfortunately it makes the "eternal word of God" (were the bible such a thing) look very parochial and unavailable, far from the simple message you have claimed it is before. I would like to read further and I dream of the leisure that would allow me to read all the books I am recommended, but we have to be realistic as to what is humanly possible in an already busy timetable with a full time job, young family and many other pursuits and duties. I used to be a voracious reader and although I pack in as much as I can the backlog of recommendations continues to accelerate! I estimate that I have time left in my life to read another 550 books given realistic estimate of demands on my time. When I am recommended books or websites I read and follow up what I can but I also think it is a realistic use of my time resources to ask of the person who recommended the works, "okay so you've read it -  what did you find - what is the answer to my question from the source you recommend?"
 
Back to my question. I find it hard to believe that *psychology* (not culture) is accurately treated as different (if indeed they really mean *psychology* not culture) by Christian writers (as are the ones you recommended) and yet erroneously portrayed by mainstream science, who BTW have no trouble understanding that different cultures can produce very different behaviours (anthropological and cultural studies). If Pilch, Malina and Neyrey really do have different views from mainstream science then that is a terrible indictment of either Christian writers or mainstream science, or your portrayal of the difference is not accurate. Not to drift too far from the point, what this is about is whether ancient people could grieve so badly that they hallucinated and (being less critical of the supernatural than some (!) modern westerners) genuinely believed they saw things that nevertheless were not there. So do you agree that grieving and hallucination are far from anachronisms or a recent or culturally dependent phenomena just as you can see in the journals abstracted and referenced at The National Library of Medicine http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/ using search strings such as +grief +hallucination?
 
BTW what books on psychology (including psychology of religion) have you read from mainstream science?
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>> What social pressures indeed did the NT peoples have against believing John the Baptist to have been resurrected? They seemed to cope.
 
BOB
Merely being resurrected? None. However, you have selected an apple to an orange. That was hardly all that the disciples of Jesus proclaimed; they claimed it not of one who had died a shameful death, and they didn't try to claim it to Gentiles who thought resurrection was ridiculous as a concept in the first place.
 
STEVE
There are a number of aspects to this. First is the question of what the early disciples actually really were proclaiming. Many scholars, including Dr. Mark Goodacre, whom you previously used as an authority, argues that the original Christian message has been largely lost (synopsis at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/therealjesus.html) and the early church was not claiming a divinity anyway, it was Paul we have to thank for leading Christianity in that direction. Well, I know you'll disagree, and this is a debate you've already having elsewhere, so maybe we can await your reply to Brian Holtz on that one. Still I don't want the point to be lost that there is more to this question than "would the disciples have dared preached the risen Christ" as the whole question of exactly what was preached is in doubt from many quarters anyway as you know. The other aspect I want to address is the fact that how we behave is based on what we perceive to be true, which is not necessarily based on a correct perception of how the world is. More below in answer to next point... 
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>> Why would groups of Brethren/disciples gathered together have any pressure *not* to see Jesus?
 
BOB
The question here and what you say beyond is not related to what I am talking about. I am referring to public proclamation of a message and the reaction to it.
 
STEVE
Quite so - I'm taking this slowly so bare with me. I appreciate that you are talking about the shame and "ludicrousness" of proclaiming the resurrection, unless there was a real one to force such a proclamation. My point is that all that is required is not a real resurrection but the belief in a real resurrection. The behaviour based on a belief is the same whether that belief is based on truth or a genuine mistaken apprehension. I remember being pulled in front of the head teacher for refusing to pay back some money to a fellow pupil only to be humbly apologised to later when my accuser embarrassingly came to realise he had vividly dreamt the whole episode the previous night!
 
Now if you thought Jesus was divine, but he wasn't and unbeknownst to you he was a man who died and stayed dead, *but* you had a grief induced hallucination where you saw him alive again and you did not have the resources of  The National Library of Medicine to realise the psychological nature of your encounter, then you too would have erroneously preached the risen divine Christ no matter what the consequences! You don't have to be right to act in a certain way, you just have to believe you are right.
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>> Grief studies demonstrate that visual and auditory apparitions of deceased loved ones (especially after traumatic separation) are extremely common and vivid

BOB
So how do "grief studies" provide a falsifiable option, which would show that what was seen was indeed real and not a grief-induced hallucination? Moreover, even if applicable to ancient psychology, a vision of Jesus would NOT have been understood as him resurrected, but as his guardian angel (who were thought to take the appearance of those they watched over; cf. Acts 12:15).
 
STEVE
I don't claim to have a falsification, and if you don't either for your views then why bring "falsification" up? Nevertheless I am impressed with the search for falsifiable hypotheses from all quarters. It would be falsifiable if a purported vision could be tested for a measurable physical effect. Unfortunately the bible stories are too old for us to make physical tests. However none of the hallucinations reported in the medical literature have had physical effects to my knowledge. So certainly grief hallucinations themselves are falsifiable, but have so far survived their falsification tests. It would certainly be a very exciting day if they were falsified.  
 
What instead I think grief studies show is that the idea that a vision of Jesus is likely to have been the real Jesus is not required by a long chalk. There is already a perfectly normal and very common phenomena that explains any visionary experiences that some of the early Christians might have had. To claim that this was not a hallucination given the common nature of auditory, visual and even tactile hallucinations of the recently deceased is going out on somewhat of a limb, surely? It is very hard for me to believe in a supernatural resurrection when hallucinations of the recently dead by the grief stricken are already known to be common.
 
As for a vision of Jesus being thought to be his guardian angel I am again perplexed why you think so. Acts 12:15 is pretty slim evidence (have you any more, and would angels be perceived as deceptive?) I know of no such experiences of a dead loved one where the person seen is not thought to be the recently deceased.
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>>dependent phenomena. As my examples showed, all it takes is for one person in a crowd to have such an experience for the rest to claim the same thing.

BOB
Quite convenient, and again I ask, in what way falsifiable?
 
STEVE
Again, I am not claiming falsifiability, unless the purported vision was shown to have physical effects in which case it must have been more than a vision and hence falsified as "just a vision." What is important about crowd behaviour for this discussion is that crowd and group behaviour is such that it would easily explain the grouping together in belief of other emotionally attached people around the visions of the original one or two who may have had such an experience that they genuinely believed were of their risen hero. A supernatural explanation is not required or even parsimonious.
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>>daughters and sisters out of "honour." And yet this still doesn't stop more women subsequently going against their society's code.
 
BOB
I'm afraid all these articles illustrate is how the "old way" of honor vs shame is interacting with nations appropriating Western values. This is hardly applicable to the situation of the ancient world in which there was no such dichotomy to begin with.
 
STEVE
The point is that people are willing to risk death for what they consider right, even though it goes against the mores of their society. Even for those "contaminated" with western values death and dishonour amongst their family is still the result. It is not just Christians who will risk all for their beliefs. Not such an impossible faith then, but typical of human behaviour.
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>>As for "threats of social ostracization" consider ex-Christians!
 
BOB
Who suffer, what? The need to get a new job? Can marry into a new family (a la Dan Barker) of supportive people? Who have support groups, and live in a world of individual rights?
 
STEVE
Usually emancipation and spiritual enrichment, but the "bad trips" include - being ostracised from your family at a young age, parents never talking to you again. Divorce, loss of your children, loss of friends and peers. None of this is trivial or as easily mended as you maybe suggest. I have had some very upsetting emails from ex-Christians who have lost all ties, family and financial security purely because they are no longer able to believe what those around them still do. Not so long ago death by slow torture was the reward for minor heresy, let alone apostasy.
"7. Certain crimes are committed more immediately against God himself; others, against the state; and a third kind against certain persons. The chief crime in the first class, cognizable by temporal courts, is blasphemy, under which may be included atheism. This crime consists in denying or vilifying the Deity, by speech or writing. All who curse God or any of the persons of the blessed Trinity, are to suffer death, even for a single act; and those who deny him (sic), if they persist in their denial. The denial of a providence, or of the authority of the holy Scriptures, is punishable capitally for the third offence." [1771 edition of Encyclopaedia Brittanica, under Law: Tit. 33 "Of crimes"]
It's no longer legal in your country or mine to kill us for not finding religion believable, but serious social consequences can remain if one deconverts amongst a very religious family/peer group. The point remains that even when the consequence was death, even then people became heretics and apostates, so there is nothing so unusual about preaching something (even if it was preached as you portray) that went against local cultural ideas.
 
