My Letter to a Doubting Preacher in the Pulpit

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I received an email from a preacher in the pulpit who is doubting. He said he first reached out to a prominent apologetics preacher, but he had no time for him. So he reached out to me. I agreed to correspond with him. This is what I wrote:
Hi,

Glad to hear from you! How did you find my email address since it's not exactly easy to find? I have published a few books. Have you read them, or my blog?

Usually I tell people I'll only correspond with them after they've read one or more of my books. But since you're a preacher in the pulpit I'll make an exception in your case. That being said, I have a book deadline to meet by June 15th, and must concentrate on that for now.

I'm sorry to tell you that I've read hundreds of personal stories, and have my own as well, so unfortunately I'm not interested in reading your story. Don't hate me for this. Just tell me the issue or issues you are struggling with. I will attempt to answer your questions as best as I can. These answers may take the form of links to my blog or copies of sections from my books, but I will try.

I don't want to talk anyone playing the devil's advocate. The devil can advocate for himself. And I don't want to argue with you either. If you disagree, then realize I'm only trying to help. Try to learn from me and we'll be fine. If this turns into a series of arguments I'll bow out, for I'm not interested in changing your mind about anything. I write very passionately on my blog and books to convince believers, but on a personal one-on-one basis I really don't care what any given individual believes enough to bother, except that they are kind and empathetic people.

Jean Paul Sartre argued we seek counseling from people we know in advance what they might advise us to do. You first tried a Christian believer so that was one side of the aisle. It's what I did myself when I started doubting. Then at some point the scales tipped to the other side and you now seek out the advice of the other side. You are already there!

How can I help you?

Best wishes on your intellectual journey,
John W. Loftus

Mark Twain, "Concerning the character of the real God"

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From Mark Twain's Autiobiography, Volume II, Saturday, June 23, 1906

Concerning the character of the real God.

Let us now consider the real God, the genuine God, the great God, the sublime and supreme God, the authentic Creator of the real universe, whose remotenesses are visited by comets only—comets unto which incredibly distant Neptune is merely an outpost, a Sandy Hook to homeward bound spectres of the deeps of space that have not glimpsed it before for generations—a universe not made with hands and suited to an astronomical nursery, but spread abroad through the illimitable reaches of space by the fiat of the real God just mentioned; that God of unthinkable grandeur and majesty, by comparison with whom all the other gods whose myriads infest the feeble imaginations of men are as a swarm of gnats scattered and lost in the infinitudes of the empty sky.

When we think of such a God as this, we cannot associate with Him anything trivial, anything lacking dignity, anything lacking grandeur. We cannot conceive of His passing by Sirius to choose our potato for a footstool. We cannot conceive of His interesting Himself in the affairs of the microscopic human race and enjoying its Sunday flatteries, and experiencing pangs of jealousy when the flatteries grow lax or fail, any more than we can conceive of the Emperor of China being interested in a bottle of microbes and pathetically anxious to stand well with them and harvest their impertinent compliments. If we could conceive of the Emperor of China taking an intemperate interest in his bottle of microbes, we should have to draw the line there; we could not, by any stretch of imagination, conceive of his selecting from these innumerable millions a quarter of a thimbleful of Jew microbes—the least attractive of the whole swarm—and making pets of them and nominating them as his chosen germs, and carrying his infatuation for them so far as to resolve to keep and coddle them alone, and damn all the rest.

Royalty Is Another Facet Of Religion And Should Be Opposed

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5 Reasons Why Angels are Nonsense – Even for Christians

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1. Messengers
2. Hitmen
3. Guardians
4. Furniture Or Draft Animals
5. Singing Sycophants

LINK

Thoughts of God by Mark Twain

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Thoughts of God by Mark Twain, from Fables of Man.
How often we are moved to admit the intelligence exhibited in both the designing and the execution of some of His works. Take the fly, for instance. The planning of the fly was an application of pure intelligence, morals not being concerned. Not one of us could have planned the fly, not one of us could have constructed him; and no one would have considered it wise to try, except under an assumed name.

It is believed by some that the fly was introduced to meet a long-felt want. In the course of ages, for some reason or other, there have been millions of these persons, but out of this vast multitude there has not been one who has been willing to explain what the want was. At least satisfactorily. A few have explained that there was need of a creature to remove disease-breeding garbage; but these being then asked to explain what long-felt want the disease-breeding garbage was introduced to supply, they have not been willing to undertake the contract.

