Nothing like Screwballs in the summer. Look here for the whole range; the best of the best are below.

From the Mailbag

My new book on the Christ myth came out, and it had several contributors, including Dr. James Hannam (formerly known as "Bede"). He got an email that deserves a Screwbie, from one of my old Screwbies:

Your contribution to anything J.P.Holding(Robert Turkel) put out destroys your credibility to being a historian or not being biased.Holding is still a child full of childish remarks,and relys on insults instead of facts when he is cornered.Just before Holding was begining his site called Tektonics we emailed back and forth several times,never did he attempt to answer one question i posed all i got from him was slurs,insults and emails full of different funny smiley faces,which were designed to be insults also.One of his last emails to me stated this: "You are just an old man driving down the freeway in an Edsel not knowing which exit to get off on."

It is no wonder J.P.Holding is not liked and is considered childish and insulting by all who debate him.Every once in awhile i send him an email concerning something he said on the internet nothing dirty just pointing out some things,i always sign them "The Old Man In The Edsel"a few months ago he threatened to report me to my ISP even though i sent nothing that was offensive other than condemning some of his tactics, he was trying to scare me,i sent him an email back that i if he did that i would report him to his ISP for sending slurs insults and calling me an old man in an Edsel.Now he has either blocked me or never answers.J.P.Holding is an insult to christianity,why you guys can't see through his crap evidently is because you are biblically mind controlled,brainwashed and blind faithed.Were i you i wouldn't be blowing your whistle about contributing to such a person as J.P.Holding. You destroyed any credibility you may have had just by mentioning your contribution to him.

Sincerely, Jay Osborne

P.S.What gets me is guys like you put your statements out in the public domain on the internet but don't have time to defend your claims.

On the same subject of the book, this wasn't an email but Earl Doherty wins for this post on IIDB, too:

Perhaps Mr. Holding would be willing to send me a complimentary copy of his new book, if he is so confident that he has "whupped" the mythicist case, and mine in particular. Although I couldn't do anything with it until I'm finished with my second edition of The Jesus Puzzle, I'd be more than willing to attempt a rebuttal. Maybe I could make it a new book myself, a companion piece to my rebuttal to Lee Strobel. It wouldn't be a court cross-examination, but perhaps I could call it "Interview With An Apologist." Given Mr. Holding's unbridled language and handling of opponents, I'm sure we could get a colorful exchange going.

I know he's always shy about providing Internet links to the material that he claims to have so confidently destroyed, but perhaps he might be willing to send the book to (and don't worry, my post office can handle an oversize book) (address):

(In fact, I'll make that a "double-dare".)

Apparently Earl is too cheap to buy it himself. Then we have this nuttiness from People Who Don't Get It:

Sirs,

Having read our article on the internet, I am most surprised that you make no mention of that great researcher, Arthur Findlay. His book 'The Psychic Stream' should answer all questions as to the origin of the Christian Faith.

Two: I see some major problems with your pages. All the pagan gods you cite were before J.C.

Jesus was not born on 25 Dec, His birth was placed there to make it easier to convert those who followed a god who was born on the shortest day of the year, one of which was Mithras.

There are 2 myths about the death of Osiris. One has him trapped in a specially made wooden box that was set adrift on the Nile and wedged up against a tree. Not a correction to your site, but an addition.

Buddah existed 600 years before Jesus. It is amazing how many of there sayings are similar. Check it out with an open mind.

This email gets Triple Gold and likely Platinum status:

Dear Bob Turkel,

I realise that you like to boast that there are no dying and rising gods that pre-date Christianity. As you know, you have already been proven wrong and called out on this however things have now got even worse for you. You see a tablet has been discovered that nobody disputes was written 100 year before Jesus which documents a religion which believed in stephen, the dying and rising messiah.

I will happily link you to such a tablet: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com...cle4295804.ece

I realsie that your faith now lies in ruins, my dear friend Turkel, however that's not my fault. Don't shoot the messenger eh? I suppose you'll have to close you silly site down now Christianity has been disproven and think of something else to waste your time on.

Don't mean to gloat or anything

The link was to a story on the famed "Messiah tablet". Even nuttier yet:

Jordan Maxwell is a more than reliable source, who has exposed the New Testament as nothing but astrological worship and mushroom/shaman worship (something you of course never bothered to address.)

Heck, even the TRINITY is pagan: http://www.jesusisbuddha.com/

For some enlightenment, I propose you read unitarian ministers Bill Darlison's "The Gospel and The Zodiac", anything by Malik H. Jabbar, and "Jesus Christ, sun of god, by David Fideler. For more, there is Mead's "did jesus live 100 BC", and Casciol's "fables of christ," where he demonstrates that the 'original' Jesus was John the Nazarene.

Here is also an exercpt from 'The Christ Conspiracy': http://truthbeknown.com/christ.htm

Yor honestly in denial if you can't realize that Christianity is mostly sun-woship.

And ONE last thing: is(is)ra(sun-god)el-(ohim). Israel. :) Sun, stars, planets.

Right. Ask Wikipedia next.


The July 2008 John Loftus Collection

Loftus slobbers over the Useful Idiot arguments of apostate John Beaverslice vs the Trilemma, who says:

Far from being insoluble, the problem is a pseudo-problem. To see that, the first step is strategic. We should not allow ourselves to be browbeaten into admitting that since Jesus does not seem to be a lunatic or a fiend or a liar, we are "forced" to conclude that he was "precisely what he said." Instead, we should ask Lewis's expositors and champions a question of our own: Precisely who do you think he was and on the basis of what textual evidence have you arrived at your opinion? If they take Lewis as their guide, they will be "forced" to admit, as he himself does without actually saying so, that there is no single and unambiguous answer to the question. That alone is sufficient to rebut the Trilemma.