As for finding support groups, the Internet is for some the *only place* where they can find non-Christians. Obviously I know of those - but how does it go for those without Internet access I wonder? You can trivialise this if you want to but it is real and painful to those who go through it, many of whom agonise over how or whether to keep their loss of Christian belief a secret. BTW support groups such as they are are a very recent phenomena for ex-Christians, unlike deconversion itself. Pure support groups without infiltrating Christians seeking to re-convert, admonish and mock are even rarer!
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE
>>>So do you still contend that "threats of social ostracization" count as a evidence for the truth of the belief that engenders such threats?
 
BOB
Yes, and your counters are far too simplistic.
 
STEVE
Then the fact that people leave Christianity amongst Christian friends, family and peers who would condemn them for loosing faith must count as evidence against Christianity by your own admission.
 
 
 
 
 
BOB
Yes, and your counters are far too simplistic.
 
STEVE
How are they simplistic? You've told me a number of times that I have been simplistic. I'll always ask why, so in future could you tell me why you think so rather than just make an assertion?
 
 
 
 
 
BOB
With due respect, I'm afraid you need to delve much more deeply into the social world of the ancients; as of now, it is clear that you are not prepared to address the matter in detail.
 
 
STEVE
I'd love nothing more than to delve into everything in detail and it is absolutely not true that I am not *prepared* to do so. All I don't have is time, that is why I am asking people like yourself and other Christians rather than reading the huge number of books that I have been recommended that I will not be able to get through. Since you have read these books I would really appreciate a summary of the ideas that you believe should be persuasive.
 
A number of Christians have challenged me to have a discussion with yourself in the past when they have been unable to tell me the things they purport to have learnt from others. If even you too can only send me elsewhere then how am I ever going to have my questions answered given the restricted time I do?
 
 
 
 
 
BOB
Cordially,
 
STEVE
I appreciate that. I feel I get accused too easily of all sorts of terrible motives from many Christians that I genuinely can't see how I deserve. All I ask is for a discussion where the issues can be taken seriously and not lost in a rapidly going out of focus or unintelligent conversation. Maybe like Kyle Gerkin I'm having an okay conversation with you? Even if you don't think I'm up to much I hope you'll agree it's worth my while for my sake at least?! :-)
 
I hope you don't mind me forwarding all these to Ed's mini-list. Nobody is giving me any advice on this so it's not a one vs. many contest (all errors are my own!) - it is just between you and me which is how I personally want it, however I know there are others who are interested in watching our interaction.
 
Regards,
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html
 
 

 


From: James Patrick Holding
Sent: Friday, February 13, 2004 8:48 PM
Subject: Re: Psychology

Howdy,
 
>>> Unfortunately it makes the "eternal word of God" (were the bible such a thing) look very parochial and unavailable, far from the simple message you have claimed it is before.
 
That would perhaps be so but for two matters:
 
1) As I believe I noted, we in West are the oddballs; in fact 70% of the world still is more like the people of the Bible in this sense than they are like us, and I daresay 99.9% of all who have ever lived have had the same general orientation. If anyone is being parochial, it is we in the West. It has remained accessible to the vast majority of people.
 
2) As for availability, how can that be claimed when there are ample works for study on the subject, such as those I have given you titles for? :-) You say:
 
>>>I would like to read further and I dream of the leisure that would allow me to read all the books I am recommended, but we have to be realistic as to what is humanly possible in an already busy timetable with a full time job, young family and many other pursuits and duties.
 
You do not watch any televsion, I take it? In any event, if you have room for 550 books then I am sure you'll agree you can prioritize. You do agree that the question is important. But:
 
>>>works, "okay so you've read it -  what did you find - what is the answer to my question from the source you recommend?"
 
I believe I have done that. Did you not ask me though for recommendations? Bear in mind that if you are new to a subject, an answered question inevitably brings up more questions from an interested and intelligent party. Your request for answers that do not take up much time is not realistic, if your interest is indeed comprehensive, and your intent is to ask more questions. I say this even as an information studies person: There are no simple answers for the uninitiated, from whom questions will inevitably breed like rabbits.
 
>>>Back to my question. I find it hard to believe that *psychology* (not culture) is accurately treated as different (if indeed they really mean *psychology* not culture) by Christian writers (as are the ones you recommended)
 
I find this mildly insulting to the writers. For one thing, you have implied that their "Christian" status makes them suspect. Not only is this equivocal (it so happens they are of what would be called a "liberal" to "moderate" bent), it is also presumptive (since you have never seen their work, nor as far as I know do you have any experience in cultural anthropology) and disrespectful (they have published numerous peer-reviewed articles and books, and have also interacted heavily with the secular literature on this subject -- their views on this matter are NOT different from the mainstream, but in line with it). And as noted, I think, I do not agree with any strong dichotomy between psychology and culture.
 
>>> So do you agree that grieving and hallucination are far from anachronisms or a recent or culturally dependent phenomena
 
I don't think I ever did. I made rather the point that if such happened, the results would be different, and as well (if recall right) that it cannot merely be assumed that they are not anachronisms. A study of hallucinations and grief in an honor-shame, collectivist study would go far in helping me on this point.
 
>>>BTW what books on psychology (including psychology of religion) have you read from mainstream science?
 
None whose titles I can recall after 10 or so years.
 
>>>>There are a number of aspects to this. First is the question of what the early disciples actually really were proclaiming. Many scholars, including Dr. Mark Goodacre, whom you previously used as an authority, argues that the original Christian message has been largely lost
 
I do not recall using Goodacre as an authority and his name is not on my site that I can find. I believe I have already replied to everything Holtz has thrown in the air.
 
>>> proclamation. My point is that all that is required is not a real resurrection but the belief in a real resurrection
 
That is fine. And I have already made one note on this, that there is simply no opening for such a belief to be present in the minds of a Jew of this day. A Jesus seen in a hallucination would have not been understood to be a resurrected Jesus but as his guardian angel (who were thought to take the appearance of those they watched over; cf. Acts 12:15). To this you said:
 
>> don't claim to have a falsification, and if you don't either for your views then why bring "falsification" up?
 
I do have a falsification: A dead body, or at the very least a historical claim to have one. I don't think age is a problem here.
 
>>>As for a vision of Jesus being thought to be his guardian angel I am again perplexed why you think so. Acts 12:15 is pretty slim evidence (have you any more, and would angels be perceived as deceptive?)
 
Yes, it is a documented belief of the rabbis as well, as noted in Witherington's commentary on Acts. The Jews would not have believed it was the deceased because the dead could only be called up via necromancy, which was forbidden, and otherwise could not go back to earth (per the rich man and Lazarus). Your option is simply not socially viable and a hallucination of Jesus would have never been understood as Jesus himself, much less as one resurrected.
 
>>>original one or two who may have had such an experience that they genuinely believed were of their risen hero. A supernatural explanation is not required or even parsimonious.
 
I think you know from my discussions with Holtz what I think of "parsimony" as an argument. :-) In any event, given all these social factors, even then such ideas as "hallucination" become so un-parsimonious that a supernatural explanation (in a theistic world) becomes if anything much simpler.
 
>>>The point is that people are willing to risk death for what they consider right, even though it goes against the mores of their society.
 
But as noted, this point cannot stand under the conditions I stated. You really did not address this at all.
 
>>>Usually emancipation and spiritual enrichment, but the "bad trips" include - being ostracised from your family at a young age, parents never talking to you again. Divorce, loss of your children, loss of friends and peers. None of this is trivial or as easily mended as you maybe suggest.
 
Comparatively speaking, for a society as kinship-oriented as the ancient world, there is truly little in the way of comparison. New friends and peers are easy to get for us. So is a new family. Indeed we often solve the matter by taking pride in our difference from others. As for this:
 
>>>>consequences can remain if one deconverts amongst a very religious family/peer group. The point remains that even when the consequence was death, even then people became heretics and apostates,
 
How many of these became such because of some untestable ideological orientation (i.e., Arianism?) versus some historical matter (who would die for a claim that the Statue of Liberty had spoken aloud on a certain date)? This distinction is important. Dying for a testable claim is not the same as dying for an untestable ideological claim.
 
>>>As for finding support groups, the Internet is for some the *only place* where they can find non-Christians. Obviously I know of those - but how does it go for those without Internet access I wonder?
 
Not bad. The public library had such resources as the Encyclopedia of Associations. Anyone who wants to find help can do so easily enough, if they are willing to take steps. (It is of course a symptom of our society that some prefer to wallow in grief and agony and not seek help purposely, having some sort of martyr complex or what have you. But I'll make no individual judgments here.)
 
