With 2007 at an end, it is time again for our readers to select the screwiest of the screwballs, and if you want to take part in this, hop on over to my section of TheologyWeb here and cast votes in each of the many Platinum Award threads. Polls close Jan. 30 and results will be posted in next month's feature. You can check out the Screwies that didn't make this list here.

From the Mailbag

To start, the shortest, yet most thorough refutation, was this email, in entirety:

Jesus is dead :-)

Yep. I'm convinced now. This one was a little less informative, if self-contradictory:

seems like your faith is pretty weak if you are so defensive, and insultated and feel like you have to defend it.

Then there's this from the Fans of Third Grade Research:

This encyclopedia talks about how Mitra (the deity behind Mithraism) was worshiped as early as 5th century BC is Persia. The term Mithraism wasn't given to it until it became a "world wide" religion. I find your faith admirable, but still blind. If you had done your research you could have found some better information about how Christianity IS mirrored closely to this religion. I think Ben Franklin said it best " The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason". I respect other's beliefs, except when they are not founded on truth knowledge and research.

Then we have a long-winded appeal from one of those I Want An Answer But Not That One sorts:

I stumbled across your website when I was doing some research on apologetics techniques. I must say that you have a wealth of information and seem to make no bones about the quality of your scholarship. That, in most cases, would be an extremely laudable notion.

However, I'm curious as to how you feel you contribute to the notion of humility and love in apologetics.

A lot of your website and the writing on your website seems to almost brag about your knowledge and your understanding of scripture, as though you deem yourself some sort of infallible entity in the world of apologetics. You claim to have "critics" and almost take a certain degree of honour in the notion that your critics will "need to find something better to do" in light of not being able to bicker about your "name," as demonstrated on the page containing the "Infrequently Asked Questions." I noticed that you have a degree in Library Science, but I was wondering what your theological education is. Are you self-taught? Did you attend seminary or religious education schools? Where did you obtain your knowledge of world religions? I can't seem to find this information on your website.

Now, I'm sure your response, as evidenced through your web site's general attitude, is going to be to express to me that I have no ability to counter any arguments, which is why I'm "attacking your arrogance." That seems to be about right, considering the section which explains the "delusions" about yourself that your "critics" have.

But I seriously wonder how you manage to match up this attitude and this sort of apologetics "ministry" with the attitude of arrogance and the lack of humility you so abundantly exhibit on your web site. Instead of being a ministry that expresses the love of Christ, your methodology appears to be that the object of greater importance is being "right."

You say at the bottom of the page to "know something about that someone" and that people "deserve what they get." Prior to that, you refer to Christ as exhibiting the same tactics you exhibit. Christ exhibited grace. We all "deserve" eternal damnation, yet we surely do not "get it" through the grace of Christ. Christ, above all else, was graceful and humble. The difference between your "Ann Coulter" of apologetics and Christ is that Christ didn't make it a mandate to generally rile people up intentionally. Christ didn't compose personal apologetics, nor did he rant in his own defense.

I'm curious to know how this really quantifies with your "style" and how you manage to utilize this technique to great effect. Where does it get you in the end? How is correcting misunderstandings regarding scripture, in your view, serving the ultimate Kingdom and loving your neighbour?

Samples of letters that followed from Mr. Pharisee speak for themselves:

I always get a bit of a funny feeling when someone says "Love?" and then refers me to a link on their website. Love trumps everything else. Love is the only command in scripture that is not subject to a contextual framework, as you well know. Now, I didn't ask for self-justification through scriptural analysis, I asked you more of a personal question...

Now again, I have read your website and I'm not all that interested in a justification here nor am I interested in your self-defense. This isn't a trial and I am not attacking you. I am asking you questions about your approach and your obvious appearance to a community of individuals.

I'm also not interested in playing a round of "scholar vs. scholar" with you. That isn't apologetics. Apologetics is simple and requires a humble understanding of people first, not scholarship first. The "appearance of impropriety" can wound even the most educated of scholars....If people call you arrogant - especially if such a large crowd of people do so - do not defend yourself with scripture or justify yourself with the Word of God, for arrogance is not an admirable quality in the best of times. Rather, correct yourself and humble yourself. Scripture tells us that we are to see nobody as greater than us. We are to ALWAYS lower ourselves. Even in the face of atheists, agnostics, bigots, racists, homophobes, and so forth. Nowhere on your website do I see that.

