Friday, September 23, 2016

Does New Book 'Prove' Belief in Jesus?

Pitre

A new book supposedly “proves” that Jesus really lived, performed miracles and was the divine figure that modern Christians take him to be.  Titled The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ, the text was written by Dr. Brant Pitre, a professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He previously wrote Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper.

 

He is also the latest in a long list of “scholars” who sell their integrity to religious fanatics.  To do that, he must ignore hundreds of years of research and real evidence presented in the Gospels themselves.

 

Papias

To start with, he claims the four Gospels were written by Jesus’ disciples.  If so, that would really buttress any of his historical claims.  However, the disciples could not have written those texts.  Mark, the oldest, wasn’t even mentioned until 130 C.E., about 100 years after Jesus died.  Then, Papias, an early Christian leader, cited both Mark and Matthew.  From inferences in the text, Mark had to have been written after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E., when more than 1 million Jews were killed.  That’s probably 40 years after Jesus died.

 

Matthew and Luke both borrowed extensively from Mark.  About 80 percent of Matthew comes directly from Mark, not the other way around.  So, Matthew and Luke had to be even later.  As such, they could not have been written by a disciple, unless that person was more than 100 years old.  No Christian writer mentions any surviving disciple, an omission that is impossible to imagine.

Ignatius

 

Like Mark, Matthew is not mentioned until the end of the 1st century Papias and then by Ignatius, who also recorded the star of Bethlehem and identified several Jesus quotes, which appear only in Ignatius' letters and in Matthew.  That means that either Ignatius wrote the Gospel or the anonymous author read the letters and inserted the new material in the text.  Either way, the information became available long after the disciples lived.

 

Matthew also separates Christians and Jews, reflecting a reality that didn’t occur until the end of the first century.  For example, he cites “their synagogues” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35; 10:17; 12:9; 13:54), even though early Christians worshiped in synagogues.

 

John

Luke isn’t even mentioned until 140 C.E., and then by Marcion, who would later be declared a heretic.  To him, Luke was the only valid Gospel, and he was referring to a different version than the one used today.  Luke also borrows from Josephus, the Jewish historian of the day.  Josephus did not publish his books on the Roman War with the Jews until 95.  Luke had to have been written after that.

 

John is definitely to be much later, exhibiting Christian beliefs that only developed after Judaism and Christianity completely separated.

 

Then, too, as Pitre certainly knows: the Gospels don’t agree on much.  Here are some very clear examples:

 

In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus traveled about as a preacher for about a year. John has Jesus ministering for two to three years.  Jesus in the first three books goes to Jerusalem only once; in John, he makes three or four trips.  He even has friends in nearby Bethany, which was located on the Mount of Olives just outside Jerusalem.

 

In addition, the first three authors have a different scenario from John for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.  For them, the Last Supper was the first night of Passover.  They insist the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body, met on a holiday to interview Jesus and then had him handed over to the Romans. 

 

Modern view of Jesus' arrest

In contrast, John has Jesus arrested the day before Passover.  He is also crucified and buried before Passover.  That way, to John, Jesus represents the lamb traditionally sacrificed prior to the religious holiday.

 

The list of such discrepancies is very long: Mathew and Luke think Jesus was born in Bethlehem in different years; Mark and John do not.  John thinks Jesus was 50; the other three believe he was about 30; and so on.

 

None of that counters Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus.  Belief doesn’t require a single fact.  At the same time, however, historical research has proven conclusively that the Gospel texts disagree and that they do not reflect actual history.  In fact, as the Roman Catholic Church admits, the texts contain “the belief” of the authors and nothing more.

 

When an author tries to build a book on that kind of shifting sand, he is writing not to “prove” anything, but for two more compelling reasons: to buttress his own faith and to make money. 

 

The latter incentive always proves the most powerful in the world of Christian theology, where believers easily invest gobs of money in any absurdity,

 

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. 

 He is the author of the famed novel The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus as well as The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

In addition, you can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1





 

 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Birther Movement: Old Lie with a New Twist




Obama

The Birther movement refuses to join such absurdities as phrenology and astrology in the trashcan of history.  Birthers believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya and therefore not qualified to be president of the United States since the Constitutional requirement for a president is that the person has to be born in the United States.

That issue should have dissolved once Obama produced his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii.   However, that didn’t silence the lunatic fringe.  The outcry wasn’t even muted when fact-checkers pointed out that Sen. John McCain, Obama’s 2008 opponent, was born in Panama.  Or Sen. Ted Cruz, a 2012 and 2016 opponent, was born in Canada.

Obama birth certificate
Cruz went so far as to insist that being born of an American parent anywhere made the baby American, despite all legal evidence to the contrary.  Besides, as Cruz, a birther, never hesitated to ignore, Obama’s mother is American.

Finally, the reality that Obama leaves office in January at the end of two terms has also failed to quell the birther claims.  It seems pretty late in the day to continue such nonsense.