>>>Then the fact that people leave Christianity amongst Christian friends, family and peers who would condemn them for loosing faith must count as evidence against Christianity by your own admission.
 
In our modern world of individualism? That can never be agreed to. The price, even if high, is always able to be recouped.
 
>>>How are they simplistic? You've told me a number of times that I have been simplistic. I'll always ask why, so in future could you tell me why you think so rather than just make an assertion?
 
I thought I had explained clearly. Your comparisons continually isolate single aspects, without looking at the larger picture of the social world, of what is believed in, of particular results. All of this must be considered as a whole.
 
>>>be able to get through. Since you have read these books I would really appreciate a summary of the ideas that you believe should be persuasive.
 
A summary of such things would be a true injustice to the richness of the works and the societies examined. I am doing what I can here, however, as your arguments develop; otherwise I will take up as much of your time (and more of mine, retyping from scratch) as you would if you simply read the same material I have.
 
>>>and not lost in a rapidly going out of focus or unintelligent conversation. Maybe like Kyle Gerkin I'm having an okay conversation with you? Even if you don't think I'm up to much I hope you'll agree it's worth my while for my sake at least?! :-)
 
You did the key thing that Kyle does and others, mainly, do not: You preferred to ask questions and admitted that there are things you don't know. Forward it all to Ed's list of you wish, but I have cut off both him and Harry and blocked their mail. They refuse to admit ignorance on any subject and so I consider them of the same order as they might consider Jerry Falwell. :-)
 
Cordially,
 
JP/Bob

 


From: Steve Locks
Sent: Sunday, February 22, 2004 11:33 PM
Subject: Re: Psychology

Hi Bob,
 
Thanks for your helpful reply. I plan to return to shorter emails next time, but for now I want to catch up on what we have discussed to date so that nothing gets missed. So please excuse a slightly long email - there is no time limit for a hoped for reply :-).
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email referring to the cultural differences between NT and modern times making the bible difficult to understand for moderns):
>>> Unfortunately it makes the "eternal word of God" (were the bible such a thing) look very parochial and unavailable, far from the simple message you have claimed it is before.
 
BOB
That would perhaps be so but for two matters:
 
1) As I believe I noted, we in West are the oddballs; in fact 70% of the world still is more like the people of the Bible in this sense than they are like us, and I daresay 99.9% of all who have ever lived have had the same general orientation. If anyone is being parochial, it is we in the West. It has remained accessible to the vast majority of people.
 
STEVE
Do you think the 70% are close enough to the people of the bible (all of the bible?) to be able to understand it without commentaries? Where do you get the 70% figure from? Of course I agree that cultures can differ greatly but I would surmise further and suggest that any one culture is an oddball amongst fellow oddballs! Modern culture is maybe larger and more homogenous around the globe than most ancient ones though. Nevertheless I think my point remains, if not reinforced, by your reiteration of how different we are in the modern West to the ancients. If your argument is valid then surely since we are so different the "simple message" is actually very opaque to us (more than to the ancients) and many commentaries are required as Ed pointed out and you've agreed upon through comments on your extensive reading and the poverty of critics are who haven't read as much as yourself. So if you're right then the message is not so simple for us due to an accident of birth that we were born into the "wrong culture." We didn't ask to be born here and now.
 
But surely the problem gets even worse? What is the point in all that study when still so many experts still leave Christianity (indeed because of study!)? If the answers are in books then how am I ever going to get up to the level of people like Gerd Ludemann, Geza Vermes, Don Cupitt, Michael Goulder etc. and what is the pro-belief point when such people and so many others find study leads them not into but out of Christianity as it even did in my case? I find it hard to accept that even if I am not up to the mark (and I've tried more than the vast majority of people!) they had really missed the right book recommendations.
 
As I ask on my site, over the years I have come to know and know of many ex-Christians most of whom were well-churched, their numbers including former ministers, apologists, missionaries, theologians etc. Why should such people leave Christianity? These people are the best versed in Christianity and yet they leave despite so much personal and professional investment in their religion, enjoyment of their time as believing Christians and social pressures to stay. How can this happen if the evidence for Christianity is so good? If supernatural Christianity is true, shouldn't they have known better? What's more nobody really "chooses" to disbelieve in Christianity whilst a Christian - as if they were looking for a reason to reject it - quite the opposite is the case! How we can testify to pouring over books of apologetics and asking in prayer for guidance as our faith was crumbling! It is a gut-wrenching discovery that Christianity is untenable. The painful fact for many Christians is that through research and thinking the conclusion to which they often come is that the history and philosophical and moral implications of the various branches of Christianity are very different from that which is traditionally taught. Why else should all these people leave, contrary to their world-view, culture, professions, and heavy investment in Christianity? Why would God go to the trouble of incarnation and crucifixion only to allow genuine seekers to find Christianity untenable, or give "spurious" experiences and "incorrect" interpretation to those who spend so many years trying to be Christians?
 
What's more, if evidence was important for convincing doubting Christians, ex and non-Christians then a God could obviously convince them very easily. However, in response to confirmation candidates asking "why faith not evidence?" the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "to ask for faith in the way that many people do is to ask for a prouder God than He who became our brother in the cradle and on the cross." As such I think pounding ancient history, desperately trying to find flaws in evolution and all the other behaviour of apologetic evangelists are way off even the religious mark. I fail to see how Christians can be doing "God's work" by taking up the task of trying to convince us when the Christian God himself (or Allah, Krishna etc.) does not seem too concerned about doing this. And so are lots of books really the answer, especially when it was lots of books (Christian books at that) that led so many of us out of Christianity?
 
 
 
 
 
BOB
2) As for availability, how can that be claimed when there are ample works for study on the subject, such as those I have given you titles for? :-) You say:
 
>>>I would like to read further and I dream of the leisure that would allow me to read all the books I am recommended, but we have to be realistic as to what is humanly possible in an already busy timetable with a full time job, young family and many other pursuits and duties.
 
You do not watch any televsion, I take it? In any event, if you have room for 550 books then I am sure you'll agree you can prioritize. You do agree that the question is important. But:
 
 
STEVE
You're right - I hardly do watch any television! Occasionally the news and sometimes I tape a documentary that looks interesting and watch it when I can fit it in. About once a fortnight my wife and I hire a film and that's about it! I'll admit to watching children's programs with my kids, but when they are awake my time is all theirs! So I've no real time to shave off there, or really anywhere. As for prioritisation, if I did that then I think I would never read another pro-Christian book. I very much feel like I've done my stint there and have been disappointed with "the latest book that is going to convert me" so many times that I have little inclination to believe that there is really another one around the corner, plus what I said above about more in-depth readers on these matters than myself who subsequently left Christianity. That's one of the reasons I'm engaging in dialogue directly instead. I already have over 550 books (actually about 1000) out of my personal library clamouring for my attention. In addition to that I have an accelerating backlog of other book recommendations I would have to get from the library and web articles I have been recommended. So I work through what I can when I can. What I need is some serious convincing to enable me to prioritise any particular book as the one that should shuffle others down from the top 550. For instance whilst writing this I received an exhortation to:

Buy the The Spiritual Man from Christian Fellowship Publishers, and read the first 77 pages. If you do this, with a heart desiring for the truth, I am confident you will BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, and you will be SAVED, and you will know it. Read carefully.

There is a lot of that sort of thing around! Meanwhile 550 assumes that I will be able to revert to the avid reading I managed before children took up most of my time which is some good years to come and the proverbial bus might hit me tomorrow! I can't imagine the plausibility of being sent away from the pearly gates due to mis-prioritising the correct book recommendation!
 
There is also the catch-22 that until I re-believe Christianity is even remotely likely to be true I am little inclined to put its importance above science, cosmology, history, literature, philosophy, music, psychology (including psychology of religion), cognitive science and all the other subjects that interest me even more and seem to me to have real connections with how the world actually is. Largely I read pro-Christian works to be fair because I publicly criticise Christian ideas. Unfortunately Christian books and articles rather than convince appear riddled with desperate flaws far too often which just increases my scepticism about Christianity as I explained to Mark McFall at http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/mcfall/1.html in my comments on Glenn Miller's list on common errors made by apologists http://www.christian-thinktank.com/errblvs.html.
 
It is also not just Christians who tell me I should read more of their book recommendations. I regularly get emails from Muslims (and others) for their religions. I had a Buddhist giving me his recommendations yesterday.
 