You have asserted a context on my questions and claim that I have "a position."

What is my position? How is my definition of "apologetics" contrived? What "word games" am I playing to "evade defending my position" when I have no position to speak of and have emailed you to ASK you about yours?

Instead, you merely refer me to dogmatic articles - which I have read every word of - and refuse to confront the obvious issue here which is the appearance of impropriety you espouse, unapologetically, to a great number of individuals. It's not a good thing to be loathed by Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, or agnostics. It's not a good thing to claim pride in an ability to "humiliate" others or to make people feel stupid.

This next one was at least honest where the last one was not:

Hey, arrogant [donkey like animal], I have a few questions.

How many apologists, theologians, exegetes, and would-be experts like yourself must God raise up to finally convince the world of his truth? How many Christian books must be added to burgeoning libraries in order for God to finally clarify his three-thousand-year-old Holy Writ? Since the world hasn't improved one moral whit in the 2000 years following Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, where is the power proclaimed therein? How is it that "The Truth" comes in so many varieties, yet is still rejected by two-thirds of the world's population? In particular, why do Christ's own brethren still overwhelmingly reject him? Where is Christ's imminent return we've heard about for 2000 years? Why does God allow his "Truth" to be peddled by so many Charlatans? Why does God no longer perform miracles? What prevents God from speaking to us openly today, since, purportedly, the chasm between us and him has been spanned, and everything that stood against us has been utterly repudiated? Is Christ the Savior of the World or just a potential savior; in other words, did his "work of the cross" save me or just restore me to the place of Adam? And if I stand in the place of Adam, why should I -- steeped in sin from birth -- expect to fare any better than he who spoke face-to-face with the Almighty and bore no burden, save Eden itself? How is it that God abhorred Israel's practice of sacrificing their own sons and daughters and listed murder as one of his top ten proscriptions, yet sacrificed his own Son and commanded Abraham to murder Isaac? (If God would do that to his own Son, why should I expect him to have any more regard for me -- now or in eternity?) Lastly, why do some believe, and others do not? (This is not a trick question; carefully consider it, and you will be surprised at what you find.)

You are wasting time, [expletive]; get a real job (if you can) and stop begging for your bread.

Since you are so full of advice, I feel obligated to return the favor. I'll leave you with two bits of wisdom: (1) Sarcasm requires little wit; (2) The more the words, the less the meaning.

P.S. If I believed in prayer, I would pray the Lord to toast your evil website

.

I also got this lunacy for Christmas:

Your page on Mithra is quite vitriolic and not very scientific in its rantings...

Trust me, I'm not going to go scientific here either. Just conversational observations, that's all.

The fact is, like it or not, the Mithric Cult did influence early Christianity.

Get used to it.

It's quaint that you wrote a web page for all to see your emotional outpouring of fear about this issue.

Even a bit humourous too, as you instruct so much on Mithric Cult practices in order to prove no connection what so ever with Christianity, but you end up proving the opposite. Reread your page, and note where you do this.

Also... In Rome, a 15 minute walk from the Trevi fountain... there is a catacombe... it is somewhat difficult to find... ask a local, or get a book...In any case, there is a catacombe and after you decend into it, leaving the modern world behind, and you enter ancient rome... there is a Mithrichristian Temple.

Yes, I said it. A Mithric/Christian Temple... When both cults (Christian and Mithric) were "underground" in Rome, they were actually underground in the catacombes, and they shared that same place of worship. Kind of like the Sheraton or Hyatt Hotels do for Christians today, they let out the room for a couple of hours to one cult sect of Christians, then a little while later, they let it out to another cult sect of Christianity. Then take a walk up to Vatican city, and tour the place and witness all the collected artifacts of pagan religions including Mithric Cult Statues. They are facinating. These people hanging out together, and sharing worship places... must have had one or two conversations... ya think?

The fact is Christianity has borrowed quite heavily from many pagan religions, and even assimilated clearly pagan practices when they couldn't stamp it out of the people's habits. Christians tore down Temples... only to build churches and cathederals upon those sites, because the pagans wouldn't stop going there. Christians knocked down Tannenbaum Trees on the Solstice... When the pagans brought their Tannenbaum inside to protect them from Christian vandals... the Tannenbaum became a Christmastree complete with a manger down below. Elves were to come down the chimney to get their gifts... Now it's Saint Nicholas delivering them... yet, he still has elves as his helpers...