But I do not want to rest my case on that. All four arguments are open to other objections. One of the most fundamental is that they all uncritically assume that the synoptic Gospels are historically reliable sources that accurately report what Jesus said-narratives that preserve his very words (or a very close approximation) rather than narratives that incorporate later recollections, interpolations, embellishments, fictionalizations, and ascriptions of deity. So we have to believe in the veracity of Scripture before Lewis's arguments can have any claim on our attention.

In other words: since you can't refute the actual Trilemma argument change the subject. "Textual evidence" is a different issue than the Trilemma argument -- and one Beaver Slice is no more competent to refute, as shown by his "no single and unambiguous answer" balderdash. As if he had any insight into the use of divine titles like Son of Man.

Lewis anticipated the objection that the Gospels contain later ascriptions of divinity to Jesus by his disciples and devoted a sentence to it that he deleted before going on the air. It read: "The theory only saddles you with twelve inexplicable lunatics instead of one." That is an undeniably clever quip and it would be dynamite at a cocktail party. But it is hardly cutting-edge New Testament scholarship. For one thing, as Lewis knew perfectly well, not all twelve disciples wrote Gospels. (In fact, none of them did.)

I'd like to see Beaverslice come on TWeb and present an argument re authorship of ancient documents, but since his knowledge of such issues likely ends at the children's section of Waldenbooks, I wouldn't expect it. He'd never be able to defend against the proposition that the Gospels were authored by two apostles (not disciples -- he can't even get that right!), one more was authorized by an apostle and uses his words, and the fourth drew on apostolic material.

He wins an awardc for pedantry for this one:

Second, after the betrayal and suicide of Judas Iscariot, there were no longer twelve disciples, but only eleven. But twelve is a good round number and it is certainly a lot more impressive than the accurate number-which is zero. When Lewis composed that sentence, he was obviously more interested in being "effective" than in being accurate. It is to his credit that he had the good sense to delete it. To my knowledge, no New Testament scholar has had the temerity to suggest that the authors of the synoptic Gospels were lunatics.

Lewis may have had Paul in mind; either way, this is the pedantic nitpick of a frustrated apostate. But despite Beaverslice, the Trilemma just as much applies to every claim any person makes: They are either telling the truth, or lying; if the latter, it is either because they are misinformed, or because they are mentally incompetent. "Misinformed" seems to add a fourth except that it merely means the claim goes back a step to someone else, who ultimately can't simply be "misinformed."

Although it can be believed by faith that the sayings ascribed to Jesus by the authors of the synoptic Gospels are his actual words, it cannot be known with certainty that this is true of any of them. In fact, there is a sense in which it can be known with certainty that it is true of none of them. The reason is simple and indisputable: ]esus spoke Aramaic and the synoptic Gospels were written in koine Greek. So except for the tiny handful of passages in which he is depicted as speaking Aramaic-for example, Matthew 27:46,in which he cries, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" ("My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"), the synoptic Gospels are not his actual words. As paradoxical as it may seem, the Greek texts of the synoptic Gospels, which have been translated into countless languages, are themselves translations.

PLEASE. Beaverslice is obviously without any sort of epistemology to decide on the authenticity of the words of Jesus, so he resorts to obfuscation. He's also not a linguist. It's hardly as if there are wildly possible options for translation from Aramaic to Greek, so that when Jesus alluded to himself as the Son of Man in Greek, he actually said "I'm a Subway sandwich artist" in Aramaic.

Loftus also nuts out by admitting Hector Avalos to his blog. Avalos himself wins one for practicing backwards bike riding again. Triablogue had said:

For example, he's a very vocal and public opponent of Intelligent Design theory. But that lies far outside his field of expertise.

Avalos, caught once again with his pants down, replies:

Apparently, they disregard the fact that I have also published my views on Intelligent Design in a very respected astronomical journal-"Heavenly Conflicts: The Bible and Astronomy," Mercury: The Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1998).

THAT makes him an expert in ID? Loftus himself goes Gold on Triablogue:

Antipelagian, I have warned people a number of times to be careful how they treat my adultery, but to no avail. I'll not belabor the point here but there are Christians who read this blog who are having affairs. They feel guilty for doing so but they also think God will forgive them. After all, this is not going to send them to hell. No sin will send them to hell, they believe. God is gracious and will forgive...has already forgiven. That is, unless you think one cannot sin and still be a Christian. So they wonder how they will be treated by other Christians if they confess. If you treat my sin in demeaning ways they will know never to come clean with theirs. Most of the people who belittle my sin are young people who condemn outward acts of sin but instead have a cesspool of sin in their minds, or they regularly visit pornography sites. Do you? Such hypocricy. The only difference is that I have come clean. So, throw stones only if you are clean. I was a believer when it happened, about 18 years ago as of now. By condemning me you show your true colors. You are a condemning lot. Good luck with that, until you find yourself in a compromising situation of some sort or a public sin of some sort. Then you'll want grace, like I did, and you won't get it. Then Christians as in my case, like yours, will ask for evidence in keeping with repentance, but you know what?...if they don't want to see it they can always find a reason not to find it.

May I suggest you show some grace here? You may need it in the future and wished you had set the standard.

In the meantime please tell us all about your sins. I'm sure people will be interested. Would you be embarrassed about them?

The old canard never changes. Ever figure out what was unclear about the 7th Commandment, Loftus?

Loftus' Useful Idiot Ed "I'm Talking and I Can't Shut Up" Dumbinski also wins:

Triablogue has "refuted" Loftus's book? It's a book featuring questions. You don't "refute" questions. All the questions are plainly visible and remain so until kingdom come (if or when it ever does), while attempts to come up with answers to all the plainest questions in the world is what requires creativity and faith that one's creativity in supplying such answers "proves" something. By the way, Loftus isn't the only one with a book, I edited one myself, LEAVING THE FOLD: TESTIMONIES OF FORMER FUNDAMENTALISTS, nearly three dozen first-person stories, including conservative born again Christians who became either moderates, liberals, adherents of other faiths, agnostics or atheists. I think my book demonstrates that people are people, and such moderating and liberalizing changes happen, not just individually, but even within conservative Christian seminaries as a whole.