England and Wales Are Now Predominantly Nonreligious

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LINK. Any day now the guillotines will be erected and used to chop off the heads of believers. Still anxiously waiting...

Arguing for the End of Philosophy of Religion is Not Being Inconsistent

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I find criticisms of James Lindsay's book Everybody is Wrong About God, and of Peter Boghossian, to be misguided. We're told the rejection of philosophy of religion (PoR) "seems to be expressing views in the philosophy of religion." This reminds me of the criticism thrown at atheists that we believe even though we don't, or that we're religious because we take a position on religion. Not! Using reason to reject the PoR is not the same thing as doing PoR. It’s reasoning, not PoR. Using scientific reasoning to reject creation science is not doing creation science. If one cannot argue for the end of PoR without doing PoR then this catch-22 problem is not the fault of the person arguing for the end of PoR. It’s the fault of the one laying down such a rule. The only other alternative is to stop saying anything at all about the PoR, which is an unreasonable demand if one wants to end the PoR.

Dr. Timothy McGrew's Sermon Response To Me About Prophecy

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In my recent debate with Abdu Murray I had said:
Where’s the Prophetic Evidence?

There is none! I defy someone to come up with one statement in the Old Testament that is specifically fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that can legitimately be understood as a prophecy and singularly points to Jesus as the Messiah using today’s historical-grammatical hermeneutical method. It cannot be done. An expressed hope for a future savior is not to be considered a prediction, unless along with that hope are specific details whereby we can check to see if it was fulfilled in a specific person.
Looks like people were asking how I could say that, which in turn promoted Timothy McGrew to respond. It's long. One thing though. He did not deal with my arguments in chapter 17 of Why I Became an Atheist. McGrew said he has my book (1st edition I presume) but he shows no awareness of it, and he doesn't deal with the force of my arguments.



Throughout this "sermon" of his (really, this is not a lecture where students can ask questions!) he repeatedly says that I disagree with something, or that I say something different. I do yes. But I'm sure as sure can be he's special pleading based on the mother of all cognitive biases, confirmation bias. Surely as an outsider he would not treat any other holy book containing alleged prophecies this way. No, siree bob!

Did Moses Exist?

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I was asked if Moses existed. The answer is no. For detailed answers look here:

1) Read chapter 11 "The Credibility of the Exodus" by Rebecca Bradley in my new anthology.

2) Read this book by Robert M. Price, Moses and Minimalism.

3) Read this book by Murdock D.M. titled, Did Moses Exist?: The Myth of the Israelite Lawgiver.

4) Watch this excellent documentary The Bible Unearthed.

5) Listen to the YouTube podcast below of Robert Price and Hector Avalos discussing the historicity Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus.

Resurrection or Ghost Story? by Robert Conner

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 According to Paul, arguably Christianity’s foremost spokesman, belief in the resurrection is the sine qua non of Christian belief and the basis of Christian hope:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.[1]

I've Changed My Mind Many Times, Especially About Religion

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I've changed my mind a lot of times. I should be so lucky to have gotten everything correct from the time I was a young adult. I wonder if it's even possible for people never to change their minds if they have any longevity in life at all. Let's imagine for a second that at the age of 20 years old I held the same opinions as I do now, which is to say I was correct about everything I had an opinion about. Now don't get me wrong here. While I think I'm correct about everything I have an opinion about--to the appropriate degrees of probability--I also know with a very high degree of certainty I must be wrong about some of them. I just cannot see that I'm wrong right now. Back to being 20 years old. Even if at the age of 20 I agreed with my older current self about everything, I know I'd change some of my opinions as I grew older. So I don't think changing one's mind is any indicator of ignorance or instability or gullibility or anything like that. It can mean this is just what thinking people do, given time, thought and the experiences of life.

What have I changed my mind about? Too many things to say here, for sure. I've changed my opinions about lots of people as I got to know them better, about foods I like, about drinks I like, about which sports I like, about the sports teams I root for, about music I listen to, about art, politics, and religion.

