Organized Religion

Please check out my forum, consider joining, and respond to this post here…

http://athans255.freeforums.net/thread/88/organized-religion

Most atheists and even many believers have a problem with organized religion, whether that be a church in general or something like the Catholic Church. My question is WHY is organized religion bad and how do you define it.

I ask this for a couple of reasons. First I want to point out that I do understand the problems we have had in the past, as well as current issues. I do certainly believe it is a problem when the Church is seen as a powerful political leader, like the Catholic Church used to be. The Catholic Church literally used to control Europe. Then of course we have the Church of England to a lesser extent and things such as Islamic governments in the Middle East. I doubt very many people would agree with the power and influence of those I listed above, except for the extremely religious, and of course they would want it to be their preferred faith. I think we can agree this causes major problems.

I guess what I want to focus on is a particular denomination or branch of a religion or even a specific Church. We certainly have issues with priests, and people in leadership positions, raping or molesting young children. This is always a problem. We also have bad denominations, such as the FLDS (Fundamentalists Latter Day Saints,) which could be considered a cult. I guess I want to randomly mention the Church of Scientology, which is a cult and does horrible things. There are also single Churches that are problems, such as some of the mega churches or churches like Westboro Baptist Church (which is unaffiliated with the Baptist Church.) We also read a book about Pentecostal snake handlers, which I have a serious problem with due to them allowed children near dangerous animals and teaching them that screwing with these animals is okay. Once again, I do not think anyone will agree these things are good. But does this make ALL organized religion bad?

The reason I bring up this topic is because of currently experiences as well as my upbringing and studies. As many of you know, our children are baptized and will be raised loosely Christian (meaning at a Liberal church that doesn’t pound it into their head so bad they will never recover.) Many atheists disagree with this and do not understand how I can do this being a non-believer. First, I am not religious, I do not believe in Christ as my personal savoir, so rubbing a little bit of water on their head does not mean anything to me. Most important, it is important to my wife and her family and since I do not believe, I do not care. I also plan on telling my kids the story of Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy and I assume there will not be any long term affects.

Anyways, my son is currently going to pre-school at my wife’s church (Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church) and everything about the place makes me feel good. Everyone is friendly and happy. One of the staff members is the sister of one of my wife’s best friends growing up. I like her very much and my younger son has a crush on her. Nearly all of my son’s friends are from this church. When we go there for his different preschool events, they are always a positive experience. We had one recently where we went around and did different activities and finished in a room with one of the pastors leading the kids in singing. My younger one, the one not actually in the class was the star of the show and made everyone laugh. It is true they sang about God and Jesus and guess what? I did not melt…nor did I leave a brainwashed believer. Everything about the place makes me feel good. We have donated food to their box for the food shelf. Nearly every time I go in there I wish I could work there just because of how the place makes me feel. The problem is I have that little not believing in God problem…

Besides this experience I have extensive experience in dealing with many different religions and denominations. I was raised loosely Lutheran Christian (I did Sunday school and we went to church on the holidays.) I went on a number of church trips and camps. I asked for Jesus into my life and for a sign. I never got one. Yet I only have good memories. The church I went too was fairly Liberal though I think they did lean Conservative on a few things, such as evolution. There were a couple other minor things but overall, it was mostly positive.
I was also a Chaplin’s assistant while in Tech School in the US Air Force. While in Basic Training I went to Mormon services. Both were positive experiences, especially going through those tough conditions.

Between my wife going to an all-girl Catholic University and my major in religious studies, as well as traveling to Europe and the Middle East with the Air Force, I have been to large variety of services and gatherings of many different religions and denominations. Nearly every single one was positive…or at least not negative. I always found the Mormons to be very friendly and I like their family aspect. I also appreciated the lack of judgment by the Catholics. I have gone to Catholic services more than anything else, at a number of different churches. I never take Communion, especially at Catholic churches because to do not allow non-Catholics to take Communion. Here is the thing though…not a single place ever asked people if they were Catholic or not, in addition to that not once have I received a dirty look, or even a look, or NOT taking Communion. My favorite was the Baha’I gathering. Their policy is that they can only accept donations from members. If a non-member donates, it is given to charity.

This has been my extensive experience. So I ask…do you simply dislike organized religion because you dislike religion or the way the media has portrayed it? Do you simply dislike it because the particular church you were brought up in was one of the “bad” ones? Do you believe not all organization is the same and some groups are not only not harmful, but positive? Or are they all bad? Is it the organization that is bad? I ask that because many atheists organize into groups…How do you define organized religion and what are your objections?

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Is Sam Harris being Unfairly Attacked or is he a Dishonest Hypocrite?

I am very familiar with Sam Harris. Richard Dawkins is the only one of the Four Horsemen I have read more of. I have bashed Dawkins and Bill Maher for their views on religion but have only briefly mentioned Harris, so here is a blog for him. He came to my attention again when he was on Real Time with Bill Maher, where Ben Affleck gives the both of them a pretty good beating. Ben Affleck is spot on in his analysis. Here is a link to the video. I will address specific parts later in this bit…

Ben Affleck is not the first person to criticize Sam Harris, in fact, it happens quite frequently. Harris has actually responded to his critics on his website, and actually covers two of the points I wish to touch on. Here is a link to his responses to critics…

http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2

If you read that, you will see one of his biggest grips is about people calling him a racist and a bigot. He states “Such defamation is made all the easier if one writes and speaks on extremely controversial topics…”

Sam Harris is either completely missing the point of the criticism (or intentionally avoiding it,) which is the same point Ben brought up in the video. He is not being criticized for talking about controversial issues. He is not being criticized for calling out the Jihadists and Islamists, he is being criticized because he LUMPS ALL MUSLIMS TOGETHER. He says he is not, and that there are decent Muslims, but this is completely dishonest. Both Sam and Bill proclaim they have numbers, and Sam Harris was nice enough to provide us with some. In the video, Harris says that Jihadists and Islamists make up roughly 20 percent of the Muslim world. So according to Sam Harris, 20 percent is “most?” He is defining and condemning an entire religion based on 20% of them? He also uses the term “conservative Muslim” but fails to give a number.