I know I did ask for recommendations and URL's but I also need some sort of summary, however poorly a summary represents the views of a book. Indeed surely all discussions are like this as various aspects of everything we have thought and learned are brought into conversation. All of these can lead to further questions for more elucidation or criticism of points made. Book summaries are no different and we can't all insist that others must know everything we do before making comment - indeed you don't!
 
The other part to all this is the common finding that Christians refer me elsewhere when I pose certain questions. As I said to Dr. Garrett (http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/feedback/garrett/1.html etc.) who told me that those with questions should take them to their elders. If these elders refuse to or cannot answer difficult questions then this could be another reason why Christianity may continue to look like it cannot survive scrutiny. A number of times I have been told that those with questions should take them to the "elders" and I complained that these "elders" do not tackle our questions seriously. At http://www.tektonics.org/tekton_01_01_01.html you state << we perform no service any time that we so much as imply that their views should be taken seriously. Their views are the result of a fallen and sinful human nature, of rampant egotism and arrogance, and nothing more. >> Yet it has often been the case that unwillingness to tackle questions at church (even sometimes a hostile attitude to questions) has lead people to deconvert from Christianity.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>works, "okay so you've read it -  what did you find - what is the answer to my question from the source you recommend?"
 
BOB
I believe I have done that. Did you not ask me though for recommendations?
 
STEVE
To some extent, yes. There was a nice and intriguing summary you gave to Ed at one point, but not much for me. I did ask for recommendations and URL's to follow up what I can, but as I said you are the person many Christians have challenged me to strike up a conversation with. They said you would be able to tell me why I'm wrong. So still be sent elsewhere is not what I was promised. As I said to many of my critics, belief that there exists an apologist or book out there that will answer my questions is a faith statement, not knowledge. As I said to James Juris (who you know): Speaking as one frequently on the receiving end, I think all apologists really need is sound arguments. It is difficult to avoid a conclusion that is well-researched, is focused, answers important questions and avoids logical errors. Those of us who previously were committed Christians didn't become ex-Christians without a fight. We've been convinced once before against our existing worldview, much to our surprise and indeed sometimes shock, so I think it could potentially happen again if apologists can come up with the goods. But they don't. The goods are around the next corner.
 
I often ask Christians for actual answers only to discover that their belief in the security of Christianity is not based on knowledge of Christian research refuting criticism but is actually just a faith statement (or even just repeating a claim heard elsewhere that they have not examined themselves - this sort of thing seems to become a sort of chain letter of assertions). Now I know you do tackle many issues, as does Glenn Miller, but it still raises the idea that Christianity cannot survive scrutiny when our specific questions are continuously passed on to others or just answered with annoyance. I'm not saying you've done this to me personally that much, rather that this is a general finding and another reason why I think a summary of ideas when asked for really would help dispel the idea that Christian claims are not well founded.
 
 
 
 
 
BOB
Bear in mind that if you are new to a subject, an answered question inevitably brings up more questions from an interested and intelligent party. Your request for answers that do not take up much time is not realistic, if your interest is indeed comprehensive, and your intent is to ask more questions. I say this even as an information studies person: There are no simple answers for the uninitiated, from whom questions will inevitably breed like rabbits.
 
STEVE
I agree. I too quake under the dictum of Bertrand Russell that "A stupid man's report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand." I'm not calling you stupid (one thing I admire is your intelligence!) rather what I mean by quoting Russell is to illustrate that I appreciate I may not understand a carefully worded detailed thesis from anybody's summary. Sure you could give me as much detail as you could bare and I could subsequently bombard you with more questions and you'd end out basically re-writing the whole book for me. Quicker for both of us if I just read the book to start with - I agree with you as regards information studies! Unfortunately this still leaves me with an even deeper appreciation of how unattainable Christianity is even if it were true. Have I really *got* to read lots of hard books to assuage my feeling that Christianity is untenable?
 
Again surely your argument goes for any idea - I could probe any statement until you've rewritten your whole life's learning for me - it doesn't have to be just a book description that leads to a lengthy exposition. Does this mean that conversation about ideas cannot happen between living people, and we all just have to read each others books? What would be the place for conversation? Maybe it would lead for a more peaceful world if the whole place was turned into a library though - Ho, ho is that your secret librarianship plan! ;-)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email referring to Bob's claim referencing writers such as Pilch, Malina, Neyrey and Rohrbaugh that NT peoples had a different psychology to moderns and the impact this may have on claims of any resurrection appearances actually being post bereavement hallucinations):
>>>Back to my question. I find it hard to believe that *psychology* (not culture) is accurately treated as different (if indeed they really mean *psychology* not culture) by Christian writers (as are the ones you recommended)
 
BOB
I find this mildly insulting to the writers. For one thing, you have implied that their "Christian" status makes them suspect. Not only is this equivocal (it so happens they are of what would be called a "liberal" to "moderate" bent), it is also presumptive (since you have never seen their work, nor as far as I know do you have any experience in cultural anthropology) and disrespectful (they have published numerous peer-reviewed articles and books, and have also interacted heavily with the secular literature on this subject -- their views on this matter are NOT different from the mainstream, but in line with it). And as noted, I think, I do not agree with any strong dichotomy between psychology and culture.
 
 
STEVE
I'm glad you think this implies an insult, as this was my point, except that the implication if insult is not from myself. Personally I think that you cannot have correctly identified the difference between psychology and cultural differences. The indictment of either your authors or mainstream science must follow though if you are correct that there is a fundamental difference between these groups. And groups they are as Malina is I see a member of  the "Context Group" (Project on the Bible in its Cultural Environment). I am sorry though if you think I was having an insulting dig at Christians per se (some of my best friends are Christians etc.) which wasn't my intention, but rather to show the implication of your statement that human psychology has changed down the millennia, which as far as I am aware is at variance with modern psychological thinking and the findings of cognitive science. Maybe there has been some confusion or crossed wires about the meaning of the word "psychology" - perhaps you are taking it in more of a local behavioural manner than I am getting at? So to clarify, my point is that there is not likely to be a difference between human psychology (human traits) as it was across the globe over thousands of years and human psychology now. You may be aware of recent instances of contact with the few remaining untouched jungle tribes. They too laughed, smiled when happy and showed a whole range of common human traits, without any Westerner teaching them such things. Cognitive science lists a huge number of traits as human universals. See Donald E. Brown's List of Human Universals at http://www.xasa.com/grupos/en/talk/article/171908/talk.philosophy.misc
 
Amongst this huge list of universal traits are belief in supernatural/ religion, false beliefs, beliefs about death, conflict (means of dealing with), emotions, explanation, fears (ability to overcome some), magic to sustain life, mourning, private inner life, psychological defence mechanisms, redress of wrongs, attachment, fear of death, hope, imagery, interpolation, shame...
 
So when you ask me:-
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>> So do you agree that grieving and hallucination are far from anachronisms or a recent or culturally dependent phenomena
 
BOB
I don't think I ever did. I made rather the point that if such happened, the results would be different, and as well (if recall right) that it cannot merely be assumed that they are not anachronisms. A study of hallucinations and grief in an honor-shame, collectivist study would go far in helping me on this point.
 
STEVE
The study has already been done. Moderns and ancients across the globe share all the required characteristics. belief in supernatural/ religion, false beliefs, beliefs about death, conflict (means of dealing with), emotions, explanation, fears (ability to overcome some), magic to sustain life, mourning, private inner life, psychological defence mechanisms, redress of wrongs, attachment, fear of death, hope, imagery, interpolation, shame... As I said before hallucinations of the recently deceased are common as are group identifications with such visions. There is already a very normal explanation for the resurrection sightings, even giving the NT writings a lot of the benefit of the doubt as regards a basic historicity. http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/visionorigin.html
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>BTW what books on psychology (including psychology of religion) have you read from mainstream science?
 
BOB
None whose titles I can recall after 10 or so years.
 
STEVE
I've been a keen reader of psychology texts and in particular the psychology of religion. In contrast to your lack of reading on this recently I think it is quite fair for me to surmise that you have misunderstood the constancy of human psychological traits and the relevance of modern cross-cultural hallucinations of the recently deceased to those of NT times. Remember that you said 70% of the modern world are like those of the NT world. Since grief hallucinations are cross-cultural you have made my point that they are to be expected under the conditions of the death of Jesus too. In addition this is a "first-order" effect whereas local cultural norms (such as any "honor-shame/angel assumption" local cultural differences) are "second-order" effects. The disciples could easily have seen things that were not there, and like Paul did with his vision - which was after the ascension, so definitely visionary - assumed they really were Jesus rather than an angel. More on this later...
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>>There are a number of aspects to this. First is the question of what the early disciples actually really were proclaiming. Many scholars, including Dr. Mark Goodacre, whom you previously used as an authority, argues that the original Christian message has been largely lost
 
BOB
I do not recall using Goodacre as an authority and his name is not on my site that I can find. I believe I have already replied to everything Holtz has thrown in the air.
 
