The image is something I drew on the cover page of my journal I wrote while hitch-hiking around the country back in 1987. It captures the essence of the human condition. We are made of “dust” – all that we do and all that we are is destined to crumble to nothing. But on the other hand, being trapped forever in our current condition would be quite hellish. So we are dancing on the razor’s edge between existence and the abyss. Not a bad place to be when you think about it. Indeed, it seems to be the only place we could be!
The impermanence of life became quite vivid recently. This site has been online since February 11, 2001. I’ve put countless hours into it, first as a convinced Bible believing Christian, then as a skeptical mystic, and finally as an atheist. It records my changes and the reasons for them, the questions I struggled with, and the many answers my fine friends have contributed along the way. Then on February 17, 2017 the server hosting this site crashed. The company which had been hosting it for the last sixteen years was not been able to provide any backups, claiming they all had mysteriously become corrupted through some mechanical failure. It seems more likely that they simply failed to configure the backups correctly. In any case, I had, fortunately, made my own backup a couple years ago and so have been able to recover about 80% of the posts (62,624) spanning the time from when the forum opened in June 7, 2007 to October 25, 2014.
This experience really brings home the fact that nothing is permanent. Our lives and our work are like footprints in the sand, destined to be washed away by wind and rain no matter what we do. On the upside, it also means that things we wish were not on the internet are also destined to pass. The new “old adage” that “once on the internet, always on the internet” is not really true. There are literally thousands of posts that were published on my site for many years that already have vanished because Google and Bing clear their cache frequently. I was hoping I could automate a Google search to find the old posts and reinsert them in my database, but they simply don’t exist anywhere any more as far as I can tell.
It’s not the same with this blog though. As it turns out, the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive) took snapshots of all my blog articles, so I will be able to retrieve them and their comment streams. I don’t know why they do this for WordPress blogs but not vBulletin forums.
I look forward to continuing our many conversations. Here’s the link to the forum.
The server for this site crashed a couple weeks ago and the the company hosting it said all their backups were corrupted, so it has taken some time for me to reconstruct it from my personal backups. I moved to a new host and have restored full functionality to the Full Text Bible Database (the most popular feature of this site) and most of the articles relating to my old research on the Bible Wheel. I also have gotten this blog up and running (obviously) though I’ve lost the posts written after 2014 and many of the graphics in the articles are missing. I have yet to restore the forum. My latest backup contains all the posts up to November 2014. I hope to restore it tomorrow.
Please leave a comment if you encounter any errors so I can fix them.
Thank you for your patience!
Terry Blanchard is a long time reader who had a lot to say about my previous article Is God Trustworthy? The Root of Religious Delusion. His comments involve a lot of “psychoanalysis” of my motives, so I cast him in the role of a doctor.
The Doctor Begins: Am I just an impatient petulant child?
There is something missing from your analysis here. Readers of your forum with long memories will recall the two anecdotes you posted describing the two key events which led to your loss of faith. In the first, you were walking up a hill carrying your son, when you hurt your ankle. In pain, you prayed for immediate relief, but the pain did not cease in that moment as you requested. The second incident concerned your son and a stomach complaint, which again, was not instantly healed when you prayed for this to happen.
Out of interest, how is the ankle now? And your son? Hopefully both turned out fine. If so, then one might be tempted to suggest that your prayers were answered, but just not in the time-frame that you requested.
Wow Doc, you have a prodigious memory. As far as I know, I mentioned those two events only once in passing in a post on my forum three years ago. I can’t imagine where you got the idea that those were “key” events. I mentioned them in a reply to a member “CWH” who started a thread called Why Pray? They were meant as nothing but personal illustrations of the vanity of prayer. CWH, like many fundamentalist Christians, had been claiming that God was communicating his displeasure with America through weather patterns. He said that we should pray more to get back under God’s good graces. Here is how I answered: Read More
Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool. ~ Mark Twain
Someone who is trustworthy in a small matter is also trustworthy in large ones, and someone who is dishonest in a small matter is also dishonest in large ones. ~ Luke 16:10
Christianity is founded upon the idea that God is trustworthy. That is its central claim. If God is not trustworthy then Christianity is false. But there is no proof that God even exists, let alone that he is trustworthy. So the first question is, what do Christians mean when they say that God is trustworthy? Here is a typical example from Christian artist and author Richard Gunther: Read More
The early Christian Sacred Geometers called a circle with a circumference of 888 units “the living Jesus” because the diameter of his circle is 282 units, which is the gematria value of the Greek word bios (BioV), meaning “earthly life.”
~ Daniel Gleason, www.jesus8880.com
The quote above typifies the raving lunacy Daniel Gleason publishes on his site. There is not one shred of evidence that any early Christians drew a circle with circumference of 888 units and called it “the living Jesus.” How then could he make such an assertion? The answer is simple; he believes his numerology proves that’s what they must have been doing. He has since changed his words to “may have called” in response to my email asking for his justification. He said he would restore the original assertion after his book with his numerological proofs is published, as if mere numerology, without any textual or historical evidence, could prove what early Christians actually did and said. Read More
MERE COINCIDENCE is the primary “evidence” that convinces most people of the truth of such religious beliefs as “God answers prayers” and “prophecies have been fulfilled” and “God designed the Bible.” Any random coincidence that “confirms” what one wants to believe is accepted as “evidence” while everything else is ignored. Years of habitual magical thinking, accepting mere coincidences as evidence, leads to strong delusions. That’s why people believe weird things like Astrology, Tarot, Numerology, and the Bible Wheel.
