Yes, There Are Atheists (And Religious Minorities) In Foxholes

The whole controversy about the role of religion in the military is much more complicated than the spat over prayer … Continued

The whole controversy about the role of religion in the military is much more complicated than the spat over prayer at mandatory meals (although the ACLU is right and the practice should be ended). The real issue, and it is a real problem, is that right-wing Christian evangelicals, encouraged by the Bush administration and religious conservatives at the top level of the officer corps, have attempted to push their views on non-Christians (and liberal Christians) within the service academies as well and on military bases. Last fall, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (www.militaryreligiousfreedom.org) filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department after a high-level officer disrupted a meeting of atheists and other non-Christian solders on an Army base in Iraq. It is disgusting that the base commander did not immediately discipline an officer who apparently does not believe in the Constitution he is sworn to uphold.

Because soldiers risk their lives in combat–and many derive spiritual comfort from the availability of the clergy–I have no quarrel with the presence of chaplains in the armed services. I don’t believe in immortality, as readers on this thread know, but if I did–and if I were about to give “the last full measure of devotion” for my country–I would want the consolation of a chaplain. But it is a clear violation of the First Amendment to privilege Christianity over other religions, and to privilege religion, and religious soldiers, over those who are not believers. And that is what has been happening.

Earlier this year, the Air Force Academy invited three evangelical Christian converts, who claim to have once been Islamic terrorists, to lecture for a total fee of $13,000. Mainstream Muslim organizations objected, saying that the three so-called “experts” habitually depicted all Muslims as violent. Moreover, the three men’s stories border on sheer fantasy, according to real experts on the Middle East (Muslim and non-Muslim). One of the proposed speakers, Kamal Saleem, talks about how as a child, he crossed the Israeli border to plant bombs in tunnels under the Golan Heights. (Israel reports no such incidents.) Imagine spending taxpayer dollars to propagandize future Air Force officers with this trash. You might as well hire someone dressed as the Easter Bunny to give a lecture on the importance of faith in the Middle East.

In 2005, an Air Force Academy Lutheran chaplain, co-author of a a report criticizing “strident” evangelizing of cadets by Christian officers, said she was fired by the academy’s head chaplain when she refused to retract her statements. Capt. Melinda Morton and Yale Divinity School professor Kristen Leslie reported that an academy chaplain repeatedly urged cadets to pray for those who refused to attend Christian evangelical meetings. It must feel great to be a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, a mainstream Protestant, a Catholic, or a freethinker in such an environment.

This situation has been created not by Christians as a group, but by the extreme Christian right and the current administration’s indebtedness to the Christian right and contempt for the Constitution. The trouble can only be corrected by a renewal of respect for the separation of church and state and by the recognition that chaplains are there to serve soldiers who want their services–not to propagandize soldiers of other religions or no religion. The next president must make this clear to all top-level military commanders. It is a disgrace that any military officer would use his position to encourage one brand of religion or to brand atheists and freethinkers as unfit to serve their country.

“My God is bigger than your God” is an idea that has no place in the United States military.

Susan Jacoby
Written by

  • Arminius

    Susan,WOW! What an essay! Required reading for all Americans to end this attack on our military by religious bigots.I am a believer, and a veteran, 1968-1970. No, I did not go to ‘Nam, but West Berlin, where I learned to hate any repressive government – I visited East Berlin. While I was in basic training, we had a few services, just to acquaint us to the fact that chaplains were always available. The services were Christian, but otherwise generic and criticized no one. After basic, no pressure, ever.This invasion of fanatics in our armed forces is absolutely unconstitutional, and in violation of the oath taken by every soldier. And the oath taken by the president.Thanks, Susan.Arminius

  • Paganplace

    “Earlier this year, the Air Force Academy invited three evangelical Christian converts, who claim to have once been Islamic terrorists, to lecture for a total fee of $13,000. Mainstream Muslim organizations objected, saying that the three so-called “experts” habitually depicted all Muslims as violent. Moreover, the three men’s stories border on sheer fantasy, according to real experts on the Middle East (Muslim and non-Muslim). One of the proposed speakers, Kamal Saleem, talks about how as a child, he crossed the Israeli border to plant bombs in tunnels under the Golan Heights. (Israel reports no such incidents.) Imagine spending taxpayer dollars to propagandize future Air Force officers with this trash. You might as well hire someone dressed as the Easter Bunny to give a lecture on the importance of faith in the Middle East.”Hey, you should see how much money there is in being an ‘Ex-Wiccan Occult Expert.’ Who knew bipolar mania could *pay so well?*

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Is there really any argument here? I would be very suprised for anyone to show up here, who supports forced religion among our fighting men and women.What a can of worms!I would like to see how that argument would work.

  • Paganplace

    Especially after aggressive conversion attempts, (like those ‘exorcisms’ a lot of Fundies do to anyone who played D&D as a kid or listened to a band with funny hairdos or picked up a book on ‘Fame And Fortune Through The Right Color candle!!!’ ) …the modern ‘witch-hunt’ narratives tend to be induced under conditions of extreme stress, especially for the mentally-ill, under conditions that would rightly be considered ‘torture’ under the Geneva convention, …will tend to induce that narrative on the tortured subject: then various Fundie communities and organizations will reward the broken individual handsomely for repeating that narrative, however ridiculous, and going to ‘educate’ troops and law enforcement officers about the ‘baby-killing Satanic conspiracy’ behind your local tree-huggers. Cause it’s what they want to hear. (This, by the way, is why torture mostly produces garbage intel in the first place: it’s not some noble battle of wills, it’s about messing with heads and bodies and people needing the pain to stop. If you successfully traumatize someone in that manner, they can’t tell fact from what the torturer said, anyway. You *might* get a fact out of someone you beat up or scare, but by the time you ‘break’ someone in the torturer’s sense, *they* might not even *know* what you hoped to get out of them anymore, if they knew it in the first place.) There’s a reason torture is despised by civilized nations. Maybe you can get someone to repeat your propaganda, but any notion it’s about the truth is clearly BS. When it’s about ‘religion’ and the torturers are n’t interested in reality, only ‘convincing others of the ‘Truth,’ you’ll get a number of people who will gladly become convinced they sacrificed more babies than have ever gone missing in American history, and go right ahead and take the big money to ‘witness’ the ‘truth’ about this or that. Torture’s no joke. But Texas just passed a law where if some storefront church suffocates your autistic kid, you can’t sue. Certain churches and organizations with way too much money have *always* paid people to go to places like military units and police departments to ‘witness’ their story. This situation is much the same. Ain’t just about saying Grace.

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”I applaud you for having the guts to speak out against the military and individuals within the armed forces who are blatantly trampling on the Constitutional rights of others.”Guts? Maybe in a Muslim or Atheist country but not here. Ms. Jacoby is an atheist. It takes guts to speak out against the prevailing atheism in atheistic countries like China and the old Soviet Union where they have commissars instead of chaplains. Speaking out against Christians in America is done all the time without fatwas being issued.Second, his bias comes through with this:”[B]ush has been…discouraging the best and brightest from joining the military through his unseemly support of turning what’s left of the military into an exclusive Xian club.Let’s hope that Obama’s presidency brings with it a top-to-bottom reform of the military ….”As though christians were not as good and bright as non-christians? Let’s be honest: if Barak Obama tried to put together an army in which there were no christians or even where the christians were in the minority, we would no longer have a Volunteer Army. Instead, we would be drafting a whole lot of non-christians to fill in the ranks.BTW, how can Mr. Mark be so hopeful about Mr. Obama? After all, isn’t Obama supposed to be a christian (or as Mr. Mark prefers: a “xian”)?

  • lepidopteryx

    PP:I got into trouble. I looked at the wide-eyed Baptist kids around me and asked two no-no questions: Why on earth would anyone want to play their records BACKWARDS? And since when did turntable motors spin in reverse? My questions were met with derision, but no answers.I even went so far as to check out his claim of having been in a “world famous heavy meatal band” with a visit to my local record store. I looked through the entire heavy metal and rock sections – no records by this “world famous” band. I looked in the oldies section, since he said it was years ago. Nothing. The record store had a catalog from which you could order records that they didn’t have in stock, even records that were out of print or shipped from overseas. This “world famous” band was not in the catalog.After confirming my suspicions that the guy was lying about having been in a world famous band, I concluded that he had probably lied about everything else as well.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    So Patricksarsfield? What are you saying? Enforeced Evangelical Christianity in the military is the way to go?

  • Arminius

    patricksarsfield:Mr Mark did indeed say,And I, a Christian and a veteran, applaud him.Here is the first part of the oath I took as a soldier in 1968:I still hold to that. If anyone tries to impose any form of religion on a soldier, or anyone else, then it is a violation of this oath. Therefore, anyone who does is a domestic enemy, and therefore my enemy. I will still defend this right with my life.

  • Anonymous

    Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee; Like a mighty army moves the church of God; Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane, Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,

  • Arminius

    Further, patricksarsfield, yes, Susan is an athiest. So what? She said this in her essay, which you apparently missed:”Because soldiers risk their lives in combat–and many derive spiritual comfort from the availability of the clergy–I have no quarrel with the presence of chaplains in the armed services.”

  • Arminius

    Anon,And your point is what? Who would Jesus bomb?

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    So the posting of this hymn, by, oh, I don’t know, could it be, Spiderman? This proves what? …that it is proper, right, and good, to shove religious belief down the throats of military people against their will, if they do not believe? This is just childish, foolish nonsense. And, yes, I most certainly do believe that Obama will put an end to this if he is ever President.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Patrick -My comment on the best and brightest being discouraged from military service is based on fact, such as the military dismissing translators, doctors and others because they are gay. Certainly, any gay person would think twice before opting for the military under these conditions.As the military’s anti-/don’t ask-gay position is religiously based and nothing else, this is a clear example of religious beliefs crippling the military. The entire “gays in the military hurts cohesiveness” canard is just that, a canard. Hell, many historians have remarked on the blatant homosexuality within the ranks of the armies of ancient Greece. Such relationships formed bonds that improved morale and bravery (after all, you fight harder if you’re fighting next to – and for the life of – someone you love).Susan’s article also mentions Xians in the military who disagree with the fundamentalist approach being intimidated by their superiors. One would hope that a military made up entirely of American Xians would – at the least – allow their fellow Xians to practice the dictates of their particular sect without being assaulted by their fellow “brothers in Christ.”Hard to believe that you actually wrote, “speaking out against Christians in America is done all the time without fatwas being issued,” when the American military equivalent of a fatwa is being issued even against Xians who don’t toe the fundie line.As far as my “bias coming through” – I would certainly hope so! I am incredibly biased against the current administration. I am incredibly biased against RW positions on life in general. What, you’re surprised? You believe that your noticing the obvious has the effect of discounting my opinions? Ha! I fart in your general direction!Why am I hopeful about Senator Obama (notice, not Mr Obama. It’s a sign of respect and courtesy to refer to people by their titled positions)? First reason: he’s intelligent. Second: he’s articulate. Third: his life experience has produced in him the broad-based vision we need in these times. Fourth: I wasn’t a fan when the campaign started, but he has won me over through his performance under fire. He can handle himself, no questions asked. Fifth: the job of cleaning up Republican disasters is best left to Democrats, and bush is the biggest disaster, ever! Sixth: unlike all of his opponents, he has kept his campaign on a high ground, which makes McCain’s cheap shots seem even cheaper. Seventh: because it’s time for this country to realize that intelligence in a president is a virtue, not a negative.I could go on, but you get the point.

  • Mr Mark

    Just notice this from Patrick’s earlier post:”It takes guts to speak out against the prevailing atheism in atheistic countries like China and the old Soviet Union where they have commissars instead of chaplains.”Er, wouldn’t the corollary to that sentiment be this:”It takes guts to speak out against the prevailing religion in religious countries like the United States where they have chaplains instead of non-sectarian counselors.”

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”So Patricksarsfield? What are you saying? Enforeced Evangelical Christianity in the military is the way to go?”No, Daniel, I “said” what I wrote. You are now looking to set up a strawperson that you would rather discuss. If you would like to discuss what I wrote, please address what I wrote.

  • Priver

    This was a really great essay, Susan.There’s been some discussion of these issues in the Pagan community as well, reports of Pagan/Wiccan soldiers not being allowed to meet or if they are, subject to derision, protest and evangelizing. If not outright abuse, that can get overlooked by higher ups.There are some really brave chaplains out there who are willing to extend the same resources to those whose religions may differ from the norm, and do so at great peril. For that they should be commended.There are no Pagan chaplains in the military. The last study I read estimated that there were at least more Pagan soldiers than were Muslims, and there are at least 11 Muslim army chaplains. There was even one chaplain I’d read about not too long ago who discovered Wicca who was tossed out of the service, just for not being Christian any longer.I’ve heard of atheist and Jewish cadets at West Point and other places being harassed and beaten for not wishing to participate in a Christian prayer.No matter what religion someone is- or is not- evangelizing in our Armed forces has to stop.Someone mentioned the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. All I can say is there certainly a great irony in the fact that our armed forces that are extremely overtaxed,lowering their standards, and looking for new members all the time who toss highly skilled, knowledgeable people out just for being different.

  • patricksarsfield

    Mr. Mark:”It takes guts to speak out against the prevailing atheism in atheistic countries like China and the old Soviet Union where they have commissars instead of chaplains.”Er, wouldn’t the corollary to that sentiment be this:”It takes guts to speak out against the prevailing religion in religious countries like the United States where they have chaplains instead of non-sectarian counselors.””No, there is no “corollary” because the US does not suppress dissent the way China suppresses and the Soviet Union suppressed dissent. It took courage to talk out against Stalin and the other commissars who ran the USSR. It took guts and still takes guts to talk out against the Chinese atheistical mandarins. Tianmen Square is not located in a christian country. And Dzerzhinsky Square was the place the Russians kept their dissenters (as in Lubyanka Prison).

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    PatricksarsfieldYou certainly are a bad-humored fellow.What did “they” do to you?

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    PartickSarsfield wrote:”No, there is no “corollary” because the US does not suppress dissent the way China suppresses and the Soviet Union suppressed dissent. It took courage to talk out against Stalin and the other commissars who ran the USSR. It took guts and still takes guts to talk out against the Chinese atheistical mandarins. Tianmen Square is not located in a christian country. And Dzerzhinsky Square was the place the Russians kept their dissenters (as in Lubyanka Prison).”Dramatic though this all may be, it is still irrelevant to the question at hand. When a liberal or free thinking person in the military is being harrassed for his religious beliefs, what has Tianmeen Square got to do with it?Because it’s worse there, we shouldn’t mind?mmmmmmmmvery strange, indeed

  • Anonymous

    THERE ARE LLAMAS IN THE WATER!!!

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Patrick -The problem with your post is that, 1) Susan is an atheist, and, 2) Susan was not speaking out against atheism, either here or in China or the old USSR. As an atheist, why would she speak out against atheism in China or the old USSR? She might speak out against the political system, but not against non-belief.You wrote:”It took courage to talk out against Stalin and the other commissars who ran the USSR. It took guts and still takes guts to talk out against the Chinese atheistical mandarins.”Yes, it takes guts to speak out against the PREVAILING or MAJORITY sentiment in ANY situation. Freedom of speech doesn’t enter into it. It takes NO guts to echo the prevailing sentiment of received opinion. It takes guts to swim against the tide.Susan is speaking out against the religious tide that is infecting the USA. That she has greater freedom to do so here than in a non-democratic society is a matter of degree, not device.It’s not my fault that you can’t express your thoughts without stating the opposite of that which you meant to express (I’m guessing here, for while I think I know what you intended, I can’t be sure).Better luck next time.

  • patricksarsfield

    Mr. Mark,No, it doesn’t necessarily take guts to speak out against a majority position. That is a silly position to be taking. For example, my position on this blog is a minority one; yet I don’t think it takes guts for me to take my position.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Patrick -Your last post has the effect of rendering incoherent all of your previous posts. WERE you trying to make a point, or do you use this forum to practice your typing?Earlier, I wished you better luck in your future posts. Maybe I should have admonished you to quit while you were ahead…

  • patricksarsfield

    Mr. Mark:Your last post has the effect of rendering incoherent all of your previous posts. WERE you trying to make a point, or do you use this forum to practice your typing?Earlier, I wished you better luck in your future posts. Maybe I should have admonished you to quit while you were ahead…”What can I say? More silliness from Mr. Mark.

  • Arminius

    patricksarsfield: I agree (again) with Mr Mark – you are not very coherent.From what I can get out of your posts, you think that because the USSR, China, and other countries shot dissidents, that makes it ok for us to harass, beat up, and throw out of the armed forces those who differ with the majority. And that viewpoint is madness.

  • Mr Mark

    Is it just me, or does PatrickSarsfield’s posting style smack a bit of the language of Spidey and our other multi-moniker posters? The use of the word “silly” seems strangely familiar. Will the near future see Patrick terming “idiots” those who disagree with him? Hmmm?And, I hadn’t noticed Patrick posting here prior to today. A new poster, or simply another alias from the peanut gallery?

  • Susan Jacoby

    There has indeed been discrimination against Pagans in the military. In 2006, two widows of Wiccan soldiers filed a suit against the Pentagon, which prohibited display of the pentagram on graves of Wiccan soldiers. One of these widows appeared in a movie, “First Freedom First,” made last year and sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. This video can be viewed on both organizations’ Web sites. It is a clear violation of the First Amendment for the military to make decisions about which religious symbols are, and are not, appropriate for display on military graves. This has nothing at all to do with believers vs. nonbelievers, and everything to do with the arrogant proselytizing and disregard for the Constitution exhibted by the extreme Christian right.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Mr Mark:I have seen this guy PatrickSarsfield’s posts before. He posted alot during the controversy about Sally Quinn taking communion at Tim Russert’s funeral. If I recall correctly, he is Catholic, so that rules out Spiderman, who hates Catholics.(Gee, I can’t believe I am involved in such a bizarre conversation).Mr. PatrickSarsfield usually begins his comment with “Folks.” He is glib and bitter, with just touch of paranoia.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear DTLD -That’s for the back grounder on Patrick.Susan – thanks for contributing an added comment to your column.Question: what are the rules for prayers before meals for our soldiers stationed in Czechoslovakia? How about the rules for those stationed along the Iraq/Pakistan border? Maybe we should ask that foreign policy expert, John McCain!

  • Anonymous

    Is is me, or is there something funny about Pagans suing the Pentagon?

  • Mr Mark

    Anonymous writes:”Is is me, or is there something funny about Pagans suing the Pentagon?”Is it me, or is there something funny about a “Christian nation” designing the building that represents its military power in the shape of a Pagan symbol? 😉

  • Arminius

    A pentagon is not really a pentacle, which is the Pagan symbol, and is a five pointed star in a circle. But the closeness of the words does lend a bit of irony to it.

  • Susan Jacoby

    One blogger asks, “Is it me, or is there something funny about Pagans suing the Pentagon?”I don’t see anything funny about a soldier who gave his life for his country being denied the right to have the symbol of his faith inscribed on his gravestone.By the way, I used to make fun of Pagans because I knew nothing about the depth of their beliefs. I’ve been educated by Pagans who’ve posted on this blog. I don’t agree with Pagan beliefs any more than I accept other, more conventional religious beliefs, bu they are surely no less deserving of the respect for liberty of conscience guaranteed by our Constitution. It’s the Constitution, stupid.