Well, for someone dumb enough to think "you don't refute questions" (ever hear of an "implied premise," Edski?) and thinks "creativity and faith" is all there is to answering, a book of anti-testimonies is about the best you can expect. Also, Ed wins Gold for posting this on Amazon in reply to my review of Salm's Myth of Nazareth, where I made note of Salm's lie re dating of Hellenistic lamps:

If you're agreeing the lamps are not "Hellenistic," then doesn't that support part of the author's overall case?

If you're simply pointing out that the author was unfair in harshly judging someone for misidentifying the lamps as "Hellenistic" at a time when knowledge of lamp chronologies was less advanced then I agree the author is going overboard in blaming someone who might not have been able to know better granted the limited knowledge in his day and age of lamp chronologies. However, not being an expert in lamp chronologies, I'm unsure exactly how much was known about differences b/w Hellenistic and Roman lamp styles in all the best literature at the exact time that that scholar mispoke.

Also, did the initial misidentification by this scholar of the chronology of those lamps mislead scholars for longer than it should have? In which case, perhaps a little griping ought to be permitted concerning the mix up in general and how one scholar's statement mislead latter scholars.

Dingodave, a commenter at Loftus' blog, nominates Platinum for this:

Drow Ranger (not a screwball):-"For all you know they contracted a very virulent form of Syphilis or something from their "fornications" associated with the practices of the moabite religion. They were being punished for SINNING."

dingodave: So you're saying that it was OK that all the children and babies were being punished with a plague for something their parents were supposed to have done wrong? You're nuts.

The Kooky Skeptic Collection

Seasanctuary is getting screwier every month, with comments like these:

It's too obvious that writing is better at preserving the integrity of the original message than oral tradition for me to feel the need to dig up some academic papers that say so.

Oral tradition goes through the filter of intervening minds. This can be very interesting in itself -- to see how it gets colored and changed and what that says about those who carried it -- but is less true to the original.

For the most part, it appears that "ANE culture" is just some noise apologists make to allow absolutely anything at all to be defensible.

I especially like when they claim oral tradition is very reliable, then turn around and claim we can't call contradictions "error" because oral cultures had a fuzzy concept of accuracy.

Add Homonym strives for Gold:

Consider what technological man seems to be striving for:

- no pain - no disease - no fear

- immortality

- relief from the struggle and disappointment of life

- to be beautiful and blonde

- no responsibilities

- infinite wealth

- lots of sex - bliss

- to be entertained by someone else

Any ethicist, whether christian or secular, sees this state we are striving for as some kind of evil narcissism, devoid of any point. And yet, it seems the strangely familiar objective of christians.

Jesus says that what you give up in this life, you will receive a hundred-fold in the next. This seems more like a materialistic superannuation fund. My gullible borther-in-law was telling me wide eyed) that the streets of heaven were paved with gold. Who is this supposed to attract? Accountants?

Hoping to find more detail on this subject, I read an article by a Rabbi, who informed me that the idea of heaven inspired evil martyrdom, and vaccuous lives that ignored this life.

We have an interesting moral situation when we have a child who is hideously deformed, and yet our current level of moralising says we should keep it alive; since god "gives us nothing we cannot handle" - this real life challenge is for god to express himself through. If someone was to come along and miraculously heal this child, then would it remove god's plan, or would the healing reveal god? (It seems that in this case, we blame both outcomes on god, yet one must be evil, or both neutral.)

If god works through our torment, then why don't christians yearn to go to hell? Surely the challenges in hell would be ample for god to express himself through.

It appears that heaven is so shallow and evil, that christians dare not ask what it really is.

"Enegma" has a lot of Gold this time. He whines the usual fundy atheist "I'm the bellybutton of the world" whine on why Jesus didn't write his own message. Properly told that it wasn't required in an oral society, he sez (and more):

The problem I have with some of these explanations, like about Rabbinic laws preventing Jesus from writing, or about the culture being based on oral stories, is that Jesus, to a large degree, wasn't "just a member of the culture" the way everyone else was.

IF Jesus really was the son of God, sent here to save all humanity, you think he'd have the perspective to realize that rules that governed his society didn't apply to him as he was, shall we say, a special case.

Remember, Jesus wasn't JUST preaching for his culture and time (or was he?) he was supposedly preaching to all of humanity, and in THAT goal his writing his down his message seems perfectly sensible.

So these points are valid if you assume that Jesus followed those cultural norms, but I can't see why he would. Because people wouldn't like it? Well, tough. He's the son of God, right, he can write down whatever he pleases, no matter what Rabbinical law is or what kind of culture he is.

Why should I believe the inerrant word of God, the living salvation of the whole of humanity, would be transmitted through a culture that I can't even begin to understand?

The notion an honor or shame culture seems, quite frankly, totally stupid to me, biased as I am by our modern culture. Their moral judgments don't align with my own, at all.

And yet I'm expected to take this work, the Bible, at face value, even though I'm told repeatedly that I can't understand it because I don't understand the cultural context.

This doesn't begin to make sense to me. I'm not really that interested in learning the history of the ANE, or about Judaic culture around the time of Jesus. It's probably several hundred places back on the list of topics on which I'd want to read a book on. That's not to say I'm totally uninterested in it, merely that I'm not going to dispense the effort necessary to fully understand the culture of the Bible and, aside from Biblical scholars, who does?

Even the armchair apologist, who references the difference in culture, can't honestly tell me he or she really knows what it was like to have been alive in that time period, I suspect.

