Let’s Play Pointless

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If anything underlines the pointlessness of religion it’s the Pope’s declaration this weekend that two of his predecessors are now ‘saints’.

It’s pointless because, according to the Bible, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II (not their real names) were already saints. Yes, truly. According to the Bible all believers are ‘saints’ (Romans 1.7, etc).

Pointless because the two of them are dead and bestowing sainthood on them does not affect their fatal condition in any way.

Pointless because the dead are of even less use than the living.

Pointless because the Catholic church’s many adherents already hold these ex-popes in ridiculously exalted esteem – witness the hundreds who turned out yesterday for Pope Frankie’s saint-making ceremony. It hardly matters that he bestows a further, dubious accolade on them.

Pointless because, when alive, both men presided over an obscenely wealthy organisation whose God directed his followers to sell all they had to give to the poor; an organisation that, during these men’s reigns, repeatedly covered up child sex-abuse by its priests, prohibited the use of condoms in Africa (thus aiding the spread of HIV), denied women control of their own bodies and regarded LGBT people as evil. How ‘saintly’ is that?

Pointless because it’s all dressing-up make-believe anyway.

In other news, a giant crucifix in Italy, erected in honour of Pope John Paul II, collapses and kills a twenty-one year old man. Surely this is a sign of… well, something. Sure to be. Maybe someone can tell us… God? Catholic commentators? Saint John Paul?

 

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Christians’ Favourite Delusions 21: Jesus Keeps His Promises

Promises

Jesus keeps his promises? Let’s see…

‘I’ll be back while my disciples are still alive’.

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels… I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom. (Matthew 16:27-28)

Oops. He got that wrong. Two thousand years later and his followers are still waiting. Despite what today’s believers claim, he didn’t say he’d reappear over two thousand years into his future. Safe to assume he’s not going to make it at this late date

‘Anything you ask for will be yours… whatever you ask.’

Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. (John 16.23)

Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11.24; also Matthew 21.21-22)

Christians hedge round this one by saying God answers prayers in his own time and in his own way. His answer might be ‘no, you can’t have that’. But that’s not what Jesus says. He says ‘Whatever you ask… anything… will be yours.’ What is this if not a false promise?

‘My followers will do even greater miracles than I have.’

Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. (John 14.12-14)

Believers regularly walk on water, turn water into wine, and – slightly less frivolously – raise the dead. Except… no they don’t. It doesn’t happen. They should be doing even more startling things than this too – Jesus promises ‘greater works’ than his – but again, two thousand years on and they haven’t even mastered basic mountain throwing. What a let down. What hokum.

‘You’ll be able to do the impossible.’ 

These signs will accompany those who believe:…. they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16.17)

Which is why, I guess, we have no need of hospitals, because Christians can heal everyone; why members of those fanatical snake-handling churches in America, who take Jesus at his word… erm… regularly die from snake bites. And not even these true believers are crazy enough to drink poison. There’s a limit to how much faith even gullible Christians have in Jesus’ empty words.

‘Don’t bother working or earning a living. God will provide.’

Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6.25-7.1)

Yeah, right. His followers recognise how useless this one is too; they do strive to make a living and provide for their families. None of them wait for God to provide because they’d be dead before he got round to it.

‘God will look after your hair (because you’re worth it).’

But even the hairs of your head are all counted… You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. (Luke 12.7 &  21.12-19)

Oh, come on. Now he’s just being silly.

And that’s only a few of them… Jesus’ promises. All as worthless as the proverbial chocolate fire-guard. Christians, of course, know this well. They neither trust in his promises nor demonstrate them in their lives. As it is, how they live is indistinguishable from everyone else; completely devoid of miracles and lacking in any supernatural provision. They tell themselves (and us) that Jesus is special but then disregard most of what he said – and who can blame them from that? Anyone else who made the sort of ludicrous promises Jesus did would be dismissed as a fool and a charlatan. It’s way past time we recognised Jesus as just that.

The Great Resurrection Miscalculation

How long was Jesus in the tomb before he ‘rose again’? Three days you say? Wrong! Read on and discover the secret of the Great Resurrection Miscalculation.