Trump as a Birther
The absurd claim has rattled on because Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has encouraged it long before he actually ran for office.  As a candidate, he didn’t correct a speaker at a New Hampshire political rally who called Obama a non-American Muslim even though Obama belongs to a Southern Baptist church and has been Christian his entire life although his father was Muslim.  After all, Trump has been a major proponent of the Birther movement.

Now, finally, he has recanted.  Obama is really American.  We can all rejoice.  However, being Trump, he can’t resist adding a lie.  He claims that Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent for the White House, started the movement.  That’s untrue.

According to Politifact, an independent website that examines political claims: “There is no record that Clinton herself or anyone within her campaign ever advanced the charge that Obama was not born in the United States.  No journalist who investigated this ever found a connection to anyone in the Clinton organization.”

Clinton
Moreover, if true, the Trump would be claiming he and Clinton actually agreed on something.  That’s another lie.

So how did the Birther movement start?  Supposedly, according to a published account, a Clinton volunteer in Texas, Linda Starr, initiated the rumor and then convinced an attorney to pursue it.  A state Federal Court refused to hear the argument, and the appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Clinton was not involved, nor was any member of her staff.  

Actually, Clinton completely rejected the claim.  Asked about it by CNN’s Don Lemon, she replied:  "That is – no. That is so ludicrous, Don. You know, honestly, I just believe that, first of all, it’s totally untrue, and secondly, you know, the president and I have never had any kind of confrontation like that.  You know, I have been blamed for nearly everything; that was a new one to me."

Of course, lying is not new for Trump.  It allows him to deflect animosity toward him onto someone else.

The truth be damned.

An old journalism adage is that a correction never catches up with the original story.  Trump is counting on that during his continual effort to ravage the truth.


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. 

He is the author of the famed novel The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus as well as The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

In addition, you can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1





Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Did a Scientist Prove God Exists?



Kaku
Every now and then, some scientist sets out to “prove” that God exists.  It’s an ironic task: God must exist outside science, but someone still wants to use science to “prove” existence.

The latest is theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, who is well known for his many appearances on science shows where he talks about the universe and its various aspects.  He is also one of the scientists behind the revolutionary String Theory, which claims that energy exists not as participles but in strands.

Of course, that’s only a theory.  There’s no proof that strings exist or don’t exist.

Nevertheless, Kaku is sure God does.  He bases his argument on “primitive semi-radius tachyons,” which are imaginary particles that supposedly “are capable of unsticking the universe matter or the vacuum space between particles.”  

To Kaku, the supposed existence of these invisible tachyons “proves” that the universe must have been out together by something intelligent and not at random.

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence,” Kaku said. “Believe me, everything that we call chance today won't make sense anymore. To me, it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

How strange: using the existence of an unproven particle to claim the existence of an unproven deity.

Clockwork universe?
Nevertheless, because of Kaku’s prominence, his argument deserves to be examined and not curtly dismissed.

The first thing to note is that his claim in not new.  Philosophers began insisting back in the 1600s that the university is like a “clock.”  That is, it was put together in an intelligent way and not just some haphazard pieces and then left to run following natural law.  Isaac Newton’s recognition of universal laws helped fuel this idea, which became popular until undermined by modern science.

Newton
It’s also wrong.  Much of what we can see through space probes and other research tools now demonstrates that the universe is anything but organized.  As English geneticist J.B.S. Haldane commented (although the quote is also attributed to others), “The universe is not only stranger than we   imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”  

Newton had no way of knowing that the universe is definitely not akin to clockwork. Kaku should.

Secondly, a God who creates a universe does not correspond to a God that everyone prays to.  Under Kaku’s formula, God created and then departed.  That’s known as deism, and it is not endorsed by any organized religion.  It’s certainly not the deity billions of people worldwide worship.

Kaku accepts that limitation.  In a 2011 interview, he stated: “There really are two kinds of Gods. If God is the God of intervention, the personal God, the God of prayer, the God that parts the waters, then I have a hard time believing in that. Does God listen to all our prayers for a bicycle for Christmas, or to smite the Philistines? Einstein believed in the God of order and harmony, simplicity and elegance. The universe is gorgeous, and it didn’t have to be that way.”

Aviezar
Then, too, Kaku is incorrect to argue that the universe is too complex to occur by happenstance.  Nathan Aviezer, an Orthodox Jewish American-Israeli physicist and a physics professor at Bar-Ilan University, pointed that “complicated items do form by themselves. Crystals and chemical reactions are the most complicated things, and they happen by themselves. My favorite example is snowflakes, which each form uniquely by themselves. But that is not proof there is a God.”

Finally, we live in this universe because it follows natural rules.  Scientists are now theorizing that multiple universes exist, some of which are dead and barren; others which may have different dimensions.  In essence, we exist because this universe just happened to contain the correct design that supports life.
Life evolved because it could, not because some invisible deity organized everything.

In fact, our evolution has reached a stage that even an eminent physicist can make an absurd claim about a unproven deity using imaginary particles to buttress his specious argument.

Sounds pretty random after all.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com. 
 He is the author of the famed novel The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus as well as The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.
In addition, you can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion, at http://www.udemy.com/comparative-religion-for-dummies/?promote=1