Here's a big one. Easter... still named for the Goddess of the day. We decorate, hide and collect coloured eggs... honor hens, and rabbits in chocolate sacrifices... a celebration of Fertility, Sex, Reproduction, Eggs, Rabbits, Flowers! OH MY! ... Oh wait... this is the most significant day in Christianity... and yet it doesn’t even have a Christian name... more BORROWING from the available pagan sea of religions... The early Christians did the same to appeal to the Greek and Roman populace that was killing them... after enough borrowing, they began to resemble pagan cults too thus, less killing... and Constantine did the rest.

Look, that Christianity borrowed from pagan religions is not a bad thing, nor does it harm your faith. Do kids collecting coloured eggs make you love Jesus less? Hell no.

Does the smell of a pine Christmas tree in your living room make you want to stop going to church? Hell no. Who cares if it is a borrowed pagan custom! It's been stolen from the pagans for a long time... so long now that most people don't even recognize that it ain't Christian at all. So who cares?! Jesus hasn't threatened to stop coming down to turn into a cracker on Sunday because of it! Who cares if Christianity completely ignores their own Savior's birthday every year... only to pretend to celebrate it on the pagan god's birthday Solstice! No one really knows! If Jesus didn't like it, I'm sure he would have sent down some brimstone or other mass murder curse upon mankind, as his Father is so fond of doing. Besides, the pagans do all the fun stuff any way. Easter, Tannenbaum, presents, Bachanalia, Drinking, Dancing, Sex-magic! Christians... sheesh... without some pagan influence... Christianity just wouldn't be any fun at all.

Celebrate Christianity's ability to assimilate other religions, and make them part of it's self. If Christianity would continue to do this then we would be one world religion. Chrislamabudhijewiccans - with one book (intstead of 12) written by the creator of the entire universe for our tiny planet and it's people - and maybe no more wars.

Then this from the I Can't Rebut That So I'll Just Rant Department:

"Thou shall not kill "is very plain and simple. There are no by laws or exceptions no addendums what so ever. Murder is just one aspect of killing. God's command applies to all forms of killing including his innocent animals. I am living proof that flesh is not requires to sustain life, for 30+ years I haven't eaten meat because when God writes his laws in your heart (truly born again) you know without a doubt it wrong to kill animals. If you plan on going to heaven you will have to do the same, for there is absolutely no killing in heaven.

Concerning war Jesus said "he that takes up the sword shall die by the sword" don't you believe Jesus?

Concerning capital punishment, God simply lets the wicked take care of the wicked.

It's people like you who deceive the public with your false knowledge who will have to answer to God in the judgment, fact is you are being judge right now. You absolutely don't know God and the proof is you don't know any of his commandments.

It would not surprise me to find out you are living in adultery! Again, for example, if you knew the commandment on adultery you would know that THE ONLY THING THAT NULLIFIES A MARRIAGE IS DEATH. No exceptions, no by laws, no addendums. Just demon possessed people like you who want to change God's Holy laws to fit your situation.

Also from the confused Christian corner, from someone who wrote me with an odd view about there being no immortality in the Bible, and who I connected to my various articles:

First of all :forget about so called scholars. Holy Spirit is your teacher.Jesus said the He would not leave us without a comforter "who would guide you into all truth".

Then, use the rule of Martin Luther "sola scriptura" - only scripture meaning the Bible explains itself.As Isaiah said everything is written " a little here and a little there".

Knowing that Jesus Christ is the Creator and Saviour and He said that the scripture can not be mistaken" , we can cmpletely trust what is written knowing also that whatever is written "it was written for us".

Forget about so called semitic thoughts ,ideas and so forth. There wer no Semites when the universe was created.Semites starts with Noah'son Shem.

You gotta be careful too , as ap Peter says that some people twist and turn the scripture to their own desctruction".

There was more rambling crap after this but for some reason I decided not to read it.

And here's another one proving that computers shouldn't be allowed to work for us:

Hi there,

I was recently reviewing Magic sites in some of the major search engines and I came across your web site: tektonics.org.

Out of all the sites I came across yours really stood out for me and If you could please spare me just two minutes I have a business proposition for you as you are in the same market as I am.

After reviewing your site I found that we are both targeting the exact same market, though we are not in competition with each other.

