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John MacDonald

Name: John MacDonald

Born: St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 1976

Title: Public School Teacher, 2003-present


  • M.A., Philosophy (with honors), Brock University, 2002
  • B.A., Philosophy (with honors), Brock University, 2000
  • B.Sc., Education, Medaille College, 2003


  • Brock University, taught 1st year Philosophy Seminars
  • Toronto District School Board
  • Halton District School Board

Representative Publications:

Homepage: https://agnosticismspectrum.blogspot.com/

Other Projects

Biblical Studies Carnival

Hosted the Secularism Symposium of the Biblical Studies Carnival for June 2022 to foster secularists confronting both religious and secular biblical studies communities in persuasion and adversarial debate.

Secular Frontier

Blogger for the Secular Frontier, the official blog of Internet Infidels.

Secular Frontier Index on Christian Origins

Secular Web Kids

Contributor to Secular Web Kids, a platform to engage teachers, parents, and children about religion and secularism

Published on the Secular Web

Modern Library

Gospels, Classics, and the Erasure of the Community: A Critical Review Testing the Hypothesis of Robyn Faith Walsh’s The Origins of Early Christian Literature, Part A

In Part A of a three-part critical review of Robyn Faith Walsh's The Origins of Early Christian Literature: Contextualizing the New Testament within Greco-Roman Literary Culture, John MacDonald provides a literary application and defense of Walsh’s hypothesis that the Gospels are not, as is usually thought, the product of literate spokespersons conveying the oral tradition of their community, but rather are birthed out of networks of elite Greco-Roman-Jewish writers in dialogue with one another, not downtrodden illiterate peasants. MacDonald aims to show that Walsh's approach makes good sense of the evidence, such as pervasive intertextual haggadic midrash (Jewish) and mimesis (Greek) going on in writing the Gospels, which seems less likely on the “oral tradition of the community” hypothesis. Walsh's critique of the community oral tradition model is important because that model is what bridges the gap from the opaque period of Jesus’ life and death in the 30s through Paul (who is silent on the details of Jesus’ life) to the destruction of the Temple in the 70s, when Mark's gospel appears. A few bare details aside, without this chain of sources, reconstruction of the events of Jesus' life is essentially impossible.

Jesus Mythicism: Moral Influence vs. Vicarious Atonement—and Other Problems

In this article John MacDonald examines the Christ myth theory and its difficulties. A number of flaws are pointed out with the theory. One focus is the moral influence interpretation of Jesus' death, as opposed to the penal substitution/sin debt model that mythicism demands. Learning the Jesus story is imputing guilt, the opposite of Aristotelian purging catharsis. This is a substantial problem for mythicism. A celestial Christ who was never on Earth and was killed in outer space by sky demons can't inspire such guilt, and so mythicism isn't an effective interpretive model—among other problems. One must ask: Does the kind of theology being produced make more sense from a general historicist framework, or a mythicist one? Jesus' horrific torture and abuse points to a historical Jesus with immolated goat and scapegoat Yom Kippur theology, rather than a mythical one. There is something about the cross that goes beyond doing away with sin so that man and God can be reconciled.

The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context

In this article John MacDonald examines the possible lie by Jesus in John 7:8-10. The article begins by providing an analysis of the context of lying and deception in the ancient world. Given this background, it moves on to examine (mainly) the insights of Tyler Smith, Adele Reinhartz, Dennis MacDonald, and Hugo Méndez/Candida Moss about the Fourth Gospel and deception. Here John MacDonald explores the thesis that John's Jesus does in fact lie, and that this lie is meant to be understood by the inner-circle reader. Jesus lying to his brothers is the method by which he is able to go up and preach to the crowd; the lie leads to belief or makes belief possible.

A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ

In this essay, John MacDonald attempts to recover the oldest meaning of the cross of Jesus and that of Jesus' resurrection in their historical context. The paper argues that penal substitution, the popular conservative evangelical interpretation of the cross, is incorrect, and furthermore that it results in interpretive absurdities when applied to the text/evidence. Penal substitution claims that a just God lacks the ability to forgive, and so requires punishment for sin, where the innocent Jesus was substituted for us sinners and brutally bore the punishment for our sins, wiping our sin debt clean. By contrast, this essay presents a nonpenal substitution participation crucifixion model, where Jesus is understood to be our willing victim as a catalyst for opening our eyes to our hidden "satanic influenced vileness" and for encouraging repentance. The oldest meaning of the resurrection of Jesus will also be shown to be what Jesus' disciples took to be evidence for overcoming death in a blessed way, and empowering us to live righteously. The cross/resurrection argument will further be contextualized in a Second Temple framework of apocalypticism and demonology/superstition to show that the original meaning of the cross and resurrection is so divorced from most modern Christian frameworks and beliefs that many modern Christian would reject the heart of what their ancient counterpart would hold as fundamental to living a good and holy Christian life. The upshot is that the usual modern conservative interpretations of the cross and resurrection bear no, or at least merely superficial, relation to the original ancient ones.
Kiosk Article