Resurrection

Jesus is wrong about no less an issue than his claim that he would rise from the dead after three days. In Mark 10.33-34 he prophesies:

the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.

On the surface, this seems pretty accurate for a prediction of events made some time before they actually happen (it wouldn’t be a prediction otherwise). Except, of course, this prophecy, like others of Jesus’, was written forty years or more after the event. Even then, Mark or whoever wrote the earliest gospel, can’t get it right. He tells us clearly in Mark 15.34 that Jesus dies at 3pm on Friday; Matthew and Luke agree. Jesus then reappears, fully recharged, ‘very early’ on the Sunday morning (Mark 16.2). But 3pm Friday to the ‘very early’ hours of Sunday is less than 48 hours – not three days, not even two.

What is the cause of this failed prophecy? For some reason, Mark assumes that ‘on the third day’, when he believed Jesus rose from the dead, means the same as ‘after three days’, the words he has Jesus prophesy. The third day after the crucifixion would indeed be the Sunday, but it wouldn’t be, and isn’t, three full days after it, as Mark’s Jesus seems to think.

The problem is not Mark’s alone, however. Matthew’s Jesus is even more emphatic that he will be buried for the three complete days:

For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12.40)

Thanks to Jesus’ insistence in Mark and Matthew that he would spend three days in the tomb, the belief that he must have done so – contrary to the ‘evidence’ in those same accounts that it was less than two – appears to have become securely established by the time of the fourth gospel. Its writers, however, find their own unique way round the problem. Their thinking seems to have been along the lines that ‘if Jesus said he was going to be buried for three days and three nights, then he must have been. He was the Son of God after all, and he wouldn’t get a thing like this wrong. Therefore, if, as we know, he rose on the Sunday, he cannot have been crucified on the Friday. He must have died on the Thursday’. And so the writers of John’s gospel shift the crucifixion back a day, to around noon on Thursday (John 19.14). It’s an ingenious solution. Thursday to Sunday – near enough three whole days. There’s even some neat symbolism as a bonus: the earlier execution equates with the slaughter of the sacrificial lambs on the Thursday, ready for that evening’s Passover. Problem more than solved!

Except it creates a whole raft of new ones, not least the glaring inconsistency between the synoptic gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion on the Friday – after Jesus’ and the disciples’ celebration of Passover the previous evening – and John’s gospel’s account of the crucifixion during Thursday afternoon, well before the Passover meal would have been eaten. Significantly, no-one in the history of Christendom has ever been persuaded by John’s Thursday crucifixion, otherwise we’d remember it on ‘Good Thursday’ instead of ‘Good Friday’, and have a different day off work.

Does any of this matter? Probably not, but it does demonstrate that:

i) if Jesus’ words in the synoptic gospels are to be taken literally, then either he can’t count or he badly misjudges the timing of his resurrection. If scheduled for three days after the crucifixion it should have occurred on the Monday;

ii) the resurrection probably didn’t happen at all, and more than forty years later Mark and Matthew trip themselves up trying desperately to convince people that it did, and that Jesus knew it would;

iii) the gospel writers are prepared to rearrange already highly improbable events to make equally unlikely prophecies appear true;

iv) because the Bible cannot get its own faked, after-the-supposed-event prophecies right it can’t possibly be trusted about other claims it makes. 

Happy Easter, y’all.

Adapted from my book Why Christians Don’t Do What Jesus Tells Them To …And What They Believe Instead. Buy it on Amazon UK or Amazon US.

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Unbelievable: Why, despite everything, Christianity makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

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There’s no real reason to believe in God.

 
Who says so? Francis Spufford in his book Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. Francis does believe though, because sometimes when he’s alone – specially after a tiff with his wife or while sitting quietly in church – he gets a funny feeling. And this feeling is so funny, as in weird, that it can only be God. Or so Frank says, slipping in as many four letter words as he can, just to show he’s not a namby-pamby sort of believer. (He’s especially proud of his new term for ‘sin’: ‘the Human Propensity to Fuck things Up’, or HPtFtU for short.)