I have been studying this target market for quite some time and would like to present you with the opportunity to increase your income for five minutes work. You will be provided with the marketing materials, all you need do is send out an email to your ezine list or add a graphic to your web site, and you can make money. You can do this by signing up to the affiliate program found here: http://www.urlfreeze.com/magic/magic/

By promoting this product you can earn a commission without ever having to handle customer service or ship any products. It's a fantastic way to make money pretty much out of thin air!

By working together, we have the potential to create an additional revenue source for both of us -- without investing any money or even any time. Because we share the same target market, your customers are guaranteed to be interested in the product. An affiliate arrangement is a surefire way to make that interest work to our mutual benefit. To sign up to this affiliate program visit: http://www.urlfreeze.com/magic/magic/

I offer this partnership very selectively, so please do act fast if you wish to go ahead with this. Also please feel free to email me if you have any questions.

Finally I know you're a busy person and I'd like to thank you for reading this email whether you choose to promote and make some extra cash or not. Keep up the good work.

By the way, All payments to you sent conveniently through Pay Pal on the first of the month.

P.S. I hope you don't mind me emailing you it's just your Magic web site really stood out from the others I came across during my research.

Magic, huh? OK. For my next trick, I'll make Farrell Till disappear....

And speaking of people who rant uncontrollably:

I have an interest in general of religious topics. But in all my readings of websites and books, I can't believe how people can profess as undeniable fact things which can't be proved right or wrong. It all comes down to interpretation. People only see what they want to see or believe, which is why there are so many different churches in the Christian faith. That's why Muslims again have a different set of beliefs with Islam, because they have a different interpretation of what an alleged supreme being has in store for us.

It's actually amusing to sit and read each faith professing that they're belief is more correct than another faith's belief. It's kind of like a bunch of school children arguing over whose invisible friend is better.

But I can not believe that I was put on this earth to bow, submit, and worship some alleged supreme being for his/her pleasure. Religion was born in ages where people had very little knowledge of science and nature. And anything that couldn't be explained must have been the work of some mystical being, so they began to orchestrate their lives to please these alleged beings.

It is also amusing to listen to people who say that what's written in the bible is "fact". If it's fact, then how come the final format wasn't chosen by God, but by church leaders around the 4th century? And how come the first writings of the new testament didn't happen till at least 40 years after Jesus' death. There would surely be vast errors in detailing someone's life, if these details weren't written down till some 40 years later.The reality is that the bible isn't proof of god's existence or Jesus' miraculous deeds or anything like that, it is only the written "thoughts" of men of ancient civilizations on how a "perceived" supreme being wants us to live our lives.

I do believe that Jesus existed though. But I believe that he was just an eccentric preacher who was killed because he expressed vastly different views to the current beliefs. And after his death, his followers made a martyr out of him and dramatized his death and "questionable" resurrection to make sure he died for a reason.

In practice the whole Christian movement is just an exercise to continually try and make everybody feel guilty about what happened to their saviour 2,000 years ago. It is just a massive guilt trip. "Oh, you should be grateful to Christ he died for your sins so you owe him big-time." This is generally how it's portrayed especially to none religious people.

But basically, I don't need a set of ancient scriptures or beliefs to tell me when I'm committing an alleged sin or not living my life accordingly. I know what's right and wrong.

You people basically need to grow-up and stop believing in your make-believe Santa Claus stories. And you need start to deal with the realities of life rather than hiding behind the illusion of a supreme being that's supposed to be protecting and guiding you.

And in the slim chance that any of this stuff is true, what happens to people who don't obey this supreme-being? At the day of judgement they are cast into "the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". I'm quoting one of many passages where this appears in your "word of god" book. And all this shows is that your supreme- being is not holy, moral , or full of love at all; but a pathetic sadist who likes to extract revenge on people who don't acknowledge him.

And you people will still turn around and say that he loves everyone. Well here's the "million dollar question." Would you people, as parents who unquestionably love your own children, throw them into a "fiery furnace" for simply choosing a different (but still good) path in life to what you wanted? Of course you wouldn't! So why do you accept that your "supreme-being" should be able to do this with his children?

Your response to this e-mail will probably ask me to account for the intelligent design of the world and everything in it, and use "the watch found in the dessert" argument that reasons that a watch-maker must have made the watch. Well according to the Bible people are born sinners until they repent and turn back towards the Supreme Being consciously. So why would a supreme being deliberately make people sinners in the first place? That's kind of like the Watchmaker making a watch that doesn't work properly, then expecting the watch itself to go back to the Watch-maker for repair. And if the watch doesn't, the Watch-maker blames the watch! How absurd! Speaking of absurd; how could god create light to make the "evening and the morning of the first day", when the sun which creates the light for this world wasn't created until the forth day????? I could continue with a list of absurdities, but I think you get the idea.