  • Arminius

    Susan,You, an atheist, continue to impress this believer. I too made fun of Pagans until I got on these blogs and learned better. The ones I have met here are wonderful people. Hell, I wish they were my neighbors. Can’t say that about many of the fundies I’ve dueled with here.Thanks for your comments – it means a lot to us.Arminius

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius, Susan and fellow travelers -I urge you to visit Deepak Chopra’s column on this topic and add your comments. It was just posted and opens with this unbelievable statement:”Speaking realistically, patriotism can’t be divorced from religion. Every war is fought with God on our side — on both sides. And the prevailing notion is always that the enemy is godless.”Realistically, the man just called every non-religious person in the world unpatriotic.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius -If you are impressed with Susan’s writing, then you really should check out her books, particularly “Freethinkers” and her latest, “The Age of American Unreason.”Prepare to be even more impressed.

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,I have wanted that book for some time, and will soon get it.

  • Mr Mark

    Arminius -I’d lend you my copies, but I like to keep them handy for when the proselytizing Xian sects show up at my door and start in on their “America is a Xian nation” spiel.

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,Thanks, but I’ll gladly buy one. For those annoying door-bangers, quote the Tripoli Treaty, which John Adams signed after being passed unanimously by the Senate.

  • patricksarsfield

    Arminius,”From what I can get out of your posts, you think that because the USSR, China, and other countries shot dissidents, that makes it ok for us to harass, beat up, and throw out of the armed forces those who differ with the majority. And that viewpoint is madness.”WRONG. I never wrote such a notion. You may like to knock down strawmen but it is really an inauthentic debating trick.

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,Some balance here. The claim being made that “America is not a Christian nation” has some validity in that a relatively small part of the American population is not Christian. Yet, the claim that America is a Christian Nation has at least as much validity as that contrary proposition. Putting aside the fact that a couple of Supreme Court cases (in dictum admittedly) have so characterized this nation as a Christian Nation, there is the simple fact of how the people of this nation identify themselves.In truth, the overwhelming percentage of Americans identify themselves as Christian. Per the most recent Pew Survey on the religious composition of Americans, the Christian figure is 76.1% with another 2.4% either Mormon or Jehovah’s Witnesses which some characterize as christian. Of the remaining 21.5% of the population, a majority (12.9%) are either “nothing in particular” or “don’t know.” That leaves non-Christians of specific persuasions–from Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. through atheist and agnostic–comprising just 8.6% (i.e., just one-ninth the number of christians).

  • Paganplace

    “In 2006, two widows of Wiccan soldiers filed a suit against the Pentagon, which prohibited display of the pentagram on graves of Wiccan soldiers. One of these widows appeared in a movie, “First Freedom First,”On this, Pagans have been fighting for over a decade at least (in a concerted fashion) to enable war dead going back to the Second World War to be buried with equal dignity. (Oh, and the Pentagon is pentagonal cause it was originally supposed to be a records building put on that shape a piece of land. And as a historical footnote, one reason it held up so relatively-well on 9/11 is cause it was originally meant to hold books. All the concrete was double-thick cause books and papers are heavy, …this plan was before the War Department moved in. 🙂 )

  • Paganplace

    And I guess it needs some clarifying in this day and age that that ‘ours’ includes *you.* Each of us. As individuals. Not mobs. E pluribus unum. Our real motto.

  • Paganplace

    And, yes, I do feel like captain Kirk in the worst-written Star Trek episode ever…. “You recite the words, but you’ve forgotten the meaning… We. The people… ” (It’s called ‘The Omega Glory’ Worth a look. Bad Trek, good point) 🙂

  • Daniel in the LIon’s Den

    Patrick SarsfieldSo what is your point? So, most Americans identify themselvs as Christians? So what else is obvious?Can’t people pray for themselves, or not? to force people to comply with prescribed prayer is really a show of force and power, isn’t it? So, if that is a rule of the military then fine, but why pretend that it has anything to do with religion? It doesn’t.In almost all hospitals, the services of chaplains are available to paitents and their families. But no one forces the patients to pray before they get any food to eat. Such a suggestion would get the hospital administrator run out of town. You can bet on that.While you may be comfortable with a relgion of forced and coerced belief, face it, everyone is not like that.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    For the origins, etcl of “grace before and after meals” see

  • patricksarsfield

    PaganPlace:”And, yes, I do feel like captain Kirk in the worst-written Star Trek episode ever…. “You recite the words, but you’ve forgotten the meaning… We. The people… ” “Ah, is Pagan a Trekkie? If so, one more evidentiary support for the accuracy of G.K Chesterton’s famous saying: “He who does not believe in God will believe in anything.”

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”So what is your point? So, most Americans identify themselvs as Christians? So what else is obvious?”If you are agreeing with me that most Americans are christian, then we have made some progress. Given the half-truth of the oft-repeated claim in this thread that “America is NOT a Christian nation,” I think it important to note that per a couple of Supreme Court opinions and even the most recent surveys on religious identity, America can equally well be said to be a Christian Nation. As to the questions you pose in later paragraphs, those are more of the strawmen that you have posed to me in the past. I won’t rise to the bait of strawmen. I will say that I disagree with the paranoia that some people on this thread have shown about standing apart from group prayer sessions. I have no problem staying apart from recitation of any prayer in which I don’t believe. For example, I have found myself in Protestant services and been offered their communion. No way I would ever participate in that.I would agree that it would be wrong and a violation of the First Amendment for any action to be taken against a student for refusing to participate in a group religious service.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Who started meal prayers anyway? Very odd practice to say the least. Based on the chaotic nature of raising crops, farmers should be thanked and not god/natural law who/that introduced/evolved said chaos via the Big Bang and the innate “gifts” of free will and future. The chaplians are there to serve the needs of their religious members of the academies. When the meal crowd is mixed, meal prayers if desired should be said silently.

  • rich kolker

    When I served (in the Air Force in the early 70’s) during basic training we were required to go to chapel on Sunday. When they were getting the info for our dog tags we were asked “Catholic, Protestant or Other?”Once we were out of basic, the chapel and chaplains were there, but there was no pressure to attend (or not attend).A majority of Americans are religious, so I have no problem with chaplains being available to military members serving overseas. At home, there are plenty of places for religious expression without requiring the military to provide it.I’d prefer these chaplains were paid for and provided by the religions themselves, rather than at government expense, but I can live with government paid chaplains just as we support commissaries and PXes for our military members.Anything more than that, is establishment.

  • Mr Mark

    Excellent column, Susan.I applaud you for having the guts to speak out against the military and individuals within the armed forces who are blatantly trampling on the Constitutional rights of others.Since Reagan, our country has been on a “war is good” footing. Republican administrations have successfully hijacked the military to the point of the armed forces appearing as lockstep supporters of Republicans. Any criticism of the military has been stigmatized as being anti-American and unpatriotic. Couple that with the evangelical Christian support enjoyed by the Rs and you have the necessary conditions for religious intolerance to flourish within our armed forces.Under such conditions, it has been easy for Rs and Xians in the military to advance pro-Christian practices in the military while insulating themselves from scrutiny and criticism. THIS MUST END!The American public needs to wake up to the fact that the bush has been busy destroying our military through his pointless and endless wars while simultaneously discouraging the best and brightest from joining the military through his unseemly support of turning what’s left of the military into an exclusive Xian club.Let’s hope that Obama’s presidency brings with it a top-to-bottom reform of the military and a rejection of and stamping out of these un-Constitutional practices, as well as demotions and dismissals for those in the officer corps who have engaged in practices that so overtly display a disdain for the oath they swore to that Constitution and to their country.

  • patricksarsfield

    Mr. Mark:Actually, the accuracy of your figure depends on whether one splits out Hispanics as a separate group or not. If you limit whites to non-Hispanic whites, the right figure is that non-Hispanic whites account for only about 66% of the nation. I think it fair to say that if one includes Hispanics as whites, as I do, then we can still be called a white nation, although, as with the Christian designation, there is also some truth in saying that we are not a white nation. Whites, as I and many others choose to define them, certainly still constitute the bulk of Americans.You then ask: “Females outnumber males in this country. Are we a female nation?”I don’t even understand that question. The “nation” term comes from the Latin for “born” so to me a nation is a group of people descended from earlier forbears (as expanded in some cases by immigration, certainly in the case of the USA). Those forbears were both males and females and the descendants likewise are both male and female, so the nation would be neither male nor female. Rather, it has always been comprised of roughly equal numbers of both, ceteris paribus.Finally, you ask:That would really be a stretch. Although Catholicism undoubtedly is the largest Christian denomination in the US by far (it is as large as the next ten Christian sects put together), only @25% of Americans are Catholic. I therefore think it would be far more accurate to say that America is a non-Catholic nation.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    PatricksarfieldIf you do not like for people to pick on your belief, then why do you pick on others?You are an extremely hypocritical person.When I said that you do not have a concept of “true belief,” I suppose what I actually meant was “free belief,” that is, a true inner belief, that is not coerced or enforced. After all, if a Cathlic expresses a free believe that deviates from enforced belief, are they not called “Cafeteria Catholics?” Isn’t that your own Catholic term? It would not be my term, since I cannot see anything wrong with a cafeteria, in which people choose what they want.Being a Catholic, you must believe according to enforced doctrine. That is the definiton of what it is to be Catholic. How am I wrong?You have a religious belief which is based on mental conformity to a prefigured doctrine, set up and designed by someone else, which you compell yourself to belief. That is not Freedom. If you do not care about Freedom for yourself, and if you think it is a bad thing, then that is fine for you.But everyone does not feel that way about it.As far as my grammar and spellilng are concerned, I would rather be wrong in those things, than to be wrong on the basics of belief and knowledge of right and wrong.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Particksarfield, aren’t you being a little silly?How is allowing good old common sense freedom of thought and freedom of religion a threat, and how is there anything radical or unAmerican about Freedom? If the army can afford to toss people out because the nuance of their religious belief is not good enough, then I would say that, indeed, the threats that we face could not be very great. For if there were any true threat, I would think all able-bodied and willing people would be welcome to assist in our defense

  • Freestinker

    RE: Military Chaplains.This kind of entanglement practically begs for misuse so we really shouldn’t be surprised that it is misused all the time. Rather, we should be surpised that it is not misused more often.Why do we need official government chaplains anyway?Newspapers, magazines and TV stations all send their own representitives to war zones, primarily on their own dime. The Red Cross also manages to get by fairly well in war zones without government sponsorship. Why can’t religious organizations (churches) and their members pay for their own chaplains? Why do I have to subsidize someone else’s religious opinions? Why does the government need to get involved with religion at all? Is religion so weak that it cannot survive without direct government support?

  • Freestinker

    Concerned Cadet said:1) I didn’t have a car until after I graduated! Bikes are fun and easy to ride. Walking is healthy. Cabs and public transportation are available too.So tell me again, why should I subsidize your religion?

  • Farnaz

    Patricksarsfield,”Farnaz,”You say that America is a Christian nation. Can you explain what the concrete manifestations of this status are. That is, where do we see, in evidence, the status of America as a Christian nation? “The laws on marriage for one, as in monogamy.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Freestinker -I agree with you on military chaplains. If a religious sect wants to provide a chaplain, let them pay for it. Religions not only receive government subsidies in the form of tax breaks, but they receive the majority of philanthropic giving in this country. They have the means, so let them provide the funding for chaplains.The only case I could see to be made for the government paying for chaplains with tax revenues would be if the case could be made that religions without a healthy bank roll would be somehow disadvantaged in paying for chaplains. But that’s not much of an argument at present because the military already discriminates against certain religions by not providing chaplains that represent certain faiths. The major religions and sects are already the benefactors of unfair and inequitable practices in this respect.If there’s government money to be spent, perhaps it would be best spent giving our soldiers the scientific education that most of them are missing. That could be coupled with courses in American history. Instead of a Bible in every footlocker, our soldiers could be the proud owners of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. Government support of scientific realities coupled with a thorough grounding in the principles upon which this country were founded might be a welcome replacement for the religious fantasies that are now being offered as cheap solace to men and women who are facing their own possible demise in service to our country.

  • Anonymous

    Farnaz:patrick reponds, “The laws on marriage for one, as in monogamy.”Not exclusively Christian, as you point out, but based more in religion than individual liberty nonetheless. The larger point is that state-sanctioned marriage is becoming more and more recognized for the anachronism that it is. The state should get of marriage altogether.

  • Mr Mark

    “The larger point is that state-sanctioned marriage is becoming more and more recognized for the anachronism that it is.”Here in the good ol’ US of A, a state-sanctioned marriage is legally binding, with or without a church service marriage, while a church marriage minus the state-issued certificate of marriage is not a legally binding or recognized marriage.So, which one is the anachronism.BTW – what do non-believers do if the state doesn’t offer to perform and legalize marriages? That’s over 20% of Americans. Should they be forced to get a church wedding?

  • patricksarsfield

    Mr. Mark:This is a real issue only in your mind. While it is true that the state has the power of compulsion and can force people to be married in ways recognized by the state, all that means is that it can force people to be married in a ceremony recognized by the state. Yet, there is no real competition between the state and the churches since an anti-church state of the sort you might prefer would find itself quickly tossed out of office if it tried to deny to the churches the power to officiate at legally binding marriages. So, church service marriages are hardly going out of use any time soon.

  • Farnaz

    Patricksarsfield: You say that America is a Christian nation. Can you explain what the concrete manifestations of this status are. That is, where do we see, in evidence, the status of America as a Christian nation? Farnaz

  • patricksarsfield

    Farnaz,”Not exclusively Christian, as you point out, but based more in religion than individual liberty nonetheless. The larger point is that state-sanctioned marriage is becoming more and more recognized for the anachronism that it is. The state should get of marriage altogether.”Something like that should not be considered even in the unlikely event that Saudi Arabia and the other Islamic countries allow the open proselytization of Muslims by Christians. All countries should have freedom of religion, but countries still need to have rules about marriage for a lot of practical reasons. Women are equals to men in the West and the idea of a man being able to marry four women at one time would have profound impacts on American Jurisprudence. Not just on women but on men as well. The awful example of what appears to be happening to disfavored males in polygamous sects is a perfect example of the pernicious effects of polygamy on men. In the recent TX case, the evidence has been that many of the boys produced by the sect get exiled from the community shortly after puberty because the arithmetic just doesn’t support every male having multiple wives. The generation process produces roughly equal numbers of male and female babies. That means only 1/3 of men can participate in polygamy if the average number of wives is three.

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”You have a religious belief which is based on mental conformity to a prefigured doctrine, set up and designed by someone else, which you compell yourself to belief. That is not Freedom. If you do not care about Freedom for yourself, and if you think it is a bad thing, then that is fine for you.”Wrong. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals that He established a Church in the First Century AD and commissioned it to teach all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). He told people to listen to that Church. (Matt. 18:17). Once I believe in Jesus, I need to take what He said seriously. If He commissioned His Church to teach all nations, He commissioned it to teach me. I need to find out what Church He commissioned. That is a relatively simple historical inquiry: which Church was founded in the First Century AD? Not any protestant church, they were all breakaways from the Catholic Church (or from a breakaway from the Catholic Church) and founded in the Sixteenth Century or later. The Catholic Church, by contrast, has been around since the First Century. Its existence is attested by the New Testament and such other earlier writings as those of Clement and Ignatius of Antioch (who actually used the term “Catholic Church” in 107 AD). See also Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3:3:2.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Dear SusanI have been a sick person in the hospital many times in my life, sometimes, very bad off. So, I know a little about hospital chaplains. Apparently, being a chaplain is a “specialty” of religious pastoral care. People trained in this are taught about many different kinds of belief, and being senstive to this is part of their training. They also have resources, usually within the community to call upon, if a patient has a special need or problem. That is, a Protestant chaplain on duty in a hosptial would have a quick way to summon a Catholic priest, if necessary. And aside, from chaplains as paid hosptital employees, there are also many pastoral positions that various religious communities provide to hospitals as donated servuce, which are not part of the hospital cost of business.As a hospital paitent, I have had the experience, in which a brief “good night” prayer is recited over the PA system before going to sleep. I did not mind. Mostly, in a hospital, chaplains are there to help people, and if you don’t want them around, they leave and don’t bother you. A hospital chaplain would be fired for seeking to exploit a person’s suffering to get a “convert.” Professional hospital chaplains are way beyond such a primitive attitude towards relgion.This is all my second-hand anecdotal experience; if it is good enough for civilian life, then why can’t the military do the same?

  • patricksarsfield

    “Patric’s Far Afield”: Real childish the way you rearrange my name and make it yours, btw. You then ask:”Do you have any testual support from the founding fathers themselves for your seemingly gratuitous interpretation of their intent? A quick review of Thomas Jefferson’s words on the topic yields the information below. Similar information obtains for John Adams and James Madison.”My textual support is the language of the First Amendment: “CONGRESS shall make no law….” Congress referred to the Federal government. What Congress couldn’t do though, the states were doing: maintaining establishments of religion. the Constitution essentially reserved to the states the issue of establishments of religion. As to your supposed textual support, none of it constitutes legislative history for the First Amendment. The four statements by Jefferson were all made years after adoption of the First Amendment and Jefferson never even participated in the deliberations on the First Amendment anyway. He was off in Paris when that amendment was under consideration. In later posts, you cite to two statements by Madison but again neither was addressed to the language of the First Amendment. Rather, one was written some 34 years after the First Amendment was adopted and the other came from a 1785 document dealing with a Virginia state bill. It is entitled: “To the Honorable the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia A Memorial and Remonstrance….”

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick SarsfieldYou have stated why you are a Catholic. But that is merely your own personal belief. Other people have different personal beliefs.I am glad, finally, that you stated your personal beliefs so plainly. Now you are easier to understand.I think that when I make a slight rip on the Catholic Church, it seems to hurt you a little. Yet, you are incapabale of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling it from their point of view. If that is the kind of Christian that you are, then fine. But it is not much of an example for others to follow. I won’t mess with you anymore.

  • Anonymous

    DITLD says, “You have a religious belief which is based on mental conformity to a prefigured doctrine, set up and designed by someone else, which you compell yourself to belief.”patricksarsfield says , “I am a believer in Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals that He established a Church in the First Century AD and commissioned it to teach all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). He told people to listen to that Church. (Matt. 18:17). Once I believe in Jesus, I need to take what He said seriously.”What’s the difference?!

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”Poor ole Patrick Sarfield; you are not able to see past your own mental conformity to religious dogma, the bad faith of your argument, which in fact, is not worthy of argument. The point is, you don’t use your brain. This question is a no-brainer; and you do not even have “no brain,” apparently.The question is Freedom. How many ways can you split a hair to justify your opposition to Freedom?”One of the basic rules of civil discourse is that one should address the other person’s arguments and not their personalities. You are not observing that rule. Instead, you are engaging in ad hominem attacks. I am not going to descend to your level, though. Please address arguments from now on.

  • rb-freedom-for-all

    The preying mantis assumes the prayer position just before it kills.I guess the military uses the same approach.