But the tacit admission of these apologists is that the Bible can only be understood in terms of that context, and that my attempts to shoehorn it into some modern understanding are just misguided.

Well that may be so, but all it insures is that the Bible will be one of a vast number which I will never understand, which doesn't say much at all for its supposed power.

Well you have to remember....it's not as if the Bible conforms to the time, in fact, the Christian faith completely CONTRADICTS the mores and cultural norms of the time. I mean, that's what The Impossible Faith says, Jesus' death being repulsive, shameful, etc.

See, it makes perfect sense. In order to understand the Bible we have to understand both that it's a direct product of its time and era, understandable only in the context of ancient Judaic culture, as well as the fact that the story of Christ completely contradicts everything about that culture so as to make it an "Impossible Faith", and thus obviously true.

Get it? We can only understand the Bible if we understand it both conforms to AND contradicts nearly every single aspect of ANE culture.

So basically Christianity conforms to the norms of the time when it's convenient to say so for apologetic purposes but, of course, when it's more convenient, for those same apologetic purposes to point out how radically DIFFERENT and UNIQUE and SHAMEFUL Christianity was to the sensibilities of a 1st century Jew, well, they'll use that bit too.

It's called the Having-Your-Cake-and-Eating-it-Too approach to Apologetics.

shunyadragon, who apparently knows more than anthropologists, wins Gold:

Part of the problem is that it is actually guilt that plays more a role in social control and demands of conformity over people in the Middle Eastern Cultures where doing good versus bad or evil is the force by which people comply to social conformity, and forgiveness and atonement are the way to resolve guilt. Honor and Shame are social factors in the ancient Middle East cultures, but they play a much stronger role in Eastern Cultures like China and Japan, where it is not good versus bad or evil that motivates one to conform to the social expectations, compliance with social expectations of the culture. In these societies uniformity and conformity are more the norm, and if the individual is shamed than it is the individual that must restore honor at all costs to prevent from being ostrasized, and suicide is a common answer to an individual or group within the society that causes shame. Shame is more prevalent in societies with a more collective identity like in the east. The apologists promote that the crucifixtion was to shame the person with humiliating and degrading suffering death. the real story is that the Romans could care less about how the rebel died, their purpose was to evoke terror on the other potential rebels by make the condemned suffer a slow excruciatingly painful death as a witness for the consequences of rebellion against Rome. Thousands if not tens of thousands of rebells were executed in this manner, and with this specific purpose.

Bald Ape, who is normally smarter than this, wins Gold:

I've been told that a certain divine figure known as "Jesus Christ" made a tremendous sacrifice and is now offering the free gift - no strings attached - of eternal salvation. The gift, I'm told, is available to anyone who accepts it.

Though I remain utterly unconvinced of the reality of this divine Jesus Christ character, I'm officially sending out a big "thanks" for the sacrifice. Furthermore, though I do not believe in the reality of eternal salvation, I'd like to go on record as officially accepting the gift of it (assuming there truly are "no strings attached").

Thanks all for bearing witness. Having accepted the gift, if this Jesus thing winds up being true, I guess I'll see many of you in heaven someday.

I'm curious as to whether any others, equally skeptical of the reality of this gift of eternal salvation, would like to accept it in this thread. After all, it is a free gift.

P.S. I'm offering a gift of 10 billion dollars to anyone who accepts it in this thread, no strings attached. All you need to do to receive the gift is type, "I accept the gift of 10 billion dollars from Bald Ape". That's all you need to do, again, there are no other strings attached. I'll make payments in lump-sum 10 billion dollars, as I accumulate 10 billion dollar sums of wealth. They'll be paid out in the order of replies here.

P.P.S. Though it's not required, as an exit survey, along with accepting my gift, could you please indicate whether you sincerely believe you will receive it? Thanks!

Mike Wright, if he is not a parody, solidifies his strangehold on year-end Platinum:

For some strange reason xians seem to think that we cant question their skydaddy as in order to do so we'd have to be a sky daddy. But we can turn that around, if I can think of something I could do better how do we know im not correct. Who says that a sky daddy doesnt have to adhehere to my standards?

did jebus feed 5000 people? Often people ask how jebus fed the 5000 however if the fish was mouldy then nobody would have taken any and thats how there was enough to go around. Or maybe they chopped the fish into 5000 tiny pieces and nobody was that hungry that day. Maybe its a myth and the fish represented star signs. Maybe jebus was the david blaine of his day. Theres all kinds of rational explanations. Let me reply to that one with his style of language, "he uzed teh skydaddy powerz"

Is God a Coke Dealer? Recently god was arrested for dealing drugs. Now xians will say 'oh, this guy was just pretending ti be god' but then how do we know the same isnt true for jebus?

now why does the bible say its wrong to get drunk i think its quite fun really i got drunk and i can still blog intelligent posts des[pite it. horaay those people who belives in stuff dont kow how to have fun

As Richard Dawkins pointed out to John Lennox in their discussion, the fact you believe in the resurrection shows that your an idiot and if your an idiot then your wrong. the resurrection is clearly a myth.

Firstly didnt god get bored before he made the universe, but if god is perfect how did he get bored? But before god had made anything how can god think about anything?

well i'm getting my argumens from some of the greatest thinkers of all times: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Bertrand Russell, Robert Price, Sam Harris, Brian Sapient etc etc and getting my facts from reliable sources such as Wikipedia

Why does god give some men a bigger penis than others if god loves everyone the same?

Now you seem to argue that pepsi is better than coke however this is clearly not true. I have tasted both and all my friends agree with me. Coke also sells more and is more well know and i drink it. If your judgement on such a simple matter as this is wrong how can we trust you on anything else?

