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From the Mailbag

We start with this one from Snot School:

I was deeply disappointed and disturbed by your vitriolic attack on Marcus Borg. Such an attack, with its ladling of heady sarcasm and its unprofessional use of inverted commas to suggest lack of trustworthiness, is unworthy of a confessing Christian.

Before you leap to the conclusion that I am a liberal Christian, let me affirm that Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and was resurrected in the flesh. Jesus is the Christ, the son of Almighty God. He is also my Lord and my Saviour.

What disturbs me is that your attack is vicious and deeply unloving. Please don't give me any nonsense about telling the truth in love, because there is no evidence of love in your article. From the evidence of the gospels, I sincerely doubt that my Lord would have spoken to Mr Borg in such a way. Where someone was a sincere seeker of truth, regardless of how mistaken they were, he treated their sincerity with love - and still does today.

If you are to counter another person's deeply held beliefs, it should be with respect, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. Your rebuttal should show evidence of scholarship, rather than relying on sarcastic asides and vicious comments to damage someone that you obviously see as your opponent. Such emotive writing as I read on your website should be left in high school, where it belongs.

As I mentioned above: I am appalled that a Christian should lower him or herself to write in such a manner.

All kinds of nutty stuff showed up after that. For example:

The name of Jesus is an important feature in Christianity. Have you ever considered that the Alexander Cult has its roots in antiquity and also in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul? Consider Acts 4: 11-12; Acts 18:24 and Acts 18: 28. It could be that the Early Christians recognized that Apollo incarnated in the man from the city of Alexandria also known as Alexander (Acts 18:24. Alexander in the incarnation as Apollo was a great orator who proved through the scriptures to be the Christ Jesus (Acts 18:28). Modern Christians quick to defend and prove Jesus was the Christ miss the subtle distinctions between the texts and jump to the conclusion that Alexander was Paul’s enemy because Alexander was also the coppersmith who did Paul so much harm because of his inability to defend Paul in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:14).

Knowing and trusting the revealed name of Jesus gives Christians a deeper understanding of Paul’s message. See 1 Corinthians 1:12-13. It also encourages people to be “face to face” with God and each other even when their nations and or traditions are opposed to one another. But of course you must be aware of all of this and posted the information about Alexander of Abonuteichos to get people to think about the Alexander of the New Testament.

Wackier still? Yep.

The more you people lie the more you do us Atheists a favor and lead people to conclude there is no not only no god, but that christians and religion is one massive immoral forgery, lie and a hoax...

Thank you so much. Keep it up. You make our job and the cause of Atheism so much easier by hanging yourselves by your own petards.

To wit: Chrestus (the original word meant “good”)....was changed, and forged to “Christus” meaning messiah. You know this, but yet, you write 1000s of words to defend this forgery. Its not remain liars and forgers....and are absolute proof that declaring one’s self as a “christian”... proves absolutely you have no ethics, or morals....and will say anything, forge anything, lie at any level to attempt to promote xianity.

Its not working....and we Atheists thank you.

And this one will either get Platinum for Christian email, or be seen as the best parody of one ever:

Dear 'Servant in Christ',

Why do people feel the need to debunk the ancient beliefs of others? Why bother? The story of the Roman (not Greek) demi-god Hercules, is a great story about a hero who conquered many chaotic forces and completed impossible tasks. He was not like Jesus, as he was constantly plagued by his own weakness of character. His labors were completed in order for him to be purified for his sins. The epic of Hercules is a tale of a man's constant cycle of sin, penance, redemption and toil. No one thinks that Hercules is the true Jesus or his precursor, or whatever it is you're insinuating. Hercules' moral structure and behavior were not Christ-like in any way besides through his willingness to aid mankind.

Herakles (or Heracles) was his Greek name, and Herakles/Heracles and Hercules were the same figure as worshipped in their respective pantheons. This character also has roots in Asian mythology. When Alexander the Great's army moved into Asia, their Pantheon came with them and the Asians adopted Heracles as the Vajrapani (or protector) to the Buddha. Is anyone erecting churches to Hercules these days or demanding tythes of it's members? I don't think so, so you can probably relax in your efforts to educate the masses.

The fact that you referred to Hercules as 'Alcides' made it sound like you had done your homework in researching this interesting fictional character (as Alcides was the birth name of Heracles) but you obviously did not.