Religion as Undue Influence

What we call religions were once called cults until they grew into a system of beliefs and superstitions with a significant number of adherents. Given the origins of religion in cults, it makes sense that we can apply the same criteria and categories when investigating and evaluating religions that we use when doing such for cults. In this article John MacDonald looks at religion through the lens of undue unfluence, a concept developed in the legal system to assess brainwashing-type phenomena. MacDonald shows readers strategies to approach religious belief from the point of view of religious people being indoctrinated rather than educated, and considers some strategies for uncovering and countering the unconscious superstitious narratives upon which religious people base their faith.
Kiosk Video

Interview with Richard Carrier & John MacDonald on Mark, Galatians, & Apotheosis

Tune in to Freethinker Podcast as host Edouard Tahmizian is joined by Internet Infidels President John MacDonald in this 45-minute interview with historian and freethinker Richard C. Carrier. Carrier fields several questions from his interlocutors concerning how he harmonizes certain New Testament passages with his Christ myth theory, whether there's textual evidence that the Book of Mark predates that of Matthew (and, if so, how that sits with the resurrection appearance accounts), whether the Q source existed (and if so, whether Mark used it), whether seemingly anti-Jewish interpolations might really be references to another instance where God's chosen people fail to meet God's expectations, whether there was a grave site 'disappearing bodies' problem spurring the Nazareth inscription, and much more! Check out this gripping interview with our returning historian on facts that some suggest don't sit well with the nonexistence of a historical Jesus.

Interview with John MacDonald on the Gospels

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour follow-up interview with Internet Infidels President John MacDonald about why he thinks that the canonical Gospels do not support the idea that Jesus died as a kind of stand-in for us sinners (most clearly evidenced in the Gospel of Luke), what the historical Jesus would've thought about removing circumcision as a requirement for becoming a Christian, the alternative Gnostic understanding of salvation, how the gospel of Mark suggests that the historical Jesus would've had no inkling of the concept that his eventual death might serve as a substitute punishment for the sins of all humankind, and how the historical Jesus' understanding of love differed from the ancient Greek concept of it. MacDonald also compares the societal fall-out following Socrates' execution in Plato's dialogues to that anticipated by the historical Jesus, explains how the idea that Jesus died for our sins makes little sense not only because substituting one person for another's crimes is morally absurd, but because most of us haven't committed any sins that warrant capital punishment, and offers his take on Richard Carrier's defense of Jesus mythicism. Check out this historical and philosophical exploration of one of the core claims of modern Christianity (and the partial transcript of it on the Secular Frontier).

Interview with Jonathan M. S. Pearce

Tune in to host Edouard Tahmizian's nearly hour-long interview with Jonathan M. S. Pearce, a founding member of the Tippling Philosophers, a friendly group of believers and nonbelievers who regularly meet over a pint of ale to discuss life's big questions. Pearce is the author of several books and a speaker on philosophy, religion, and skepticism best known for his old popular blog A Tippling Philosopher. In this interview, Pearce outlines how William Lane Craig's rendition of the kalam cosmological argument presupposes an implausible Platonism about abstract objects and a particular notion of causation that, if rejected, deflates the force of the argument. The interlocuters also canvass how the only remaining phenomena challenging naturalism are the beginning of the universe and consciousness, whether Jesus would have ever been buried in a tomb at all, why there are contradictions between the Gospels on basic details about the empty tomb story, the flaws in Mike Licona's argument that Paul wouldn't have hallucinated a risen Jesus if he had then seen Jesus as an enemy, the rationality of belief in miracles, the role of motivated reasoning in apologetic arguments, much more! Check out this fascinating interview with a prolific author on the Gospels as more propaganda than history.

John MacDonald and Edouard Tahmizian Talk About Jesus

Join Internet Infidels social media manager Edouard Tahmizian and Vice President of Internet Infidels John MacDonald for an interesting talk about how little biblical scholars claim to know about Jesus (namely, that he was baptized by John the Baptist and crucified), about whether Jesus even knew John the Baptist, and about the relationship between Jesus and Moses in the Gospel of Matthew as an illustration of how Gospel authors retooled Old Testament stories for new theological purposes in the New Testament. Check out this interview for a quick overview of an important aspect of early Christian history and an update on Secular Web Kids.

A Mysterious Interview

Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 5-minute interview with a mystery guest about the meaning of the word "secular," about why he is not a Christian and doesn't buy the empty tomb narratives as evidence for Jesus' resurrection, about what human and animal suffering can tell us about the existence or nonexistence of God, about whether beauty in the world points to the existence of God, and more! Check out the mystery guest's answers to these deep questions put in words that everyone can understand.

My Awesome Interview With Dr. Richard Carrier!

In this nearly hour-long interview with the prominent historian and freethinker Richard C. Carrier, Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian and fellow Internet Infidels board member John MacDonald talk with Carrier about his conversion from Christianity to Taoism before he adopted metaphysical naturalism, his mystical experiences, the literature on the historicity of Jesus and Jesus mythicism, the original intent of the authors of the canonical Gospels, and much more! Tune in for this fascinating discussion with a long-running scholar and freethought activist.