Off TWeb, we have some fun stuff, like this Amazon review of one of Metzger's volumes on textual criticism:

Metzger in an ordained Christian minister. This book is theology prettied up to pass as scholarship.

Amplifying an earlier reviewer, Metzger also says maybe the ending of Mark's original gospel got burned. One imagines conflagrations all over Christendom, everywhere burning up just that last little bit of Mark.

Or maybe the _original_ copy of Mark got burned -- no wait, just the last couple pages of the original book got burned in the fire, so it must have been a tiny fire, and Mark died in the fire, the tiny fire, right, so he couldn't redo it. And there was only that one copy, and no rough drafts, right? Oh, oh, here it is: the fire got all the rough drafts, and the last page of the final version, and Mark.

Any stupidity will do for apology. A useless book.

Richard Dawkins wins for these posts on his own forum:

It occurs to me that people like Boteach and D'Souza may be honestly unaware that they shriek and yell in such an unbecoming way. Maybe this is just what preachers of a certain kind DO. So people whose profession is to preach, or who live their lives surrounded by preachers, just don't hear their ugly yells and shrieks as we do. They have become so inured to the preaching style of yelling that the resemblance to Hitler passes them by. They just can't hear it. There's a partial analogy with rock musicians who live their lives surrounded by giant amplifiers, so their hearing is literally impaired and a given decibel level just doesn't sound as loud to them as it really is. I'm not suggesting that Boteach and D'Souza have literally damaged their ears. But at a higher cortical level they may have become desensitized through years of preaching, and exposure to preachers, so they don't hear, and literally and honestly don't understand, the strong resemblance to the hideous vocal style of Hitler. Once again, I need to emphasize that the comparison with Hitler is limited to vocal style. OF COURSE nobody is suggesting that either Boteach or D'Souza have similar opinions to Hitler, or resemble him in any other way at all. But imagine listening to a Boteach speech or a D'Souza speech or a Hitler speech with no knowledge of English or German. I suspect that you'd hardly notice the difference. Contrast it with a speech by Christopher Hitchens. The voice is strong, even a little thrilling. But there's no hysteria there. The words match the content: measured, thoughtful, strong and powerful but never hysterical.

My suggestion (that the Boteach / D'Souza / Hitler shriek is just a normal preaching style of rhetoric) goes hand in hand with the suggestion I made in my second open letter to Shmuley, that there is some kind of inverse relationship between the sensible content of a speech and the decibel level needed to sway an audience. The more you really have to say, the less loudly you need to shout, and vice versa. Religious preachers have nothing worthwhile to say, so they make up for it in decibels.

Sam Harris nominates Platinum for accepting donation of the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, and saying:

At the Reason Project, we intend to refine Steve's work in a section of our website entitled "The Scripture Project" where we will have religious scholars, historians, scientists, and other qualified people continue to annotate these texts on a Wiki. With the input of the right scholars, we are confident that the Reason Project website will quickly become the preeminent place for scriptural criticism on the internet.

"Deacon Duncan" of Evangelical Realism wins a Platinum nomination for comments this month:

I suspect it's not in Mr. Holding's best interests to be too specific about what "the patronage model" is. It's apparently supposed to be some kind of scholarly excuse for why God does not show up in real life, possibly incorporating an excuse for why it's ok to take people's word for it when they claim that He did show up in real life. By avoiding any detailed explanation of patronage, Holding can continue to mock us and accuse us of being ignorant. If he spells out what it is, then he opens it up to critical examination. Sneering is much safer.

***

Let's take it a step at a time. Mr. G starts with the common objection that I'm being unfair by expecting God to show up in real life, as though I'm making demands of God. Notice, however, that I am not doing any such thing. I am not telling God how or when He ought to show up, and I'm certainly not insisting that He go out of His way to coddle me personally. All I'm doing is proceeding from the principle that the truth is consistent with itself, and noting that, when we look at the real world, we don't actually see God showing up in real life the way He is described as showing up in the Bible stories.

That's it. No demands. No "beckoned call." I'm not even requiring that God must show up. All I'm doing is pointing out the inconsistency: the Bible portrays God as a God who is willing and able to show up in real life, and as a God who has already done so numerous times. We don't see that happening in real life. And this failure to show up in real life is an undeniable fact with an inescapable consequence: in His absence, we have no way to put our faith in Him. The best we can manage is to put our faith in men, when they tell us things about God that are inconsistent with what we see in the real world. Since this is gullibility rather than genuine faith, it's hard to see why a genuine, loving deity would want to force us into this situation through His consistent and universal failure to show up. But I'm not commanding him to appear. I'm merely pointing out the inconsistency.

As for Paul's claim that there were 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrection, there are a couple of problems. Number one, he didn't give us any names, so it would be difficult to ask any of them whether or not Paul was telling the truth. But the bigger problem is that Jesus taught a non-literal view of reality, so even if they did consider it "true" that they had "seen" a risen Savior, you need to ask what kind of truth we're dealing with here. Is it the kind of "truth" Christians refer to when they believe they have truly been born again, or that Jesus is truly there wherever two or more are gathered in his name, or that Jesus truly washes you in his blood when you confess your sins? None of these truths would be what we would call literal, real world truths, yet all of them are regarded as genuine truth by Christians.So even if Christians did think it was "true" that Jesus rose from the dead, this would not tell us whether or not he actually, literally lived again after dying.

As for whether anyone checked with the other members of Paul's caravan, how do you know nobody did, or that the others in the caravan would have supported Paul's testimony? Does it not strike you as strange that none of Paul's fellow travelers seems to have become a Christian along with Paul, or to have accompanied him and stood with him to offer a backup testimony? Clearly, there were plenty of people who doubted Paul's testimony that a living Jesus had appeared to him on the road to Damascus. And that's assuming that Paul's account of his "vision" is really accurate, which is not necessarily a given. If the caravan members had supported Paul's remarkable testimony, Christians would surely have added these testimonies to their own records. This apparent silence from the rest of the caravan is thus harder to reconcile with the idea that they supported Paul's witness.