When it comes to religion I began as a Catholic. In my earlier years I went through a paradigm shift of sorts. At the age of 17 I became a "Born Again" Pentecostal who was also taught to believe Dispensationalism and Calvinism. Then I started going to a Church of Christ and had to unlearn what I was converted to. I learned to reject Pentecostalism, Dispensationalism and Calvinist theology. Then I was taught that adult baptism by immersion was necessary for the forgiveness of sins, and that Arminianism and amillennial eschatology were biblically correct. Friends, all of this religious change took place in just 2-3 years of my young adult life. Soon I was set in my ways and stayed that way for two decades on major issues, although with more and more education I changed my mind slowly and gradually on lots of other minor ones.

From 1990 to 2005 I went though a second paradigm shift of sorts. I went from being a conservative to a moderate to a liberal to a deist to an agnostic and finally to an atheist, a weak or agnostic atheist.

Recently in the last 2-3 years to date, I have gone though third paradigm shift of sorts. I am now a strong atheist who has come to the conclusion there is no need to take the obfuscations of Christian philosophers seriously because all philosophical apologetics is special pleading, all of it. Philosophy itself is used to obfuscate the Bible and the theology based on it not to clarify them, because if they were truly clarified believers would see clearly the Christian emperor has no clothes on. Clarifying the Bible and the theology based on it rather than obfuscating them would strip away the blinders from the eyes of believers. Then believers could see the evidence-based truth. They would see their faith is a delusion on a par with Mormonism, Hinduism, Orthodox Judaism and even Scientology, as well as seeing they’ve been indoctrinated and/or brainwashed to believe.

I have changed my mind about faith because I’ve become better informed about it. I should not believe anything. Belief isn’t something any reasonable person should do when it comes to gaining knowledge about matters of fact like the nature of nature, its workings and its origins. Faith adds nothing to the probabilities. It has no method and solves no problems. If faith is trust we should not trust faith. It’s a cognitive bias keeping believers away from understanding the truth rather than strictly going with the probabilities based upon the objective evidence.

I have also changed my mind about the Courtier’s Reply. I now agree it's an appropriate and reasonable response to believers who claim to have evidence for their faith. I say this as someone trained in the philosophy of religion who has changed his mind about his own field of study. Furthermore, while I previously desired a respectful discussion with believers, I no longer think it's of the up-most importance. I have embraced the need for and the value of ridicule.

I get attacked for my present views. People do so, even atheists, not realizing I have been where they are now. I just want them to know I was once where they are now. They may attack me but they cannot claim I'm ignorant, just as Christians may attack me not realizing I was once where they are now. I might be wrong. But again, I'm not ignorant. You should take the fact that I've changed my mind as evidence I'm open-minded enough to consider different views. I have a lot to teach my atheist critics precisely because I have changed my views. For at one time I rejected the views of Dawkins and the subsequent Courtier's Reply as philosophically naive, but I now value them. My atheist critics are playing a pretend game when they take the obfuscations of Christian pseudo-philosophers seriously. They do so because they enjoy an intellectually challenging game, much like chess. While it may be fun and interesting to play the game called "Christian" and want to win at it, by playing the game they grant intellectual respectability to that which is bizarre and absurd.

Concluding Paragraph To Chapter 3

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This is the final paragraph of Chapter 3 in Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End:
Moser is crazy as is Craig, as is Plantinga. They have lost touch with reality. People who believe as they do should not be at the adult table. They should stay at the children’s table. They must grow up before we should listen to them. They are disqualified from teaching us. People like them should not be teaching in any secular university. They are all faith peddlers. Faith is an unreliable way to gain knowledge. Let this be a litmus test for anyone who wants to teach the philosophy of religion. Ask them what they think of Plantinga, Craig and Moser, and if they embrace these ideas do not hire them. If they are in your department get them fired. I’m serious. They are crazy people who should not be teaching our students.
To read some of what I wrote in the chapter see here.