STEVE
You used him with regard to Q in an email to Ed. Mark Goodacre is one of the foremost exponents of the "No Q" theory. You wrote the following:
 
********Begin Quote**********
----- Original Message -----
From: "James Patrick Holding"
Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 9:16 PM
Subject: Re: Dear Jason and Bob, please meet James D. G. Dunn


<snip>
What a laugh and a half. This is stuff that would be at the core; and of
course he begs the Q question, which has been slowly dying as a theory for
the past dozen years. Or are you not up on that yet? You like book reviews?
Here's on to stick in your quiver:

The Case Against Q
By Mark Goodacre
2002. Trinity Press International 227 pages.
<snip>
********End Quote**********
 
STEVE
So if you respect him as a scholarly researcher, then you should sit up and take note when he disagrees with you.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>> proclamation. My point is that all that is required is not a real resurrection but the belief in a real resurrection
 
BOB
That is fine. And I have already made one note on this, that there is simply no opening for such a belief to be present in the minds of a Jew of this day. A Jesus seen in a hallucination would have not been understood to be a resurrected Jesus but as his guardian angel (who were thought to take the appearance of those they watched over; cf. Acts 12:15). To this you said:
 
>> don't claim to have a falsification, and if you don't either for your views then why bring "falsification" up?
 
I do have a falsification: A dead body, or at the very least a historical claim to have one. I don't think age is a problem here.
 
STEVE
That is hardly a falsification as you well know that whether Jesus rotted or was raised, there is not going to be a body available. However there is very good evidence that Jesus was buried in a pit, and hence would not have had a known grave to be visited and seen empty. That is the essay by Byron R. McCane at http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm. Now I know that you have said that this essay is consistent with burial in an initial tomb, but it is not consistent with a body still being there when it was visited 3 days later. So isn't your theory falsified after all by Byron R. McCane's arguments?
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>As for a vision of Jesus being thought to be his guardian angel I am again perplexed why you think so. Acts 12:15 is pretty slim evidence (have you any more, and would angels be perceived as deceptive?)
 
BOB
Yes, it is a documented belief of the rabbis as well, as noted in Witherington's commentary on Acts. The Jews would not have believed it was the deceased because the dead could only be called up via necromancy, which was forbidden, and otherwise could not go back to earth (per the rich man and Lazarus). Your option is simply not socially viable and a hallucination of Jesus would have never been understood as Jesus himself, much less as one resurrected.
 
STEVE
Why then would Jesus have raised Lazarus (the one of the miracle in John, not the parable in Luke) if that would lead Jesus to have been thought a forbidden necromancer? Why did Saul (a pre-Christian Jew) think his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus really was Jesus, rather than an angel? Your explanation can't be correct given these. << a hallucination of Jesus would have never been understood as Jesus himself >> Clearly the Jew Saul (pre Paul) did not think he saw and angel. Therefore neither need any of the others (it might only have been Peter and maybe one of the women anyway, the others latching on to this as discussed before).
 
Also remember that grief hallucinations are very vivid and hallucinations seem real to those having them. Grief hallucinations even include not only visual but can also include auditory and even tactile experiences.
"...Of the 293 people interviewed 137 (46.7%) had post-bereavement hallucinations. These hallucinations lasted many years, and at the time of interview 106 (36.1%) people still had hallucinations. The proportions of hallucinated men and women were similar, with 33 (50%) men and 104 (45.8%) women having had hallucinations. The most common type of hallucination is the illusion of feeling the presence of the dead spouse (39.2%)... Auditory hallucinations (13.3%) are slightly less common than visual hallucinations (14.0%), and more than one person in ten has spoken to the dead spouse. The least common hallucination is the feeling of having been touched by the dead spouse (2.7%)."
- Dr. W.D. Rees "The Hallucinations of Widowhood" British Medical Journal, October 1971,
 
Why would an ancient person who already believes in an afterlife and without modern psychological resources such as the National Library of Medicine have known that they were having a hallucination or vision to which they should ascribe an angel, rather than a real encounter? As I said, Paul was a Jew and thought he saw Jesus, not an angel.
 
Indeed if the Jews would not have believed in a resurrected Jesus but only visions of angels, why do you claim they believed they saw Jesus? Surely you shoot yourself in the foot? How could they tell the difference between hallucination and reality particularly given the impressive nature of grief hallucinations?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>original one or two who may have had such an experience that they genuinely believed were of their risen hero. A supernatural explanation is not required or even parsimonious.
 
BOB
I think you know from my discussions with Holtz what I think of "parsimony" as an argument. :-)
 
STEVE
It was only because of Jordan that I used that word - since you have commented on our discussions before. Indeed I would much prefer something like the phrase finding Christianity "untenable" given the far richer understanding that I find psychology and cognitive science gives us of human nature. Do you think Jordan was incorrect then for becoming a Christian because he came to believe that the Christian interpretation of the resurrection narratives are the most "parsimonious" of the theories on offer? He states at http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/debates_files/locks.htm
 
<< The scientific principle of parsimony (Occam’s razor) asserts that the best explanation for a set of facts is the simplest one. I would have to apply the notion that "highly improbable" translates into "impossible" equally to the swoon, twin, dog-and-bird-eating, legend-developing, joint-hallucinations, martyrdom-of- hoaxers, etc., explanations of the Resurrection account. All of those explanations are "an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment" in themselves. To combine any or all of them is yet another miracle....Christians, I thought, who truly value truth and science would do the same. Who, I wondered, is on steadier ground: the Christian with the parsimonious explanation, or the skeptic with the convoluted explanation? >>
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
BOB
In any event, given all these social factors, even then such ideas as "hallucination" become so un-parsimonious that a supernatural explanation (in a theistic world) becomes if anything much simpler.
 
STEVE
First the social factors are irrelevant as the human cognitive factors remain and dominate as cognitive science tells us, and Saul clearly thought his vision was of Jesus, not an angel. An infinitely big explanation ("God") is the most "un-parsimoneous" of any explanation (since it is infinite!), and if it is to be held at all it must be for other reasons than "parsimony" as I explained to Jordan, and was the (slightly sneaky) reason I used the word with yourself in my previous email.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email, discussing how it is common for people to proclaim beliefs that they know would put themselves in trouble):
>>>The point is that people are willing to risk death for what they consider right, even though it goes against the mores of their society.
 
BOB
But as noted, this point cannot stand under the conditions I stated. You really did not address this at all.
 
STEVE
I don't understand why you think I have not addressed this. I specifically stated that some of these were from strict "honour and shame" societies.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email, discussing what some problems are like for ex-Christians):
>>>Usually emancipation and spiritual enrichment, but the "bad trips" include - being ostracised from your family at a young age, parents never talking to you again. Divorce, loss of your children, loss of friends and peers. None of this is trivial or as easily mended as you maybe suggest.
 
BOB
Comparatively speaking, for a society as kinship-oriented as the ancient world, there is truly little in the way of comparison. New friends and peers are easy to get for us. So is a new family. Indeed we often solve the matter by taking pride in our difference from others. 
 
STEVE
It is not possible to replace your children. But even if deconversion was always a jolly thing with well wishes from Christians, why would anyone deconvert unless they really lost their beliefs? That is the point - that it is impossible to believe things one does not believe, or to not believe things one does, no matter what the people around one is like. One might hide one's beliefs, but if they are really thought to be more important than the condemnation of those around and the subsequent social fall-out then the attitude will be (literally for Christians) "damn the opposition - I believe what's right and the consequences will be a martyr's blessing!" What's more, as you have agreed, all it takes is a belief, a true belief is a further step not required for this action.
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>>consequences can remain if one deconverts amongst a very religious family/peer group. The point remains that even when the consequence was death, even then people became heretics and apostates,
 
BOB
How many of these became such because of some untestable ideological orientation (i.e., Arianism?) versus some historical matter (who would die for a claim that the Statue of Liberty had spoken aloud on a certain date)? This distinction is important. Dying for a testable claim is not the same as dying for an untestable ideological claim.
 