I am a practicing Christian myself. I love Jesus, attend Church every Sunday and teach a Sunday School Class to pre-teens every week. I have a strong testimony of Jesus Christ , but I also enjoy reading tales of ancient mythology. Those stories tell us a lot about ancient man's creativity in trying to understand the wonders of the world before ever receiving the gospel or the scriptures that we believe to be true. The story that you guffawed at regarding Hercules' cleaning of the Stables of Augeas was a story that had a message. Hercules, having an unreachable deadline if he were to just clean the stables by hand, showed that he was clever as well as physically strong by diverting the courses of two rivers to clean out the stables. Why do you even feel the need to comment about that? "Somehow, this reminds me of having to "clean up" after many claims like these made about Hercules!" How long did it take you to come up with that clever morsel? The stories of the ancient peoples were written much more simply than those that are written today, evidenced by a 'whale' swallowing Jonah and the threat of chopping a child in half to prove ownership being thought to be a brilliant solution.

Is anyone proclaiming Hercules to be the one true savior? Relax and find something meaningful to write about. I would think that our "Servant In Christ" would be able to find a more relevant issue to address than a long obsolete ancient figure who mostly lives on in comic books and Italian sword and sandal flicks. Better yet, target Superman. He is much more relevant in today's society. He also has a strong case as the savior of mankind if you believe everything you read. Superman has more worshippers today than Hercules does, so maybe you should switch directions...quick before the next Comicon Convention!

The stories of Hercules are just that...stories. Like the ones about Robin Hood or Paul Bunyan. I have never read that Hercules was born of a Virgin mother (that would be a little unlikely since his mother was married prior to his conception). The only real parallels that can be drawn between the fables of Hercules and the birth, ministry, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ are the claim that 1. Hercules' father was the King of the Gods, 2. Hercules accomplished feats that would be impossible for an ordinary person, and 3. Hercules ascended to Heaven (Mt Olympus) and received Godhood upon his death.

There are plenty of mythological characters whose stories show similarities to Biblical stories. There is a Flood story in many different religions. Gilgamesh was a character, much like Hercules, who was claimed to be divine as well as human due to his father being Lugalbanda (the King of the Gods of Babylonian Pantheon). Balder, the God of Light of the Norse Pantheon, was a benevolent deity described much the same as Jesus himself who rose from the dead after the final battle between the Norse Gods and the forces of darkness. People obviously had a need for Jesus long before he was presented to them. What good does it do to poke fun at the creative stories that our forefathers told more than a millenium ago? Say something durogatory about Native American stories (which I also love) and see what kind of reader response you get.

Christians get enough heat for being arrogant, pushy know it alls without people like you adding fuel to the fire by trying to dispute the truth about a fictional character that no one even believes in. If more Christians were tolerant of the views of others, there would be many more people exploring churches and reaching out for what they truly need in their lives.

The July 2011 John Loftus Collection

John and his do-boy Hector Avalos win for their gross misrepresentation of various Christian writers. And though he doesn't know him, a YT user named AliburX belongs here for a Platinum nom, commenting on a vid where I used Loftus as a character:

OK, first of all, you made up a fantasy character, Loftus, then defined him as an adulterer, and then further defined him as an illiterate who doesn't understand what thou shalt not commit adultery means when he reads it. That guy is your fantasy and does not represent anyone therefore your point is meaningless. There are plenty of us who have studied the bible and still find it severely lacking in any real substance. Simply asserting the bible is meaningful doesn't make it so.

Loftus groupie ManhattanMC also wins for comments like these:

We can only hope Dr. Carrier gets a well paying job (with tenure) soon so he doesn't have to debate fools for money in the future. Holding read a prepared opening statement and then gave an obviously prepared response to the interpolation of the 'woman taken in adultery' (which was almost certain to be mentioned) and responded to none of Dr. Carriers points.

This wasn't really a debate. Without his data base, search engines and his 'road rage' insults (apparently fostered by and hidden behind net anonymity-nobody in his physical condition would dare say the things he says in person) Holding is a toothless paper tiger

The Skeptic Collection

Unnamed Skeptic offers the stupidest attempted rebuttal ever to the argument that the Bible should be understood in its proper context:

A lot of passages somehow never mean what Jesus literally said, but need to be taken "into context" with completely unrelated OT passages.

Also unnamed (deservedly), a member of Brett "Dumbass" Palmer's YT club:

Craig seems to be unaware of the irony inherent in his job as a christian apologist - if the evidence for god's existence were really there and so obvious , there wouldn't be any atheists and no need for apologists. The very fact he has a job refutes the very claims he makes. The irony is burning ;)

YT user cruciefiction sums up his problem:

Christian apologetics is the means to effectuate the triumph of intentional deceit and imaginative excuses over sound critical reasoning and plain common sense within the minds of dimwitted and credulous fans.

YT user afrschlan has some winners -- the best:

Well, being a violent [censored], the son of an insane, disgusting [censored], I assume that [Jesus] meant that he wanted all the insane sheep followers to go and kill their fellow man, those who had not been brainwashed to adhere to this nonsense, you call christianity. Am I close?