Let’s use Sam’s logic. According Gallop polls, over 40 percent of Americans believe in creationism. 40 percent is double the 20 percent Sam Harris uses to describe the “Muslim World,” so by his reasoning Sam Harris is just a stupid American that believes in creationism.

Honestly though, Ben and the others make the best argument for those types of numbers. They are the classical racist arguments. They are literally the same as saying “this percentage of black people commit crimes therefore…” They use minority numbers to condemn an entire group of people, to justify their prejudice. Harris backtracks on this claim and states this…

“Okay, I’ll give you what you want. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims, who don’t take the faith seriously, who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS, and we need to defend these people and prop them up and let them reform their faith.”

The fact that Harris says he is not talking about ALL Muslims (even though it is clearly obvious that he is,) is clearly false. He has never said anything positive about Muslims and now he is saying we need to defend them? He has done this type of thing before… in his book Letter to a Christian Nation, he puts a lumping disclaimer at the beginning of the book. It reads as follows…

“Consequently, the ‘Christian’ I address throughout is a Christian in a narrow sense of the term. Such a person believes, at minimum, that the Bible is the inspired word of God and that only those who accept the divinity of Jesus Christ will experience salvation after death.”

“In Letter to a Christian Nation, I have set out to demolish the intellectual and moral pretensions of Christianity in its most committed forms. Consequently, liberal and moderate Christians will not always recognize themselves in the ‘Christians’ I address…”

“I engage Christianity at its most divisive injurious, and retrograde. In this, liberals, moderates and nonbelievers can recognize a common cause.”

To me, this seems fair enough. This book is about the more conservative Christians, the literalists, and not all Christians. It is similar to my lumping disclaimer about atheists. I read his entire book based on this statement and man did it piss me off when I got to the end.

There is a chapter at the end named The Problem with Moderate Religion. In this bit he craps on the very people he is claiming to not be talking about…Here are some selected quotes…
“Religious moderates also tend to imagine that there is some bright line of separation between extremist and moderate religion. But there isn’t. Scripture itself remains a perpetual engine of extremism…”

“Another problem with religious moderation is that it represents precisely the sort of thinking that will prevent a rational and nondenominational spirituality from every emerging in our world.”

“By living as if some measure of sectarian superstition were essential for human happiness, religious moderates prevent such a conversation from ever taking shape.”

At the very least he is guilty of being a horrible writer, lacking the capability to use the correct language to present his views and opinions. However, I find it more plausible that he is dishonest and a hypocrite. How can one say they are only talking about extremists and then say that liberals, moderates, and nonbelievers can recognize a common cause, and then follow that up by saying there is not really a difference between extremists and moderates?
I will emphasize it again…the reason he is being criticized is because he is being dishonest and inconsistent. To Sam Harris, one is either religious or not, there is no middle ground. You are either an atheist or religious extremist. Sam Harris does not like or respect people of religion. That is the definition of bigotry and that is not an unfair attack, it is a conclusion based on his writing about people with religious beliefs.

I have not taken his writing out of context, merely point out contradictions, but one of his biggest complaints of critics is that people take what he says out of context. He points to a bit which Chris Hedges criticizes him about preemptive nuclear war. I have also pointed this out in other blogs because it is one of the most troubling things he has ever written. Here is the bit, copied from the link I posted at the beginning…

“It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the nineteen hijackers may one day get their hands on long-range nuclear weaponry. The Muslim world in particular must anticipate this possibility and find some way to prevent it. Given the steady proliferation of technology, it is safe to say that time is not on our side.”
This is the first bit of his response…

“Clearly, I was describing a case in which a hostile regime that is avowedly suicidal acquires long-range nuclear weaponry (i.e. they can hit distant targets like Paris, London, New York, Los Angeles, etc.). Of course, not every Muslim regime would fit this description.”

Once again, he is trying to throw in the “not all Muslims” but once again he fails to use language that would support that statement. In addition to that, he makes it seem as if he is talking about ANY hostile regime, not just a Muslim one. This is Sam Harris taking Sam Harris out of context. If the book, chapter, or even section was about US foreign policy, he might have an argument, but this bit has nothing to do with that. If one looks at his book, they will see this is in the chapter titled “The Problem with Islam,” in a section titled “Jihad and the Power of the Atom.” In this section there are two paragraphs before the bit I quoted above. This is not being taken out of context, it is purely about the problem with Islam and he justifies preemptive nuclear strikes.

Harris attempts to disguise his beliefs by saying something like this would be “horrible” and “insane,” but he said it, and he makes an excuse for it…

“I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen. Indeed, given the immunity to all reasonable intrusions that faith enjoys in our discourse, a catastrophe of this sort seems increasingly likely.”

So basically he is saying “you made us do it because you believe in a myth and are unreasonable?” Harris is admitting it may be acceptable to kill tens of millions of innocent people! This is sick. Once again, I call this Hitler type stuff. This is not being taken out of context, it is not about US foreign policy, this is about the problems with Islam. There is absolutely no reason for this bit in his book unless he believes this is a legitimate option to dealing with Muslims.