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”DITLD says, “You have a religious belief which is based on mental conformity to a prefigured doctrine, set up and designed by someone else, which you compell yourself to belief.”patricksarsfield says , “I am a believer in Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals that He established a Church in the First Century AD and commissioned it to teach all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). He told people to listen to that Church. (Matt. 18:17). Once I believe in Jesus, I need to take what He said seriously.”What’s the difference?!”The difference is that I explained why I choose to believe what the Catholic Church teaches based on what Christ (in Whom I believe) had to say, while DILD contends that any belief in what “someone else” said is wrong. Apparently, “Anonymous” also objects to belief if the believer believes the person in whom he believes. Such an approach, though, guts the term “belief” of any meaning.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Patrick, Patrick, Patrick,Again the problem is in the history. Did this simple preacher man, an illiterate rabbi at best, establish a church? No, based on the lack of historical proof e.g. “Thou art Peter” (Matt 16: 18-19) passage only appears in one gospel.” Matthew, whomever he was, was therefore a part founder/”necessary accessory” of the Catholic Church, as was Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James his brother, Mary Magdelene, Mary, Joseph and another father if you believe the mamzer stories, the Apostles and Pilate. It was a team effort with Pilate being the strangest “necessary accessory”. Were economics an important influence? Yes indeed, and even more so nowlDelete the paranormal, myths, miracles and hallucinations, and Christianity still has some great rules of life but so would Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

  • Gary Dale Cearley

    I agree wholeheartedly with Susan. And one thing I cannot understand is why the United States Air Force Academy would hire these people to speak? Pray tell, what kind of training are they receiving there? Teaching morality is one thing, but teaching religion is quite another.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear patricksarsfield -Boy, you just don’t get it, do you?Church marriages are NOT legally binding if the people being wed have not obtained a marriage license from the state in which they are being wed. The state doesn’t recognize such a marriage as legal. That enters into all kind of things, like trying to buy or sell a house, dividing property after a divorce, filing taxes, etc. Believe it or not, some towns in the USA do not allow unmarried couples to purchase homes.While the laws vary from state to state, there are commonalities as well. Most states make you prove that you are legally free to marry, ie: not currently married. You must produce court papers from past marriages, etc.Don’t believe me? Try to see if a church-annulled marriage is considered legal by the state without also obtaining a civil annulment. I wonder just how many of them are willing to enter into a marriage not recognized by the state as the state runs the courts where divorce proceedings will take place if needs must, especially as Christians – especially fundamentalists – divorce at rates higher than any other religious group in the country (and at much higher levels than do atheists). So, enjoy your church-only marriage, Patrick. Let me know how that works out for you the minute some legal issue related to your marriage arises.

  • Mr Mark

    Soory. In my lasy post, the phrase:”I wonder just how many of them …”should have read:”I wonder just how many of Xians planning marriage”Haste makes waste in a cut-n-paste.

  • Reasonable not hateful

    DILD:”He is glib and bitter, with just touch of paranoia.”Sounds like the pot called the kettle black to me.Look in the mirror, pal.

  • patricksarsfield

    Mr. Mark,”Boy, you just don’t get it, do you? Church marriages are NOT legally binding if the people being wed have not obtained a marriage license from the state in which they are being wed.” I don’t disagree with that characterization of the state of the law. If there was something I had written that you think inconsistent with that statement, please address it specifically.

  • patricksarsfield

    CCNL,”Again the problem is in the history. Did this simple preacher man, an illiterate rabbi at best, establish a church? No, based on the lack of historical proof e.g. “Thou art Peter” (Matt 16: 18-19) passage only appears in one gospel.””So, as you have previously explained in a different thread, you don’t believe the New Testament. Among other things, as noted above, you would try to impose on any believer a multiple source requirement. Yet,as you have shown before, even where there are multiple sources for particular assertions, you still feel free to disbelieve them. From all prior indications, that is not going to change, so I really ought just to state that I disagree with your conclusions. If you are not going to change your opinion, my choice is between believing CCNL or the New Testament and the Church Jesus founded. Let’s see: CCNL or the New Testament and the Church Christ founded? Sorry, the evidence I have seen supports my belief that I ought to be following the New Testament and that Church rather than CCNL.

  • DuckPhup

    Patrick… try to digest this fact… the USA was established as a SECULAR nation. It was set up that way to sever its underpinnings from the entanglement of religion and government that had prevailed for preceding millennia. The philosophical inspiration for the government came from the secular humanist ideals that arose from the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason… you know… heretical, non-canonical, Satanic ideas such as ‘human rights’.The power and authority of the US government is NOT bestowed by the good graces of an imaginary invisible, magical, all-powerful supernatural sky-fairy… rather, it depends from the “… consent of the governed.” Look it up.The USA is NOT a ‘christian nation’… it is a secular nation with lots of christians in it.There… that wasn’t so hard, now… was it?

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”I think that when I make a slight rip on the Catholic Church, it seems to hurt you a little….I won’t mess with you anymore.”To the extent your “rips” are based on the kinds of prejudice you have repeatedly shown toward the Catholic Church, this is probably a good development. If you got away from “rips” and “messing” in favor of substance-based discussions, you would find me more receptive to discourse.

  • spiderman2

    Atheists are all IDIOTS and If I’ll be in the military, it’s a dangerous thing to be grouped with idiots. Every soldier should have a right to oppose being grouped to a band of atheists. Atheists should have their own platoon.It’s NOT about religious freedom, it’s all about IDIOCY and STUPIDITY.In the Bible, in times of war, the idiots always are the cause of any loss of war.The reason why the U.S won every major war is because of its FAITH IN GOD.In world war 3, all idiots will be wiped out including non-military people and if Jacoby stays to be stupid, she would be wiped out also.

  • Farnaz

    Patricksarsfield:You write erroneously:’Not exclusively Christian, as you point out, but based more in religion than individual liberty nonetheless. The larger point is that state-sanctioned marriage is becoming more and more recognized for the anachronism that it is. The state should get of marriage altogether.'”———————-HERe, pasted below, is my reply to you, made at 2:44 today. (You can, of course, scroll down for greater readability.)Farnaz: Patricksarsfield,”Farnaz,”You say that America is a Christian nation. Can you explain what the concrete manifestations of this status are. That is, where do we see, in evidence, the status of America as a Christian nation? “The laws on marriage for one, as in monogamy.July 24, 2008 2:44 PM

  • Priver

    “By the way, I used to make fun of Pagans because I knew nothing about the depth of their beliefs. I’ve been educated by Pagans who’ve posted on this blog. I don’t agree with Pagan beliefs any more than I accept other, more conventional religious beliefs, bu they are surely no less deserving of the respect for liberty of conscience guaranteed by our Constitution. It’s the Constitution, stupid.”You certainly don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs to be willing to allow them to exercise their rights to believe as they want to- and to be allowed to live that way without fear.That’s all we ask for.. and most Pagans I know would stand up for somebody of a different faith or no faith and demand their right to live as they see fit. As long as nobody gets hurt.That’s the America I want.

  • patricksarsfield

    Duckphup,Actually, there were established churches in most of the states/former colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence. Now, it is certainly true that the Bill of Rights contained a clause prohibiting Congress from establishing a church (“Congress shall make no law….”). Yet that had no impact on the states continuing ability to establish a church, at least not until the 20th Century jurisprudence on the effect of the 14th Amendment on the First Amendment’s applicability to states. It was the New England states that were the slowest to eliminate their state-established churches, some of which lasted until after both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were dead.

  • patricksarsfield

    Farnaz,”You say that America is a Christian nation. Can you explain what the concrete manifestations of this status are. That is, where do we see, in evidence, the status of America as a Christian nation? “The laws on marriage for one, as in monogamy.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick SarfieldWhat has marriage got to do with this question? What has marriage got to do with Christianity? It is a peripheral issue. I guess I must try and look into your brain and try and figure out what is really behind your remarks. Pardon my adhominum-ism, if I am violating one of your own little rules.Marriage is only an issue today, when it is “same sex marriage” and I am imgagining that you are getting some sort of weird confusion over Freedom in general being associated with “same sex marriage” which you are compelled, according to your religion of mental conformity, to oppose, even when no one else is even talking about it.Is that what is behind your, otherwise, pretty unintelligble remarks?

  • Shawn Cromett

    Monogamous like say:Not much of an argument…The founding document of the United States government, the Constitution, is an expressly secular document. The fact that the English colonies had established churches prior to independence is irrelevant to the argument, as is the fact that a swiftly declining number of states did after the adoption of the Constitution. (Madison and Jefferson, two enthusiastic secularists) both died in 1826, which is the early 19th Century, by the way. Susan’s book: Freekthinkers has an excellent discussion of this issue. All the wishful thinking of a certain segment of the population aside, the U.S. LEGALLY is NOT a Christian nation, even though Christian ideas are part of its heritage along with the Enlightenment and Classical Greece and Rome.

  • the disease of curiosity

    Apocalyptic belief is a function of faith – that luminous inner conviction that needs no recourse to evidence. It is customary to pose against immovable faith the engines of reason, but in this instance I would prefer that delightful human impulse – curiosity, the hallmark of mental freedom. Organized religion has always had – and I put this mildly – a troubled relationship with curiosity. Islam’s distrust, at least in the past two hundred years, is best expressed by it’s attitude to those whose faith falls away, to apostates who are drawn to other religions or to none at all.And yet it is curiosity, scientific curiosity, that has delivered us genuine, testable knowledge of the world and contributed to our understanding of our place within it and of our nature and condition. This knowledge has a beauty of its own, and it can be terrifying. We are barely beginning to grasp the implications of what we have recently learned.I draw here from a Stephen Pinker essay on his ideal of a university: Among other things we have learned that our planet is a minute speck in an inconceivably vast cosmos; that Ian McEwan. “End of The World Blues.

  • patricksarsfield

    Shawn,”The founding document of the United States government, the Constitution, is an expressly secular document. The fact that the English colonies had established churches prior to independence is irrelevant to the argument, as is the fact that a swiftly declining number of states did after the adoption of the Constitution. (Madison and Jefferson, two enthusiastic secularists) both died in 1826, which is the early 19th Century, by the way.”I disagree that the existence of state-established churches after passage of the First Amendment is “irrelevant” to the question of whether the Constitution was meant to establish a secular nation. As I said before, the Constitution’s First Amendment Anti-Establishment Clause is not proof that the US was designed to be a secular state because the Framers were not seeking to dis-establish the existent state-established churches when they barred the Federal Congress from also establishing a church. Only one entity could establish a church–the state(s) or the federal government–and since the states had already done so, Congress needed to be restricted from doing anything in derogation of the states’ prior establishemnets. Thus, all the Framers were doing was reserving to the states the issue of whether there should be an established church.

  • Patrick’s Far Afield

    patricksarsfield: Do you have any testual support from the founding fathers themselves for your seemingly gratuitous interpretation of their intent? A quick review of Thomas Jefferson’s words on the topic yields the information below. Similar information obtains for John Adams and James Madison.”Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.”-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom”Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.”-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802″History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.”Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

  • the secular chaplain

    The profusion of religion (of the Christian variety) throughout the world of sports and the military is something of an ominous sign and a result of the mistaken notion that those whoIt’s a covert means of enhancing a common bond among group members, through a particular kind of conforming behavior – praying. And it has about as much benefit as wearing the same good luck charm, as well as being a clear violation of the individual’s autonomy as regards all matters religious.This represents a particularly obnoxious and misplaced mix of the ‘sacred and the profane’ that capitalizes on an all-to-common tendency to engage in religious superstition. As for the Founders, it’s been alot of years since they had the wisdom and foresight to recognize the need for the clear separation of church and state – we see significant backsliding toward the churchy end of things these days, and really need a powerful secular re-balancing in all areas of government, including the military. We should all keep that in mind the next time we vote.

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”What has marriage got to do with this question? What has marriage got to do with Christianity? It is a peripheral issue. “How many times do we need to start from the beginning? I am not going to go through the thread to show how this question came to take center stage. You can do that yourself, DILD!!As to your second question: what does marriage have to do with Christianity? A lot. Jesus generally did not stress the jot and tittle of The Law as the Pharisees did, as He showed repeatedly (e.g., the whole “Lord of the Sabbath” thing), but one place where he tightened down on the Mosaic Law was in the area of Divorce/Remarriage. As Brother Mark notes (Mark 10:2-12): “Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.’ “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” “

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”What has marriage got to do with this question? What has marriage got to do with Christianity? It is a peripheral issue. “How many times do we need to start from the beginning? I am not going to go through the thread to show how this question came to take center stage. You can do that yourself, DILD!!As to your second question: what does marriage have to do with Christianity? A lot. Jesus generally did not stress the jot and tittle of The Law as the Pharisees did, as He showed repeatedly (e.g., the whole “Lord of the Sabbath” thing), but one place where he tightened down on the Mosaic Law was in the area of Divorce/Remarriage. As Brother Mark notes (Mark 10:2-12): “Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.’ “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” “

  • Patric’s Far Afield

    Here’s a taset of James Madison’s opinion on church and state. James Madison is regarded as the “father” of the Constitution:”We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. “This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. “We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.”

  • One More

    “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without legal incorporation of-James Madison, Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec. 3, 1821

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick SarfieldI did not admit that America is a Christian nation. I said that it is obvious that most Americans identify themselves as Christians. But many of them REFUSE to acknowledge the Christianity of others whom they think are unacceptably different.Even you, yourself, counted Mormons as non-Christians, when they are obviously ARE Christians, at least to me. Millions of Protestants think that the Pope is the anti-Christ and that Catholics are Godless agents of Satan.As I said before, being a Catholic and immeresed in a relgion of enforeced belief, I do not even think that you can have a real concept of “true belief” nor of human will, nor of freedom, such as many of us in America would like to experience.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick SarfieldI did not admit that America is a Christian nation. I said that it is obvious that most Americans identify themselves as Christians. But many of them REFUSE to acknowledge the Christianity of others whom they think are unacceptably different.Even you, yourself, counted Mormons as non-Christians, when they are obviously ARE Christians, at least to me. Millions of Protestants think that the Pope is the anti-Christ and that Catholics are Godless agents of Satan.As I said before, being a Catholic and immeresed in a relgion of enforeced belief, I do not even think that you can have a real concept of “true belief” nor of human will, nor of freedom, such as many of us in America would like to experience.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Patrick -74% of Americans are caucasian.Would you call us a white nation?Females outnumber males in this country.Are we a female nation?The largest Xian denomination in the country is Roman Catholic.Are we a Roman Catholic nation?

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,”As I said before, being a Catholic and immeresed in a relgion of enforeced belief, I do not even think that you can have a real concept of “true belief” nor of human will, nor of freedom, such as many of us in America would like to experience.”Although the subject of your “being” clause is actually yourself (“I”), I think what you were trying to write was that patricksarsfield supposedly is “a Catholic and immersed in a religion of enforced belief.” Actually, though, I have thoroughly studied the Catholic Religion, believe in it as the result of that search and recommend it as the sensible choice for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ. As to your suppositions about my alleged inability to “have a real concept of true belief,” I find that so preposterous (not to mention obnoxious) as to merit no further remark.

  • Mr Mark

    Gee, Spidey, I don’t remember the words of the National Anthem appearing in the Constitution or any of the nation’s legal documents.Following your “logic,” I guess atheists aren’t allowed to use US currency as the words “In God We Trust” appear on our money.BTW – I’ve finally realized that your posts are rather deft parodies of RW/religious idiocy. They are actually quite entertaining IF one knows how to read themTruly, you are the Stephen Colbert of On Faith!Keep the laughs coming!

  • LiveGrenade

    So I ask, what is the military’s ultimate goal in having a “Christian” force? What advantage does religious group think provide? Has not the military enough control through command structure, training, pay, living quarters and other such mechanisms?The obvious answer to me insidious. How better to keep the mind focussed on target if you think you are saved, or forgiven… or 17 virgins await your martyrdom. We have met the enemy and he is …?

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    LiveGrenade said:”So I ask, what is the military’s ultimate goal in having a “Christian” force?”Having a Christian military force is not really anyone’s purpose or goal. The problem is that some very primitive and backward thinking people have attained positions of great power and are seeking to corrupt the military, with their relgious conservative brand of Christianity, which the majority of Americans do not believe in, follow, subscribe to, nor understand. These people are a problem anywhere you might encounter them, not just in the military. All over the South, where I was born and raised, these people who seek to control and coerce everyone and everything, are widely known to be difficult, and even obnoxious people. They are limited, sheltered, and cloistered in their thinking. They have an inner confusion over “belief,” knowledge and speculation. They are confused over basic issues of freedom and coercion. They are pre-occupied with human sexuality, and how to repress it. Most of all, they are harsh and judgemental of others, with a cold, hard, and unsympathetic heart. They have a sense of entitlement, and demand respect, but they arrogantly would not extend this same respect to others. They are bullys on the one hand, and cry-babies, on the other.It it not a pretty picture.

  • patricksarsfield

    MikeK,”[patricksarsfield] wrote “Specifically, no atheist to whom I have ever spoken can explain what happened before the Big Bang so that the process unfolded in such an ordered–dare I say “designed”–way.”And what was your god doing prior to the big bang and why the wait? Unanswerable questions cut both ways.”Answer: If God caused the Big Bang–and I believe that is probably the way it happened, given the testimony of people like Arno Penzias on the likelihood of a Big Bang together with the order manifest in the Universe–God only knows what He was doing beforehand, but it included designing the Universe and causing it to come into being.As to why the wait: why not? God only knows why He did what He did when He did it, but I will trust that He did it at what He thought an appropriate time. Given the short length of my life, it really doesn’t matter to me. The difference in the question posed to the atheist is that the atheist can explain neither how the Big Bang was caused nor how something came out of nothing because by the Time of the Big Bang, there was something.

  • Susan Jacoby

    I suggest that all of you read Sally Quinn’s interview with William Boykin, the Army’s “Christian soldier,” if you want a portrait of an officer whose views should have no place in the American military command. Gen. Boykin, who believes that his Christian God is bigger than any other God–and treats religion as a proper battle cry–is a disgrace to his uniform and to the ideals of the Constitution he took an oath to uphold. George Washington would be horrified.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patricksarsfield: “…atheists cannot explain the causation of the Big Bang…” So, what else is obvious?You are brilliant at stating what is irrlevantly obvious.You argue awful casually about theolgoical things; aren’t you fearful that you might mis-step, and be cast, irretrievably, into the lake of fire? (I am not trying to be mean, I am just trying to pry that mind of yours open just a tiny bit, to let a little light in, and to drag you ahead, a few centures; if that is a sin, then I guess I am guilty).

  • MotherLodeBeth

    I may be odd, but as someone who believes in a higher power, I want to note that even we/I who don’t worship as other believers think we should, also feel harassed or even demeaned by religious people who think their way is the ONLY way.

  • LiveGrenade

    Lion’s Den wrote:To the contrary, it is clearly the goal. A back door movement such as this is not serendipitous. It is deliberate. I do not dispute any other part of your statement.There is always a motivation for deliberate action. As precedent, was not the Justice Department knee deep in Christianizing the Asst. Attorney General ranks? So let us speculate, what is the motivation? Why do we need only Christian soldiers? No, it isn’t pretty.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Patrickarsfeld,Apparently you have entered into the realm of being a “rednecked” Catholic i.e. a white, bigoted, NT “thumper”. A good dose of “Crossanization” is highly recommended. Concerned, the “Crossinized” Catholic.

  • wiccan

    Susan-At the end of Gen. Boykin’s interview, I thanked all good ententies that he had retired. The problem is that there are many more like him at the Air Force and Naval academies, trying to turn them into campuses of Liberty University.How can anyone not understand that if prayer is mandatory, it is inherently coercive? How can they think that such prayers would please any deity? How could any commander take this oath:”I, [name], do solemnly swear, (or affirm,) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”and then profane that oath by completely disregarding Article Six and the First Amendment?