STEVE
I take it you are referring to the idea that the authorities would have produced the body to thwart the pesky Christians. We both know the arguments against this. What evidence is there that the authorities would have cared to thwart what would have been to them a little known and minor cult? Indeed you once wrote to me in connection with something else that << it is far from clear that Josephus would have thought of this as a "new religion" -- the Romans did not, not for quite some time -- as opposed to a branch of Judaism. >>
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email regarding ex-Christians)
>>>As for finding support groups, the Internet is for some the *only place* where they can find non-Christians. Obviously I know of those - but how does it go for those without Internet access I wonder?
 
BOB
Not bad. The public library had such resources as the Encyclopedia of Associations. Anyone who wants to find help can do so easily enough, if they are willing to take steps. (It is of course a symptom of our society that some prefer to wallow in grief and agony and not seek help purposely, having some sort of martyr complex or what have you. But I'll make no individual judgments here.)
 
STEVE
Looks like you might have made a judgement though... Anyway, excellent! I have never heard of the Encyclopaedia of Associations but unfortunately when I searched for it I found the website to be written in gobbledegook (to a non-librarian that is!). Could you point me to an organisation for ex-Christians that could be found through it? I know there are lots of freethought organisations, if that is what you mean, but like I said, there are parts of the world where you will not meet a non-Christian outside of your computer. These people said they did not know of any non-Christians that they had met. Do you really expect them to have known that the public library would have the "Encyclopedia of Associations," know what that is, how to use it and whether it is likely to have local support groups for ex-Christians right there in the heart of the bible belt? Anyway, that is slightly off topic, but if you know what the ex-Christian support groups are in the bible belt through the Encyclopedia of Associations them please tell me.
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>Then the fact that people leave Christianity amongst Christian friends, family and peers who would condemn them for loosing faith must count as evidence against Christianity by your own admission.
 
BOB
In our modern world of individualism? That can never be agreed to. The price, even if high, is always able to be recouped.
 
STEVE
Remember that you claimed << threats of social ostracization count as a evidence for the truth of the belief that engenders such threats >> which is exactly what happens to Christians who deconvert in a highly religious peer-group/family. Note that those ex-Christians who do suffer social ostracization are brought up in a culture that teaches they will be miserable, nihilistic and empty if they ever left the church. They are not led to expect healthy happy lives or new relationships after deconversion. That there may be a pleasant surprise at the end of the tunnel is not something a deconverting Christian has in mind, so your point about "recouping" is hardly relevant. If someone is taken out for a mock execution they still soil their pants even though the bullet never comes.
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>How are they simplistic? You've told me a number of times that I have been simplistic. I'll always ask why, so in future could you tell me why you think so rather than just make an assertion?
 
BOB
I thought I had explained clearly. Your comparisons continually isolate single aspects, without looking at the larger picture of the social world, of what is believed in, of particular results. All of this must be considered as a whole.
 
STEVE
I'm afraid this is too vague to be of use in helping me to understand where I have been simplistic.
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>be able to get through. Since you have read these books I would really appreciate a summary of the ideas that you believe should be persuasive.
 
BOB
A summary of such things would be a true injustice to the richness of the works and the societies examined. I am doing what I can here, however, as your arguments develop; otherwise I will take up as much of your time (and more of mine, retyping from scratch) as you would if you simply read the same material I have.
 
STEVE
As discussed above, could you summarise the most persuasive information you have. Sure I will probably question further, but there is no time limit on a reply, so the work burden is only as much as you choose to make it. I only reply when I have time too. I much prefer long term discussions to a sprint of emails without time for reflection or the rest of life!
 
 
 
 
STEVE (in previous email)
>>>and not lost in a rapidly going out of focus or unintelligent conversation. Maybe like Kyle Gerkin I'm having an okay conversation with you? Even if you don't think I'm up to much I hope you'll agree it's worth my while for my sake at least?! :-)
 
BOB
You did the key thing that Kyle does and others, mainly, do not: You preferred to ask questions and admitted that there are things you don't know. Forward it all to Ed's list of you wish, but I have cut off both him and Harry and blocked their mail. They refuse to admit ignorance on any subject and so I consider them of the same order as they might consider Jerry Falwell. :-)
 
STEVE
What I have done (only twice) in email conversation when I was not getting on with the person I was corresponding with is to state what I saw the problem was, then if the behaviour did not change warn about - and then if it persisted carry out - a "cooling off" period. i.e. I put them in my "kill files" not indefinitely, but for a fixed period, never more than a year. This really does work and has turned conversations around from automatic gainsaying to thoughtful discussions on regaining of contact.
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (old email)
>>> We have the false ending of Mark and the gospels considered apocryphal (although some are not apocryphal to Catholics and Eastern Orthodox) some with quite fantastic stories about Jesus that you wouldn't entertain as true for a minute.
 
BOB
Yes, but for reasons of the late date of the material, not because of any philosophical presupposition.
 
STEVE
>>But the point is that Christians clearly were making up false stories about Jesus!
 
BOB
"Christians"? By what route are Gnostics, for example, so declared?
 
STEVE
By the losers in the battle for Christianity (see http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/therealjesus.html ref. Mark Goodacre, Michael Goulder, Geza Vermes etc.). Were all the apocryphal gospels Gnostic? If not, then my point surely remains?
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (referring to Bob's admission that the only reference to the "500" is within the bible)
>>>(Then you have a circular argument - using the bible to prove the bible which is a fallacy.
 
BOB
I don't see how this is any different than making an appeal to any other claim in a secular document.
 
STEVE
Agreed - it is the same. i.e. likewise it would be fallacious to condemn anyone for not believing a fantastic claim only ever mentioned internally in a secular document. For instance Herodotus reports that in the Indian desert "are ants, not as big as dogs but bigger than foxes; the Persian king has some of these, which have been caught there." It would be fallacious to believe this on the basis of its internal report against the evidence of everything else known about the world, just as it would be fallacious to believe in the 500 vision, Matthew's risen saints etc. against the lack of reportage from other interested writers (such as Josephus) of such astonishing events were they true, and what else we know about the world. (The chances of interpolation and human misunderstanding in religious documents, grief induced hallucinations, crowd behaviour).
e.g.. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/ using +grief +hallucination
This is not to say that the authors of these tales are simply lying. Even if he wrote the passage, Paul could have misinterpreted what "500" saw (like http://www.mcn.org/1/miracles/Nairobi2.html) just as Herodotus may have been confused with the ancient Persian word for marmot, which means mountain ant, marmots having the behaviour Herodotus ascribed to the "ants" in the passage in which he refers to them.
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (regarding multiplying less than unity possibilities quickly leads to an unlikely conclusion)
>>>I've noticed a number of times in your replies and at your website that possible scenario (however slim) is piled upon possible scenario.
 
BOB
Such is the necessity of the practice of historical reconstruction: Inferences drawn from background data. What you need to do is show that they are not "less than unity" which I do not see happening. :-)
 
STEVE
I think you've misunderstood me. My point is that they *are* less than unity. Since you agree that they are, my point stands. As I said "I've noticed a number of times in your replies and at your website that possible scenario (however slim) is piled upon possible scenario. Whilst some of these could be accepted for the sake of argument the overall scenario is a multiplication of hopeful, but less than unity, possibilities. These are "AND statements" all required for your apologetic to work. Multiply a lot of numbers smaller than one together and you soon get close to zero."
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE  (regarding the question why would the 500 who saw Jesus have not been present at the ascension - thinking that they would have wanted to stay with the others to see the risen Jesus above any other concern):
>>>Remember that they wouldn't have known that the ascension was going to happen
 
BOB
Um, John 20:17?
 
STEVE
Even better! They knew their chances of seeing Jesus "in the flesh" were limited (if the Gospels are to be believed). So why farms over Jesus? Jesus exhorted people to put following him above all worldly concerns - even including family. I know Christians falter in their discipleship, but would not those who saw him so recently risen from the dead take this very seriously? If not then isn't that another of your slim possibilities to multiply with all the others?
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE (regarding Bob's claims that fundamentalists have a "fallacious black and white mentality" and Steve's point that the biblical authors were fundamentalists):
>>>The points remains that as guiltless as they were for their fundamentalist condition they nevertheless had a fallacious black and white mentality by your own description of fundamentalists
 
BOB
I find quite a difference between being "black and white" because one chooses to ignore colors, and black and white because one is color blind.
 
STEVE
Wouldn't you agree though that they both are unable to see colours and have a fallacious mentality?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
STEVE
A couple of other unanswered questions:
What could the "general rebellion of all humanity" actually be?
What is the "special creation model?"
 