The Isaiah-Bible Correlation is another such coincidence that I presented as strong evidence that “confirmed” the exact order and content of the books of the Protestant Bible. Many Christians have noted that the 66 chapters of Isaiah naturally divide into groups of 39 and 27, just like the 66 books of the Bible naturally divide into 39 chapters of the Old Testament and 27 of the New. I independently noticed this in 1993. For more than a decade I made it a habit to always check for any correlation with Isaiah when studying the Bible. Over time, I accumulated enough “connections” to convince me that it could not have happened by chance. Did I have any actual statistical data? No. All I had was “intuition” based on “obvious connections” and, of course, the presupposition that the Bible was designed by God. Read More
We form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow.
~ The Believing Brain, by Michael Shermer
Having produced this website with thousands of pages promoting the Bible Wheel bullshit, it now is my pleasure, duty, and honor to debunk as much of its error as I am able. It’s not that everything I wrote was wrong. Not by a long shot. My errors were much more subtle than that. They were based on features common to the believing brain: a strong confirmation bias coupled with a habit of looking for meaning in coincidences. I began with a belief that the Bible was the “inspired Word of God” and was inclined to accept any pattern that seemed to confirm that presupposition. I had more than enough raw material to work with because the Bible is an exceedingly rich book filled with numinous symbols and a universal myth spanning Creation, the Fall, and the New Creation. Countless believers before me found their own idiosyncratic “patterns” that convinced them of its “divine design.” There are good reasons so many people find it seductive and compelling. It provides a framework to make sense of the world … so long as it’s not examined too closely in the light of logic and facts. Read More
Why do people see faces in nature, interpret window stains as human figures, hear voices in random sounds generated by electronic devices or find conspiracies in the daily news? A proximate cause is the priming effect, in which our brain and senses are prepared to interpret stimuli according to an expected model. UFOlogists see a face on Mars. Religionists see the Virgin Mary on the side of a building. Paranormalists hear dead people speaking to them through a radio receiver. Conspiracy theorists think 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration. Is there a deeper ultimate cause for why people believe such weird things? There is. I call it “patternicity,” or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise.
~ Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise,
by Michael Shermer (Scientific American, Dec 2008)
In my recent post If I am an Atheist, why have I kept the Bible Wheel site up? I answered that question as follows: Read More
The spell is broken. I am awake. As discussed in yesterday’s post, Debunking Myself, I can now see, understand, and explain the psychological forces and cognitive errors that led to my false belief in the Bible Wheel. This leaves me with the informative and entertaining task of debunking all the outrageous claims I made during my years as a believer.
Today’s project is to debunk the Bible Wheel Challenge which I believed was invincible proof of my claims. Here is how I stated it: Read More
Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been
Truckin’, by the Grateful Dead
For many years I felt “the light was all shining on me” through the patterns I saw in the Bible. They seemed so obvious and incontrovertible I could not help but describe them as “blazing like the noontime sun in a cloudless sky.” I had no shadow of doubt. I believed the Bible Wheel was literally “perfect” and could withstand any criticism. It was to me the “Divine Seal and Capstone of Holy Scripture” designed by God himself and that’s what I boldly declared on the banner of the original version of this site:
That banner stood over about a thousand pages of “evidence” I had laboriously collected over a period of about fifteen years. It was all I could think about. It was all I talked about. It was my calling from God. I was a true believer. I thought the Bible Wheel fulfilled two passages from Zechariah which I called the Capstone Prophecies. Here are my opening words from that article:
Divine Revelation is True Light. When the Spirit of God illuminates His Word, we know His Truth with the same certainty a blind man would have if he received sight. Everything suddenly comes into focus with perfect clarity. We can walk without stumbling in the Daylight of God’s Word. All the pieces effortlessly fit together with supernatural grace when the vision of the Whole is received. Ten thousand witnesses lift their voices in unison to confirm God’s Word. There is no perplexing doubt, no confusion. Scripture super-abundantly conforms to its own reiterative command that “every word” must be established “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” (Deut 19:15, Mat 18:16, 2 Cor 13:1). There is nothing but light, Light, LIGHT that drives out any shadow of darkness. The Gates of Heaven are thrust open; the Divine Perfection of the Holy Word shines like the noontime sun in a cloudless sky for all to see. This is the overwhelming power of God’s prophetic Capstone. Enigmatic clouds that have shrouded the self-reflective prophecies of God’s Word given within the Word itself, such as Ezekiel’s Wheels and Zechariah’s Stone, simply evaporate in the light of its blazing glory.
The Bible Wheel, the Object of my Fascination
Those words accurately represented what I believed when I wrote them. At the time, I thought they were based on objective evidence. Now I see them as produced by a mind that had utterly hypnotized itself with an amazing “Alphabetic Wheel” of “God’s Word” – a kind of “decoder ring” on supernatural steroids, a coded set of circles within circles encompassing the entire Bible from Aleph to Tav, from beginning to end, in imitation of its own description of the Creator as the Alpha and Omega. It is hard to imagine a more mesmerizing object. It transfixed my mind for over a decade.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I expressed the essence of my self-induced hypnotic fixation when I said “Everything suddenly comes into focus with perfect clarity. All the pieces effortlessly fit together with supernatural grace when the vision of the Whole is received.” That is how it felt to me. That is the subjective experience of a “true believer.” There is no room for doubt when all available attention is focused on The Pattern (and the carefully selected set of facts that confirm it). Read More