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December 31, 2016
Added Ancient Historical Writing Compared to the Gospels of the New Testament (2016) by Matthew Wade Ferguson to the Biblical Criticism page under Christianity, as well as the Argument from Holy Scripture page under Arguments for the Existence of a God in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
Unlike historical writing, the New Testament Gospels read like ancient prose novels. Outside of Luke, the Gospel authors say nothing about any written sources that they consult, and even Luke does not name, explain, or discuss the relevance of any sources. In fact, Luke only mimics historical prose for a few brief lines before merely venerating Jesus in the stories that he relates. None of the Gospel authors explain how they came to learn of the alleged events that they relate (though John claims an unnamed eyewitness disciple of Jesus that he probably invented). Instead, the Gospels narrate "events" from an all-knowing perspective that places them within a literary genre unlike that of actual historical works from antiquity. In this essay Matthew Wade Ferguson discusses ten important ways in which the Gospels fall short of the research, independent corroboration, methodology, and critical investigation typical of the historical writing of their time.
December 26, 2016
Please help us combat those who would stand in the way of reason by pitching in to keep the Secular Web online right now.
Since the Secular Web was founded, Internet Infidels has witnessed the continued growth of those who claim no religious affiliation from 6% of Americans in the 1990s to a full 25% of the population today! Not only do the unaffiliated now represent the largest "religious" category in the United States, but the most common reason given for having disaffiliated is that respondents "stopped believing in the religion's teaching." A recent Public Religion Research Institute/Religion News Service survey found a significant generational shift here: while only 10% of 18-29 year olds had no religious affiliation 30 years ago, just shy of 40% of them have no religious affiliation today. Moreover, over 90% of the unaffiliated were raised in a religious household, indicating a conscious decision by those who disaffiliate to question their upbringing. The survey also found that 70% of the unaffiliated reject the idea that there is a personal God with whom we can have a relationship.
As religionists take steps to try to buck these trends, we need to keep the momentum going.
December 20, 2016
Added In Defense of an Evidential Argument from Evil: A Reply to William Lane Craig (2016) by Jeffery Jay Lowder to the William Lane Craig page under Criticisms of Christian Apologetics and Apologists page, the Biological Role of Pain and Pleasure page under Evidential Arguments for Atheism, and the Naturalism page under Nontheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.
In a popular article about general arguments from evil against the existence of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God, William Lane Craig raises objections to such arguments that are consistent with those he earlier raised against Paul Draper's evidential pain-and-pleasure argument from evil in an oral debate with Draper in 1998. In this article Jeffrey Jay Lowder considers whether Craig's points have any force in rebutting Draper's writings on his pain-and-pleasure argument, ultimately concluding that they leave Draper's argument unscathed.
December 7, 2016
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, this scholarly analysis of our modern celebration of Christmas pulls together a thoroughly convincing case for the widely accepted notion that it is a 19th-century creation, indeed a deliberate reformation and taming of a holiday with wilder pagan origins. Christmas was set at December 25 in the fourth century, not for any biblical link with Christ's birth, but because the church hoped to annex and Christianize the existing midwinter pagan feast. This latter was based on the seasonal agricultural plenty, with the year's food supply newly in store, and nothing to do in the fields. It was a time of drinking and debauchery from the Roman Saturnalia to the English Mummers. The Victorians hijacked the holiday, and Victorian writers helped turn it into a feast of safe domesticity and a cacophonous chime of retail cash registers.
December 4, 2016
Can an atheist take part in a religious celebration? Is there some alternative way in which an atheist can enjoy the good things about the Christmas season?
November 28, 2016
Appeals to the alleged "fine-tuning" of the cosmos will have to wait until there is a compelling, definite reason to suspect that the existence of our universe really is improbable. Vague analogies with firing squads and arbitrarily selected probabilities may lead to some interesting speculations, but they do not point to any significant evidence for some kind of creator.
November 11, 2016
Many evangelical Christians tremble with excitement at the thought that they are the "last generation" and "Jesus is due to return soon." Others are less excitable and propose that Jesus' "return" might still be far off. Neither view appears to be correct judging by the plain words of the New Testament--words that armies of theologians have spent centuries trying to divide up and "conquer," or in this case, "explain away." Let's examine some of those words to discover exactly what it is about them that requires mountains of ingenious explanations from Dispensationalists, Preterists, and other varieties of evangelical Christian apologists.
October 17, 2016
New in the Kiosk: The Struggle Is the Story: A Philosophical Note on Mankind's Mission (2016) by Mike Chege
Is life meaningless without God and a divine plan? In this essay, Chege tackles the age-old question of whether the apparent lack of a divine plan for mankind necessarily leads to nihilism. He argues that man-made goals are capable of fulfilling the same role as the belief in a divine plan, but by promising a greater life in this world rather than in the next.
October 9, 2016
Killing Jesus, the bestselling blockbuster by Bill O'Reilly, claims to be a purely historical account of the events in the life of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion. New Testament scholar Robert M. Price (a member of the Jesus Seminar) shows how unfounded this claim is in this critical review of O'Reilly's work. In fact, he judges the book to be the number one source of misinformation on Jesus today. Ignoring over one hundred years of New Testament scholarship, O'Reilly and his coauthor, Martin Dugard, have produced what Price describes as a Christian historical thriller that plays fast and loose with the facts.
October 3, 2016
Even though radical Islam is spreading, not much is known about the Koran in Western countries, and there seems to be an unwillingness to have a closer look at the book. Yet without this, informed discussion is not possible, and what debate does take place is no more than an exchange of opinion and ignorance. Amongst other things, the Koran is said to call for holy war (jihad) and sanction domestic violence, but when asked about this, Muslims and Western apologists flatly deny it and one cannot rebut them without precise quotes. They maintain that the Koran does not preach violence, only compassion and justice (and one should well ask whose justice), yet the book they defend does not support their claims. Read the Koran, they say. I have. And I cut through the litany to point out a number of disturbing passages. Each quote is referenced by the number of the line where it begins.