Granted, it's true that we wouldn't expect Paul to endure sufferings, hardships, and martyrdoms for a religion he knew to be a lie (though even that might surprise us, as shown by the life of Joseph Smith). The problem with that argument is that Jesus taught his followers a non-literal interpretation of reality, which means that Jesus did not need to literally rise or literally appear to Paul in order for it to be "true" that he rose and appeared to Paul. It's just like you don't need to be literally born a second time in order to be "truly" born again, in the Christian sense of the word "true." Plus, Paul needn't have been consciously insincere in order to be influenced by the prospect of becoming the leader of a whole new religion. He could have believed that Jesus "rose" in some sense and that this was a great chance to advance his own career, with God's blessing.

As for the persecution, well, that's just a battle. Believers today still struggle and are still opposed by those who denounce them and their beliefs. Look at Joseph Smith, or David Koresh, or the Westboro Baptist ("God hates fags") Church. Willingness to fight for something is not the same as necessarily having had a genuine supernatural experience to inspire you.

Thanks for your comment, though. I'm glad that you're thinking about your faith, and I hope you continue to do so. My God Alethea is the real-world Truth, and if you honestly and sincerely seek Her, She might just bless you.

Vinny over at "You Call This Scholarship?" got dumb this month too:

...does 92% average stability support the idea that the New Testament can be relied upon as the inherent and infallible Word of God? 8% instability is about one in twelve, or the odds of rolling a four with a pair of dice in a game Monopoly. Imagine you are the battleship and you are sitting on Atlantic Avenue, but instead of landing on Go to Jail if you roll a four, you land on Go to Hell. You go to hell because there was a one in twelve chance that a verse necessary to properly understand the doctrine of water baptism had been miscopied by an early scribe and you were sprinkled when God wanted you dunked.

When an airline mechanic is checking out an airplane, I want him to be working from schematics and diagrams produced by the plane's manufacturer. I don't want him working from some lecture notes that were recopied several times before he got hold of them. 92% stability isn't going to cut it. The original autographs of the books of the Bible are purported to contain the rule of God for man's faith and life. Properly understanding and applying its teachings determines whether a person spends an eternity in bliss or torment....

auhrzul wins for this:

If I am correct to assume that in heaven, you will receive all the earthly joys a man could experience, then, would heaven not be a place full of acts that are certainly sinful? Perhaps you will find in there the most amazing sex, the most delicious foods to become a glutton over, and the tastiest cigars and spirits perhaps. For recreation, it would be some sort of gambling activity among others. You further spend eternity by basking at countless of voluptuous and enticing women.This would be awkward wouldn't it. This would be like Hell without the torture.

If this were not the case (and it would most probably be so because God would certainly not like such a state for heaven), then would heaven just be a simple tranquil place of light tones and themes, where people go about eternally greeting each other good day? This would be appallingly boring. The angel and harp music would probably get tiresome after the first eon or so.

"CrucieFiction" wins for stmping for the myth thesis based on works from Freke and Gandy, Acharya S, Gerald Massey, and other stupid people. Challenged to a debate on the existence of Jesus, he replied:

I assume you're debating the existence of the biblical Jesus as a once living human being. If so, the answer really doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. What does matter greatly is whether this human was an embodiment of a [divine] celestial magic-man of the sky (along with his little ghost/spirit friend too). One to which you have abandoned all human reason and self-dignity -- labeling yourself a filthy worthless slave, and to whom you must beg and worship on bended knee with clinched (tied) hands for all eternity, only because he put you here for a brief time and yet had to struggle, and work, and suffer like everyone else. And also to this horrific fiend of the universe, you had to surrender your thinking mind to a belief of absurd magnitude so that that he/it will "save" you from itself after you die. Good luck with that, and your debates.

Commenter on Vox Day's blog wins a Platinum nomination for anachronism:

My $.02,

Many of the purported miracles Jesus performed can be ascribed to commonly known phenomenon in "healing" situations. The blind man who can suddenly "see" may simply have been highly cataracted before and his amazing cure was him getting caught up in the fervor of the group setting. I would love to have had the opportunity to interview this man a day after his cure.

Multiplying food. This one seems like an easy explanation. An assembling group of people are with very little food. Jesus arrives and soon after a supply van arrives with fish and bread. Not too hard to see how that one might have got started.

Poster replying to a YouTube video also wins:

Just a small point Kabane, ppl are ressurected on Earth every 40 seconds, either by cpr and or a defibulator, it has also been know to happen without assistence. Seek medical evidence of a solo ressurection and you will find your evidence.

Told that CPR and defibrillators did not exist in the first century, he replied:

Ok this has to be th stupidest reply i have ever gotten, lol. U must think ppl are really stupid... plus it makes absolutely no sense. I am pretty sure ppl realize cpr wasn't used back in the time of Jesus you stupid ****. That wasn't my point o Edited by a Moderator o. Ressurection on their own would be considered swoon, what? Due to the nature of crucifixion...what? Ressurection is dieing and coming back to life, prove it happens and you prove ressurection period you stupid ****.
Ok I realioze u r a kid with no brain so I will explain in better detail. Jesus was crucified and stabbed with a spear, they did not know to check a pulse at the time period he was killed, so he could have easily been unconsious when they put him in his tomb, the spear could have missed all vital organs and he could have awakened in the tomb. All these events happen all the time, ppl getting nailsa in their heads, ppl coming back to life, use the evidence we have today to prove it..

Another YouTuber on the pagan parallels:

So if the pagan parallels to Jesus aren't a valid argument than explain why there are so many parallels dating before Jesus if Jesus isn't just a new version of them. There are far too many to explain away as merely chance.