I'm sorry that it seems that I'm making a mockery out of these issues but the fact is, that Religion only works when all other beliefs and facts are ignored. For example if you had a jury in a Court Case and they heard 5 different stories from 5 different witnesses, the jury couldn't possibly be able to believe one story over the other. But if the judge instructed the jury to disregard 4 of the witnesses so that only one remained, then of course it would be easy to believe just the one. This only goes back to my original paragraph and my main point. And that is "with so many different beliefs, how can one religion say that its beliefs are more correct than another's?" After all, lies are like opinions in that they can take many different forms according to people's own agendas. But truth and fact don't change because of interpretation.

Oh....kay. That was the Sermon on the Donut, I guess. Finally, this reply to what I wrote on Hyam Maccoby:

"The Mythmaker" aside, it doesn't take an overwhelming study of either the New Testament or Old Testament for one to come to the understanding that, like all literature, it is offered up by authors and or editors who had an agenda to meet or an axe to grind. Anyone who thinks the bible is an accurate representation of truth is only fooling themself. If people are willing to deliberately lie in published material today, there is no reason to assume they didn't do it 2000 years ago.

Well, I guess this email was part of "all literature" huh? And then:

If nothing else, all this information offered by the ancient Egyptian myths, that predate Christianity by several thousand years, is circumstantial evidence that when added to all the scientific evidence that contradict biblical accounts, would be enough to convince any non delusional jury that Christianity is a myth like any other , in fact one derived and borrowed from earlier ones. wake up and smell the coffee son. It's over. Your dream is over. It is time to put the childhood of our species behind us. Grow up and live your life with your eyes open. For this is your only life. It is you last life.

I had jury duty last month and can affirm he's right -- most juries would be stupid enough to reach this conclusion. And then the same day, this came:

I was very dissapointed by your lack of objectivity regarding the topic of Mithraism and it's relationship to Christianity. I don't consider myself in either camp. I can clearly see however great bias displayed in your treatment of the subject. You yourself kept reciting other people's research as your evidence against the theories of Acharya.

I would have like to have seen a point-counterpoint where you personally referenced some ancient source texts that refuted Acharya's claims. I am ok with people existing on faith, but if they do they shouldn't bother to use reason to argue their beliefs.

Say this prayer with me.

"May I be objective in my search for truth."

Surely God values objectivity am I right?

And then, there's this:

Mr. Turk-- err, I mean, "Holding"

I discovered your site because someone who normally shows quite sound judgement referred me to your article on the authorship of the Gospel of John. As usual, I made it a point to research his source, which led me to the-anointed-one.com (aka "tektonics.org EXPOSED.") There, I found Brian Holtz's rebuttals to your article, "The Impossible Faith."

I then returned to your site to read your responses.

Thank you for living up to the standards I have come to expect from apologetics:

- distorting your opponent's position to an easily defeated facsimile (i.e., straw-man)

- projection of one's own perceived shortcomings on to the opponent

- refusal to acknowledge key points

and of course, the old stand-by:

- ad hominem attacks!

- ad hominem attacks!

- ad hominem attacks!

Anyone with more than three working neurons can see right through you, even if you don't mention his name.

In his rebuttals, he has sent your argument down in flames. All you can do is hurl insults.

That, and roast marshmallows.

Let's see.....six months behind on the name change....use of Trubee's "Holding Hate Site" and "Daffy Duck" Holtz as sources....unlimited sound bites...

My new Baloney Filter is sure getting a workout.


The December 2007 John Loftus Collection
John Loftus has already won two special Platinum awards (find out what in February) and will get another in his own exclusive category. His Useful Idiot collection will have one of their own also, and it isn't hard to see why. First, Loftus' book is being reviewed by a fellow who goes as "IrishFarmer". Loftus wins Gold for telling him:
As I said in an email, please read my whole case before you start posting your critiques of my chapters, since until you have done so, you haven't completely read my whole case.

Translation: "If you do it a bit at a time, you'll see my enormous errors right away and realize in a flash that the rest of the book is just as bad." Loftus also wins Gold for this on his blog:

Michael, the real reason why other Christians don't agree with you is because of the nature of a history itself along with the fact that God purportedly revealed himself in the ancient past. My argument is that if God did reveal himself, he chose a poor medium (history) and a poor era (the ancient past) to do so, and that makes an omniscient God look stupid (sorry).