Is Sam Harris being unfairly criticized? He is only being unfairly criticized if he admits he is a horrible writer that adds meaningless stuff to his books and that he is incapable of getting his real message across. I doubt this is the case though. I would not be allowed to speak in the same room with him because of his credentials compared to mine, ask him, he will tell you. The only logical conclusion is he is being fairly criticized, not for discussion the difficult topics, but by lumping all religious people together. He constantly, and clearly, says contradicting statements, whether that is in his speaking or writing. Maybe he is legitimately confused about how he feels about religious people, but then tell us that. Based on his words I think it is more apparent that he knows exactly what he believes and is upset when people call him out on it, as is any racist or bigot when you call them out on it. Anyone feel free to correct me if you think I AM wrong…

My Defense of the Term “Agnostic”

Often on Twitter and even in this blog I have been questioned and/or criticized for my use or definition of the term “agnostic” and “agnosticism.” Some atheists read that I am agnostic and they think that I am “one step away” from becoming an atheist. Others believe atheism and agnosticism are one in the same. The final group states that agnosticism is about knowledge, where as atheism is a conclusion.

Regardless of which group one falls in to they are often dissatisfied with my definition or use of the term agnostic. They question my credibility or intelligence because of my inability to use a dictionary and they argue that I cannot make up my own definition. There is an example of this here in this blog where I am talking about my transformation story…

https://stern255.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/how-i-went-from-atheist-to-agnostic/

People point me to a dictionary and explain etymology the word “agnostic…”

“ Agnostic (from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-), meaning ‘without’, and γνῶσις (gnōsis), meaning ‘knowledge’)…”-Wikipedia

They also use dictionary definitions, but the problem with that is they the definitions vary…

Agnostic-

a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.-Google

a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.-Dictionary.com

a person who does not have a definite belief about whether God exists or not-merriam-webster.com

Even if one uses a dictionary definition, they have to actively choose which dictionary or which definition they are going to use and why.

They also point out agnosticism is about knowledge and show me pictures like this one…

Agnostic v Gnostic v Atheist v Theist

Besides the fact that the Merriam-Webster definition says NOTHING about “knowledge,” who created this picture and what makes it an authority? Is it simply accepted because a lot of people post it on Twitter?

Either way I am questioned and criticized about my use of the term for the reasons above. The final thing they say is that I cannot make up my own definition for words, there is a reason we have language. Actually I can and people do all the time. The key is providing of the details and reasoning behind a working definition.

When I am criticized for the reasons above, people are actually showing their shallow knowledge of the topic. I have studied religion, atheism, philosophy, and science and based my definitions and opinions on that. The people criticizing me demonstrate that their knowledge is limited to Googling the definition of a word or passing pictures around twitter. Let me explain why this makes their knowledge on the term shallow. Using only Wikipedia, I can show their lack of ability to look up the history of a term.

Above I quoted something from Wikipedia…

“Agnostic (from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-), meaning ‘without’, and γνῶσις (gnōsis), meaning ‘knowledge’)…”-Wikipedia

This is actually the entire quote…

“Agnostic (from Ancient Greek ἀ- (a-), meaning ‘without’, and γνῶσις (gnōsis), meaning ‘knowledge’) was used by Thomas Henry Huxley in a speech at a meeting of the Metaphysical Society in 1869 to describe his philosophy, which rejects all claims of spiritual or mystical knowledge.”-Wikipedia

If we go to the top of the page, it explains this…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnosticism

“Thomas Henry Huxley, an English biologist, coined the word agnostic in 1869. However, earlier thinkers have written works that promoted agnostic points of view. “
See, the term was coined by Thomas Henry Huxley, who created his own definition for the term. His definition is the definition I go by because he is the person that coined the term. The question is, what exactly did he say about the term?

To keep it simple, here is some of the stuff from the Wikipedia link above…
Agnostic views are as old as philosophical skepticism, but the terms agnostic and agnosticism were created by Huxley to sum up his thoughts on contemporary developments of metaphysics about the “unconditioned” (William Hamilton) and the “unknowable” (Herbert Spencer). Though Huxley began to use the term “agnostic” in 1869, his opinions had taken shape some time before that date. In a letter of September 23, 1860, to Charles Kingsley, Huxley discussed his views extensively…

“I neither affirm nor deny the immortality of man. I see no reason for believing it, but, on the other hand, I have no means of disproving it. I have no a priori objections to the doctrine. No man who has to deal daily and hourly with nature can trouble himself about a priori difficulties. Give me such evidence as would justify me in believing in anything else, and I will believe that. Why should I not? It is not half so wonderful as the conservation of force or the indestructibility of matter …”

Of the origin of the name agnostic to describe this attitude, Huxley gave the following account:

“When I reached intellectual maturity and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain “gnosis”–had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And, with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion …

So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of “agnostic”. It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the “gnostic” of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant. … To my great satisfaction the term took.”

Bertrand Russell even agrees with my definition…

In his 1953 essay, What Is An Agnostic? Russell states:

“An agnostic thinks it impossible to know the truth in matters such as God and the future life with which Christianity and other religions are concerned. Or, if not impossible, at least impossible at the present time.”

My final quote comes from the intro on the Wikipedia page…

“According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, in the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively.”

I know about Huxley because I studied the history and philosophy of science but my transformation, which I speak about in that blog, was written (not posted) BEFORE I ever read anything Huxley wrote (other than his short definition which was mentioned in a class), oddly enough, our stories are very similar and we come to many of the same conclusions. Like Huxley, the more I learned the more I evolved and the more I realized how much we do not know. I went from being an atheist to growing to the point of understanding that we cannot know the big answer. We both also noticed the “gnosis” in atheists claims. They fight tooth and nail and play semantic games, but many atheists certainly APPEAR to be making a truth claim. Agnosticism is not the same as atheism and Rowe (in the quote above) explains this. Both Huxley and I read much of the same arguments and philosophers, made the same observations, and came to the same conclusion. This is due to my studies in the area and observations of engagements with atheists.

I often hear the term “agnostic atheist,” and I too have used it to describe myself. The important part to that is that I state the “atheist” part is simply my opinion if I were forced to make a guess. It is not based on science. However, I personally do not like the term and I feel the terms are contradictory or redundant when used together.