  • patricksarsfield

    CCNL,” No problem in believing in such flaws, so continue on in the brainwash of orthodox Catholicism/Christianity. No one is being hurt by believing in “pretty/ugly wingie thingies, mythical resurrections/ assumptions/ ascensions/ miracles, atonement theology and daily blood sacrifices. And such beliefs do have some economic benefits as they provide for a lot of jobs and charitable donations but on the other hand so does Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. “What should I say in response to this? Only that anti-Catholics such as yourself are a lot more worried about the feelings of the handful of atheists in the foxholes that Ms. Jacoby posits than they are about those of the much larger numbers of Catholics. That is kinda what I thought was going on, but it is nice to get your prejudices on the table.

  • E Favorite

    PatricksarsfieldCould you tell me — what effect is this dialogue having on your faith?

  • spiderman2

    Jacoby wrote “Gen. Boykin, who believes that his Christian God is bigger than any other God–“A lot of people don’t believe that and it would culminate to WW3. The weeding out will then commence.

  • LiveGrenade

    Spiderman2: You need to personally test your weeding theory at 1am in central Sadr City. You could try it on your knees for an extra measure of Christian protection. If America’s God is as superior as you claim, you’ll be back with all four appendages and perhaps one iota of credibility. Until then, go to a ball game. There you can honor the inspiring words of a late 18th century plantation lawyer who never wore a uniform, but watched war from a distance and bloviated, much like you.

  • Anonymous

    EFavorite:”Could you tell me — what effect is this dialogue having on your faith?”Relatively little. My faith is certainly not undermined in any respect. I find the atheist pov bizarre. Specifically, no atheist to whom I have ever spoken can explain what happened before the Big Bang so that the process unfolded in such an ordered–dare I say “designed”–way. I just don’t believe that there have been an infinite number of big bangs going off, one of which–ours–worked out. To the extent, though, I get a chance to talk about my faith, no matter how hostile the environment, it is a positive experience since it gives me a chance to share the reason for the hope that lies within me.

  • Leftoflarry

    Indeed…the christian right has been playing victims while esoterically promoting within it’s church walls and government walls the idea of theocratization. Don’t let them fool ya..there’s lots of money to be made by the churches here. They will do whatever it takes.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Spiderman, your childishness makes me think that you may be a boy. Are you? Whenever I asked earlier, you never answered.Are you familiar with Tim and Beverly LaHaye? You sound like your parents may be home schooling you according to some of their teachings.If you are not a child, do you live at home with your parents? Or are you in some kind of group home? By your comments, you seem pretty dysfunctional; I am just trying to figure you out. I almost feel as though in your frustration to say something meaningful, you just default to calling people idiots and stupid, because you’re having a little neuron trouble, getting things out. Am I right?What’s the deal? Am I being too personal? Well you can’t keep acting like this, and not expect some kind of personal curiosity about what makes you tick.

  • UNBIASED OBSERVER

    America is NOT a Christian nation. It’s that simple. Religion has no place in the public square.

  • Mike K.

    Anonymous wrote “Specifically, no atheist to whom I have ever spoken can explain what happened before the Big Bang so that the process unfolded in such an ordered–dare I say “designed”–way.”And what was your god doing prior to the big bang and why the wait? Unanswerable questions cut both ways.

  • Anonymous

    Patrick SarfieldI assume that “anonymous” was you.An atheist is a person who does not believe in God. A person who does not share the Medeivel European Catholic paradigm of existence is not an atheist. That is merely your assumption that all such people are atheists.You have drawn us all off the question at hand, which is, Conservative Christian bullying of people in the military, who are not Conservative Christians.

  • paul c

    CCNL:You’ve allowed yourself to be deceived by these new age theologians. They know nothing of Jesus’ life, because they discard everything written about him and make up their own “docudramas” with no basis whatever, exept what they view as the life of ordinary people of the time. Well someone who is the source of a religion that has lasted 2000 years and has over 2 Billion adherants worldwide can not be considered ordinary in any sense of the word. Worse yet, you propagate their made up stories in these blogs in a mocking way to those that see them for what they really are. And although you call yourself a Catholic, you believe none of the doctrines and in fact, blaspheme continuously. You really need to think where Crossan and company have led you. Is that really where you want to be..

  • Dataflunky

    A little over 40 years ago, as an Air Force enlisted man, I heard a Staff Sergeant say “You have religious freedom, so that means you have to have a religion”. To this day, I do not know if he was just an idiot or deliberately trying to annoy me. What is merely annoying when said by a low level noncom can be downright terrifying when said by a general. The military has the 24/7 power to make life miserable or even impossible for anyone who gets on the bad side of the brass. That is why it is imperative to keep outside control of unwanted evangelizing, which is a form of abuse.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Patrick, Patrick, Patrick,No one is trying to impose any new theology upon you and your fellow orthodox Christians. It is only being pointed out that many contemporary NT and historic Jesus scholars have reviewed the evidence of the foundation of Christianity and found many flaws. That is what you have to deal with. (As noted to Paul C) No problem in believing in such flaws, so continue on in the brainwash of orthodox Catholicism/Christianity. No one is being hurt by believing in “pretty/ugly wingie thingies, mythical resurrections/ assumptions/ ascensions/ miracles, atonement theology and daily blood sacrifices. And such beliefs do have some economic benefits as they provide for a lot of jobs and charitable donations but on the other hand so does Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

  • B-man

    Spidey,Your God is the most sadistically sick and twisted psychopath I could possibly imagine. If he were a human, all humanity would agree that he should fry in the electric chair.Your made up God is not worthy of all creation. He’s not even worthy of man.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Folks!Jesus doesn’t seem to be doing Patrick Sarfield any good.The mental conformity to unbending dogma always lurches, in emotionally spasmodic and repetitive cycles of sinful back-sliding and tearful repentance, down a road that leads straigt and true, to the scapegoating of the world, and the casting of all blame, regret, and recrimination upon some unlucky person or group, such as the Jews, the gays, the atheists, no minority in particular, just anyone, in general. So what if I don’t know nothing about the Big Bang? So what?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Spiderman2 aka CanyonShearer aka “rednecked” Christian,John 10 : 27 is another embellishment of the simple preacher man. The passage by the way is only found in John’s gospel, the least reliable of the four gospels.See-

  • spiderman2

    Any person who can’t stand prayer before meals is INSANE. It better that they leave the navy rather than endangering the lives of others.In Hell, there will be a lot of prayers but no meal would be served. They become the meal of the WORMS while they burn.

  • spiderman2

    B-man, consider what one of the wisest man on earth, King Solomon, had said :”Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)Live it and you will have a different perspective of God.”For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

  • Anonymous

    Holy Cow/Spiderman 2 is a member of the Rev Jerry Falwell Church. Read up on RJF and you know exactly where Spiderman2 is coming from.

  • spiderman2

    “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)This verse is literal. It is not a fairy tale. God’s creation is like a big “computer program”. It is programmed that the idiots will self destruct.

  • E Favorite

    Patricksarsfield AKA Anon, regarding the effect this dialogue is having on his faith:“Relatively little. My faith is certainly not undermined in any respect.” [etc. re the big bang]Thanks for you response, Patrick. It’s different from what I usually hear. I’ve found that people who have their faith challenged often report (even without being asked) that it makes their faith stronger. If you had answered that way, I would have asked you how the dialogue had strengthened your faith. But apparently that’s not the case with you; instead, your faith is “not undermined.”I won’t comment on the issue of the big bang that you raised. Others have engaged you on that theme. It was not part of the conversation up to the point I asked my question, having been mentioned only once, by CCNL in the first comment here.

  • Parker

    Spidey,

  • Mr Mark

    Re: SpideyHasn’t everyone figured out that Spidey’s posts are parodies of a RW religious nut? Take my advice and read his posts as satire. They’re actually very entertaining, if a bit repetitious.Spidey is the Stephen Colbert of On Faith. He assumes a RW Xian nut position in his posts as a joke, just as Colbert provides a parody of Bill O’Really on his Comedy Central Show.I get the feeling Spidey sits home shaking his head that most people haven’t caught on at this point. Well, this is your wake-up call!Enjoy Spidey’s comedy for what it is.

  • PAUL C

    FARNAZ:CCNL: I am still waiting for a cogent explanation of just how JD Crossan knows what Jesus said and what he didn’t, having not been there. What makes him more reliable than the Gospels and Christian tradition? You know, now a days, almost any one can write a book.

  • patricksarsfield

    Folk,“Relatively little. My faith is certainly not undermined in any respect.” [etc. re the big bang]I won’t comment on the issue of the big bang that you raised. Others have engaged you on that theme. It was not part of the conversation up to the point I asked my question, having been mentioned only once, by CCNL in the first comment here. “The atheists never can give a cogent explanation for causation of the Big Bang.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Spiderman2 aka Canyon Shearer, Bible Thumper, Fortune Teller and Severely Brainwashed in that Old Time Religion,Fools are those who have read only the bible. God cannot be proud of such lazy creations!!!!The reality of it all is that the “pew sitters” and “bowers” are coming to grips with the flaws in their religions and in ten years the religions of today will be unrecognizable or extinct as the “pretty and ugly, wingie, flying, thingies” are finally buried in the piles of utter stupidity.

  • paul c

    CCNL:And by the way, what gives you the right to attack Spiderman? Do you see yourself as more reasonable than he is? Trust me, you have different points of view, but very much the same tactics in the way you treat those that don’t agree with you.

  • spiderman2

    CCNL wrote ‘ “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” are not from the mouth of the historic Jesus ‘Those who have tasted the “cake” know more about the “cake” than those who have not. “My sheep know my voice” (John 10:27)

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”America is NOT a Christian nation. It’s that simple. Religion has no place in the public square.”WRONG: as I pointed out a couple of days back, America, per the latest Pew Survey on Religious Adherence, is statistically very much a Christian Nation. 76.1% of Americans are Christian (78.5% if Mormons and JWs are considered Christian). More than half the remainder (12.9%) are “don’t knows” and “nothing in particulars.” That leaves just 8.6% that belong to a particular different group, ranging from Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. to agnostics and atheists. So, Christians outnumber the particular non-Christian belief or non-belief groups by a factor of 9 to 1.

  • spiderman2

    UNBIASED OBSERVER: wrote ” America is NOT a Christian nation. It’s that simple. “That’s where the weeding out will happen. America will not have the same protection it have during the two previous world wars.”And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.” (Isaiah 1:28)”And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)

  • patricksarsfield

    Folks,”Patricksarsfield: “…atheists cannot explain the causation of the Big Bang…” So, what else is obvious? You are brilliant at stating what is irrlevantly obvious.You argue awful casually about theolgoical things; aren’t you fearful that you might mis-step, and be cast, irretrievably, into the lake of fire? (I am not trying to be mean, I am just trying to pry that mind of yours open just a tiny bit, to let a little light in, and to drag you ahead, a few centures; if that is a sin, then I guess I am guilty).”Hmmm…so DILD cannot explain the causation of the Big Bang either and so goes on an insult rant. I am not surprised.

  • spiderman2

    The words of God does not break. It will happen as sure as the sun rises from the east. All the atheists here will be wiped out by the end of WW3.Their trouble does not end there. Eternal frying will follow suit.”but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24)”It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God”.

  • Farnaz

    Paul C:I hate to tell you this, but problems with the “Jewish High Council’s” recommendation go well beyond “New Age Christianity” and have for a long time. Passover had long been sacralized by Jesus’s time. It never, repeat, never, met on Passover. This is not in dispute.Then, too, we have the mysterious Saul/Paul, whose Judaism was nothing like any Judaism extent at the time, not in Palestine, not in Greece. It is highly unlikely that he was ever anything other than Paul from Tarsus, that is, if he existed.Then, you have the problem of the “Pharisees.” The Pharisees opposed a priestly caste and temple culture, as we know, while the Sadducees supported it. This is one among several significant differences between the two. I’ll leave aside the inconsistencies within the NT, the debate as to whether Jesus actually existed, why anyone would be concerned about yet another prophet when they were appearing all over the place in besieged Palestine.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick SarfieldI am not an atheist or an agnostic. And the Big Bang is not my interest. I just do not subscribe to your “be a bully for Christ” hypocrisy. So, you hold your mouth open to be spoon fed the theology of others, with not a clue about what it is to have a true and free thought, uncontrolled by exterior and false theolgies. Gee, what a superior relgious person.

  • paul c

    Spiderman:CCNL: When did I ever claim to be an expert on religion? But you are being presumptuous to think that I have only one book in my library and you are being equally presumptuous to think that just because you can’t find faith through reason that no one else can. There are literally millions of converts to Catholicism every year. Not everyone is born into it. Right now you are busy trying to find reasons not to believe, more so than any one else on this board. You read (or at least list) dozens of books to that end. Yet you are still not satisfied. I pray that you’ll get past that and come back into the light.

  • Farnaz

    Paul C:Thanks for your reply.You write:Decisions were made by the Sanhedrin, not informally by a “subcommittee” meeting with the high priest, and these folks took Passover very seriously. Further, how would Jesus have been threatening their power? They were Sadducees, under the control of Rome. The only conceivable threat he might have represented would have been to Rome, but that, too, is doubtful. He didn’t wish to lead a revolution, and the Judeans were spread out, with relatively few living in Jerusalem. How to organize it even if he had desired it? The revolt would have to wait.As well, during those desperate times, there were prophets everywhere, some declaring themselves to be the messiah. In and of itself, this was not blasphemy. Sacrificing birds in front of the temple, well, that would have been and came to be another matter.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Spiderman2 said:That is something to think about, isn’t it? Many Christian sects, and even many other relgions, of many kinds, claim to be the only true relgion. And they claim all the others to be false. But all these conflicting claims cannot all be true at once, can they? Merely to restate that yours is the only true religion does not settle the confusion of the many conflicing beliefs; it merely adds to the confusion, and makes it even worse. Keep that in mind, before you reply.It is really something to think about, isn’t, Mr. Spiderman.

  • spiderman2

    Parker wrote “The voice you think you hear would seem to be just as incriminating as that you accuse of others.”Somebody told a boy that his father wants him to do a certain thing. The boy didn’t listen to the stranger coz he knows it didn’t came from his father. Just as the dog knows the voice of his master, so are the true children of God. WW3 is coming and those who don’t know God doesn’t know it and will burn alive. No warnings will be given them. “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)A very simple message from God and yet these self-proclaimed “Christians” can’t seem to digest it. They can only hear the voice of THE OTHER one. They can only listen to their true father which is the devil.

  • spiderman2

    The OTHER god of Catholicism.Catholicism proclaims that they are the continuation of the apostles and that they are the true Christian church. IT’S A LIE.For true Christians, the name Jesus and Savior are HOLY. They treat it with utmost reverence. And yet Catholics ordinarily name their children with names like Jesus and Salvador. True Christians reserve these name to call on God and yet these devil religion is NOT BOTHERED when they call their children Jesus or Salvador (savior).I can’t imagine how they are able to shout the name Jesus when they are angry with their child. “Jesus, come here, QUICK !!”WHAT A BLASPHEMOUS SATANIC CHURCH.CCNL is right in most of his tirades against this satanic church. But he is being a fool if he says that the Bible is not the Word of God. Only the true children of God know His voice and it’s only them who can understand the Bible.

  • patricksarsfield

    FOlks,”And the Catholics that still believe, believe only because of their significant Three B Syndrome i.e. they were Bred, Born and the Brainwashed in Catholicism by a bunch of old, “celibate, NT thumping, mostly European white guys called the popes.”Since CCNL and Spiderman are going to be so blunt about others’ beliefs, I will be as well. As far as CCNL goes, his Jesus Seminar people are just an irrelevancy. They don’t offer a belief system; they offer a non-belief system. So I don’t take them seriously in the least. So we are are down to choices among the various segments of Christianity so far as I am concerned. Catholicism is, of course, different from the other two segments. Clearly, both the Eastern Orthodox and the Protestants spend so much time attacking the Catholic Church while basically giving one another a pass. Why is that, since the Protestants are so much less ritualistic than the Catholic Church, while the EOs are far more ritualistic? What it may well come down to is that they both feel compelled to pronounce the Catholic Church to be “sour grapes” to justify their splits from it. Catholicism doesn’t waste a lot of time complaining about them. That is why I respect the Catholic Church in comparison with them: it demonstrates that both the Prots and the EOs broke away from the Catholic Church, and not vice-versa. Let’s look at another big charge CCNL made: the Catholic priests atre celibate! Okay: “celibate…. mostly European white guys” (etc.) have led the Church of Jesus Christ for 2000 years now. That is a good thing. I have a lot more respect for those celibates and their world-wide Billion Plus Church of Christ than I do either for CCNL the Crossanite and his little group of Jesus Seminarians or for Spiderman and his seething mass of counterfeit churches that were founded by mere men in the 16th Century or later. So, I’ll go to Mass next Sunday too in my Catholic parish. The attack on celibacy just leaves me cold. One of the things I particularly respect about Catholicism is that we have had the good sense to impose the celibacy requirement on all priests. Think about it: the two other portions of Christianity that do not require celibacy of their secular clerisy–the protestants and Eastern Orthodox–have both departed from Christ’s clear requirement of no Divorce/Remarriage (Mark 10:2-14). Is there a causal nexus there? Could it be the protestant ministers and the EO married priests have departed from Christ’s rule so they can preserve an escape valve from their own marriages? I can’t prove for certain that that is the reason, but it is one thing to consider about Celibacy. Another thing about Celibacy is that I know that the priest is sacrificing something to take up his cross and follow Christ. I just wouldn’t trust a married minister who probably is more out for himself and his family than he is for the Kingdom of God. It’s like the baloney protestants have been handing out for 492 years now about “idol worship.” Supposedly, the Catholic Church put all those statues and gold lamps and chalices, etc. in their churches because it wanted people to worship the things as idols. So the Reformers got rid of that stuff. But I am not so easily deceived. The real question Protestants don’t like even to face: is what happened to the gold when it was removed from the churches? Whose pockets were lined? Whose pockets were lined when the monasteries were dissolved? Let’s move things up to the modern day: do protestants or Cathlics give more to support their churches? If Catholics did, then maybe somebody could credibly make the argument we so often hear that the Catholic Church is just looking to amass wealth in the form of chalices, etc. But the truth is that Protestants in this country give an average of 2 1/2% of their income to their chrches while Catholics give an average of just 1 and 1/2% of their income. So: how is it that the Catholics give less and yet decorate their churches more? Suggestion: could it be because of Celibacy? Every extra buck that comes into the hands of the minister once his basic needs are met the balance can either go to his church or his rectory where his wife and kids can be found. Is that the real reason, protestants don’t decorate their churches?

  • paul c

    Farnaz,Furthermore, they had been given an opportunity to capture him in a secluded place by Judas Iscariot. While the Gospel accounts are clear that the Jewish official’s original plan was to wait until after the passover festival, this offer by Judas was probably too convenient to pass by. If God wanted Jesus to die as the ultimate passover sacrifice, I’m sure that he could have orchestrated it as described.I don’t know how you can conclude that the time of Jesus was not the Messianiac age and at the same time note that there were all kinds of people around claiming to be the Messiah. And just because the Good news about Jesus sounds to you like a fairy tail or myth, does not mean that it is.