A commenter critiqued for using Wikipedia as a source replied:

Wikepedia (like ancient copies of Gospels) can be edited by anyone.

Then this moron tried to establish that there are plenty of mythicist historians:

A quick google search of *historians who believe there was no jesus* turned up 276,000 hits.

How nice. A quick Google search of "bats with farting gargle faces" turns up 18,300 results.

Miscellany Collection

Mormons visiting two of our readers win -- served some blue gatorade, one said this:

"Well let me put it this way. If the prophet told me this blue gatorade was red, I'd believe it."

Nothingtodo3 bowls over Christianity with a single question:

Aren't angels and such gods too? Or just demi-gods? So much for monotheism.

Bleck from OC ReMix rebuts The Impossible Faith:

Or, you know, they just killed everyone who didn't agree.

I am pretty sure that Saul/Paul being able to kill pretty much anyone who stood in his path meant that they had much more of a fighting chance than anything else.

ninjamojo711 earns Gold:

One would think sacred eyewitness documents that are so very important to the church would never have been discarded no matter what condition they were in.So the DDS can survive for over 2000 years, but original gospels can't even survive 1 century, even in the sacred care of the holy church. Wow they must have thought these holy documents were not very important!

So the same church that found enough wood from the cross to build a ship and saved the supposed "burial shroud", and who were known for making copies of copies of copies, were too stupid to use the copies for everyday use and destroyed by lack of care the sacred original word of god........ya.

The Confused Believer Collection

apostoli thinks Islam is more righteous than Eastern Orthodoxy, and apparently thinks the Orthodox are victims of forced indoctrination:

I've recently partook of a reveiw of the history of the six autonomous churches of the so called Eastern Orthodox faith. Consequently, I have become convinvced there are only two choices for a righteous person. Islam or Western Catholicism. Admittedly, both have defects historically and socially but at least their essential doctrines are not based on fanatical nationalism, endemic paganism, and some utopian ideal of superiority of the East Roman empire which they wish to re-establish rather than await the coming of the kingdom of God (though I'd argue that some elements of islam are more aligned to the eastern orthodox mentality, so for me there is one choice!). If you think my view is less than rationalistic, lets review the Serbian/Croatian conflict (or for that matter the establishment of the Greek Orthodox chuch or Greece itself) and the resistance against royalist/feudal aristocracy supported by Orthodoxy clergy and their opponents battle for human rights. Imo, effectively, in past history and relatively modern history, in supposedly christian eastern orthodoxy we have, historically, the Taliban and the social terrorists of the west!

At an individual level, please don't take my stance as a personal attack on your beliefs. We can't be held accountable for forced indoctrination. However, I only ask you to open your mind to the extremes of all churches, whether they purport to be christian, muslim or whatever...

KJV onlyist wins just for saying that KJV stands for the "King Jesus Version". He should get another one for writing like L. Ray Smith:

To the Panin follower, may I suggest you try the KJV Holy Bible the way God said to read it, EVERY WORD, in order, precept upon precept, line upon line, Gen 1:1-Rev 22:21. I like to believe that before you finish Psalms, that you too will be a KJV follower, a King Jesus Version follower. No matter who would figure otherwise, I personally figure God did keep His promise of Psalms 12:6-7,and I have the substance and evidence of that in the KJV Holy Bible, hidden in my heart, and given life by the Holy Ghost. I just pray for anyone figuring otherwise.

Brethren this is a THICK antichrist PLOT against the saints. Satan was the most wise of all of God's creatures. Our only defense from the subtlety and deceptions of the deceived deceivers is to KNOW that God promised a PERFECT bible and therefore we have the KJV, the King Jesus Version. Read it. Believe It. Tell all the religious "ought to know betters", that God Said So. Tell them IT IS WRITTEN. Tell them it is written in the King Jesus Version Holy Bible. IT IS WRITTEN. IT IS WRITTEN. My prayer is that you will be diligent to KNOW what is written by the superintendence of the Holy Spirit of Truth, in the KJV Holy Bible, the King Jesus Version, and be FULLY DETERMINED TO DO WHAT GOD SAID JUST BECAUSE GOD SAID SO.

Brother Randy at teens-4-christ wins a Platinum nom for this:

fallenangel: Is there anything wrong with a Christian girl saying "stinks" plz let me know if there is

Randy: If you are saying something has a foul odor about it, then there is nothing wrong with saying it stinks (duh) but if you are expressing your frusration, then it is one of those Christian swear words. For example, if you stub your toe, and you exclaim, "Oh stink!" The phrase becomes an expression of your pain and frustration. In that case, it is a sin.

A self-professed Catholic on the GameFAQs Religion board says:

Never in the Bible is Christ said to have actually resurrected.

Barabbas126 has this to say about the history of Christianity:

For all intents and purposes... It begins with Saul of Tarsus aka Paul's (supposed and alleged) epiphany of the Jewish 'messiah', -approx. ten years after his crucifixion. It was Paul who first identified (and thus named... or quite probably re-named) the Jewish messiah... certainly Paul 'transliterated' the perfectly known and generally used Hebrew appellation 'messiah' into the Greek 'Kristos' (later Anglicized into "Christ"), -for which, by the way, there is no etymological basis or foundation in the Greek language or custom.

One must wonder why Saul or Paul found it necessary to 'transliterate' 'messiah' into "Christ"... I suspect that Saul or Paul sought to divert we latter-peoples' attention away from Jewish history re. his great, great, great grandfather's abysmal and disgraced role as the first 'anointed' king of the Jews.

In any event, I cannot even imagine any other man besides Saul who Hated the 'descendants of David' (later re-named "Christians')more than he... with the possible exceptions of Mark & Luke who helped concoct the charade and myth re. "Jesus Christ".