They are contradictory because agnostic is about not knowing and not being able to know where atheism is essentially making a truth claim. It is literally saying “I don’t know if there is a god or not and I do not believe there is a god. If one does not know, there is no reason to attach the disclaimer that one does not believe. The reason the term agnostic atheist is used is because adding “I do not know” allows atheists to avoid providing evidence for their claim.

Huxley intended, and made clear, that atheism and agnosticism are different. When I say I am agnostic, I do not need to attach another label to the end. I do not need to specify that I do not believe in a god because I have already stated I do not believe we can know. Agnostic is also not the “transition” to becoming an atheist when I reach “enlightenment,” it is actually the opposite.

To suggest that I am making up a definition or using the definition incorrectly is ignorant. It is not that I lack the ability to look at a picture or use a dictionary, simply that I actually understand the origin and meaning of the term as opposed to having abilities limited to looking at a picture or looking up a definition. Use the term as you choose and give it the definition you desire, but do not suggest that my definition is less correct than yours or that I somehow lack your amazing intellect.

A Response to Atheism and Belief

I came across this blog and I felt like it was worth posting here. I am posting this because I have heard this argument more than once. It is in regards to atheism being a belief. Here is a link to the entire blog…

http://whatisatheism.blogspot.com/2014/09/is-atheism-belief.html

I am going to post the entire blog post here along with my response…

Is Atheism A Belief?

Is atheism a belief? If you are an open atheist on social media, you have probably come across this question more than once. I have personally been told that “you believe that there is no god, so therefore it is a belief.” This is incorrect. I have disbelief in a god or gods, which is a subtle, but important difference.

Let’s take a look at this. Here are the definitions from dictionary.com.

Belief:

    noun

1.

something believedan opinion or conviction:

a belief that the earth is flat.

2.

confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediatelysusceptible to rigorous proof:

a statement unworthy of belief.

3.

confidence; faith; trust:

a child’s belief in his parents.

4.

a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith:

the Christian belief.

Disbelief:

noun

1.

the inability or refusal to believe or to accept something as true.

2.

amazement; astonishment:

We stared at the Taj Mahal in disbelief.

Not only does the word disbelief fit the description better, but the term “belief in no god” is in and of itself contradictory. I think “no belief in god” would be more accurate, but still is still a bit clunky.

You might ask yourself why I have taken the time to even write this post. The answer is simple. There are many theists out there that are trying to prove that atheism is a religion based on the idea that if they can manipulate words, they can prove their point. This is idiotic and goes to show how desperate they are becoming to try and prove that they are right.
If you come across someone spouting this nonsense, feel free to post this link. It will save you a bit of trouble.
Here is my response to their blog post…
Part 1
Hello there. I too am an atheist. Oddly enough, I double majored in History and Religious Studies (if you do not know what this is, I suggest Googling it, because it is not the same as theology, it is the scholarly study of religion.) I look forward to reading the blog and wanted to comment on this topic.To start, and I think this post shows it, atheists are afraid of the word “belief.” They see it as something negative, it is not. To not have a belief is the same as not being able to coherently reason their way through an issue.

You use a definition from dictionary.com which I believe still supports my argument, but here are some definitions from Merriam-webster.com…

be•lief
noun \bə-ˈlēf\
: a feeling of being sure that someone or something exists or that something is true
: a feeling that something is good, right, or valuable
: a feeling of trust in the worth or ability of someone

I believe a lot of things, such as evolution, because of the overwhelming scientific evidence. I am often corrected that I “accept” evolution. Here is the problem with that statement…

Here is a definition of the word “accept…”
ac•cept
əkˈsept/
verb
1.
consent to receive (a thing offered).
“he accepted a pen as a present”

2.
believe or come to recognize (an opinion, explanation, etc.) as valid or correct.
be•lieve
verb \bə-ˈlēv\
: to accept or regard (something) as true
: to accept the truth of what is said by (someone)
: to have (a specified opinion)

We can cherry-pick definitions and play a semantics game, but many definitions of “believe,” “belief,” and “accept” mean the same thing and have the “opposing” words in their definitions. There is not harm in believing something, it is not a negative thing. What is important is WHY you believe something. I believe things because of science and history, while others believe things based on faith.

Part 2
To your second point, you state that theists argue this point to show that atheism is a religion. This is not a pathetic attempt by theists. Though most atheists are clearly not religious, SOME are clearly religious or portray the traits of a religion. The most militant atheists are the more religious ones, those such as the New Atheists.The reason they are being called religious is not because they “believe” something, it is because how scholars of religion define religion. Contrary to popular belief, religion is not define as “believing something” or “belief in a god.” In the scholarly world, there is no universally accepted definition of religion, but most scholars of religion have a working definition that is not so narrow. One of the top scholars of religion, Stephen Prothero, defines religion as displaying the four Cs…

“ ‘Religion is now widely defined, by scholars and judges alike, in functional rather than substantive terms. Instead of focusing on some creedal criterion such as belief in God, we look for family resemblances’ (p. 324). Members of the family of religions typically exhibit Four Cs: creed (statements of beliefs and values), cultus (ritual activities), code (standards for ethical conduct), and community (institutions).”

In his book, God is Not One, he makes the argument that SOME atheists display the characteristics of religion. This is not the “theist view” this is the SCHOLARLY VIEW, which atheists get butt-hurt about. Atheists always point to the scholars and experts but they tend to want to ignore them when it does not support their previously held opinion-dogma. We see dogma in many atheists. Richard Dawkins, a biologist, for example, states that religion is like a virus or disease. This is not a scientific statement. This argument dates back to Freud, nearly a century ago. It was not science then and is not science now. Freud believe in Lamarckian evolution for Christ sake…When you present claims that are clearly not supported by scientific evidence as fact, and cannot change an opinion on the topic, it is a dogmatic belief.