Who the [censored] is Paul? Perhaps if you had a reference from Jesus/God than I'd be interested but the hot-dog salesman on the corner? No. True conversion which than produces a real christian right? It is odd how all the 30.000 + denominations of christianity conclude themselves as being the true christian ;) Fascinating stuff.. True conversion, from a rational persons perspective, is rejection of reason, socially defined morality, respect for one's fellow man.

I must appeal to outrage, before I explain, and express my disgust in you for not grasping the old testament depiction of your insane, god. Demonstration: See Old testament ;)

YT user Ambelghan blames all of the world's ills on religion and thinks all of the world's problems would be solved if we all got raptured:

I wish all the religious people got their rapture, empty out all the prisons, most of the poor will be gone, legislation inhibiting scientific thought would be gone, no more war, since the middle east would be empty we wouldn't have to pour money and manpower into it, people would have to rely on physical evidence to sway other people to their cause. It would be a time of exponential scientific discovery; great peace for all, remaining. *Sigh* Let's hope their next rapture date is right.

YT user AussieMaleTuber claims to be a psychiatric nurse, but may be lying:

I'm a mental health nurse with 30 years experience. You are not rational. A-theists like Thunderfoot are rational because they don't have to incorporate a belief in (supernatural) ghosts in their world view. You are completely taken-in by a third century roman fairy tale, and your illness and personality-style won't allow you to accept reality (and you are agitated and irritible when the likes of the gentle Thunderfoot challenge you). Now get angry at normal a-theist me - your theological rants are a symble of illness...

Thunderf00t himself wins for pushing the idea that Luke's reference to two men in a bed implies homosexuality occuring.

YT user GodKillerAtheist earns a Platinum nom, responding to my query on what he thinks the Hebrew word in Leviticus meant re bats/birds:

You paint a false representation that the bible is an ancient book. The problem is that it's been updated thousands of times. It's even been updated this year. The Hebrew version was updated in 1977 Why didn't they repair this error? Fact is they didn't want to

Less screwy but still screwy, OpenAirAtheist wins for this:

Didn't realize theology web is pure text . Sorry I want to debate and that means talking , you boast of eating skeptics alive so put the mic where your mouth is and add me on skype .I get at least 20 pm' s from check bouncing theists like you so not willing to do text debate I have enough of those as it is. So lets have a skype debate . Or you can stick to what your good at and hide behind your text.theists always got something to say until I get them on skype

But went over the top screwy when he asked me this:

I heard your a mormon? and that you defended joseph smiths prophecy on the civil war. if that is true then your a theological pervert! 

Atheist MagicActor1987 on the relationship between the OT and the NT:

Actually, the evidence points to the Old being influenced by the New AND the New being influenced by the Old. Some of the so-called prophecies, for instance, have been shown to be edited in based on New Testament occurrences.

Atheist commenter on an article about a woman beating a child for not going to church:

The Bible teaches Christians "spare the rob and spoil the child", and warns Hell may result from such spoilage. Given such strong religious pressure, its rational to assume merely being Christian predisposes believers to be child abusers.

Tassman: If he's not already...Platinum nom as a whole.

The Confused Believer Collection

Vivian explains why Jesus insulted people:

Any word that he spoke had power, to heal, to liberate, and so words coming from his divine body, which appear to us to be insults, were much much more. Riposte might be a good description of what he was doing, for his words were like a knife, a double edged sword, that pierced through minds and hearts. Freeing and liberating people from their bondage.

Chatter JesusisSavior nominates Platinum for this:

I found out that hiccups are demonic Evertime i have hiccups i say hiccups come out in the name of jesus and it works every time So u now know that hiccups are demoic Im serious

He did allow that drinking water can help too.

YT user BIBLEisMARKofBEAST is a unique entry. He has videos on his channel arguing that the Bible has become the mark of the beast and Christians who read it will be damned. In some of his videos he destroys copies of the Bible but all the time he justifies it with phrases from the Bible. This is what he said to a young friend of one of our readers:

I'm glad to see that you have strong convictions. I'm glad to see you believe in hell. Consider this; So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. When you are reading the bible you are in the flesh, you're getting your information from a 2000 year old book. The gift and promise of God is the Holy Ghost. Ask Jesus to fill you with the Holy Ghost. I'm the only person you will come across that's trying to keep you out of hell.

Harold Camping wins for this act of exxy-Jesus:

We always look at the word “earthquake” to mean the earth, or ground, is quaking or shaking violently. However, in the Bible the word “earth” can include people as well as ground. In Genesis 2:7 we read: “And Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground…” Thus the word “earthquake” can also be understood to teach that mankind shakes.

And who believes this? People like Fergie:

You don't get it - any plumber or hairdresser has the same authority to speak about God as any theologian.

Miscellany Collection,0,5682260.story