  • Farnaz

    Paul C.:Thanks for your reply. All I’ve got time for right now is your last paragraph. I’ll try to get back to you later on the rest.Paul: “I don’t know how you can conclude that the time of Jesus was not the Messianiac age and at the same time note that there were all kinds of people around claiming to be the Messiah.Farnaz: By Jesus’ time Tikkun Olam was firmly established. Later in the first century it would be further refined, and again, in the Rabbinic era, much later by Maimonides and by Luria. Tikkun Olam may be translated as “healing,” “repairing,” “perfecting” the world. This was the mission of the children of Israel and remains foundational in Judaism. Once this mission is accomplished for all mankind, that is, once poverty is eliminated, once crime is eliminated, once greed, murder, caste, idoloatry, etc., are eliminated, the Messiah’s herald will arrive. This is Judaism 101. The Messiah will come, and the world will be revealed in all its loveliness.If any age could be further away than the pre-Messianic, that of Jesus (assuming he existed) was.During periods of occupation, rapid industrial or technological progress, what some would call reactionary behaviors set in. Messianism, cults, “enthusiasms” of various sorts. Before Jesus’ time the number of prophets had already grown to outrageous proportions, their claiming either to be the Messiah, his herald, one of your average everyday “OT” types. The whole matter was getting cumbersome, beggared belief, and although they had not yet finalized the Tanakh, they (the intellectuals, the interpreters, the Pharisees) knew that the end of authentic prophecy had passed.Given Tikkun Olam, what was to be expected of the pre-Messianic Age, they could not and did not take any self-proclaimed Messiah seriously.Here in Brooklyn, we have any number of Messiahs. Paul C: And just because the Good news about Jesus sounds to you like a fairy tail or myth, does not mean that it is.Farnaz: Of course not. Unlike some of the zealots one meets, I try to have an open mind. I can say that the story shares a great deal with myth by which I mean mythic structure.I’ve also posted on the lack of archaeological evidence (don’t bother with lists, CCNL). Others, aside from CCNL have posted on the inconsistencies in the Gospels, I and others on the impossibility of Paul ever having been anything else but, etc., given what we know about contemporaneous Judaism.What I find curious is the willingness of some, including CCNL, great debunker that he is, to relegate to the myth pile, the “OT,” the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, another people’s sacred text expropriated by the Catholics, while trying desperately to preserve something of the NT.I’m not putting you in that category, Paul. Also, I would like to tell you what an Orthodox Jew said to me last week regarding the historicity of Moses. “Who cares?” Historicity isn’t everything.What do you think of this?To tell you the truth, I’m not on any conversion mission. I see us having a chat. That’s all. What either of us says doesn’t make it true. Clearly your religion is important to you, and I respect that. Quite frankly, I believe that if one’s religion, regardless of what it is, helps one to be a good and moral person, does not require that others adhere to it, that it be imposed on the secular world, I am glad for him or her. Truly, I am.Farnaz

  • paul c

    Farnaz:The problem I have with historical recreations is that two people living in the same era in the same area can have radically different experiences so trying to recreate what happened to individuals 2000 years ago from the “norms” of that time is a fools errand. By way of a simple example: in the 1920’s there was a great depression in the US. Many people lost their jobs and for many, simple necessities were hard to come by. However, it was not so for everyone. Some actually exploited the situation and got rich. So to extrapolate the average situation and say that “person X” could not have become rich during the depression would be inaccurate. In the same way, to say that Paul could not have been what the bibles say he was because that was not the norm, is to ignor the variability of individual situations. The same thing with the discussion we had earlier about the High priest’s council meeting during passover as described in the Gospels. While it clearly was not the norm, who can definitely deny that in that one particular year, circumstances could have been different and they actually did meet and condemn Jesus.

  • Arminius

    Parker,Pay no attention to Spidey. He is a Jerry Falwell right wing bigot, and will neither discuss nor listen. He only strikes out again, spewing his poison like a spitting cobra.But, as Mr Mark observes, he can be highly entertaining. Goad him to set forth more of his absurd prophesies, or, better, his ‘scientific’ explanation of Noah’s flood. Or, worse, if you want to be physically sick, get him to tell you what he really thinks of the Roman Catholic Holy Eucharist. If he won’t, I have saved his hideous post on that.

  • patricksarsfield

    E Favorite: “That’s because no one knows yet. Some Christians have an answer – God did it – but it’s not a cogent explanation, it’s an assertion.”Your “yet” was quite disingenuous. As though some atheist is commissioning a Time Machine to go back beyond the Big Bang to discover what happened? The silly thing about the atheists is that they posit a belief in blind chance when the Universe has developed in a way that shows such evidence of Design. Most explosions blow things to smithereens, but the Big Bang created Galaxies and worlds fit for humankind. There is only one cogent explanation and Blessed is His Name!

  • Arminius

    patricksarsfield:E Favorite’s reply about the Big Bang was not lame, it was honest. A pity you can’t tell the difference.

  • Farnaz

    Paul:Re: Your last postYes, I, too enjoy discussions free of rancor!Passover is sacred in time, just as the Sabbath is. Judaism was then, is now, a religion of time, more than of place. Any Jewish theologian will tell you this. There few things a Jew could have done that would have been worse than not honoring Passover, unless to do so would have been necessary to save a human life. The same was and is true of the Sabbath. Although I gave you an example from today, I’m not basing this on today’s religion, but on documents extant from the period. The obligation to observe Passover and the Sabbath does, of course, remain. This, for adherents was not and is not to be messed with under any circumstances. Only the saving of a human life takes priority, as it does in all circumstances. If Paul was a Jew, then his Judaism was a religion of of one. His views were not merely inconsistent with the fundamental constructs and obligations of Judaism but ran counter to them. The key word here is obligations. Let me remind you, as well, of another simple fact. The Messiah was to have been a descendant of the Davidic king, not the product of a virgin birth. For those contemporary branches of Judaism that hold to a literal Messiah, he will be a human being. As one orthodox rabbi put it to me awhile ago, though the world will have been healed, the Messiah may not be a good math student, may stutter, etc. He will be human.

  • patricksarsfield

    Arminius,”E Favorite’s reply about the Big Bang was not lame, it was honest. A pity you can’t tell the difference.”As I stated already, E-favorite’s claim was “disingenuous,” which is just the opposite of honest. To keep alive the fond hope that maybe somehow in some future era, some atheist will be able to come up with some convenient lie to get around the Order of the Universe that came out of the Big Bang, E-favorite had posited: “That’s because no one knows yet.” The “yet” deceptively suggests that somehow the “scientific” atheists will find a way to get back beyond the Big Bang to “discover” what pre-existed (as I joked: in a time machine perhaps?). That hardly is going to happen…EVER.I notice, Arminius, that even though my last post had laid out why I believed E-favorite disingenuous, you made no attempt to challenge my substantive point. Apparently, you feel free to utter unsupported ipse dixits, just like the atheists you rush to defend, even though you claim and your name suggests that you are somewhat of a believer.

  • Arminius

    patricksarsfield:As I said, you don’t know the difference. Everything you say is twisted by your ‘belief’. You never discuss, you pontificate and cast blame.I write you off. You have no more sense than Spidey.

  • patricksarsfield

    Farnaz,”Let me remind you, as well, of another simple fact. The Messiah was to have been a descendant of the Davidic king, not the product of a virgin birth. For those contemporary branches of Judaism that hold to a literal Messiah, he will be a human being. As one orthodox rabbi put it to me awhile ago, though the world will have been healed, the Messiah may not be a good math student, may stutter, etc. He will be human.”Let me remind you of another simple fact. In the eyes of the Christian World (which is 150 times the size of the Jewish World), those Jews who expect or expected a particular type of Messiah different from Jesus–and that is not all Jews–have thought differently from God. God sent His only begotten son, who was a descendant of the Davidic King through His Ever Virgin Mother, to be not just Messiah, but the Savior of the World. The Jews who got it when Jesus proclaimed his Messiahship–like Peter, Paul, Andrew, and the other apostles–became the first Christians and we haven’t stopped since. In fulfillment of the Great Commission, we have gone out to all Nations (the “gentes” whom Jews call Gentiles) to proclaim the good News of Salvation for all, Jew and Gentile alike. Paul got that even though he started out much where you are, ready to attack Christ and the Christians based on his then imperfect understanding of Scripture.

  • patricksarsfield

    Arminius,You write:”As I said, you don’t know the difference. Everything you say is twisted by your ‘belief’. You never discuss, you pontificate and cast blame.”Why am I not surprised you write me off? You don’t argue substantively; you certainly don’t mass support for cogently stated positions. Instead, you offer one to four line ipse dixits in support of atheist and pagan positions, while claiming to be a believer. BTW, can you explain what happened before the Big Bang?

  • paul c

    Spiderman:Look at what you have become. You spew venom in every post you make and you twist the bible to do it. Would Satan do anything differently? Please, look in the mirror before you find yourself facing the same eternal damnation you are sure is facing the rest of us.

  • Arminius

    Paul C,That was quite a good reply to CCNL. As an Episcopalian, I particularly enjoyed your paragraph relating the ideas of C S Lewis. Unfortunately, you will never reach CCNL. Many of us have tried, and we all have failed. That benighted person is totally locked into his bizarre ‘theology’, and will only spew long lists of stuff at you.

  • Farnaz

    PaulC:Just a quick point on Paul. From the beginning, Jews were obligated to marry and have children. The word “obligation” is not quite right, but there is no precise English translation for either the Hebrew or Aramaic. With “obligation” comes the sense of blessing. They were blessed with this obligation. They did not wish to hasten the end of time by not having children. They did not wish to hasten the end of time at all, in fact. They wished to fulfill Tikkun Olam. Indeed, and I mean no offense, it would have been considered evil two thousand years ago to suggest otherwise, and would be today if introduced as a prospect to Jews.Among contemporary Ethiopian Jews, whose Judaism has been transmitted orally through the millennia,the blessed obligation to marry and procreate is among the sine quibus non of Judaism.No theologian I know of has written otherwise of ancient Judaism.

  • Farnaz

    PaulC:It was an obligation to marry, a non-negotiable obligation.

  • spiderman2

    The Bible said that IF one cannot contain it, IT IS BETTER TO MARRY THAN TO BURN. For this reason, many priests will BURN simply because they don’t know that their master is the DEVIL. They are not allowed to marry despite the obvious fact that they cannot contain. Paul C, I hope the priests you know will allow you to peek on their their lives similar to BIG BROTHER tv program . I knew a friend who didn’t become a priest because he saw the hypocricy. All of the priests in his locality have a lover. What he did was marry a girl he loved and served the church as a layperson. He is a good person but catholicism is leading him slowly to damnation. Why do I know? He too has a “secret life”. Hidden from the people he serves but not to me. Im not amazed because he is serving the devil’s church. Im not surprised also when he told me of the priests’ trysts.Stories of these abound and yet people choose to close their eyes.

  • E Favorite

    “The atheists never can give a cogent explanation for causation of the Big Bang.”That’s because no one knows yet. Some Christians have an answer – God did it – but it’s not a cogent explanation, it’s an assertion.

  • paul c

    Farnaz,CCNL: You are blinded to the strength of the church and the reality of God’s plan. And I know that the onFaith panel is highly secular. Even their Catholic writer is highly secular. That does not make them right. And I know that even you , apostate that you are, might be counted as a Catholic in the 1B. Even though, as you pointed out that there are plenty of Catholics in name only, there are also hundreds of millions of very devout ones, some of who post regularly on these pages. They will survive the secular world. Spiderman: I agree with you that only the true children of God hear his voice. It is clear that many on these pages do not hear his voice. That I believe is their choice. I believe God calls them all. Some just choose to ignore it. I would recommend that you reconsider your approach to others with dissenting opinions, however. It’s fine to attack the opinions and show why yours are superior (if you have the data). However, it is not helpful to directly attack those that have those opinions. You have personally been vigorously attacked in these blogs and I know that that can’t feel good. Well, its the same for those you attack. I know you read the bible. Think about a few passages:

  • paul c

    Farnaz:In the gospel accounts, the general presumption among the Jews of the time, including the apostles, is that the Messiah would be a political leader not a spiritual leader. Jesus had to very patiently explain to them that God doesn’t care about politics, (give to Caesar what is Caesar, give to God what is God’s) but only in the spirit. He taught them that the Messiah had to suffer (quoting Isaiah and the psalms)and would ultimately bring them to peace in the heavenly, not earthly kingdom.What is it specifically about St. Paul that you find impossible in a Jew. In the NT accounts he starts out being a very strict Pharisee, but ultimately comes to understand that the old order has changed with the coming of Christ. What is so unbelievable about that.

  • patricksarsfield

    Farnaz,”From the beginning, Jews were obligated to marry and have children. The word “obligation” is not quite right, but there is no precise English translation for either the Hebrew or Aramaic. With “obligation” comes the sense of blessing. They were blessed with this obligation…..What you are missing is that Paul stopped following the obligations of the Law to the extent they were meaningless and counter-productive. That is what the whole thing about no need for Gentiles to be circumcised was all about. While Paul was willing to see some christians marry if that was something necessary for them to do, he saw celibacy as a more valuable approach to life and so recommended it. (1 Cor. 7:7-10). Now if someone had pointed out that that was inconsistent with the Jewish Law, Paul’s answer no doubt would be: this I understand but we are moving beyond that, just as we did on the Gentile Circumcision thing.

  • E Favorite

    patricksarsfield says, “Your “yet” was quite disingenuous. As though some atheist is commissioning a Time Machine to go back beyond the Big Bang to discover what happened?”- There are a lot of things we don’t know YET — cures for many kinds of cancer, Alzheimer’s, the common cold. Is “god” the answer to those unknowns? Seems to me medical science is working on those problems and we’re looking for an answer from science, not from god.There were lots of things we once thought god was responsible for – thunder, lightning, all sorts of bad and good weather, diseases and cures. Now science explains all these things. No need to commission a Time machine.

  • Anonymous

    Farnaz, who are the wives of Moses, Elijah, Elisha etc? There are celibate Jewish prophets.My guess is that you tend to mix up Islamic teachings for Jewish.

  • spiderman2

    Paul C. wrote “Stop Judging lest you be judged” It’s a muddy water you’re drinking. How do I know? The Bible is the standard. It’s the clear water. It’s called advice and not judging. I try not to a judge a person. It’s the doctrine that I say is muddy. Catholicsim is the devil’s water. Many will go to hell because of this religion. Those who would listen and be saved from the fire will say, “thanks for the care”.

  • spiderman2

    “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

  • Anonymous

    John the Baptist was celibate. The Jewish society of his day did not consider it unusual and condemn it. Jesus was celibate. The Jewish society of His day did not consider it unusual and condemn it.In Christianity there is no obligation to be celibate. All the disciples Jesus Himself chose were married men.

  • Anonymous

    “PATRICKSARSFIELD:Arminius,You write:”As I said, you don’t know the difference. Everything you say is twisted by your ‘belief’. You never discuss, you pontificate and cast blame.””Patrick, Arminius has a long history flying off the handle that way. It really has nothing to do with you. So take his judgmental and self righteous tirades with a grain of salt.He often apologizes later, as he should.

  • Anonymous

    To imply only someone who is married could be a Jew is a wild stretch of the imagination. It is to be noted that Farnaz belongs to a camp which tries to “prove” Jesus did not exist and even if He did, He could not have been a Jew. In one of her posts she mentioned that Judaism and Islam are Abrahamic faiths while Christianity is not.

  • Anonymous

    Arminius is the last person to fly off the handle. If anything he lacks the capacity to fly off the handle as he sometimes should.

  • Anonymous

    Arminius was an atheist for over three decades. He is still new to Christianity and is trying to find his way. In his eagerness to please all, he is usually found siding with anti-theists, pagans and Muslims. He does that even if he has to take sides against Christians even in a religious sense. It is a mystery but that is Arminius.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Paul C,And your library still contains just one book, the bible, consisting of the mythical OT and the highly embellished NT. And how is it you are such an expert in religion????And you make no mention about the Catholic “no-contraception” rules being the major reason for the large population of brainwashed believers and “in-name” only Catholics? Why is that??And the Catholics that still believe, believe only because of their significant Three B Syndrome i.e. they were Bred, Born and the Brainwashed in Catholicism by a bunch of old, “celibate, NT thumping, mostly European white guys called the popes.

  • Parker

    Arminius,

  • Anonymous

    anonymous and farnaz, together again.

  • Arminius

    Paul C,Regarding the dates and authors of the Gospels – something of a can of worms. A lot of disagreement here.The most widely accepted dates are:The author of Luke is generally accepted, since he identified himself. The other authors are conjecture. It is statistically likely that none of the authors were witnesses; of course Luke says he was not. But all surely talked to witnesses.

  • Farnaz

    Arminius writes to PaulC:”But all surely talked to witnesses.”How do you know? Who were the witnesses?

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Paul C -Arminius is correct in stating that none of the Gospel writers were contemporaries of Jesus. Neither were any of them the original 12 apostles. Your “understanding” is no understanding at all. You really need to avail yourself of the Biblical scholarship that has been done over the past 200 years. Knowledge of the same won’t necessarily change your faith, but it will give you pause before you offer opinions that have been discredited for at least the past 10 generations.

  • Neal:

    paul c:From my copy of the Catholic and imprimatured “New American Bible”, c. 1987.Regarding the authorship of the Gospel of Matthew:”The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this) and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories.” (Page 1061)Regarding the authorship of the Gospel of John from the same source:”Critical analysis makes it difficult to accept the idea that the gospel as it stands was written by one person. […] Although tradition identified this person as John, the son of Zebedee, most modern scholars find that the evidence does not support this.” (Page 1188)

  • Arminius

    Farnaz,I don’t know if the authors of the Gospels spoke to witnesses. Luke does say that he did. I meant that it was likely. Of course we don’t know who they were. Anyway, since the bulk of the Old Testament was (correct me if I am wrong) written during the Babylonian Exile, who talked to Moses? Or people who had known him? Much greater time span here.

  • Farnaz

    PaulC:”Farnaz:Farnaz: The more important point is his thinking on marriage. Of course, we have no Sadduccee writing. Our knowledge of the Sadduccees comes from the Pharisees. From them, we conclude that they held same views regarding the blessed obligation to marry.PaulC: And you got caught up in the distinction between Pharisees and SadducceesAS for your unrelated point about the Gospel writers, I don’t see any particular problem with the fact that they were written 40-50 years after the resurrection.Farnaz: The distinction between the Pharisees and Sadducees is of the utmost importance to NT exegetes, Judaism scholars, clergy, etc. It goes, in part, to the historicity of the NT, in part to its politics. For Jews the distinction has a much greater meaning. By the time of the NT, the Sadducees were on the verge of dying out. After 70CE, they were of no significance in Jewish thought. In the meantime, Jewish Christians were in the process of converting others. The Judeans were Pharisees. The confusion of the Sadducees with the Pharisees may be seen as an innocent error or as politically motivated. Forgive me, but the latter view currently holds sway. IMHO the best source this, especially for Catholics, is Rosemary Reuther, “Faith and Fratricide.”

  • Anonymous

    Holy Cow/Spiderman2 is consistent in quoting from the Old Testament or the highly symbolic Revelations. How often does Spiderman2 quote from the Sermon on the Mount, other Gospel passages, letters of John, James and Peter the most important disciples of Jesus, or from Paul’s famous Corinthians verses on love?Read about Rev Jerry Falwell’s teachings to know where Holy Cow/Spiderman2 comes from.Hatred, hellfire and damnation is all Spiderman2 understands. Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was love in person, he does not know.