I am an atheist, this is not a manipulation of words, this is the opinion of scholars. Atheists are much better at manipulating words, “believers” just use the word “faith” to make their arguments. This entire argument is a semantic battle. There is nothing wrong with believing something. There are two things atheists need to do…

1. Realize you are arguing apples vs. oranges
2. Focus on what beliefs can be scientifically supportedEvolution can be scientifically supported, Genesis cannot. There are also questions we cannot answer in a lab, such as, WHY/HOW the Big Bang and the origin of life. Though there is no reason to suggest “God did it,” it does leave the question open to debate.

I hope this reply helps atheists and theists a like and adds to your blog.
-Kevin

I will update this post with any response or reaction they have. Thanks for reading!

Culture vs. Religion: The Catholic Church

I constantly say that culture and society are more of a driving force than religion. Headlines the last few days have made this painfully obvious, so I wanted to quickly discuss it. The argument made by most atheists is that religion, and religion alone, cause people to believe the things they do and act how they act. Our perfect example to refute this claim comes from the Catholic Church.

When someone mentions Catholic, one thing comes to mind, the Pope. The Catholics are well known for having a Catholic hierarchy, lead by the Pope. The bishops are the successors of Christ’s apostles, with the Pope being the successor to Saint Peter. Basically what the Church says goes. To quote Wikipedia…

”The Church maintains that the doctrine on faith and morals that it presents as definitive is infallible.”

If the Church IS the Word, and religion causes people to hold the beliefs they do, Catholics would accept what the Catholic Church has to say about things. However, this is clearly not the case. The current Pope has said many things that go against Conservative Catholic beliefs but I will focus on the most recent story about the Catholic Church. Here is the headline…

Vatican proposes ‘stunning’ shift on gays, lesbians

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/10/13/vatican-proposes-stunning-shift-on-gays-lesbians/

In 2013 Pope Francis said about gays and lesbians, “who am I to judge?” When Pope Francis made the comment Catholics clearly did not follow his lead. Not only do Conservative Catholics judge gays, they actively engage in politics that deprive them of rights guaranteed in the United States Constitution. Apparently though, this latest statement was too much. The major quote from the Vatican is as follows…

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?”

The article, and has previously been reported, the Catholic Church has become more liberal about topics such as birth control. This really upset Conservative Catholics and this was the headline a day later…

Under conservative assault, Vatican backtracks on gay comments

http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/14/world/vatican-backtrack-gays/

Here are a few quotes from the article…

“Under furious assault from conservative Catholics, the Vatican backtracked Tuesday on its surprisingly positive assessment of gays and same-sex relationships.”

“But many conservatives complained that the statement watered down church teaching and did not accurately reflect their discussions here, where nearly 200 Catholic leaders are meeting to debate pastoral approaches to modern family life.”

“In response to such reactions, the Vatican backtracked a bit Tuesday. In a statement, it said the report on gays and lesbians was a “working document,” not the final word from Rome.

The Vatican also said that it wanted to welcome gays and lesbians in the church, but not create “the impression of a positive evaluation” of same-sex relationships, or, for that matter, of unmarried couples who live together.”

Even though the Word of the Catholic Church, the Vatican, is definitive and infallible, and even though the report more closely sides with the Pope’s remarks, all it took was outrage from Conservative Catholics to send the Church running with their tail between their legs. They backtracked and tried to fix it by calling it a “working document.”

My question to you is who here is in control? Even though Catholics are split about 50/50 (according to Pew Polls and Presidential election stats) Liberal/Conservative, the Conservative half quickly and effectively made the Vatican, the definitive and infallible Word, change their statement.

Catholics that are opposed to gay marriage and other issues will certainly cite their religion as the reason for their beliefs, which will cause atheists to blame religion but this is ignoring the Liberal Catholics that support gay marriage and other issues. The fact that only half of Catholics hold these views, and the fact that they went against the Church and even changed the Church’s Word, demonstrates that Conservative Catholics are driven by CULTURE and POLITICS, not religion.

Bill Maher Is Wrong About Religion

Most people would not question Bill Maher’s stance on religion, but I am not one of those people. I think Bill (I call him Bill because I think of him as a friend, though I have never met him) is a brilliant guy and I agree with him 99 percent of the time. He typically does his research and gets his facts, but when it comes to religion, he is very biased. He is like Richard Dawkins in the way he ignores experts and makes unscientific claims. He is a hypocrite on the matter of religion. I own his movie Religulous, and enjoy it, for the most part, but he is untruthful about one thing…He keeps saying “I don’t know!” For someone that doesn’t know, one way or another, he makes very bold claims about believers.

This blog was inspired by his debate on Real Time with Brian Levin. Here is a bit about Brian Levin…

http://criminaljustice.csusb.edu/facultystaff/levin.htm

Brian Levin

Criminologist and civil rights attorney Brian Levin is a professor of criminal justice and Director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino where he specializes in analysis of hate crime, terrorism and legal issues. 

Previously, Professor Levin served as Associate Director-Legal Affairs of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Klanwatch/Militia Task Force in Montgomery, Alabama; Legal Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnic and Racial Violence in Newport Beach, Ca. and as a corporate litigator for the law firm of Irell & Manella. He was also a New York City Police Officer in the Harlem and Washington Heights sections of Manhattan during the crack wars of the 1980s.

Prof. Levin began his academic career as an associate professor at Stockton College in New Jersey in 1996. Mr. Levin is a graduate of Stanford Law School, where he was awarded the Block Civil Liberties Award for his work on hate crime. He is a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States and the state of California. 

He is the author or co-author and editor of books, scholarly articles, training manuals and studies on extremism and hate crime. He was also the author of briefs in the Supreme Court case of Wisconsin v. Mitchell in 1992-3, where he analyzed criminological data establishing hate crime’s severity. His book, the Limits of Dissent is about the Constitution and domestic terrorism. His research has been cited by The California Court of Appeals and in numerous scholarly journals and major law reviews.