Concluding Thoughts For Chapter 2

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Here are the concluding thoughts from chapter 2 of my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End:

        Anselm of Canterbury’s key theological contributions for philosophical theology highlight what reasonable people see as the need for philosophy of religion to end. He holds a preeminent place among the best philosophical theologians the church ever produced. And yet, as we’ve seen, even among one the best of the best there’s nothing here but rhetoric without substance based on his faith, and the social climate of his day. His best contributions didn’t solve anything. Almost no one accepts his atonement theory today. His idiosyncratic perfect being conception was based on nothing more than special pleading on behalf of his parochial western concept of god. His ontological argument does not work either. Further, we’ve found that when Anselm’s perfect being is compared to the biblical god Yahweh and his supposed son, it doesn’t make any sense nor can it be reconciled. So the only reason to study Anselm seems to be one of historical curiosity. Anselm’s key contributions did not advance anything since we are no closer at getting to objective knowledge about anything than we would be if he never wrote a thing. When it came to the history of philosophy he made no contributions that furthered understanding, the very thing he sought to do.
          Karl Barth, considered one of the greatest theologians of the last century who rejected natural theology with a big fat “Nein”, argued Anselm’s ontological argument was based in a faith seeking understanding, not one that leads to any logical conclusion that his God existed. Anselm did not seek to “prove” the truth of the Christian faith, Barth argued, but to understand it.[i] Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence in chapter 2 of the Proslogion, comes after asking God for help in understand his faith in chapter 1. There he prays, “I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, – that unless I believed, I should not understand.” Then just before developing the argument in chapter 2 Anselm prays, “Lord, do you, who do give understanding to faith, give me, so far as you know it to be profitable, to understand that you are as we believe; and that you are that which we believe.” So while there is disagreement about what he was doing, Anselm at least tacitly acknowledges his argument comes from faith rather than leading to faith. And that’s exactly what we find. The ontological argument depends on his Christian faith which seeks to understand what he already believes about his parochial god. There’s a recognized informal fallacy here. It’s called special pleading. 
          Philosophers of religion who have dealt with Anselm’s argument and developed their own versions of it, such as Norman Malcolm, Charles Hartshorne and Alvin Plantinga should take note. They don’t know their own theology. Or, perhaps more correctly and importantly, they fail to realize that they’re doing the same thing Anselm honestly admitted doing, special pleading
What we’re led to conclude is that the problem of philosophical theology stems from faith. If faith is trust then there is no reason to trust faith. Anything based on faith has lower probabilities to it by definition. Christian pseudo-philosophers do no more than build intellectual castles in the sky without any solid grounding to them. There doesn’t seem to be any good principled reason for not getting fed up with the pretend game of faith with its ever receding theology.  


[i] Karl Barth, Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1991), p.14.

By Definition Faith Is Always About That Which Has Low Probabilities

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Believers will always argue in the same fashion in order to stay as believers. No matter what we say they always seem to have an answer. What they never produce is any hard cold objective evidence, convincing evidence, for their faith claims. Ever. They are not only impervious to reason. They are impervious to the evidence. They see evidence where it doesn’t exist because they take the lack of evidence as evidence for their faith. When it comes to prayer they count the hits and discount the misses.

There is only so much a person can take when dealing with people who have lost touch with reality. Must we always maintain a patient attitude when we already know their arguments? Must we always respond in a dispassionate manner to people who are persuaded against reason to believe something delusional? We know this about them based on everything we know (i.e., our background knowledge). They are pretending to know that which they don’t know when they pretend to know with some degree of certainty their faith is true. If it’s faith, how then can something be known with any degree of probability at all, much less certainty? No one says we must have a sure faith that there is solid ground in front of us before going out for a walk. No one says we must have a sure faith before grabbing the handle of a door to open it. No one says we must have a sure faith before we eat the food put in front of us by a loved one. Faith by definition always concerns itself with that which is unsure. Something unsure involves lower probabilities. So faith is always about that which has lower probabilities to it. So again, how can something based on faith be known with any degree of certainty? It can’t, and only deluded minds think otherwise, minds that are impervious to reason and evidence. We can only hope they can function in life. It can be quite surprising they can.

My New Book Went to Print Today! "Here It Comes"

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My latest anthology was just sent off to be printed! Thanks to everyone who contributed or helped in one way or another. The following clip from "The Wrath of Khan" expresses my thoughts as I ponder the impact of this new anthology titled, Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion (to be labelled CLS).



No violence is intended. It's purely metaphorical. We do battle against ideas. For a look at the front and back covers see below.