  • Farnaz

    PaulC:Again, and most emphatically, removal of the self from the world to obtain spiritual erudition, in Judaic thought, for “learning,” has always been seen as a grave error, a contradiction in terms, to be avoided at all costs.And it was a serious temptation since Judaism involved study, and study could be enthralling. However, study was never to be seen as valuable in and of itself, but only as it went to Tikkun Olam. To remove oneself from the world, was to insult the deity.These teachings are ancient, were and are foundational.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius -The reliability of eyewitnesses is no reliability at all. I don’t really think Luke talking to “witnesses” adds a shred of truth to his writings.These witnesses would have spoken with Luke at least 40 years after Jesus was crucified. That’s akin to an eyewitness at to the JFK assassination speaking to someone today about their experience. Some eyewitnesses would swear there was a second or third gunman. Some would swear they heard 4 shots, rather than 3. NONE would have seen Oswald on the day in question, even though he did the shooting and was within 1/4 mile of anybody standing in Dealey Plaza at the time. What’s even more amazing is if one considers that the JFK assassination has been covered, recovered, rehashed, re-investigated etc etc for almost 50 years since it happened, and people STILL have different stories and opinions about who did what to who. Compare the doubts that still surround this event for which contemporary news accounts, doctors reports and even film footage exist to the oral communication of Jesus’ day. Just how reliable would such witnesses be? Hell, I could name myriad quotes from famous people, quotes that are enshrined in textbooks and encycolpediae (and have been for decades) that the average person can’t quote correctly to save their lives (Ex: music soothing the savage “beast” – the actual word is “breast.”).Now, sure, the Bible says that for something to be considered “evidence,” all one needs is for two witnesses to agree on it. But all that does is insure that if you can get two people to tell the same lie, then things will go a certain way (made no more clear than in the Passion story when false witness was brought against Jesus). That’s why forensic evidence tops eyewitnesses every time. And that’s why any “witnesses” to the life of Jesus are no more credible than were the 70,000 witnesses who saw the sun fall from the sky at Fatima in 1917.

  • paul c

    Farnaz:

  • Anonymous

    Holy Cow/Spiderman2 is always about self-righteously judging and cursing other people. How good is Holy Cow/Spiderman2? What good works do you do Spiderman2? What do your family and friends say about you? Are you kind and helpful to them? Do you help strangers and the needy? Pray do tell us how righteous you are in your life.

  • Farnaz

    Paul:”I don’t know how we got into this side conversation, but do you really stake your argument against Christianity on the point that St. Paul couldn’t have been Jewish AND celibate?”No, that’s not what I wrote. What he was, he was. It’s his thinking on marriage that is at issue and all that is related to that thought.That and related points are what I addressed myself to. Also, I discussed the significance of the Pharisee/Sadducee distinction, etc., and its importance to historicity.

  • Farnaz

    PaulC:Here’s the thing. Once you get into assertions of fact, you get into the need for independent evidence. To say the Bible is true because it is the BibleThat matters not a whit to some. As I mentioned to you in an earlier post, last week, I discussed the historicity of Moses with an Orthodox Jew. “What if he didn’t exist?” I asked. “Who cares?” he answered. He also let me know that he wasn’t unfamiliar with current Tanakh debates.There are other Jews, who could never accept the notion that a flesh and blood Moses didn’t exist.Now, among Christians who post here, we have the strange, but true, case of CCNL, who wishes to have it any number of ways. IMHO, for the believer, so long as he respects the beliefs of others, doesn’t try to convert them, doesn’t attempt to legislate in accordance with his religion, I’m fine.However, to say it is true because it is true, well….

  • Arminius

    Hi, Mr Mark,Thanks for the post.First, yes, witnesses are always suspect. A good lawyer is in heaven (excuse the word!) when the opposition has two or more eyewitnesses, because he knows he can excoriate them in cross-examination. Many lawyers love circumstantial evidence, because it can’t really be cross-examined. And, yes, the forensic evidence is very good. (I am NOT a lawyer, by the way!) A pity it was screwed up in the Simpson trial. Second, and a big, big ‘however’. There exists a huge amount of history, undisputed, that was dependent on either eye-witnesses or people who spoke to eye-witnesses. Take, for a trivial example, the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC(BCE?), where the Thebans beat the crap out of the Spartans. No accounts by people who were there exist. Should we expel that battle from our history books? Even Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War was largely derived from other people. Not to mention Heroditus’ account of the Persian Wars. What shall we do?As far as the Gospels, you know I accept them – in general. I retain some skepticism, of course. I see, amid the conflict, the ring of truth there. Remember that it took four skeptical readings, coming from the outside, to get there. And I think that if somebody invented it, they would have done a more cohesive job!Arminius

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    One more time-References to the historical Jesus with dates: (Father Raymond Brown’s, An Introduction to the New Testament- ref #34 has a great review of the NT authors, Traditional and as detectable by the contents.)1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm — the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the titles of their over 100 books on the subject. 2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–“The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament.”5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias 9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.10. 7. The Gnostic Jesus 11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission 12. The Jesus Database- newer site: 13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist: 14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus: 16. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/17. Diseases in the Bible: 19. The Jesus Seminarians and their search for NT authenticity: 20. The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgateway.com/21. Writing the New Testament- existing copies, oral tradition etc.22. The Search for the Historic Jesus by the Jesus Seminarians: 23. Jesus Decoded by Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco (Da Vinci Code review)jesusdecoded.com/introduction.php24. JD Crossan’s scriptural references for his book the Historical Jesus separted into time periods: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf25. JD Crossan’s conclusions about the authencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the conclusions of other NT exegetes in the last 200 years: 26. Common Sayings from Thomas’s Gospel and the Q Gospel: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan3.rtf27. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books by title with the complete translated work in English :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html28. Luke and Josephus- was there a connection? 29. NT and beyond time line: 30. St. Paul’s Time line with discussion of important events: 31. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD Crossan’s books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be found on-line at Google Books.32. Father Edward Schillebeeckx’s words of wisdom as found in his books.33. The books of the following other On Faith panelists: Professors Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Karen Armstrong and Bishop NT Wright.34. Father Raymond Brown’s An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY, 1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.35. Luke Timothy Johnson’s book The Real Jesus,

  • Freestinker

    All this debating about Christianity, Jesus, Moses, etc. goes to straight to the point of why mandatory prayers in the military should be strictly prohibited. Nobody can ever seem to agree on these matters of religious opinion, so the government (which includes the military) should always remain silent and thus neutral. This way everyone’s religious liberty is protected and no one’s religious liberty is ever compromised. This concept is so damn simple that, for the life of me, I just can’t understand why some (religious) people can’t grasp it?

  • Mr Mark

    Arminius writes:”There exists a huge amount of history, undisputed, that was dependent on either eye-witnesses or people who spoke to eye-witnesses. Take, for a trivial example, the Battle of Leuctra, 371 BC(BCE?), where the Thebans beat the crap out of the Spartans. No accounts by people who were there exist. Should we expel that battle from our history books? Even Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War was largely derived from other people. Not to mention Heroditus’ account of the Persian Wars. What shall we do?”Well, I would think that the first thing we do is to discount any parts of these undisputed histories that aver that THE GODS were involved in the battles and that they somehow influenced their outcomes.The second thing to do would be to recognize that “history” is a more accurate discipline these days than it was in the past, and that past writers of history added their own bias and non-historical embellishments of such histories. Ex: read about the Battle of Little Big Horn in histories written close to the event and compare those to the tale the latest scientific and forensic evidence tells you. There was no “Last Stand” by the brave, white people. The battle was a total rout with the 7th Cavalry devolving into an every-man-for-himself retreat in very short order.I would say that with any ancient history, we can be fairly sure of the general outlines but not, necessarily, the details. That’s a shame, because the life lessons are almost always contained in the details, and said details add up to the collective mythos we have developed about human behavior and intentions.The Bible – that’s another case altogether. It’s a history the way the Indiana Jones movies are history.Gotta go.

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,Not sure how to approach this, but I suspect your bias against any form of belief is coloring your view of history.OK, discount mention of God having a hand. Perhaps there was a strange dude that wandered Judea preaching a strange message. The assorted authorities deemed him a threat, and did him in. But some were with him, and remembered. Maybe 20 years later, they related their experiences to others. These others, some 20 or more years later, tried to write it down. Is that so far-fetched? Is there any evidence to believe this weird dude did not exist beyond negative proofs? Cannot the same logic be applied to the battle of Marathon? Or countless other events?I am NOT saying I have proof that Jesus existed. I just suspect that your wish that he did not exist affects your otherwise exemplary logic.

  • Nitpicker

    Farnaz: “To say the Bible is true because it is the Bible is tautological.”Not tautological, circular. A tautology is a valid logical statement that is necessarily true, i.e. true under all circumstances. Circular logic is fallacious and relies on the conclusion to support the premises.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius -Oh, I have no doubt that there were plenty of Jesus’ walking around back then. Josephus mentions 19 different Jesuses.In fact, there was a SECOND Jesus present at the trial of Jesus!According to the Biblical account, Pilate offered the Jews the release of just one prisoner and the cursed race chose Barabbas rather than gentle Jesus.But in the original text studied by Origen (and in some recent ones) the chosen criminal was Jesus Barabbas – and Bar Abba in Hebrew means ‘Son of the Father’!Are we to believe that Pilate had a Jesus, Son of God and a Jesus, Son of the Father in his prison at the same time??!!Perhaps the truth is that a single executed criminal helped flesh out the whole fantastic fable.Perhaps the Gospel writers, in scrambling details, used the Aramaic Barabbas knowing that few Latin or Greek speakers would know its meaning.As far as the story of THE Jesus being true, and your scenario that: “Maybe 20 years later, they related their experiences to others. These others, some 20 or more years later, tried to write it down. Is that so far-fetched?”No, but that’s not the question. The question is, is it accurate? My understanding is that Jesus pretty much disappeared from the talking circuit after his death. For such an important guy/god, there doesn’t seem to be much discussion of him anywhere until Paul took up his pen 20-30 years after the fact. In fact, as there’s no historical discussion of Jesus from writers contemporaneous to him, it’s more accurate to say that there isn’t a mention of Jesus ANYWHERE UNTIL Paul.Apply this scenario to the JFK assassination. What would one believe if the killing happened, then, not a peep about it until 1983, then, not another peep until 2003? Those reporting in 1983 would have fresh “evidence” from the House Committee that there was a conspiracy involved, and a fourth shot as well. Those reporting in 2003 might think much the same thing. But in 2007, Vincent Bugliosi released his “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” in which he presents a clear and copiously documented account that shows conclusively that Oswald acted alone and that the Warren Commission actually got it right. Now, Bugliosi has the benefit of 40 years of research on this subject. The Gospel writers and Paul had nothing to work from but old pagan archetypes, their own imaginations and the words of possible witnesses. Imagine Bugliosi attempting to write authoritatively about the JFK assassination if that was all he had to work with!So, is your scenario possible? Sure. But reliable? No.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius -One final point: I have no “wish” that Jesus didn’t exist. Were I to stipulate that he did exist, that would not be proof or belief that he was god incarnate. Neither would it be proof or acceptance that all of those words in the Bible were actually spoken by him (CCNL should be happy with that statement!).To me, there’s no wishing involved: there is NO historic proof that I’ve seen that compels me to believe the guy existed. For me to believe he existed is a pure leap of faith, and I see no reason to take that leap for Jesus, anymore than I need to take it for anyone else – including Homer and Socrates.My reading of the Jesus tale is that it is a story based on arche-typical pagan gods with a smattering of historic personages thrown in to add artistic verisimilitude. In fact, it is my belief that people who feel the need to treat Jesus as a real, corporeal being are missing out on the beauty and majesty of the mythical Jesus, ie: a figure who fits well into the inspiring mythos that man created for himself centuries before Jesus “arrived” and that continues to inform our very humanity.Indeed, to my way of thinking, taking Jesus out of the realm of the mythic gods (where one finds his TRUE literary lineage) and placing him on Earth as a real person DIMINISHES him as an archetype, rather than enhancing his appeal as a fellow being.I don’t believe that was the intention of Paul or even St Mark, but by the time Matthew and Luke got around to copying and expanding on Mark’s allegorical fiction, the “Jesus was real” idea had become integral to SELLING the concept to a pagan populace. The whole idea of gods living among men goes way back to the Egyptians, and the Jesus story is simply another ancient version of an already ancient tale.So, no “wish.” Just cold, hard assessment of the available evidence…and lack thereof.

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,I perceive that you are still wrapped up in your refusal to believe that a historical Jesus existed, because it is a religious matter. All you have presented is still a bunch of negative proofs.Strip from the Gospels the miracles, etc. Make a Jeffersonian version of the Gospels, just the teachings. Start from there.Sure, there were an overabundance of ‘Messiahs’ in that era. Hell, there still are. So what else is new? Where are the stories of those other Messiahs? Sure, there are conflicts and interpretations of names. That just exemplifies the difficulties of exact history. And you yourself have detailed that difficulty well with your words on the JFK assassination. I’m talking probabilities here. Historical. You accept the Battle of Marathon, despite a single, unsubstantiated source, because it is non-religious. You do not accept the possibility of a historical Jesus because it is religious. Despite four sources, perhaps removed from the events by the same time span that Herodotus was removed from the Persian Wars.Examine where you are coming from. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”I’m NOT trying to convert you! I search for the truth.Arminius

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius -You wrote:”Make a Jeffersonian version of the Gospels, just the teachings. Start from there.”And…I have major disagreements with the teachings of Jesus. Things like loving your enemies while hating your immediate family. Things like averring that the savage law of the OT is operational “until heaven and Earth pass away.” Things like faith being more important than facts. I have problems with the eternal flames of hell for non-believers, a concept that comes right out of Jesus’ mouth and nowhere else. Yeah, I have problems there as well. Has nothing to do with whether or not the guy existed.As far as the Golden Rule and variations thereof? Well, some old Chinese guy was saying that long before Jesus showed up. Show me one of the “good sayings” of Jesus and I can show you someone else who said it first. Aver that Christianity is a wonderful codification of “good” beliefs and practices and I’ll show you religions that are even better. Aver that the Bible is the basis of our morals and I’ll prove to you unequivocally that mankind has moved on from the Bible’s barbarous fictions and has developed morals – ie: anti-slavery, anti-misogyny – that show the Bible and its characters – including Jesus – to be the antithesis or morality.Let’s be honest, Arminius: you yourself have made your own Jeffersonian version of the Xian faith. You are cherry picking that which you agree with and discarding that which offends you. I am doing the same thing, only I take it a few steps further than do you and discard 99% of it, keeping only those parts that show the best of human enterprise…the parts that we see common to many of mankind’s greatest efforts.Gotta go.

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,Interesting. Of course I am cherry-picking, I freely admit it. That is where I am coming from. So what real significance is that? I am a seeker. You have presented no arguments that I can agree with.What is disturbing is that you are gently trying to convert me, while I have outrightly stated that my intent is NOT to convert you.Shame on you.

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,May I submit that we have, for the time being, beat this poor dead horse to a bloody stump? Let us forgo this debate, for a while, and move on to other subjects, before it becomes too bitter. I value your company here.With respect,Arminius

  • Mr Mark

    Arminius -I’m not trying to convert you. To what?I am simply attempting to answer your questions and to provide a bit of depth/insight into WHY I disbelieve as I do. As I said, I have no “wish” to think a certain way, I simply do so based on what I’ve learned in my life.As far as, “you have presented no arguments that I can agree with,” I don’t expect you to agree. We obviously disagree on these things. I am only offering information to support my beliefs or lack thereof. I am not “still wrapped up in a refusal to believe that a historical Jesus existed, because it is a religious matter.” I don’t believe he was a historical person because there’s no compelling historic evidence for me to believe he lived. The word “refusal” implies there is something factual to be refused. That’s not true in the case of Jesus.There’s something about my position on Jesus’ a-historical nature that cuts too close for comfort for you. I can sense your dander rising with every new post I submit. If I’m beating a dead horse, it’s only because you asked. I don’t mind dropping this line of conversation either.Respectfully, Mr Mark

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,Agreed, friend, let’s give it a rest.I have just backed you up on the Bible Class blog. May be something brewing there.

  • Freestinker

    Arminius and Mr Mark,Sorry to butt in on your sizzling debate about the validity of the historical Jesus, but …Does anybody know if a Naval Academy Midshipman can just sit down and start eating before the mealtime prayer is said or finished?

  • Arminius

    Freestinker,Well, that got a laugh! I would suspect that any midshipman that started eating before the unconstitutional prayer was finished would suffer a demerit and some very unpleasant duty thereafter.

  • Freestinker

    Arminius,You “suspect” as do I but I’m hoping someone can tell us for sure. It doesn’t make much difference but I am curious because that’s what I do when others try to coerce me into praying rather than eating, especially when I’m really hungry.

  • Arminius

    Freestinker,LOL! You don’t have to pray, you just have to sit there and drool until you are allowed to eat. While I was not in any academy, I was in the army, and, when in training, meals are formal and they intentionally keep you hungry. Sharpens the wits – it really does.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear CCNL -You write (ad infinitum) citing Crossan:????Care to cite the places where Josephus and Tacitus aver such a thing? Last I looked, they repeat Xian beliefs that this happened, not that it actually happened. If you cite them I will.New Testament scholar John P. Meier acknowledges that Tacitus is only passing on information gleaned from Christians, he isn’t making an independent attestation to the existence of Jesus.”Tacitus and Pliny the Younger reflect instead what they have heard Christians of their own day say. Despite various claims, no early rabbinic text (the earliest being the Mishna, composed ca. A.D. 200) contains information about Jesus, and later rabbinic texts simply reflect knowledge of, and mocking midrash on, Christian texts and preaching.”As far as Josephus’ mention of Jesus and Pilate – that appears in the Testimonium Flavianum which many scholars have labeled a 4th-century forgery (to varying degrees), inserted into Josephus’ work. Further proof – Josephus provides a copious directory of the personalities that appear in the Contents Table of his Antiquity of the Jews, but Jesus name is strangely absent. Why? Obviously, the well-intentioned 4th-century forgers didn’t think to insert Jesus’ name into all the relevant places that would make their forgery look authentic.Despite what Crossan avers, neither Josephus nor Tacitus “agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea.” That Crossan would make such a statement is both wishful thinking in the case of Tacitus (ie: putting the best-possible pro-Jesus existence spin on a third-hand report), and downright deceptive in the case of Josephus (ie: assigned a mantle of undeserved authenticity to passages that have long been and continue to be the subject of heated argument among Biblical scholars).Historic note: up until about 100 years ago, Protestant sects held that the TF was a complete hoax. It has only been recently – since the “Jesus as myth” belief got off the ground – that Protestants have sided with the RCC in offering the TF as non-Biblical “proof” of Jesus existence, most notably as does Crossan in asserting that Josephus’ mentioning Pilate as condemning Jesus to death was an actual historic event.Back at ya.

  • Farnaz

    Mr. Mark:”later rabbinic texts simply reflect knowledge of, and mocking midrash on, Christian texts and preaching”Which ones?

  • Farnaz

    Dear Nitpicker and Arminius,Re: TautologyI reread my post, and you guys are right. I did not give an instance of tautology.How’s this: “It’s in the Bible, and, therefore, it must be true.”