Prof. Levin has testified before both houses of Congress, the US Commission on Civil Rights and various state legislatures on hate and terrorism. He has presented instruction and/or advised the Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, Treasury Dept., U.S. Customs, American Bar Association, American Prosecutor’s Research Institute, National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council, National Bar Association, National College of District Attorneys, National District Attorneys Association, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, International Association of Chiefs of Police and numerous police departments, colleges, universities and human rights organizations.

Mr. Levin is a court certified expert on extremism in the United States and England. He has appeared on every network and cable television evening news broadcast and various network magazine shows on the subjects of extremism, civil rights and criminal law. He has also appeared in every major American newspaper, newsmagazine and wire service as well as four other continents.

In 2003, Professor Levin was selected to research terrorism for both a Hispanic Serving Institution fellowship from the United States Department of Agriculture and as a Visiting Scholar with the FBI Academy’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico, Virginia. Professor Levin was named Outstanding Faculty member by the College of Extended Learning and wa co-recipient of the University’s Diversity Award in 2005. In 2005 Professor Levin was invited by the Metropolitan Police to make a presentation on hate crime in London and by the National Academies to make a presentation on terrorism at an international conference in Helsinki. 

The thing that really got me was when Bill said his facts are simply wrong. Being a Religious Studies scholar, I tend to side with Mr. Levin. I also find it ironic that Bill full-heartedly accepts scholars on climate change, but not on religion. Why do you assume you know more Bill?

Following, I will respond to the key points of their discussion…

Bill claims that not all religion is a like. Nothing is ever perfectly analogous, but for the most part, I find religion very similar. Islam is no different than Christianity. What Bill forgets is that culture and society play a role. The topic of religion is complex and not black and white, as Bill assumes. Culture and society are often the driving forces and cannot be separated from religion. This is especially true with Islam. Their culture and religion is blended together and cannot be separated. Bill totally ignores the cultural aspect and simply focuses on the religion, which ignores the bigger picture.

Bill admits there are good Muslims but suggests that Mr. Levin is wrong about his facts. No, Levin is perfectly correct…Muslim extremists are a fringe group. There are 1.4 Billion Muslims in the world and the vast majority are good people just trying to live a good life. Muslims will admit that 10% are the fundamentalist Muslims that follow the Qu’ran to a T. They are the terrorists and want to see non-believers killed. Whether they act on this is another story. What we are ignoring is the simple math…These Muslims are only 10%, a minority…but 10% of 1.4 Billion people is 140 million, a very significant group. The point is that there are a lot of these fundamentalists Muslims, that are the extremists that Bill speaks of, but they are a minority and do not represent Islam as a whole. The vast majority of Muslims, like Christians, are good people.

Bill claims that this religion (Islam) behaves differently. He admits that at other points in history, Christianity was the problem, but now, Islam is the problem. No, religion is religion. What is different is the other major driving factor…culture.

As is mentioned, religion or ideology can be used as an excuse but is not a bad thing in itself. (To the fact that religion and ideology itself is not a bad thing, Bill responded with “really? Interesting…”) The real issues dates back to the Crusades, but more strongly relates to Imperialism. The West took advantage of the Muslim world, deprived them of resources and wealth, and placed boarders that were meant to cause conflict. This is the root of their dislike for the West. It is a political and economic issue that is disguised as religion. Religion is the excuse, not the cause. Politics and economics are the cause of the clash…though in Muslim countries; law, culture, and religion cannot be totally separated. They are not like the United States.

When Mr. Levin is discussing reasons that people do crazy things, he does mention religion and ideology, in which Bill responds “so you admit religion is in there?” That statement proves that Bill thinks religion is a bad thing.  

What Bill does not realize is that Religion provides a lot of good things. Religion contains things such as Karma, the Golden Rule, the teachings of Buddha, the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of Gandhi, Submission, Peace, and Charity. Churches are the largest community contributor.  No one donated more money to hurricane Katrina than Churches did. Religion also gives people the strength to live and to live a good life. It gives them hope and something to look forward to. Even if you disagree, you are wrong to say it does not make a difference.

Even groups here in the US, that many people would consider crazy, provide great lifestyles. Obviously there are crazies like the FLDS, but most Mormons live a very happy and healthy life that has no negative side effects. We also have Jehovah’s Witnesses’ come to the door on a regular basis. They are friendly, non-pushy, and provide us with a lot of reading material. Their intentions are good, not malicious.

The fact is, Bill, Religion does provide more good than harm. You attacked the comparison of Martin Luther King Jr. to terrorists, but the fact of the matter is that they both use(d) religion seriously and make a difference because of it. Religion can be used for good or bad. You, like Richard Dawkins, see it as a disease. I tend to see it as an evolutionary cause. I think it did, and still does, hold a purpose in human existence, and will never disappear.

Bill, for some reason, ignores the scholarship done on religion and ignores the scientific benefits. I love you Bill…but you are wrong on religion. You are not an Islamaphobe, you are a religionaphobe…hopefully you will grow some more and overcome this…

I feel I will expand on this topic in the future…

Rejection of God due to the Bible

To those that know me, it is common knowledge that I do not reject the possibility of their being a god. However, I do reject the Judeo-Christian God. I reject God based on the Bible, which may seem odd because the Bible is most Christian’s evidence for God. The main reason I reject the Bible is because I understand the context of it. This write-up will explain my views and reasoning on this topic. I will add that all of the professors, that I know of, that helped me understand this topic, are religious. Knowing the actual facts and contexts of things does not have to destroy faith unless the person chooses.