We have a hard enough time understanding one another living in today's world. We disagree about everything and we are constantly correcting misunderstandings about what we have said. So it stands to reason that this is compounded when we try to understand the literature of the ancient past. This is just obvious to me.

Of course, if God wanted to communicate more clearly and he could foresee that Southern slavery and witch hunts would result because he wasn't clear, he could've said "Thou shalt not own, buy, sell, trade or beat slaves of any kind," and said it often enough that believers could not misunderstand. He could've done the same with witch hunts and avoided the Galileo debacle as well. Genesis 1could've started out by stating more clearly the nature of creation too. [If you'd like, I could show you how an omniscient God could've communicated better, and I only have an IQ of 160, again, sorry].

What's the alternative? For God to reveal himself today on the great issues that divide the church. How could he do this? Through miracles and the church's recognition of a 14th Apostle "like unto Paul." In the meantime the disunity of the church speaks against the existence of the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit who has not done his job down through the centuries, and therefore provides evidence the Christian faith is a delusion, again, sorry.

As one TWebber put it, there's no rebutting Loftus, because, "You can't give a rebuttal to someone who is all butt." And we see why Loftus is all butt in this last comment he posted in a TWeb thread memorializing my dearly departed pet:

So, you're talking to a dead dog, eh? Is he listening or something?

Well, if a brick wall like Loftus can talk....

Outside of Loftus, his Useful Idiot Joe "the Jerk" Holman nominates for Platinum with the Crass Anti-Evgangelism Award, for using someone's mental illness to spread his fundy atheist Gospel. Key paragraph:

Frankly, if your son is a gift from God, then God doesn't think much of you at all. If such a higher power exists, he hates you or else couldn't care less about you; there's simply no other way of putting it. Now I don't find it sound to believe that a deity hates you or loves you. You deserve so much better, but unfortunately, there is no God who will do you better.

Loftus' new Useful Idiot Bill Ross of "Bible Shockers" wins as well; watch this anti-testimony unfold:

Unfortunately, being as cerebral as I am, the story will not involve a car chase, but I'll try not to bore...

There is a wonderful scene in one of the Wallace and Gromit stories where Gromit sits in jail doing a jigsaw puzzle. As he places the last piece in the puzzle, he realizes that the puzzle has a personal message for him - he will be leaving jail tonight via a breakout!

This was my experience. I pondered the Bible for many, many years, trying to discover its central themes that would tie the whole thing together and unlock its cryptic design. As soon as I did so, I realized that it would not serve as my own mental framework.

I quote this from the introduction to my book, Bible Shockers!:

My lovely wife of twenty something years is an extremely capable person with a wide range of interests. She might be spending her day absorbed in an art project with the younger children, having some coffee or tea with friends or riding her bicycle up to the video store to see if they have anything new along the lines of Stephen King, or if not, something with some gut wrenching human relationships. She seldom thinks about the Bible. I, on the other hand, like many people, have had a long fascination with the Bible and have often neglected other important activities in order to understand some difficult passage or other. I spent many years as a Christian, treating the book as Protestant Christians are wont to do:

* As a vehicle of magic communication from God to me

* To reinforce the Catholic/Protestant traditions I had been taught

I have spent many more years approaching the text as an ancient religious text, driven to deeply understand as one would understand any other ancient religious text. The reasons I moved from reading the Bible as a vehicle of magic communication from deities, and from seeking proof texts for my faith, to methodical objective study were twofold. First of all, I was challenged by a passage in the Bible:

Hebrews 12:27And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

As I meditated on that passage I began to think to myself that rather than try to "prop up" my beliefs with the Bible, what if I began to see which ones I could knock over? Any that would not knock over were solid and I would know exactly why, but any that yielded were unreliable and could safely be discarded. All of my beliefs were quickly exposed as imposters.

Magic communication had failed me. I found that I received confusing, conflicting messages and silly ideas. I found I was insecure and misled by the thoughts that seemed to come from the deity but were just notions. Most troubling was the see-saw of alarm versus confidence that I found myself on. For example, one day I might read some condemning passage of scripture and find myself feeling, and believing myself to be, condemned because of my sins. The next day I would read a passage of assurances and feel, and believe myself to be, in favor. I found I could not really be secure about anything because my subjective moods often dictated my interpretation of the Bible as it concerned my personal relations. I needed to know the objective criteria for my relationship to God.