 
 
 
 
That's it for now. Again I'm sorry it is long this time and I don't expect a reply quickly if you're busy/have other priorities, but at the same time don't mind a speedy one if you're not busy, feel like it and already have answers at your fingertips!
 
Regards,
 
Steve
======================================
Leaving Christianity
www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/decon.html

 


From: James Patrick Holding
Sent: Friday, February 27, 2004 2:58 PM
Subject: Re: Psychology

Howdy,
 
>>>there is no time limit for a hoped for reply :-).
 
That'll work nicely. :-)
 
>>>Do you think the 70% are close enough to the people of the bible (all of the bible?) to be able to understand it without commentaries?
 
They are close enough in terms of the characteristics I have noted (collectivism, honor and shame) to understand it far better, yes.
 
>>> Where do you get the 70% figure from?
 
Malina and Neyrey give the figure in Portraits of Paul and cite a secular anthropological source. I can't recall what it was just now but can check if you really need it.
 
>>>> So if you're right then the message is not so simple for us due to an accident of birth that we were born into the "wrong culture." We didn't ask to be born here and now.
 
The rub on that is that the "simpleness" is caused in good measure by our own arrogance and ignorance. It affects us in politics as well.
 
 
>>>ut surely the problem gets even worse? What is the point in all that study when still so many experts still leave Christianity (indeed because of study!)?
 
You'd have to be more specific. I have seen experts leave for quite absurd reasons, or for reasons that had little to do with study.
 
>>>accept that even if I am not up to the mark (and I've tried more than the vast majority of people!) they had really missed the right book recommendations.
 
It's not that hard to fathom. Robert Price's entire case for 1 Cor. 15:3ff being an interpolation falls on a simple point of Greco-Roman rhetoric, which was a subject he obviously missed at seminary.
 
>>>s I ask on my site, over the years I have come to know and know of many ex-Christians most of whom were well-churched, their numbers including former ministers, apologists, missionaries, theologians etc. Why should such people leave Christianity? These people are the best versed in Christianity
 
I would find it interesting to quiz each of them and see if that is so. Perhaps that would make for an interesting project if you can get some who are cooperative and more of the Kyle Gerkin mentality where I am concerned.
 
>>>What's more, if evidence was important for convincing doubting Christians, ex and non-Christians then a God could obviously convince them very easily. However, in response to confirmation candidates asking "why faith not evidence?" the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "to ask for faith in the way that many people do is to ask for a prouder God than He who became our brother in the cradle and on the cross."
 
Interesting point, but as I have noted "faith" (pistis) properly defined means trust based on evidence: http://www.tektonics.org.whatfaith.html (I know of Gleeson's reply -- http://www.tektonics.org/whatfaith_CC1.html)
 
 
>>>Krishna etc.) does not seem too concerned about doing this. And so are lots of books really the answer, especially when it was lots of books (Christian books at that) that led so many of us out of Christianity?
 
Obviously I think it is AN answer. :-)
 
>>>all theirs! So I've no real time to shave off there, or really anywhere. As for prioritisation, if I did that then I think I would never read another pro-Christian book. I very much feel like I've done my stint there and have been disappointed with "the latest book that is going to convert me" so many times that I have little inclination to believe that there is really another one around the corner

Well, but instead it may be "the latest email (that takes an hour to type) to convert you"? :-) The funny thing is, I had always heard from Skeptics that human knowledge is expanding so fast, that such an "inclination to believe" seems counter to that.
 
>>>convincing to enable me to prioritise any particular book as the one that should shuffle others down from the top 550. For instance whilst writing this I received an exhortation to:
 
Um. A librarian's recommend:
 
1) 77 pages? How could that provide any sort of worthwhile case?
2) "Christian Fellowship Publishers"? Not exactly peer-reviewed scholarship, is it?
 
I'd also look for a summary. A little discernment like this saves a lot of time (when it comes to any book at all). You could probably cut your 550 total by 90% that way.
 
>>>There is also the catch-22 that until I re-believe Christianity is even remotely likely to be true I am little inclined to put its importance above science,
 
Catch-22? It leaves you with that little free choice?
 
>>>human nature, of rampant egotism and arrogance, and nothing more. >> Yet it has often been the case that unwillingness to tackle questions at church (even sometimes a hostile attitude to questions) has lead people to deconvert from Christianity.
 
I'm painfully well aware of that. Correcting such things is and has been part of my mission.
 
>>>personally that much, rather that this is a general finding and another reason why I think a summary of ideas when asked for really would help dispel the idea that Christian claims are not well founded.
 
As noted, there simply are things that cannot be fairly summarized -- and then there is the "questions breed like rabbits" matter I raised, to which you appealed again to the time factor:
 
>>> Have I really *got* to read lots of hard books to assuage my feeling that Christianity is untenable?
 
Well -- yes. Once you choose a life of the mind, you trap yourself in that very way, as I tell many beginning readers of scholarly  material. Once it is started, it becomes addictive, like eating potato chips.
 
>>>>. Does this mean that conversation about ideas cannot happen between living people, and we all just have to read each others books?
 
No, but it does mean that such conversations will inevitably become unwieldy and unmanageable, if fully pursued. By the time it gets to that, with the time used you may as well have read one or more of the books. :-)
 
 
>>> What would be the place for conversation? Maybe it would lead for a more peaceful world if the whole place was turned into a library though - Ho, ho is that your secret librarianship plan! ;-)
 
It wouldn't be a bad idea. Unfortunately the mass majority would ask where the videotapes and DVDs were. :-/ :-)
 
>>>meaning of the word "psychology" - perhaps you are taking it in more of a local behavioural manner than I am getting at?
 
Yes. Brown's list makes it clear that you may be missing my point. To use an example germane here: One of his universals is "group living" and group membership. This is a general; what I speak of is differences in application, how important group membership is. Our society is individualist; groups are not considered as important, by far, as they are in collectivist cultures. And this ranking of importance affects behavior and psychology inevitably. Both experience "group living" but they do not rate it with the same level of importance. Say from 1 to 10, we give it a 2, they give it a 9 or a 10.
 
Thius by the same token, I have argued that the general appeal to "belief in supernatural/ religion" for example, grounds for your argument on the specific expectations of the culture in question. A "grief hallucination" would not be interpreted as a resurrected Jesus. More on this, yes, later --
 
>>>You used him with regard to Q in an email to Ed. Mark Goodacre is one of the foremost exponents of the "No Q" theory.
 
I see. Well, surprise of surprises, I use many sources with whom I have substantial disagreements; I even disagree with some of what my favorite writer Ben Witherington says. I seldom agree with any writer en bloc but critically analyze and compare all they say. If Goodacre believes the message has been lost, I would have reason to question and disagree (I've been down that road) -- and I can still agree with his points about Q (which are not inextricably linked to his other ideas).
 
 
>>>That is hardly a falsification as you well know that whether Jesus rotted or was raised, there is not going to be a body available.
 
No skeleton? The Jews of this period kept the bones because of their belief in resurrection. Remains of some sort certainly would have been available.
 
>>> However there is very good evidence that Jesus was buried in a pit, and hence would not have had a known grave to be visited and seen empty. That is the essay by Byron R. McCane at http://members.tripod.com/enoch2112/ByronBurial.htm. Now I know that you have said that this essay is consistent with burial in an initial tomb, but it is not consistent with a body still being there when it was visited 3 days later.
 
I don't see why it isn't. I think you are confusing McCane's arguments with Carrier's (mis)use of McCane's arguments. I looked at his summary and found nothing about the body being moved to a pit. If anything it looks like he agrees that the bones would still be around to be regathered.
 
>>>Why then would Jesus have raised Lazarus (the one of the miracle in John, not the parable in Luke) if that would lead Jesus to have been thought a forbidden necromancer?
 
I'm not sure what the point is here. I must be missing something of your position. Jesus did not "call up" the spirit of the dead; he RAISED the dead. Can you elucidate?
 
>>>Why did Saul (a pre-Christian Jew) think his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus really was Jesus, rather than an angel?
 
Actually he did have to ASK who it was, you'll recall. :-) He thought so because he was plainly told.
 
>>>Also remember that grief hallucinations are very vivid and hallucinations seem real to those having them.
 