There is one thing that we must do to start. We must assume that there is nothing significant about the Bible. We must assume that it is not any different than any other historical document. We must do this because this is how historians and scientists do work. It is called inductive reasoning. We look at the evidence and then draw a conclusion based on the evidence, rather than assuming a conclusion and looking for evidence to support it. No one should have a problem with this, because if the Bible is what Christians and Jews believe it to be, the Bible should have no problem validating itself through this method.

Because we will be looking at the Bible in a historical aspect, I should explain what that means. To save time, here is a link about thinking historically.

http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2007/0701/0701tea2.cfm

This will give you a brief introduction to what exactly historians do.

The most important part, in my opinion, is context. I wrote a short blog explaining why context is so critical. Please read it before continuing on, for it is the most important point.

http://athans-athansblog.blogspot.com/2013/05/pass-and-stow-importance-of-context.html

This demonstrates why it is crucial to understand the context of the Bible. Without the context, they are simply words open to interpretation. Now the question is where do we start?

I think the most obvious place to start is with the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible (HB) because if the God of the HB is not valid, in whatever sense, whatever follows is irrelevant, since Jesus is the son of this Hebrew God. To understand the context of the HB, we must be familiar with the history it came out of.

One should familiarize themselves with the history of the Ancient Near East, specifically what we now call the Middle East and Egypt. Getting a grasp of thousands of years of history is not easy and there is a lot of dry material. I will recommend a few books depending on your interests…

My personal favorite is The Oxford History of the Biblical World edited by Michael Coogan. This is not an easy read and is over 400 pages, much of it being very dry, but it is a great guide to the history we are looking at.

A shorter read is A History of the Ancient Near East by Van De Mieroop.

One should also be familiar with Egyptian history of the same period due to their influence and interactions in the Middle East. Our long, detailed, dry, book is The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw. However I am sure there are dozens of good books on Egypt that are an easier read.

More specifically to this topic, I would suggest How to Read the Bible by Marc Z. Brettler for the serious reader.

To everyone, I would suggest A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible by John J. Collins. This is a book that anyone could read in a day or 2.

If you would prefer to watch something, there is a great bit on NOVA.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/bibles-buried-secrets.html

But to the point…I will briefly hit on the major points since I doubt most people reading this have the time or energy to read the books on their own…

Key points:

Other cultures/people’s and their writings/beliefs.

The origin of the ancient Israelites and Judahites.

Major events and politics of the time.

The “Hebrew” people themselves.

To make this short, when comparing the texts of the Torah (first 5 books of the HB) to other texts of that area, they are a disappointment. Nothing in the Torah is new or original and is dependent on older stories. The Epic of Gilgamesh has a clearer version of the Flood Story, nearly word for word, yet the Epic of Gilgamesh was written nearly 1000 years earlier. Other texts such as Hammurabi’s Law Codes are found word for word in the Torah, and predate it. There is also a striking resemblance between the Torah and the Assyrian Vassal Treaties. The examples are so numerous, that I will leave it at that for the purpose of this blog. Like I said, nothing is the Torah is new or original.

If you think I am exaggerating, look at these 2 portions of the texts…

Genesis

 7 and he sent out a raven, and it flew here and there until the water was dried up from the earth. 
8 Then he sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the land; 
9 but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth. Then he put out his hand and took her, and brought her into the ark to himself. 
10 So he waited yet another seven days; and again he sent out the dove from the ark. 
11 The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the water was abated from the earth. 
12 Then he waited yet another seven days, and sent out the dove; but she did not return to him again.

 Gilgamesh (Full text here http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/tab11.htm)

When a seventh day arrived

I sent forth a dove and released it.

The dove went off, but came back to me;

no perch was visible so it circled back to me.

I sent forth a swallow and released it.

The swallow went off, but came back to me;

no perch was visible so it circled back to me.

I sent forth a raven and released it.

The raven went off, and saw the waters slither back.

It eats, it scratches, it bobs, but does not circle back to me.

 

What are the chances that two different peoples, writing over 1,000 years apart, both have a Raven and a dove? Gilgamesh is actually a clearer story and does not have the contradictions that Genesis does. The contradictions bring up another issue, which I will not go into much detail about, but will briefly mention. The Genesis story is actually 2 stories, by 2 different authors, that were blended together. We know that the Torah had 4 different authors, which had different political affiliations and ways of writing things. We know this by examining the text. There is an interactive program that shows this more perfectly than I could ever explain.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/flood.html

This shows that the Flood story is two separate stories that were combined. We see this in many stories, including the creation story. The creation story for example says God created man and woman at the same time, but it also says God created man and then woman from Adam’s rib. Over the years people have speculated that this meant Adam had two wives. This is where the Lilith myth comes into play. However, the idea of Lilith is unfounded. Like the flood story, the differences are simply because there were multiple sources and multiple authors.

So the Torah was compiled by different authors and is made up of a number of different texts. I know some of you may be thinking that these other texts may be copies of the Bible and that the Bible is the original. Besides the fact we can already see the version of the Bible we have is not the primary text, it is still plausible that there is an older version, a perfect version, which the stories were taken from. However, this is only wishful thinking. We have methods that are used to date things but if you are one of those that believe they are made up, I will explain another issue…The origin of the ancient Israelites and Judahites.

If one is going to argue that the Bible is the primary source, we should investigate when the people actually came into existence. To do this, we need to look at the records of other people to see if they are mentioned. The very first instance in which “Israel” is mentioned, outside of the Bible, is the Merneptah Stele. This Stele is Egyptian and can be very specifically dated to right around 1,200 BCE. When compared with the HB and archeological evidence, we get a clear picture. 1,200 BCE was right around the time we would expect Israel would to start drawing attention. The height of Israel’s power in the region, is around 1,000 BCE, the time of David and Solomon. This is also the point at which the HB starts to match up with, on many but not all, accounts outside of the HB. The HB can now be used as a historical text and used as evidence to evaluate other historical claims.