What I hoped to find was an understanding of God and of the Bible. What I actually found was shock and awe. What I found was that I had not understood the text at all, and that to an alarming extent, the ideas that I had been spoon fed were nasty viruses of misinformation. When I finally understood the Bible, I realized it was not magic, divine or credible.

Ross is a newcomer but is still making a hard run for Platinum at the end of the year. A comment from the blarg:

For example, one "shocker" is that the god of the bible is a manlike deity who lives in the sky. Popular religion says that he is a formless cosmic mind who is everywhere and nowhere. So how can one read about Jesus taking off rocket-like into the sky to sit at God's right hand? Why did John go up through a hatch and see God in a chair, handing Jesus a scroll? So you can't understand the Bible with modern ideas. You need to see these assumptions. Then the text does not require constant appeals to "Oh, that part is just allegory." No, this is what it says, and this is what it means - as primitive and barbaric as it may seem to you and I to think of God keeping scrolls with names on it. Why not at least use a computer?
Mixed Atheist Nuts
I just finished Hector Avalos' The End of Biblical Studies and this one gets a special Platinum award. Some of it (like OT archaeology) is not my specialty, but I know a good amount about other parts, like NT textual criticism, and the sort of things Avalos argues are screwy beyond all conception. Other than that, here's a sampler of the cream of atheist screwiness this month:

Graeme_Jones vies for TWeb Platinum N00b with such statements as:

and I said read this You see, you don't have to know about something to know it isn't true.

As you know, Jesus fed the 5000 with fish. Pisces (as in horoscopes) was also a fish. The only explanation for this is that Christianity was another form of horoscopes. You don't believe that horoscopes are true and thus Christianity isn't true.

Ignorance makes you better to write about philosophy, history and theology

Beastermaster on the Brian Flemming forum can't do scholarship to save his life: http://danielle-movie.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2172&page=2 Andrew Merritt there wins as well for calling the Eucharist 'cannibalism' and 'vampirism'.

And, another lovely hypocritical display from Carpedm9587 who is above insulting his opponents in the course of debate:

If you seriously think the richness and breadth of the evidence for Lincoln's death is at par with that for Jesus' resurrection - then I have no idea how to begin to help you. I would consider that a pretty serious delusion. When someone has that deep seated a delusion - experience tells me no amount of argument will unseat it.

John Powell degenerates further and wins Gold. I called him down for claiming that I conceded that the Gospels were anonymous. He said:

POWELL: You wrote:

JPHOLDING The "anonymity" of the Gospels authors is something that many skeptics hang their hat upon. Yet I have noted that in making this argument, critics never explain to us how their arguments would work if applied equally to secular ancient documents whose authenticity and authorship is never (or is no longer) questioned, but are every bit as "anonymous" in the same sense that the Gospels are.

POWELL: Those words constitute a concession that the Gospel writers are "anonymous."

Ratnat wins for this reply to the point that certain native beliefs in Africa are found across the continent:

I highly doubt any belief can be held continent wide...Do the Mandelas hold this belief? Kofi Annan and his family? Desmond Tutu?

As long as the continent has diamonds, oil and other resources...the powers that be will allow the people to adhere to the various superstitions and will spread stories about the atrocities done in the name of said beliefs.

Education(secular) is what is needed.

Nickcopernicus wins for a reply to this:

It's called Abstinence programs. You may have heard of them.

1.) You cannot get pregnant if you do not have sex.

2.) You don't have to buy condoms or the pill if you don't have sex (not that you have to pay for those anyhow)

3.) You can't get STD's if you don't have sex.

4.) Your chances of getting HIV/AIDS are dramatically reduced if you're not having sex. (basically you're left with accidental infections)

To which he said:

What idiotic proposals.

An atheist named "Shabby" wins for this, when asked to back up his exegesis of the Bible:

Christianity is not a religion of theologians, it is the religion of the common man. The large, large majority of people who follow the religion do not exegete everything they read. I think it is safe to assume that the meaning from the text is apparent from the text itself without delving into further critical examination.

stevec pads his Platinum n00b Award with this exchange:

SteveC: God has no brain, so how does he think??

Chaotic_Void: Where do you get the notion that God has no Brain?