I have little doubt of that. But the bottom line remains that any hallucination seen would have been interpreted as the double agent angel on patrol. Assuming it happened at all -- I'd say that the Jewish belief that the dead did not come back as spirits (despite the afterlife) means that there would be no grounds for such a hallucination to occur to begin with. And if it did, least of all would it be understood as a "resurrected" body -- the resurrection of the dead in glorified bodies was not to occur until the end of eschatologucal history, and then ALL were to be raised, not one man. The "hallucination" explanation simply requires ignoring too many set beliefs of the Jews of the period.
 
>>>Indeed if the Jews would not have believed in a resurrected Jesus but only visions of angels, why do you claim they believed they saw Jesus?
 
It's simple: They were given substantial and undeniable proof by the Risen Jesus.
 
>>>think Jordan was incorrect then for becoming a Christian because he came to believe that the Christian interpretation of the resurrection narratives are the most "parsimonious" of the theories on offer? He states at http://www.theism.net/authors/zjordan/debates_files/locks.htm
 
No, because I think he is correct, which was my point with Holtz. His explanations require too many props and "exceptions" to cultural rules to be the most parsimonious explanations.
 
>>>First the social factors are irrelevant as the human cognitive factors remain and dominate as cognitive science tells us, and Saul clearly thought his vision was of Jesus, not an angel.
 
As noted, however, he had to be told who it was.
 
>>>> An infinitely big explanation ("God") is the most "un-parsimoneous" of any explanation (since it is infinite!), and if it is to be held at all it must be for other reasons than "parsimony" as I explained to Jordan, and was the (slightly sneaky) reason I used the word with yourself in my previous email.
 
I fail to see any logical or factual reason for this to be so. God is considered a simple being, not an "infinitely big" being. It sounds like this assumes the priority of naturalism and interprets "God" in those terms rather than letting the evidence speak for itself. Besides, the identity question of "who did the rez" is in effect quite secondary.
 
>>>I don't understand why you think I have not addressed this. I specifically stated that some of these were from strict "honour and shame" societies.
 
And I believe I noted that they showed clear signs of cross-cultural fertilization.
 
>>>It is not possible to replace your children.
 
The ancients would not agree. Remember that children were mainly a means to an end, of producing progeny to inherit your property. The emphasis on sentimentality is misplaced, if that is what is in view.
 
 
>>>>But even if deconversion was always a jolly thing with well wishes from Christians, why would anyone deconvert unless they really lost their beliefs?
 
No other reason; but for what reason, and whether it is rational and informed, is my main concern. I have read of one person who deconverted solely because of 9-11; another, because they took but TWO college courses. Do you think such people made careful, considered surveys of such things as whether Jesus was really raised from the dead?
 
I don't support decisions made on emotional bases, in any setting.
 
>>>I take it you are referring to the idea that the authorities would have produced the body to thwart the pesky Christians.
 
Somewhat; their mere statement as authorities alone would have been enough to at least require refutation.
 
 
>>> What evidence is there that the authorities would have cared to thwart what would have been to them a little known and minor cult?
 
Offhand --
 
1) It was a matter of honor. The claim of Jesus' resurrection was a claim that the authorities were in error and that God had vindicated Jesus and shamed them.
2) As the NT shows, this cult threatened the view of Jewish unity in Roman eyes, which could lead to loss of their special status. It did not have to be a new religion.
3) The general tenor of the ancient world, for everyone to mind everyone else's business, provided enough incentive alone.
 
>>>Looks like you might have made a judgement though... Anyway, excellent! I have never heard of the Encyclopaedia of Associations but unfortunately when I searched for it I found the website to be written in gobbledegook (to a non-librarian that is!).
 
I actually meant a book set, a rather large one. I don't possess my own copy but it has a keyword index, in which I would look for words like ex-Christian (or even Christian); if that failed, I would next refer to atheist organizations that would be able to provide further direction. Looking for answers is somewhat like travelling on a spider's web -- you have to be able to think of many divergent paths down which an answer may be found.
 
>>>will not meet a non-Christian outside of your computer. These people said they did not know of any non-Christians that they had met.
 
Do you mean "ex-" rather than non-??? :-/
 
>>>Do you really expect them to have known that the public library would have the "Encyclopedia of Associations," know what that is, how to use it and whether it is likely to have local support groups for ex-Christians right there in the heart of the bible belt?
 
Yes. We are all (here at least) taught to use a library in elementary school.
 
>>>Remember that you claimed << threats of social ostracization count as a evidence for the truth of the belief that engenders such threats >> which is exactly what happens to Christians who deconvert in a highly religious peer-group/family. Note that those ex-Christians who do suffer social ostracization are brought up in a culture that teaches they will be miserable, nihilistic and empty if they ever left the church.
 
They are also in a culture in which those so "oppressed" are encouraged to assert themselves, seek a new identity, and proclaim it from the housetops, and in which being controversial guarantees attention. It is also a society that makes too much of things -- there are complaints of "oppressive" poverty from persons who own TV sets! That they do not pursue the options is another matter -- and has little if anything to do with whether they made an informed decision, of course.
 
>>>As discussed above, could you summarise the most persuasive information you have.
 
I would have to say that The Impossible Faith is my best effort at doing so. (Yes, as it happens, someone just told me of Holtz' latest "response"....I'll withhold comment in context. Let's just say he still hasn't learned his lesson.)
 
>>>>By the losers in the battle for Christianity (see http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~slocks/asym/therealjesus.html ref. Mark Goodacre, Michael Goulder, Geza Vermes etc.). Were all the apocryphal gospels Gnostic? If not, then my point surely remains?
 
I would want to discuss specific documents to say anything further. As Jenkins has noted in Hidden Gospels, these are "losers" for quite sound historical reasons.
 
 
>>>>claim only ever mentioned internally in a secular document. For instance Herodotus reports that in the Indian desert "are ants, not as big as dogs but bigger than foxes; the Persian king has some of these, which have been caught there." It would be fallacious to believe this on the basis of its internal report against the evidence of everything else known about the world,
 
Yet your "marmots" example (never heard that one, thanks!) solves the matter nicely, does it not? A very simple matter of textual criticism. Then:
 
>>>just as it would be fallacious to believe in the 500 vision, Matthew's risen saints etc. against the lack of reportage from other interested writers (such as Josephus) of such astonishing events were they true,
 
The silence of Josephus, etc. means little in this regard. At best you may assume that they did not consider the reports historical. At least you must consider that silence about an opponent was a shaming tactic. Silence is not a form of positive evidence when it comes ot ancient writers.
 
>>>This is not to say that the authors of these tales are simply lying. Even if he wrote the passage, Paul could have misinterpreted what "500" saw
 
Then one must explain what they did see, and explain why it is more likely in context, and how the misunderstanding occurred and was perpetuated. The Jewish understanding of resurrection, and what I have noted above, works hard against you here.
 
>>>I think you've misunderstood me. My point is that they *are* less than unity.
 
I seem to have lost track of the point here.
 
>>>>Even better! They knew their chances of seeing Jesus "in the flesh" were limited (if the Gospels are to be believed). So why farms over Jesus? Jesus exhorted people to put following him above all worldly concerns - even including family.
 
Then you just refute yourself -- which is more important? Seeing Jesus one last time for sentimental purposes, or spreading the Gospel?
 
Nevertheless there's a point missed here. The "body of Chirst" metaphor suggests many functions. Going on a mission is not the sole way to put Jesus over all other concerns. There would be persons needed to provide patronage and support. Not all can be Tekton ministers -- I'd be nowhere unless people had regular jobs to support it!
 
>>>Wouldn't you agree though that they both are unable to see colours and have a fallacious mentality?
 
"Fallacy" implies error in thought process to me rather than something that can't be helped. I would probably choose another word.
 
>>>What could the "general rebellion of all humanity" actually be?
 
If I had to say something short, "the tendency to break God's commandments (or morals)".
 
>>>What is the "special creation model?"
 
Any model that sees God as the worker of the process, in a way that is not gradual (theistic evolution). To use an example, what of an idea that the "days" in Genesis as ages, but that at the beginning of each age God created new sets of animals ex nihilo?
 
>>>That's it for now. Again I'm sorry it is long this time and I don't expect a reply quickly if you're busy/have other priorities, but at the same time don't mind a speedy one if you're not busy, feel like it and already have answers at your fingertips!
 
As noted, I'll take you up on that to some extent as needed. This has been an interesting week between the attempt to sabotage the site I had to deal with (see link to TheologyWeb discussion on my What's New page if interested) and the extra hours I have put in with my part time government job (despite what Farrell Till thinks, I am not getting rich and old ladies are not sending me their support checks). ;-)
 
Take care,
 
Bob

 

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