 
What’s more, even though there are a hundred and one reasons to think there isn’t a God, at least not one who cares about us (think pain, suffering, death, evolution and his complete lack of interest in his creation, all of which Frank’s acknowledges) he nevertheless wants to say that he does believe because, you know… feelings.

 
That’s not all. This God Frank’s decided to believe in as result of feeling funny, is the Christian God. He could’ve turned out to be Allah or Zeus or Ra, but he isn’t, because Frank feels he’s the Christian God, for no other reason than he wants him to be. Then, in a final leap of faith, he decides that Yeshua, as he insists on calling Jesus, is the walking embodiment of this God, and he rewrites the gospel story so that it fits with the funny feeling that kick-started his delusion in the first place.

 
And so we have it from the horse’s mouth; a Christian who’s proud to admit there’s nothing remotely rational or empirical about believing in God. Faith, he confirms, is no more than some very human, very peculiar feelings that lead you merrily down whichever garden path you choose to take.

Stephen Green is Gay

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Stephen always got his inspiration from the Lord…

Stephen Green of Christian Voice is unhappy. Gay Marriage, he insists, is a Very Bad Thing.

Green has had a lot to say about gay relationships and gay sex over the last few years. In fact, he’s obsessed with the subject. His latest ejaculation, called ‘Gay Marriage is a Farce’, helpfully informs us:

‘Gay’ relationships (are) built on perversion.

Homosexual desires are described as vile affections in the Bible.

‘Gay marriage’ is a massive step towards the social economy of Sodom.

We don’t say homosexuals are perverts because of what they are, but because of what they do.

Homosexual activity… is either dirty or abusive or both.

Homosexuals, frustrated by their inability to engage in true sexual intercourse, have to resort to activities which are abusive or dirty.

Homosexual acts fall a long way short of the God-ordained conjugal act.

Personally, I now use the word gay mostly in its modern sense of substandard (as in, ‘that coat’s gay’).

Never self-identify as ‘gay’. Never let someone else identify you as ‘gay’.

Green is himself ‘gay’. In the ‘modern sense’, of course. He preaches that marriage is between one man and one woman for life, yet is divorced and now with his second wife-for-life. He trashes charities that help young LGBT people and makes unwarranted personal attacks on gay celebrities, recently suggesting that Stephen Fry has a ‘porcine ancestor… not that we do evolution here’ and adding derisory inverted commas around the ‘Sir’ in Ian McKellen’s name. How big and clever is that?

Even though Jesus has more to say about poverty and homelessness than homosexuality (about which he says precisely nothing), Green never mentions them. He consistently avoids talking about his saviour’s commands to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and avoid judging others. These, it would seem, don’t matter.

While he occasionally rants about evolution and complains Christians are persecuted, it is to homosexuality he constantly returns. Always with inverted commas around ‘gay’, to ward off the voodoo.

But Green is insecure in his beliefs and faith; he rarely publishes comments that dissent from his ‘biblical’ position and when he does, responds to those who make them with an uncharitable smugness that borders on abuse. There is no sense of any Christian charity in either his comments or on his site as a whole.

Worst of all, he washes his hands, Pontius Pilate like, of the harm his negative, destructive comments cause LGBT people. The real bullies, he says, are not Christians with poisonous views like his but rather:

homosexual activists who persuade young boys and girls that adolescent same-sex attraction indicates a permanent ‘orientation’ and who go around talking homosexuality up and giving bullies a weapon to use against shy boys and tomboyish girls. People like ‘Sir’ Ian McKellen, Elly Barnes, Jake Dyos and the rest of the low-life at ‘School’s Out’.

So now you know. Stephen Green, who calls ‘gay’ people perverts with ‘vile affections’, whose relationships and love-making are, he says, founded on dirt, disease and abuse, is in no way a bully whose views contribute to any ill-feeling towards gay people.

No, the vilification to be found on Christian Voice is actually Christian love™. The gospel according to Stephen Green: it’s so substandard.