SteveC: Quite simple really, a brain is a complex set of tissues made up of living matter. God is not alive in a physical sense, so a brain as we know it does not exist for him. What would it be housed in, a head?? And would that head be attached to a body?? And would that body have arms and legs and a mouth and stomach and internal organs to boot?? Void, you need to look at the BIG picture. If we are to be the product of his image, he needs to have an image to begin with.

Amnouy piles on with this old mold:

When one reads the New Testament in the order in which these books were written, a fascinating progression is revealed. Paul, for example, writing between the years 50 and 64 or some 20 to 34 years after the earthly life of Jesus came to an end, never describes the resurrection of Jesus as a physical body resuscitated after death. There is no hint in the Pauline corpus that one, who had died, later walked out of his grave clothes, emerged from the tomb and was seen by his disciples.

What Paul does suggest is that the resurrection meant that God had acted by raising Jesus directly from death into God. It was, therefore, out of God in a transforming kind of heavenly vision that this Jesus then appeared to certain chosen witnesses. Paul enumerates these witnesses and, in a telling detail, says that this was the same Jesus that Paul himself had seen. No one suggests that Paul ever saw a resuscitated body. The Pauline corpus later says, "If you then have been raised with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." Please note that the story of the Ascension had not been written when these Pauline words were formed. Paul did not envision the Resurrection as Jesus being restored to life in this world but as Jesus being raised into God. It was not an event in time but a transcendent and transforming truth.

The Rest of the Best

Screwball for a letter writer to CMI, http://www.creationontheweb.com/content/view/2639/ :

I find your doctrinal statement scripturally inaccurate:

"Salvation is a gift received by faith alone in Christ alone and expressed in the individuals repentance, recognition of the death of Christ as full payment for sin, and acceptance of the risen Christ as Saviour, Lord AND GOD."

I'm unaware of any scripture or Acts conversion that requires the believer to confess that Jesus is YHWH to be saved. And according to your next doctrinal statement:

"All things necessary for our salvation are set down in Scripture."

I doubt if that's required for salvation, God would try to "hide" it from us.

Don't get me wrong, I love [your ministry], and I've donated tons of cash, but I think that to say someone is REQUIRED to believe Jesus is YHWH to be saved is a gross misrepresentation of scripture. "Lord and Savior" is a title given (Acts 2:36), and does not mean YHWH.

I've got to be honest, I'm a little perplexed that you guys haven't cracked the nonsensical trinity. I highly recommend: [website removed by editor per feedback rules]

Keep up the good work and I will keep spreading the word.

Jessica Alba wins an at-large Gold:

Frustrated, Alba sought other outlets for her adolescent energies, and even became a born-again Christian for four years. But she backed away from religion, she says, "when older men would hit on me, and my youth pastor said it was because I was wearing provocative clothing, when I wasn't. It just made me feel like if I was in any way desirable to the opposite sex that it was my fault, and it made me ashamed of my body and being a woman." She also vehemently disagreed with the church's condemnations of premarital sex and homosexuality, and was bothered by the lack of strong female role models in the Bible. "I thought it was a nice guide," she says, "but it certainly wasn't how I was going to live my life."

Finally, Incrus wins for replying to the question, "Do you like arguing in circles?":

Of course, NOT! I wish people STOPPED arguing AGAINST what Jesus TAUGHT about himself in John 8:40and what Jesus DECLARED about the Father in John 17:3,so I can STOP arguing in circles.

http://www.usbible.com/usbible/default.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yj_okz7ZwI

Neale Donald Walsch goes Christian: http://www.trumpetcallofgod.com/

Sherri Shepherd, one of the hosts from the popular day-time talk-show The View, for saying: "I don't think anything predated Christians."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psGLXqW1kUs

Westboro Baptist Church made a music video: http://view.break.com/278059

http://www.richarddawkins.net/article,1966,The-Pagan-Christ,CBC-Tom-Harpur

Rook Hawkins again, and everyone else who actually takes him seriously: http://rookthehistorian.blogspot.com

Peter Popoff Ministries and their "Divine Transfer Kit."

http://www.geocities.com/logic_faith/miracles.htm

http://home-2.worldonline.nl/~hjhoekst/antichrist.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_gt-3plqf4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSZYN8UV6yg

http://www.aybqa.com/index.php?go=quester&qid=366

http://www.godvsthebible.com/ notably Chapter 8.

http://johan777.tripod.com

http://thereisnogod.info/English/english.html

http://www.apostasie.org/english/index.php