We know the ancient Israelites were in existence by 1,200 BCE but how long did they exist before that? Well luckily we have a record of peoples living in that area dating back thousands of years. We know when the Canaanites lived in that area and when other peoples invaded them. The conclusion on the date is shortly before our 1,200 BCE date. The big question is HOW they got there. There are four debated theories in the scholarly world. One of these theories is the Out of Egypt theory, or the Exodus story. This is actually the least plausible of the four. There is not a shred of evidence, outside of the Bible, that matches up with the Exodus account. There is no account of these types of people ever being in Egypt, let alone an event such as the Exodus. The Egyptians kept amazing records, even of losses. They kept records of border crossings and still, nothing. They simply did not come from Egypt. So where did they come from? I find a combination of the other three to be the most likely result. The main point in the other 3 are quite simple…they are Canaanites.

            They were most likely outcasts, living in the hills, banning together and raiding cities in the area. When we take this idea and look for evidence of it in the HB, we find a figure that seems to match what we are looking for…David. Oddly enough this is right around the point in the HB when history starts matching up. Also when we look at early Israelite settlements, we find the remains of the Canaanite culture. We find idols such as Yahweh and his wife Asherah. But we also find evidence of a new culture, the Israelite culture, trying to establish a new identity, trying to distance itself from the Canaanite culture. This would be the time the HB started being compiled and/or written.

So our date is around 1,200 BCE for the earliest possible dates of the Biblical texts. Unfortunately for our theory (of the Biblical texts being older,) civilizations, the ones that wrote the other texts, have been around for thousands of years. The Great Pyramids were already ancient at this time. But we have a larger issue I have yet to address. Gods…

As I mentioned above, in case you missed it, I said idols such as Yahweh and his wife Asherah were found in Israelite settlements. For you that are not familiar, Yahweh is the name of God. In the Bible Yahweh is translated to LORD and God is translated from Elohim. Not only does Yahweh take on the identity of the Canaanite god Baal in the Song of the Sea (once again comparing texts) but he has a wife. Israelites were not monotheistic at this point. No one was monotheistic at this point. All of the surrounding cultures were polytheistic and that includes the Canaanites. If one reads the Old Testament carefully, there is not a monotheistic claim until the book of Isaiah. For example, one you have probably heard, “You shall have no other gods…” Does that sound like a monotheistic claim? It does not read “I am the only god.” It means you will not worship the other gods…There is no denial of other Gods. But back to the first monotheistic claim…Isaiah is the first point in which a clearly monotheistic statement is made. Isaiah is also around the time when the Jews were exposed to the Zoroastrians. Zoroastrianism was the religion of nation of Persia. We know this because Isaiah tells us the name of Cyrus of Persia by name. Isaiah explains that God’s Messiah (God’s anointed) Cyrus, liberates the Jews from Babylon. This is also confirmed by the Persian records and the Cyrus Cylinder (though the Jews altered what it said in the Bible to suit their needs.)

So monotheism in the Bible actually first appeared when they were introduced to Zoroastrianism. They were also freed from Babylon and allowed to return to their homelands by Cyrus the Great, God’s Messiah. Other concepts found in Zoroastrianism would be the figure of the Devil, Hell, the idea behind the Holy Trinity, and many more things found in Christianity that are not found in the early part of the Bible. It is not more than obvious that the Jews acquired features of Zoroastrianism AFTER they were liberated and allowed to return to Judah? Cyrus the Great was God’s Messiah, after all, as stated by the book of Isaiah.

Do you see how context is starting to work? Do you see historical events affected what was written? We see the same types of things when looking at the Assyrian Exile and the Babylonian Exile. We see the political conflicts between Judah and Israel in the Bible. What was being written was directly related to the events of the time.

On that note, I will address the prophecies for Jesus. Ironically, Isaiah is often cited as a prophecy for Jesus…Isaiah 7:14

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

When one understands the context of Isaiah and the situation of the Hebrew people of that time, you would know they are in exile in Babylon and are then allowed to return to Judah to rebuild the temple and make it a great nation, once again. The prophecy refers to someone during that time, not someone to come 700 years in the future. We know this because we also study Rabbis and Jewish literature.

By studying Midrashic literature and writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can get an idea how and what these people thought of their writings. We cannot look at the Bible as people look at things today. We cannot assume they were writing “history.” We cannot assume their writings were to be taken as literal. We cannot assume they were opposed to altering the text. We cannot even assume they actually believed the stories because they may have simply been a teaching tool or part of their tradition. When we actually study the language and things such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find that the scribes were not opposed to editing and altering the writings. They do it plain as day and do not appear to have an issue with it. They clearly did not think of this stuff as “the word of God” because they constantly changed it. This was acceptable and not a problem to them. We have evidence that the “final text” found in the OT today had already been edited and changed.

The HB was written during a specific time, by specific people, for a specific reason. This is not speculation class where we decide what the Bible is or means. We study the context of it. We study the history of it. We study the linguistics of it.

The HB is nothing unique or special when compared to other writings from the same time. It is not monotheistic. It is polytheistic (or Henotheistic) at the start and is based on stories from other polytheistic religions. How do these facts equate to the existence of God, the one supreme creator of the universe? How did we start with a bunch of gods, that nearly everyone living today would reject and turn it into the Christian God? I have yet to even take the New Testament into consideration and its legitimacy is already destroyed. It has crumbled at the base. The next step is to examine the claim made by Jesus, that he is the son of the one God, Yahweh…One would imagine that Jesus would have known of the other gods in existence, the ones subordinate to his father. Or was he basing his claims on the popular opinion of the time, which was monotheism? Jesus and the NT are a discussion for another time, which we can have if one so desires, if you feel I have yet to invalidate the Bible.

Of course, you do not have to believe me on any of this stuff. You can spend years reading book after book on your own and come to your own conclusion.