TyRockwell scores for thinking his novel, self-published treatise is the best ever written"

I believe wholeheartedly that The End From The Beginning is the best interpretation of Bible prophecy that has ever been written. Your question though assumes a criteria of expected and accepted interpretation as would be considered in a textbook.

Since my book is not in the doctrinal camps of previous interpretations then I urge you to read it for yourselves to see how its departure from the usual is really better than what we have had up to now. I do reference some of the usual points of view in my book, and it will easily be useful as a method of studying what the Bible has given us, with a comparitive look at what has been taught in past interpretations.

Now some Pharisees pick up their Gold. SavedMom says:

As Christians, we have no choice but to walk according to God's plan. Breastfeeding, full time, is clearly God's plan. Willfully choosing to use bottles is sin and should not even be considered in a Christian family. If it's on your mind, ask yourself why you wish to bottlefeed.

he-man thinks that the church is the harlot in Rev 17:

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 2Co 6:16

Revelation 18:9-11adds to the description of the church, as it describes a huge, worldwide network of propaganda for merchandising and manufacturing their entity and that men weep over when destroyed.

Religious entities manufacture and merchandise their religion via TV and distribute their propaganda to beg for money. This is vital to understand because Revelation 18must coordinate with the identity of the Woman in Revelation 17. Thus, Revelation 18,describing what churches involve themselves in, provides another major reason why the Woman is the church.

Headheart does the scholarship, incoherently:

Like pacman munches up the trail of dots and then the fruit and if you clear enough screens you get to the end, the pursuit of truth leads to truth in the absolute sense eventually.

The various arguments for the existence of God (there are quite a few as you well know) are in a sense like breadcrumbs left along the pathway and as in the tale of Hansel and Gretel, the birds ate them up (probably missing a few) , so it is that some great arguments for the existence of God have survived to mark the way back home, or in the case of the pacman, the path to the delicasies of greater and greater reward and in a sense the prize. Certainly all games have some treasure/reward/prize/gratification at demolishing the final foe etc., but I am getting a bit away from what I wanted to talk about.

Whereas many like to shove a ten pound bible in your face everytime you ask the question, "So tell me about this God of yours?"....I would like to present a few alternatives to those who are seeking God and find all they are eating are dots or scattered crumbs but getting no closer to home or that juicy fruit that eventually grants one something more like GOD.

These are my own crazy inventions and I am sure that greater minds will be able to give them a name and the argument that refutes them.

1. The above mentioned trails of bread crumbs or dots of truth in all things that lead to the Truth

2. A visitation by an angel.

3. A personal revelation of the person of Jesus Christ.

4. The testimony of the first Bible (well second) of creation.

5. The proclaimation of the gospel.

6. Miraculous events.

That's all I have for now.

Diatribe hypers Calvinism for Gold:

If you can't see the LIE, I can't help you (only God can). AND Yes, Arminianism and Molinism are heresies and there is only ONE TRUTH not many.

You stated, "are you trying to call me a confused heretic for disagreeing with your opinion on Arminianism and Molinism? Or are you calling me a confused heretic because I'm a 5-point Calvinist?" Pick one, you will finally be correct!

By the way humans are not responsible for anything but they will be held accountable for their sins.

ilovesunshangxiang wins the "Just Wanna Have Fun" Trophy:

my priest said smoking is a sin

he said that our bodies are not ours but god's. we borrowed them from god so we shouldnt dirty them with cigarettes. if you borrow a car from a friend, you wouldnt dirty it, would you? so you're borrowing your body from god and you shouldnt dirty them with cigarettes

i think it's just propaganda to stop us from smoking

http://teapotatheism.blogspot.com/2008/06/anonymous-wanted-body-count-total-so-he.html

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread316231/pg1

http://www.trailerspy.com/movie-trailers/video/651/religulous-trailer/

Award for Gretta Vosper; she's a leader of the "Centre for Progressive Christianity" in Canada. Her first book "With or Without God" was published by Harper-Collins a couple of months ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aClQ7ZaPvg8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-2AZfa1AUY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urlTBBKTO68&feature=user

http://nogodzone.blogspot.com/

http://blog.mlive.com/grpress/2008/07/lawsuit_against_zondervan_comp.html

http://www.messianicmistakes.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4HdTPOpDxc

http://www.not4jesus.com/news.php

Columnist in the Charlotte Observer wins for this declamation:

For the purposes of this column, I am using the term "non-believer" to encompass a wide range of non-belief:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=Aoa4fwWAWRj960OMzOjcyj0jzKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20070627150340AAG4rZX

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=AuZr5T6NBmma6pOM2xuWRf_ty6IX;_ylv=3?qid=20060829072220AA1ItEH&show=7#profile-info-AA12026912

http://www.greatandhra.com/ganews/viewnews.php?id=8631&cat=15&scat=20

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExRJqjb5iAA

http://al.godsdirectcontact.org.tw/

http://www.occultforums.com/bbs/showpost.php?p=74887&postcount=24

http://www.biblelife.org/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AxtZFITe0g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9C7wX6SRxOA

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

http://www.spiritheart.org/chapel/lordpryr.htm

Becky Harlow said her husband had recently attended a motorcycle race in Buchanan, Michigan, and he wins Gold:

"He had this idea that he would bring this bike out onstage and show people how the rider would become one with the bike," she told the Kokomo Tribune. "He was going to just sit on it and drive it out. He was just walking the dirt bike out onstage and somehow it got away from him. It was not intended."

The screwball isn't for him driving off the stage and crashing but for thinking that a cheap stunt like was an appropriate way to demonstrate a theological point.

Bumper sticker wins Gold:

If money is the root of all evil, why do churches beg for it so much?

http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/ksc/725674463.html

http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11791572

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkYaC5Mg48A