Reader’s Questions: Is there a God? Who was Jesus?

I received these questions in a comment from “Skybreaker” under my article Debunking Myself: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Hi Richard,

It must be over 10 years since I bought your book and I am very surprised about your change of faith. Therefore Im also quite curious to what your current worldview looks like, so… if you`re able and willing, please let me know the following :

1.Is there a God?
2.Who do you think Jesus is / was? Or do you believe he didnt exist at all?

Please elaborate if possible.

Thanks.

Hey there Skybreaker,

I do not know if there is a God.  I’m open to the idea that there could be some sort of “mystical God” that is the Ground of Being, much like philosophical Idealism that posits Mind in that role. But such a God is nothing like the Gods of the mainstream religions invented by humans such as Allah, Krishna, Yahweh, and Zeus. Those God’s almost certainly do not exist since they have false and/or self-contradictory properties. For example, the God of Reformed Christianity is believed to have ordained “whatsoever comes to pass” and yet holds the creature, which had no freedom to choose otherwise, responsible for doing what was preordained. This is an incoherent doctrine. Likewise, they teach that God is good, loving and merciful, and yet that he created an infinite evil of eternal conscious torment in hell for those creatures he created with the intent of tormenting them forever. Such doctrines are obviously absurd. No such God could exist, because real beings cannot have self-contradictory properties.

I was always inclined towards the “mystical God” or just “Universal Consciousness” but I really don’t have a good reason to believe that is true. It seems unlikely given the apparent dependence of mind upon matter (brain), but I don’t rule it out entirely. And when I think about it, I wonder why it would matter anyway? What am I? Why would it matter if I continue to exist after this body dies? If I cease to exist, it obviously won’t bother me. And if it mattered and it was important that I knew there is a God, s/he would certainly have revealed it to us. But that has not happened, so I don’t worry about it.

As for the existence of Jesus, there’s not much to believe about him since even if he existed, it is impossible to separate the myth from the historical man. The one thing we can know with great certainty is that many of the Biblical statements about him are not true, because they are mutually contradictory.

Thanks for the questions. Sorry for the slow response. I’ve been distracted a lot lately. I look forward to discussing these topics with you.

Richard

 

 

 

Posted in Losing My Religion

The Times They Are A Changin’

The times continue their incessant change (both inside and out), as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (535 BC – 475 BC) famously observed. And while looking up that quote for this post, I learned that he also was responsible for “establishing the term Logos (λόγος) in Western philosophy as meaning both the source and fundamental order of the Cosmos.” I knew that John had based his theology on existing secular philosophy, but did not realize it had originated five centuries earlier.

The changes in the outer world are pretty much the same as they have been throughout record history – hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, senseless mass murder – though it’s probably safe to say that the intensity of the last few months has spiked a bit above average. Those without a sense of history take these latest perturbations as evidence that we have finally reached the “end times” that were promised to be “coming quickly” in the Bible two thousand years ago. It’s a pity that the fundamentalist mindset makes it impossible for them to see the irony of their position.

Meanwhile, my internal changes have continued on their relatively smooth trajectory towards a more settled sense of self. One of the big questions was “What should I do with this site?” I’ve neglected it quite a bit lately, busying myself with work and recreation. It took a lot of work to set everything up again after the crash, and with work and recreation, there wasn’t much time or energy left to write posts and answer questions. But that’s changing now. I have the site working better than before. I installed SSL for security and upgraded this blog to a new theme that is responsive for mobile clients. I have lots of new ideas for where I want to take it. But first I will begin by responding to a lot of unanswered comments in various threads.

The recreation has really helped me tremendously both physically and mentally. Rose and I typically ride over a hundred miles a week, and just last week I joined the Bearded Monkeys of Yakima for a 100 mile ride called Field 41 Century. It was excellent. I felt strong, healthy, and energetic. I finished the 100 miles in 5 hours 39 minutes, at an average pace of 17.7 mph. You can checkout the ride on my Strava page. Here I am with my bike just before the ride:

At the start of the Field 41 Century ride.

At the start of the Field 41 Century ride.

And here I am near the finish line:

At the finish of the Field 41 Century ride.

At the finish of the Field 41 Century ride.

Rose and I also get out for an intense hike once a week. They typically take up most of our Saturdays. Last week we conquered the 3350 foot climb up to Goat Peak. It was only a six mile round trip, so the average grade was about 20%. Here’s a panorama from the top:

View from the top of Goat Peak

View from the top of Goat Peak

We would have been very hesitant to stress our middle aged knees on such a descent if not for the amazing assistance provided by our Nordic Walking Poles which also gives a full body workout. They are the best hiking innovation since the invention of the shoe. We call them our “magic sticks” because they have totally transformed our hiking experience, giving us an aerobic upper body workout while easily doubling our endurance and reducing knee strain to almost nothing.

On top of Goat Peak

On top of Goat Peak

 

And on that note … it’s time for Rose and I to head out for our Saturday hike. Today we are going to head north on the Pacific Crest Trail from Chinook Pass.

 

Posted in Thinking Freely

The forum is back up now

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.

Posted in What's New?

As you can see, the site is no longer down. ;)

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!

Posted in Bible Wheel

On the Couch with Psychoanalyst Terry Blanchard

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 ›

Posted in Losing My Religion, Why Christianity is False

Is God Trustworthy? The Root of Religious Delusion

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 ›

Posted in Why Christianity is False

Debunking Dan Gleason, the “Jesus is a Circle” guy

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 ›

Posted in Debunking Bullshit

The Isaiah-Bible Coincidence Debunked

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 ›

Posted in Bible Wheel, Debunking Myself

Debunking Myself: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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 ›

Posted in Bible Wheel, Debunking Myself, Losing My Religion

The Bible Wheel: Patternicity on Steroids

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 ›

Posted in Bible Wheel, Bible Wheel Book, Debunking Myself, Losing My Religion