What's New on the Secular Web?
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July 1, 2017
Trinitarianism has had a long and colorful history, and belief in the concept was once rigorously enforced. Yet it seems to attract little critical attention today. An analysis of its tenets, however, does not withstand scrutiny.
Recommended reading from the Bookstore: Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) (2009) by Bart D. Ehrman.
Picking up where his Misquoting Jesus left off, Bart D. Ehrman addresses the larger issue of what the New Testament actually teaches--and it's not what most people think. Here Ehrman reveals what scholars have unearthed: The authors of the New Testament have diverging views about who Jesus was and how salvation works; the New Testament contains books that were forged in the names of the apostles by Christian writers who lived decades later; Jesus, Paul, Matthew, and John all represented fundamentally different religions; established Christian doctrines--such as the suffering messiah, the divinity of Jesus, and the Trinity--were the inventions of still later theologians.
June 12, 2017
In recent years there have been a number of claims for substantial social benefits stemming from religious belief. On balance, however, the prevalence of religious violence calls these claims into question. Even a casual review turns up ample instances of violence between the members of different religions, both throughout history and across the world today. In addition, tens of thousands of members of the same faith were killed for "witchcraft" or the slightest deviations from orthodox Christian doctrine during the Inquisition. And since the advent of Islam, millions more have been killed over the Sunni/Shia rift. Finally, while religious spouses are not more likely to be abusive, the victims of domestic violence are more vulnerable to abuse when they live in religious households.
May 23, 2017
"Banished from Eden" is the story of one man's efforts to find religious answers to the brutal murder of his son. It's an in-depth emotional and intellectual journey from his struggles to reconcile religion with reality to his rejection of religion as an answer to anything.
50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media, and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists. It features an international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals to heavyweight philosophers of religion, and spans between rigorous philosophical arguments and highly personal accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives.
April 21, 2017
In this paper Michael Moore explores the veneration of individuals afflicted with madness in several religious traditions. An early example of this practice is the high regard that the Hebrews placed on prophets, but the explicit appellation of the label "holy fool" or "fool for Christ" starts with the apostle Paul. Said in irony, that irony was nevertheless lost on many of the faithful, who occasionally regarded mentally disturbed individuals who had a religious predilection as "fools for Christ's sake." Strange behaviors taken to be religiously inspired include slaying in the spirit, holy laughter, and religious ecstasy. The reported behaviors of seminal Judeo-Christian figures resemble symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia, but reports of similar behavior have not been limited to Western religious traditions. The Avadhuta of India, Japanese Zen masters, and Chinese adepts also exhibited bizarre behaviors. Islamic Malamatiyya Sufists interpreted apparently unethical acts committed during "divine intoxication" as illustrations of the deeper meaning of Shari'a law. Early Church Father Tertullian turned the connection between religion and irrationality into dogma, and the widespread rejection of Jesus by his contemporaries has often been seen as proof of his divinity by his followers.
April 11, 2017
Think you know the details regarding the New Testament Empty Tomb and Resurrection stories? Check your knowledge with this short, twenty-two question quiz. The answers may surprise you! You will likely find that the details are so inconsistent from one biblical source to the next that the picture that we are typically given of the events surrounding the alleged Resurrection is necessarily a composite of carefully selected verses which exclude other verses where the details significantly differ.
A book for the season: Resurrection Reconsidered: Thomas and John in Controversy (1995) by Gregory J. Riley.
Resurrection Reconsidered is an eye-opening exposition of the various views of resurrection among early Christians that centers on the protracted debate within early Christian circles concerning a foundational aspect of the Gospel of Thomas and its related literature: the concept of the body and resurrection. It traces the background of this idea in the Semitic and Greco-Roman world, and its expression in the Thomas literature as a whole: the Gospel of Thomas, the Book of Thomas, and the Acts of Thomas. But the inspiration for the study, and its main focus, is the controversy between the two closely related Christian communities of Thomas and John, between the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of John on the issue of resurrection, which is expressed in John most clearly in the story of Doubting Thomas.
April 8, 2017
Monotheists believe that a purposeful being (God) created the universe. But why did he create it? In this essay Michael D. Reynolds aims to show that there is no plausible answer, and that there are cogent reasons why God would not have desired to make a universe.
March 13, 2017
New in the Kiosk: What is Secularism? Reflections of a Secular Humanist (2017) by Dr. Khalid Sohail
According to Collins Dictionary, secularism is "a system of social organization and education where religion is not allowed to play a part in civil affairs." Among its fundamental principles are the separation of church and state, a secular court system, fully secular state organizations, and a fully secular education system grounded in modern science, psychology, and philosophy. As the winds of religious fundamentalism get stronger, discussion about secularism becomes increasingly important.
March 5, 2017
Added A Critical Review of Is God a Moral Monster? (2017) by Craig Vander Hart to the Paul Copan entry on the Criticisms of Christian Apologetics and Apologists page, as well as the Biblical Criticism and Christian Worldview pages page under Christianity in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God, Paul Copan attempts a bold apologetic of the Judeo-Christian God's moral status. The so-called new atheists see the biblical God as a promotor of genocide, slavery, murder, rape, and other immoral acts. But the only serious objections to the biblical God's moral status are passages in which immoral acts are clearly done because of God's will, or are explicitly approved of by God. Even with this caveat, however, the Bible clearly prescribes immoral behavior that Copan cannot explain away in this fashion. Premarital sex is explicit grounds for divorce or execution of a wife, but not of a husband; rape warrants punishment when a married woman is raped, but not when an unmarried one is violated; the fathers of female victims of rape can refuse marriage to their rapist, but not the victims themselves; peoples who simply do not accept the dominant theology of Israel should be executed in war, making exception for the traumatized adolescent girls of conquered nations, whom Israelite soldiers can "spare" for themselves; and so on. In order to maintain his belief that Yahweh is morally perfect, Copan must explain away any Old Testament evidence of God's moral culpability in light of the more loving and inclusive New Testament passages. But this does not provide an objective examination of the biblical God's moral status, and thus will only appeal to Christians who are worried the about possibility that their God might be a moral monster.
February 16, 2017
The problem of evil can be used in two different ways. It can be used offensively; that is, in an attempt to criticize and undermine theistic belief, to show that theism is false and that belief in God is unfounded--a very difficult task. But the problem of evil can also be used defensively, i.e., to show that atheism is epistemically warranted, justified, or reasonable. Such efforts can succeed even when the proffered arguments fail to convince theists that God does not exist.
January 28, 2017
"Oh, My God!" is a humorous anecdote involving a door-to-door Bible-thumper and a former minister.