  • Farnaz

    Getting back to mealtime prayer for the moment, on another thread, a blogger wrote to the effect that if mealtime prayer were eliminated, she was sure that those who wished to pray could find a way to sit together at meals and do so.Sounds good to me.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Farnaz -Check out Maimonides’ “Epistle to Yemen.”

  • Farnaz

    Mr. Mark:Thanks for getting back to me. I’ll have to look at it again, but to the best of my recollection, which is good, the Epistle to Yemen was a response to the most respected rabbi in Yemen at the time. Jews were being persecuted there, and a new religion, of sorts, was being advocated by a Jew, a compromise, or syncretic religion, combining elements of Shia Islam with Judaism. Unsurprisingly, Maimonides’ letter put an end to it. We are, of course, dealing with the pre-Protestant era, (12th century, if I recall correctly), so he would have had to be referring to Catholicism, if he were to have referred to Christianity at all, but what would Catholicism have to do with the travail in Yemen, which concerned Shia Muslims persecuting Jews?

  • Pseudo

    Arminius:”Make a Jeffersonian version of the Gospels, just the teachings.”See:”The Thomas Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”By Thos. Jefferson

  • Farnaz

    Mr. Mark:Actually, it probably would have been Orthodox Christianity, I’d imagine, but again, it seems unlikely that this particular Epistle would contain references to Christianity. What is the topical connection?

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Farnaz -We are both at a disadvantage in this as we are forced to interpret what JP Meier meant when he wrote, “later rabbinic texts simply reflect knowledge of, and mocking midrash on, Christian texts and preaching.” I cite Maimonides as I believe he called Jesus a heretic in his Epistle to Yemen (I could be wrong here). I think that qualifies the “later” and “mocking…Christian preaching” aspects of Meier’s statement.

  • Farnaz

    Mr. Mark,Thanks again for your reply. Are you saying that Meier doesn’t give specifics? BTW, I have no agenda here. Farnaz

  • Farnaz

    Pseudo,You have returned!! What do you think of Freestinker’s mealtime prayer, pasted from the main thread?Freestinker’s Grace:God’s a hunch, let’s munch!

  • patricksarsfield

    Efavorite,”There are a lot of things we don’t know YET — cures for many kinds of cancer, Alzheimer’s, the common cold. Is “god” the answer to those unknowns? Seems to me medical science is working on those problems and we’re looking for an answer from science, not from god.There were lots of things we once thought god was responsible for – thunder, lightning, all sorts of bad and good weather, diseases and cures. Now science explains all these things. No need to commission a Time machine.”You missed the point: thunder and lightning/ cancers are measurable phenomena that can be observed/experimented on in the here and now. The state of things before the Big Bang is not such a phenomenon, and never will be. If you don’t have an alternative explanation “yet,” the only way it’s going to happen (through use of the Scientific Method) is if you can make observations from beyond the Beginning of the Universe. Absent a Time Machine, that ain’t going to happen. SO: what’s the alternative explanation, or are you as unable to explain this as the rest of your atheistical friends??

  • paul c

    CCNL:You have been looking for any reason Not to believe yet despite your continual blasphemies against Christ and the Eucharist, you somehow need to keep coming to the altar. There is a reason for that. Try reading some alternative views of Christ and the Saints. I highly recommend two things for you. Two : The life of Christ by Fulton Sheen. These will give you a different sense from what you have been reading. Everything you have on your list seems to be a variant on the theme that Jesus couldn’t have done the things the Gospels said because that wasn’t the experience of the average person in Judea 2000 years ago.

  • Parker

    Spiderman2,As to the use of the term I can’t stand, I don’t get why you ignore Matthew 5:22–unless you’re being deliberately ironic and self-incriminating. Think about it, and have a nice day.

  • Pseudo

    FARNAZ:’Tis Freestinker’s gracePseudo poetic, eh?

  • Anonymous

    Pseudo is Jihadist come to the rescue of Farnaz?

  • Farnaz

    Ah, Pseudo,Yours is a great talent. You must not leave us for such lengthy periods to wander aimlessly in piles of prose.

  • Anonymous

    Count on Farnaz, Pseudo and Anonymous to find each other, all in the same head.

  • Anonymous

    When Farnaz is called on her Islamic leanings in Pakistan she goes ballistic.Watch out for Amro and Starbucks trio next.

  • Arminius

    I am somewhat bewildered to find that I am a minor object of discussion between two posters with an anonymous handle.To the anonymous who says I fly off the handle frequently: yes, I ‘fly off the handle’, but not that frequently. If I feel I have stepped over the line, I will apologize. If I find a poster who goes beyond the bounds of all decency, I will blast them as hard as I can without getting thrown off the blog, and no apologies will ever be forthcoming. IIRC, I have done this blasting twice.To the anonymous who defended me: first, thank you. Next, should I fly off the handle more? Maybe… I certainly read things here that I strongly disagree with. But I am beginning to realize the total futility of replying to most of these, because these people cannot be reached for dialog, they simply repeat what they have always posted.

  • Neal:

    patricksarsfield:When was it proven that the universe hasn’t always existed?

  • patricksarsfield

    Neal:

  • lepidopteryx

    Anon:I would hardly call Arminius’ posts here “flying off the handle.”

  • Anonymous

    In the US, 76.5% are Christians, 1.7% are Jews and only 0.6% are Muslims. Yet Farnaz is extremely concerned with a handful of Muslims who might have to read the New Testament as part of their curriculum. Would she that the whole curriculum of the nation be tailored only to Muslim students instead?Farnaz maybe talks to herself with different names.

  • Neal:

    patricksarsfield:That was a question…note the question mark at the end of the sentence.I don’t know if the universe as always existed or not, but you seem to think that it hasn’t. When was that proven?

  • Farnaz

    Farnaz, who are the wives of Moses, Elijah, Elisha etc? There are celibate Jewish prophetsMy Dear Illiterate, Lunatic Anon,The wife of Moses is, shall we say, well-known?I understand that it has been demonstrated on another thread that you are not Catholic. To say that Moses had no wife amounts to saying you are not Christian. Not Muslim, obviously, since Musah had the same wife as Moses.I’m guessing Hindu, or possibly, something else.From the very beginnings, Jews were obligated to marry. No Jew could have said what Paul did. I’m not alone in this thinking.Btw., if a friend should happen to have a copy of the Tanakh or “OT,” do check out Moses wife. She is of no small importance.LAST POST TO YOUR CRAZED SELF. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  • Arminius

    Lep,Thank you, dear friend!

  • Daniel in the LIon’s Den

    I wrote a big long thing, but it got lost.How frustrating!So, I will summarize, which is probalby better, anyway.Patrick Sarfield is confusing atheism with science. They actually are not related in any way.He is relating them only in a personal way, that they both threaten his Catholic paradigm, which has Medeival European features, and is therefore difficult to maintain, without some modification in this new and modern world called the twenty first century.

  • paul c

    Farnaz:AS for your unrelated point about the Gospel writers, I don’t see any particular problem with the fact that they were written 40-50 years after the resurrection. The authors, to the best of my understanding were as follows:John: One of the three closest apostles to JesusMatthew: Another of the twelve ApostlesMark: A companion to Peter and possibly the young man that ran away naked from the Garden of GethsemaneLuke: a Physician and a companion of St. PaulTo say that they weren’t contemporaries of Jesus is I think overstating the case.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Paul C,Hmmm, the Song of Bernadette? Saw the film many times and read the book. In reflection, much embellishment and fraud. Believing the visions/ hallucinations of a 14 year old peasant girl? Give us a break!!! And the vision said she was the Immaculate Conception (17th vision). No Adam and Eve, no original sin, i.e. no Immaculate Conception but lots of money for Lourdes’ church authorities and locals. And it is still a “cash cow”. The pope should shut it down. And then there is Bishop Sheen. Watched many of his TV shows. In reflection, the man like most Catholics in those days to include myself suffered from a severe case of the Three B Syndrome.

  • Farnaz

    Paul C:I would like to elaborate on something I wrote in my last post to you:”Stories, parables, ancient and more recent abound with those who erred in the direction of celibacy in order to devote themselves to God.”These are called “midrash,” a special kind of interpretation. The focus on these stories is on the undesirability of withdrawing from the world in order to devoted oneself to God. Herein lay a great temptation for Jews, the people of the book, scroll, etc. Celibacy, of course, would be a byproduct of spiritual withdrawl. The world was and is seen as a gift of God. Those tempted by learning to forget this were seen as being in spiritual danger. (They still are.)Further, given the blessed obligation to procreate, the inability to bear children has been seen as a tragedy in Judaism from time immemorial. The case of Channah in the Bible, Channah, who gave us silent prayer, is a case in point.

  • spiderman2

    “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Revelation 15:4)”The fear of the LORD is clean (pure), enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9)”The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools (idiots) despise wisdom and instruction.”(Proverbs 1:7)”The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility. “(Proverbs 15:33)”My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: “(Proverbs 24:21)”And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

  • Mary Cunningham

    Yes, anon. Farnaz is many people, but I would hope not Y2C &Co. What Farnaz really likes is online muggings and for that she morphs into multiple personae. She had a good run of them, I was one of the initial victims, but she moved onto others before she was stopped, mostly by you, I think. OTOH the Starbucks folk—and somehow I never saw them as having coffee there, with their exquisite taste they were far more likely to patronize coffee shops in the French mode, similar to those of 19th c. Vienna, after all they did know Sigmund—had a gentleness and sense of the craziness of existence. They must have studied in the school of the great Marx—Groucho. Must admit I *loved* the idea of the trio stopping into, well, for my purposes a Dublin tea shop. I wrote a little piece about it. (Not here.) What I would feed them—soda bread, home made raspberry conserve, butter from a nearby creamery—and how diligently I would prepare my silver service for I would not serve the Lord with tarnished silver! (I’ve always been more Martha than Mary in spite of the name, it is a failing, I know). I hope they return.(As an added bonus they drove Spidey/HolyCow/Anon–the nasty one quite mad.)

  • Pseudo

    “ANONYMOUS:Pseudo is Jihadist come to the rescue of Farnaz?”Pseudo’s writer of satire.Relax and be not so paranoidFor what would a Pseudo Jihad be?

  • patricksarsfield

    DILD,You wrote:Patrick Sarfield is confusing atheism with science. They actually are not related in any way.He is relating them only in a personal way, that they both threaten his Catholic paradigm, which has Medeival European features, and is therefore difficult to maintain, without some modification in this new and modern world called the twenty first century.”The fact that your attempt at substance got lost is hardly an excuse for another of your conclusory, ad hominem attacks. If you write something substantive and it rises above the level of this, I may respond. BTW, your claim that the Catholic Church is lost in the Medieval Ages was old when the philosophes made it almost 300 years ago. Since then, the Catholic Church has grown by almost 1 Billion people and survived repeated attacks on it like the Penal Laws in England, Ireland, Scotland and the American Colonies, the official atheism of the Communist lands and the Masonic Laws in PRI Mexico, Portugal, Third Republic France and Spain. What’s more, for all the purported medievality of the Catholic Church, the “oh-so-modern” British Empire and the other enlightened Protestant countries of Europe, which had held onto the outdated Julian Calendar for 170 years after the Papacy caught the World up with the Seasons by promulgating the Modern Gregorian Calendar, finally gave up the ghost and admitted the better Science of the Medieval Catholic Church.

  • EdtC

    Mr Mark,The Talmud also references Jesus. Is this a Christian forgery too?

  • Mr Mark

    EDTC writes:The Talmud also references Jesus. Is this a Christian forgery too?”OK, I’ll explain it once, so follow closely:There are no rabbinical texts that are contemporaneous to when Jesus lived that mention him. According to the Biblical scholar JP Meier:”Despite various claims, no early rabbinic text (the earliest being the Mishna, composed ca. A.D. 200) contains information about Jesus, and later rabbinic texts simply reflect knowledge of, and mocking midrash on, Christian texts and preaching.”The point is that any reference to Jesus in the Talmud was written AFTER 200 AD. Big deal. Writers of the Talmud were simply repeating what others said about Jesus. His name appearing in the Talmud adds nothing to the equation of whether or not he existed, just as the Cargo Cults awaiting the return of John Frum doesn’t make him a real person.

  • Dolores Lear

    Christian Clergy of the many divisions of Christianity may have an effect on how you accept God, in the religion your were born into, or accepted when older. How your Lifestyle develops, will strengthen your Faith, or change it, or lose it.I had two pastors, in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Religion. One from Birth until I was 32, when I moved to to suburbs. I had another pastor until I was 50, when I gave up Church for this new understanding, of GOD, God, and Human Life. I did not give up GOD, God or Jesus.Eternal Physical Life After Birth, is a High Tech Science Lifestyle of the Gods of religion and myth. GOD is the Maker, of the Temple of All Visible and Invisible, Physical and Element Life, as we Know it today. I accept that Human Pure-bred Asexual Bodies, made in a High Tech Womb, can have Eternal Physical Life After Birth, like the Gods of Religion and myth. I do not accept Religious ‘Life’ After Death anymore. The Invisible Elements of our Physical Bodies, made in the female womb, do Return/Decay to the Invisible Elements, in our Solar System and in our Universe. High Tech Science Eternal Physical Life, is possible After Birth, for Humans Born, or ‘regenerated’ like Jesus with High Tech Science. Jesus and the ‘Father’ of Life on Earth, are Physical Higher Human ‘Beings’, called Religious Spirit ‘Being’ Gods. Original Humans on Earth, with Eternal Physical High Tech Pure-bred Human Life, lost this Knowledge, when they started Heterosexual Mis-bred Body Birth, and lost their High Tech ‘regeneration’ Science. What is Life After Death, but the return of our Living Elements, to GODs Invisible Elements Storehouse, that are Eternal, but change into Life Forms. Without GODs Invisible Elements, to Transmigrate, there is No Life as we Know it, After Birth.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick Sarfield said:”BTW, your claim that the Catholic Church is lost in the Medieval Ages …”I did not not say that. I said that the “Catholic paradigm has Medeival European features…”If you would like to trash that statement, then at least you would be more accurate.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear CCNL -I hate to break it to you, but citing the Bible as an “authoritative” text to bolster the claims the Jesus existed and was crucified is quite worthless. Throwing in references found in a few apocryphal books (like Clement I) that were written long after Jesus supposedly lived and that were REJECTED for inclusion in the canon also means nothing.The discussion we are having centers around proof for Jesus’ existence that is offered in NON-CHRISTIAN sources. Of COURSE any Xian source is going to blather on about how he lived, how he was god and how wonderful he was. I can find the same level of authority and “truth” reading a Batman comic. So that brings us back to Tacitus and Josephus.You provide some text from Wikipedia (yes, using Wikipedia as your source is always reliable, much more so than my occasionally citing one Biblical scholar/researcher or another) that serves to prove that there IS NO AGREEMENT among Biblical scholars as to the authenticity of the passages in Tacitus and Josephus that mention Jesus.And that’s my whole point. That Crossan and his Jesus Seminar pals latch onto such debatable information and aver that “the Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea” is absolutely shameful. It’s akin to asserting that “everybody agrees that Saddam had stockpiles of WsMD when bush invaded Iraq.”A more honest approach would be to write, “while it would appear that both Tacitus and Josephus agree that Jesus was executed by the Roman governor of Judea, the passages in their works that so aver are considered by many to be forgeries or simple repetitions of the beliefs of Xians who lived around 100 AD. As such, they cannot be considered definitive non-Xian proof of Jesus’ existence, as much as one would like to believe it was so.”As others have noted on this blog, there is a point in disproving evidence for Jesus that Crossan and his pals will not cross for the simple reason that totally disproving his existence would have the effect of putting Crossan and others out of a job.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Patrick SarfieldI was also attempting to correct your error conflating science and atheism, when they actually are completely unrelated.Science is a a fairly complex methodological system for figuring how the world works.And atheism, in its very broadest sense, is the absense of a belief in God.The way you talk, you sound like science is the enemy and that you are against science. However, I have a hard time believing that is what you really mean.Is it? A belief system that leads a person against science is not credible, and is not believable, and is not deserving of respect. Science is merely a reflection of how things are. If this reflection conflicts with theology and with political agendas, and with cultural senstivities, then you cannot expect the very nature of existence to give way and change itself to suit the caprice of man’s sensibilites. I mean, even if someone were so foolish as to expect such a thing, the world simply does not work that way.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    The United States has morphed into an empire, more powerful and influential in the world today, than Rome was in its time. We fight our wars in far-away lands, for reasons that are complicated, that do not translate, or relate easily to the classic American values of Freedom and Liberty, and are surely not related to defense of the homeland. I realize that the soilder-warriers who fight these wars are human beings, and may become afraid at the prospect of death in battle, and maybe the government might need to buck up their courage with religions. In order to fulfull its goals, you would expect this of the military.Yet, that leaves a philosophical disconnect between Christianity and Crhistian values on the one hand, and the imperial war machine, on the other. Isn’t this the elephant in the room? After all, this is called “On Faith” not “On War.” People are arguing here as though there is no disconnect, that it is merely a given that God and Jesus Christ would always be on our side in everything, that by right and definition, we are on God’s side as much as he is on ours. I am just throwing this out as something to think about.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear CCNL -Now you’re just being silly.Since when does a volume of belief add up to truth? Most of humankind believed that the Earth was flat for centuries. Most of humankind believed the Earth revolved around the sun. Most Americans believed bush’s lies that took us into Iraq. So what if most people believe Jesus existed? It doesn’t make it true.Citing van Voorst’s books that discuss religious “traditions” as some kind of historic authority? A tradition is not a fact.And why are you obsessing about my NOT citing R.G. Price? What’s the matter? Did my citing a published Biblical scholar (JP Meier) preempt your hauling out your usual comebacks? Aww. Poor baby!And what in god’s green Earth is up with you listing only two examples of books by non-believers and setting that against a longer list of books by believers? Do I REALLY need to go through the exercise of posting a list of books by Biblical scholars and historians that question Jesus’ existence? How long should it be? 10 books? 100? Should I keep it to the last 25 years or go back to the guys from the 1800s?Here’s a fact for you CCNL: no matter what your selected authors say, they are offering opinions, not facts. There is no evidence for Jesus’ existence outside of the Bible. The strongest case WAS the text in Josephus, but that passage has been seriously undermined as being authentic through the work of Biblical scholars. Now, if you and Crossan wish to consider an obvious forgery that was inserted in Josephus’ text 300 years after Josephus died as “authentic Josephus,” have at it. If you wish to cite authors who consider Tacitus confirming Jesus existence, have at it. But a question: why does Tacitus refer to him as “Christus” and not Jesus? Christus isn’t a name. It’s a title that means “annointed one.” Had Jesus’ name been listed in some tally of Roman executions, his name would have appeared as Yeshua or Iēsous. This would be akin to the court in the Hague naming bush as “president” in their (hopefully on the way) indictments for war crimes. This is important because some pro-Jesus scholars assert that Tacitus must have seen jesus’ name in some official document.More likely, Tacitus was simply repeating what he heard from Xians. As they were called Xians, he assumed they took their sect’s name from the name of their god, ie; Christus.And let’s be clear about exactly WHAT Tacitus is writing about and WHEN he wrote it: he is writing about Nero and the fires that destroyed much of Rome in 64CE. He mentions the Xians only as a small sidebar in a large text concerning Nero. And, he was writing in 109CE, ie: 45 years AFTER the event happened. By 109CE, the Jesus story was common knowledge. The Gospel of Mark could have been in circulation for 40 years when Tacitus wrote his little bit about Christus.And THAT’S what you, Crossan and others want to hang your hats on as non-Xian proof that Jesus existed? BWAA!At the end of the day, the EVIDENCE for Jesus’ existence is non-existent. Saying it ain’t so doesn’t make it so, whether it comes from Crossan or the Pope or any other “concerned” individual.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Parker -Thanks for the kind words.The problem that I have with the whole “Jesus existence” topic is that it is presented by received opinion as if there is no doubt whatsoever that he existed. I was a Xian well into my mid-30s, and I can’t recall ever hearing any doubt whatsoever presented that Jesus wasn’t real and might have been a mythical person. I think that after 30 years of indoctrination and “growth” in one’s faith, that the majority of people are going to reject any question of Jesus’ existence as being a) silly and b) anti-Christian.My sister and I were chatting about this once, and her position was “oh, that stuff has all been debunked centuries ago,” to which I could only reply, “really?” She’s convinced that the “Jesus didn’t exist” stuff was settled before the Council of Nicea. She’s convinced that all of the pagan religions imitated Xianity, not the other way around. For a woman with a graduate degree, there are some things she’s not open to hearing about. Could the years of religious indoctrination play a part in that?Yes, the “truth claims” of Xian are based on fantasy and faux history, and in that order. Yet people used to go to their deaths for their belief in Jesus (doesn’t happen so much these days). Today’s population should know better, or should at least be given the routine chance to see the evidence against whether Jesus existed.I can only assume that the believers are loath to do so because they know that such knowledge would eventually undermine their faith and the faith of others.Religion is not a “truth” that can well withstand the light of knowledge.

  • MetricSU

    Mr Mark: Nice work on this blog. Anyone who dares can look up all of your references, and can study extant texts, to determine how strong is the evidence in favor of an historical Jesus. As you know, and as any honest person will conclude, there is no convincing reference to Jesus in the entire first century. Contrary to what apologists try to claim — usually by throwing out a long list of bogus “references” to Jesus — Josephus is the only non-Christian reference that’s even in the running. Tacitus, if it is authentic, comes later and provides no direct evidence of an historical Jesus, anyway.I recommend Frank Zindler’s “The Jesus the Jews Never Knew.” He completing destroys the claims that the Talmud, even dozens of decades after the fact, refers to Jesus. This is a big problem for apologists. Jesus is not mentioned in the Talmud. Because this situation seems almost impossible if such a figure existed, Christians had to claim that other figures being mentioned were “code” for Jesus. Of course, this raises its own problems: one must then embrace all kinds of conflicting descriptions of Jesus, including even when he lived.Let me just emphasize another important facet to the mythicists’ case: the silence about any human figure in the NT epistles. Paul and others describe Jesus in very mystical terms, never placing any events in an historical setting. This includes the “Lord’s Supper” and the crucifixion/resurrection. That these happened, from Paul’s perspective, in a mythical realm is convincingly argued by Earl Doherty. And, there was precedent in the so-called mystery religions of the time. There are a few references in the epistles that may seem like they are to a human, but some are very late (such as in 1 Timothy, written in the 2nd century), obvious interpolations, or explained by the thinking of the time.CCNL seems to think that producing long lists of scholars is somehow impressive. I’m reminded of Bertrand Russell here: “If 40 million people say a foolish thing, it’s still a foolish thing.”

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Hmmm, Mr. Mark hauls out his R.G. Price as the ultimate historic Jesus expert but then stops discussing said expert when asked for particulars. Not very mature!!And I stand by my previous lists of evidence and experts. Mr. Mark roles out the tired “flat earth” beliefs and the war in Iraq as somehow being related to the historic Jesus. So believe what you want Mr. Mark, evidence, experts, tradition, history and numbers rule the day!!!And you rolled out JP Meier? Not very often and I do believe via his books and in many of Professor Crossan’s books/reviews as being a believer in the existence of Jesus. So what is your point???

  • Mr Mark

    Dear MetricSU: Thanks for the kind words.I totally agree with you about the Jesus mythology fitting in nicely with the mystery religions and with Paul speaking of Jesus in spiritual, not corporeal terms. This is part and parcel to Paul’s self-aggrandizement as a disciple. Paul saw Jesus as a vision, and that’s how EVERYONE sees Jesus according to Paul. Paul goes on to state that this is where knowledge of god comes from. Notice that Paul doesn’t quote a single word that Jesus supposedly said? Any Xian ever wonder why?Paging George Kaplan.Xians are really missing the boat on this.

  • Mr Mark

    CCNL wrote:”Mr. Mark roles out the tired “flat earth” beliefs and the war in Iraq as somehow being related to the historic Jesus.”And I’ll continue to roll out such counters to arguments made from your perspective that majority opinion somehow equates to fact. As is often said, you’re welcome to your opinion, but not your own set of facts.Your premise received the reply it deserved and certainly nothing more. Ge used to it.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear CCNL -Rather than name call (“not mature” etc) and rather than engage in your attempts at creative innuendo, why not address my arguments against Josephus and Tacitus? Have you no counter argument? Perhaps one of your 1000-word cut-n-paste jobs will be making (another!) unwelcomed appearance?

  • Arminius

    Hi, Mr Mark,I’d say we should brace ourselves for another round of long-winded spam from CCNL.By the way, you are one hell of a good debater.Arminius

  • Mr Mark

    Arminius -Thanks again for the kind words.I’m surprised that no one has mentioned my reference to George Kaplan…

  • MetricSU

    CCNL:I assume you know how to do a Google search, right? It’s easy to find Robert Price’s web site. You will learn he has two Ph.D.s from Drew University: one in Systematic Theology and the other in New Testament.He is the founding editor of the Journal of Higher Criticism, and a fellow of the Jesus Seminar. He’s a professor of biblical studies, too.But the main point is this: if his arguments, like Earl Doherty’s, are rational, and have not been successfully countered, then why should degrees necessarily matter? I’d wager that virtually all of the “experts” you have cited have degrees from departments of theology that have concluded that of course Jesus was historical, trotting out the usual suspect evidence.

  • Mr Mark

    CCNL writes:”And you rolled out JP Meier? Not very often and I do believe via his books and in many of Professor Crossan’s books/reviews as being a believer in the existence of Jesus. So what is your point???”Well, the above is a great example of mangled syntax, but I’ll try to respond. First, I’ll decipher:I believe you’re saying that JP Meier is a believer. You then ask what my point is for citing his words earlier. Did I get that right?OK.The answer: JP Meier (believer or not) avers that Tacitus’ mention of Jesus is NOT a non-Xian confirmation of Jesus’ existence, but rather, it is an example of Tacitus simply repeating what was common belief at the time, a belief he probably heard from Xians.Too bad more believers don’t have the guts of a JP Meier who can admit the truth about such “evidence.”Did that help?

  • Mr Mark

    MetricSU writes:”CCNL:It’s easy to find Robert Price’s web site. You will learn he has two Ph.D.s from Drew University: one in Systematic Theology and the other in New Testament.”That’s RM Price.The person CCNL mentions is RG Price who has published a book called “Jesus – A Very Jewish Myth,” in which he often cites the work of RM Price (and Eric Doherty) to bolster his hypothesis.CCNL has a problem with RG’s lack of credentials as a Biblical scholar.

  • Anonymous

    Parker – “The choice to believe or not to believe in the existence of Jesus is IMO a personal decision, deliberately so such that no one is forced into believing. We who have made the decision to believe have personal experience that corroborates our decision, nor is that decision weakened by those who have chosen otherwise. Hopefully, we can respect each other’s decision and the right to make it without ridicule.”Unfortunately not. Belief is not a decision, it is the outcome of the process of rationization. The quality of that process is evidenced by the kinds of beliefs produced. Beliefs that are unsupported by compelling evidence indicate a defective process. Religious belief, which is recognizable as absolute faith despite a total lack of evidence, indicates a defect of a most extreme nature.

  • Nut Job 101

    “not everything that is real either exists in time and space”

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Oops, the last comments were mine.

  • Mr Mark

    OK, CCNL. I’ll play along.Apparently, you’re conceding that JP Meier is a Catholic Biblical scholar. We already knew that. He believes in Jesus. Knew that too.What he does NOT believe is that the passage in question from Tacitus qualifies as a non-Xian confirmation of Jesus existence.Then, you offer a list of credentials for JP Meier. Fair enough.Next, you quote extensively from an article on Josephus written by one Paul MAIER. Notice, this is NOT the same person as JP MEIER. If I didn’t know you were an honest person, I’d think you were trying to pull a fast one here, ie: hoping readers would conflate JP Meier and Paul Maier into a singular, authoritative voice on the subject.You then close with a Crossan-like re-write of the Testimonium Flavianum by JP Meier that eliminates the “later Xian scribe” forgery aspect of the TF and replaces it with something that – while purporting to be neutral – still rejects the idea of the entire thing being a forgery and STILL gets around to making Josephus look like he is a non-Xian source for Jesus’ existence. And, this rewrite is offered without a clue as to how JP Meier came to the conclusions that led him to write his rewrite. Faith? Guesswork? Publish or perish?What was your point?

  • Arminius

    Mr Mark,As you well know, I am a believer (without proof, of course – yet) in the historical existence of Jesus. But I confess to having immense enjoyment in your cheerful dissection of CCNL. Shame on me…..Arminius

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Arminius, No, shame on ME!

  • Farnaz

    CCNL:Another thing. If I’m not mistaken, even Prof. Crossan, who relies so heavily on Josephus admits, the meeting of the Sanhedrin could not have taken place, not possible, not in this world. This is a widely held view among Christian scholars, as well as Jewish, and I refer you to one of your favorite sources, Wikepedia for verification. So. Paul was always Paul, and, you, yourself, have been dismissive of him or, prior to his “conversion,” he was a religion unto himself. Gospel writers are inconsistent with one another and can’t tell Sadducees from Pharisees. (In all likelihood, their motive was political; at least one hopes they had a motive and weren’t merely clueless.) Josephus tossed as I’ve been telling you. Tacitus, possibly, cribbing from Josephus, not unusual among ancient historians, no mention in the Talmud, etc., etc., etc.IMO, best to let people believe or disbelieve as they wish, my friend, not to mess with other people’s scriptures, including the Tanakh, live and let live. Only when people begin efforts to legislate in accordance with their religious views, convert others, corrupt the curriculum, perpetrate bigotry, violence, double standards (e.g., my book contains facts while yours doesn’t) etc., do they become a problem.

  • Anonymous

    test

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Mr. Mark, Mr. Mark, Mr. Mark,Again nothing about your major source of historic Jesus information: i.e. R.G. Price , his educational background and yours too????Nothing about Professor Robert Van Voorst’s comments about the Tacitus’ passage being authentic??”Dr. Robert Van Voorst, Professor of New Testament Studies at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, has written frequently on theology and ministry in various noted journals. In addition, he has authored numerous books, including four with Wadsworth: READINGS IN CHRISTIANITY, Second Edition; ANTHOLOGY OF WORLD SCRIPTURES, Fifth Edition; ANTHOLOGY OF ASIAN SCRIPTURES; and his newest title, READING THE NEW TESTAMENT TODAY. Other books by Robert Van Voorst are BUILDING YOUR NEW TESTAMENT GREEK VOCABULARY, Second Edition; THE ASCENTS OF JAMES, a recovery and commentary on a second-century Jewish-Christian text; and JESUS OUTSIDE THE NEW TESTAMENT, an examination of traditions about Jesus from pagan, Jewish, and Christian documents before and after the New Testament. Dr. Van Voorst has been named in WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA and WHO’S WHO IN THE WORLD for his contribution to religious studies.”And your “their jobs depend on it” reasoning? Professor Crossan et al could have sold a lot more books and made a lot more appearances/money if indeed their exhaustive studies showed that the simple preacher man never existed.Hmmm, and lets compare those exegete believers and non-believers (leaving out the billions of Christians and Muslims today and those initial believers)Non-Believers- besides R.G. Price and Mr. MarkJesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past The Believers-Jesus the Hellenistic Hero Jesus the Revolutionary Jesus the Wisdom Sage Jesus the Man of the Spirit Jesus the Prophet of Social Change Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet Jesus the Savior And the documents cited included the Gospel of Peter that predates (~70 CE) the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John is not part of the bible. Some exegetes have a problem with the Gospel of Peter, but it is one of the older documents and does deal with the crucifixion. And again, you have read Professor Crossan’s book The Historical Jesus and Professor Crossan and Reed’s book, Excavating Jesus???????

  • Anonymous

    Pseudo you have the unique writing style of Jihadist.

  • Anonymous

    Mohammad was an Arab pagan who reformed Arab paganism. Allah is the name of an Arab pagan God who was worshipped at the Kabbaah in Mecca many centuries before the birth of Islam. Mohammad got rid of Allah’s three daughters and endowed Allah with the attributes of JHWH borrowed from Jewish Scripture, and added Jesus to the list of prophets. Thus a new religion was created.

  • Arminius

    Pseudo is not Jihadist – I am convinced she would never say:”BTW, you sound less mechanical lately. Were you ported from BASIC to PROLOG?”As an old programmer, I laughed a lot at this. Lost on CCNL though.I do wonder what happened to Jihadist, though.

  • Anonymous

    It was easy enough for Mohammad to get acquainted with Jewish Scripture from the Jewish tribes who lived in Mecca in his time. He travelled with them on business to Syria regularly. He first wife had a Coptic Christian as a slave. He also met Christians on trips to Syria, then a country with many Christians.

  • Anonymous

    Although Mohammad received his first revelation in 610 AD, the Muslim era starts in 622 AD, the year Mohammad fled from Mecca to Medina and established political rule. Thus it can be concluded Islam is a political religion.

  • Pseudo

    There once was a blogger fastidious

  • mystified

    Whether or not an itinerant, illiterate preacher names Jesus ever lived seems beside the point. Back in the day, such crazed desert wanderers must have been as common as Baptist preachers are today (e.g. John the Baptizer himself). Why hang your hat on a semi-imaginery guy that has been more the creation of countless folklorists and mythmakers over the centuries than anything based on factual evidence – which by any standard is very skimpy indeed. What’s the big deal? The guy had no extraordinary powers, was not God incarnate, and was otherwise quite ordinary in every way……Following the Crossan accounting of the Jesus history, he did not arise from the dead, performed no miracles, was not the product of a virgin birth, and just disappeared into the sunset like all such desert wanderers are wont to do……If you’re persuaded by that accounting, you would think that would be sufficient reason to let go of an ongoing obsession with the absolute archetype of a forgettable man, and get on with your own daily existence for as long as it lasts. Religion based on mythical and quasi-mythical figures is actually the ongoing re-creation and reiteration by countless believers over many centuries that keep the myth alive – if viewed realistically, one individual is absolutely of no consequence in the historical scheme of things, other than as a mythical figurehead of something much larger. Other than the sociological fact that countless millions base their lives on a religious myth, what is so fascinating about the very obscure life of one very ordinary person?

  • Anonymous

    Don’t be throw off by references to Jihadist.Pseudo, Anonymous, Farnaz and many others are the same person. Jihadist has nothing to do with it.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Because said very embellished life, summarized some great rules for living a good life as does Hinduism minus the caste system and cow reverence as does Buddhism minus all the tall tales as does Judaism minus all the mythical characters and fortune tellers as does Islam minus all the warmongering, koranic anti-female passages, hallucinations and its womanizing founder. On the other hand, simply noting and following the Commandments (minus the godly first three) and the Beatitudes would save a lot of time!!!!!

  • Farnaz

    CCNL:You write, “Because said very embellished life, summarized some great rules for living,” presumably to explain why the historical existence of Jesus is so important to you.Let us say for the sake of argument that the “Q” Gospel is authentic. There is that in the NT which contains some “good things” for living, although not all of it does, as history demonstrates. The same is true of the Tanakh, the Q’ran, etc.Not everything in the three is true. Myth abounds in the three “Abrahamics.” We cannot, sorry, say for a certainty that JC existed any more than we can say Moses existed. Errors, inconsistencies, the politics of the early Christian period all play roles in the Christian Testament. It may be that some day we will be able to excavate sites hitherto closed off to us and be more confident in our knowledge of Moses, Joshua, etc., particularly Joshua. It may be that one day, we will know, definitively, whether Christ existed or not.We do not know this at this point. Of the three religions relying on prophets, only Mohammad’s existence certain. You can and I would hope do follow those CT teachings you value, but you are a Christian atheist. Why not at least allow doubt about the existence of Christ? It’s simply not a sure thing.

  • Parker

    Arminius and Mr. Mark,Every time I read such a discussion I think about having done genealogical research and how hard it is to sift through source data to find the connections. My family has been able to push backward eight to ten generations on a few lines, into the 1600’s, but not beyond.If one experiences doing such research, they can comprehend that just because evidence can’t be found for the specific names and existence of all of their ancestors, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist (obviously).The choice to believe or not to believe in the existence of Jesus is IMO a personal decision, deliberately so such that no one is forced into believing. We who have made the decision to believe have personal experience that corroborates our decision, nor is that decision weakened by those who have chosen otherwise, Hopefully, we can respect each other’s decision and the right to make it without ridicule. Good day, all.

  • MetricSU

    Mr Mark/CCNL: My mistake in confusing Robert M. Price and R.G. Price. Robert Price, who does have credentials as a biblical scholar, also embraces the Jesus-as-myth theory. And he was a former Baptist minister. His books are harder to read but very well researched.CCNL: Yes, many scholars want to reconstruct the Testimonium along the following lines:”At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of the people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”Of course, there’s absolutely no evidence this entry is authentic. The fact that no church fathers, including Origen, who cited Josephus on other matters, noticed this entry for more than 200 years. This would have provided just the punch Origen needed in his rebuttal to the pagan Celsus.Also, while it’s true Josephus refers to John the Baptist, he doesn’t connect the two. And, the entry on the Baptist comes after that for Jesus, raising further suspicion that the Testimonium is a later insertion in its entirety.(For about 15 centuries, apparently no Christians questioned the extant Testimonium, where the Jew Josephus refers to Jesus as the Messiah.)

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Mr. Mark, Mr. Mark, Mr. Mark,”Grace upon thee at meal times and beyound!!!”No confusing Maier and Meier here. Just noting that Paul Maier’s reference was given many times in the past in the 35 references recommended for reading as a starting point to a degree in religious history. And still no background information about your R.G. Price?? There must be some somewhere. And when you get time, you might want to read the works of Josephus as they are on-line at no cost. Farnaz, Farnaz, Farnaz,As recommended before for your Christmas wish list: Professors Crossan and Reed’s book, In Search of Paul. Read it and you just might find the “prudish” wonder as he traveled about the first century Roman Empire. News Flash: The Reality Challenged and Obfuscating Jihadist was caught reading Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel” and also Sir Salman Rushdie’s, “Satanic Verses” and is now in a Malaysian correction facility undergoing Islamic brainwashing. Just kidding!!!!A personal note: Both books are a must read for those who live in a free country. Excerpts to follow at a later date.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear CCNL -Rather than name call (“not mature” etc) and rather than engage in your attempts at creative innuendo, why not address my arguments against Josephus and Tacitus? Have you no counter argument? Perhaps one of your 1000-word cut-n-paste jobs will be making (another!) unwelcomed appearance?(This is a repost from yesterday. As CCNL hasn’t bothered responding, I thought I’d try again).