Sir_Russ On Confidence In Science

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Kenneth Winsmann is a Roman Catholic who does not have a science degree, much less one in neuroscience. But he seems to think he can solve the problem of metaphysical free will for his faith. You see, his is a faith seeking understanding. He already has faith. Now he's seeking data. He's in confirmation bias mode. So he'll reject science whenever needed to confirm what he believes. Now I don't mind having a respectful discussion. I prefer it actually. But when someone repeatedly and knowingly rejects science then he needs a swift kick in the butt. Enter Sir_Russ:
Kenneth,
Those of us who place our confidence in science do so knowing that every single time science and religion have been at odds, it is science which has been correct. Not just once or twice. Not just the majority of the time. No, it's every single time. All those thousands of Christianities, including that inhuman horror story which is your personal favorite [i.e., Catholicism], have been wrong each and every time they have conflicted with science. It's exactly as if the religious people are just making shit up to suit their own purposes, controlling you emotionally and financially, for instance.

Who knows how many times some religious somebody or other has pronounced some dumbass religious notion to be true -- geocentrism, demon possession being real, witches, demon possession being the cause of disease (which your house of holy horseshit, Roman Catholicism, still endorses), and so much more -- only to have science show it for the ignorance-loving lie that it is despite all those deep insights having been revealed to some cleric, frequently some Roman Catholic elitist bit of scum, by the Creator of the Universe. Who knows?

It makes good sense for everyone with a normal functioning brain to give Christianity, and all the other religions, a fully erect middle finger and a hearty "fuck you" as they walk away. Ignorance, superstition, and barbarism do not deserve to be supported by anyone.

And, anyone who supports an enterprise which has shown itself to ALWAYS be wrong on the facts is a complete fool.

Just Another Reminder About the Need to Overcome Confirmation Bias

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LINK. I've argued that the only way to overcome confirmation bias when it comes to religious diversity is to test one's faith by the outsider test. What's a better alternative and how can that alternative solve this problem? If you think there's a better alternative, please, do tell.

Robert Conner, Christianity’s Critics: The Romans Meet Jesus, Part 7

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Robert Conner studied Greek, Hebrew, some Aramaic and even Coptic back in the mid-70's at Western Kentucky University. He's written nine books, including Jesus the Sorcerer, The Secret Gospel of Mark and Magic in Christianity, as well as a number of articles and essays. If you want a primer on what the earliest critics of Christianity had to say about this new cult then I'm publishing an essay he wrote in several parts, with approval. This is the final part, number 7. To get up to speed follow this tag.

There is no ghost in the machine

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In neuroscience, few single discoveries have the ability to stay news for long. However, in the aggregate, all lead to the emergence of perhaps the greatest developing news story: the widespread understanding that human thought and behavior are the products of biological processes. There is no ghost in the machine. In the public sphere, this understanding is dawning. LINK.

Anslem’s Ontological Argument Revisited

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Anselm’s argument:

(1) On the assumption that that than which nothing greater can be conceived is only in a mind, something greater can be conceived, because
(2) Something greater can be thought to exist in reality as well.
(3) The assumption is therefore contradictory: either there is no such thing even in the intellect, or it exists also in reality;
(4) But it does exist in the mind of the fool, or doubter;
(5) Therefore that than which nothing greater can be conceived exists in reality as well as in the mind.

The 10 Worst Old Testament Verses by Dan Barker

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There are so many to choose from. LINK. I would add two stories, the Levite and his Concubine (Judges 19-21) and Two Adulterous Sisters (Ezekiel 23). Dan is the author of the recently released book, God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction. It's really good.

Robert Conner, Christianity’s Critics: The Romans Meet Jesus, Part 6

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Robert Conner studied Greek, Hebrew, some Aramaic and even Coptic back in the mid-70's at Western Kentucky University. He's written nine books, including Jesus the Sorcerer, The Secret Gospel of Mark and Magic in Christianity, as well as a number of articles and essays. If you want a primer on what the earliest critics of Christianity had to say about this new cult then I'm publishing an essay he wrote in several parts, with approval. This is Part 6. To get up to speed follow this tag.

Hemant Mehta On Mocking Religion

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Karen Gorder Garst: Why Every Woman Knows Her Body Was NOT the Creation of an Intelligent Designer

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This is an excellent essay by Dr. Garst. She writes concerning childbirth, the menstrual cycle, clitoris, and breasts. Here's a money quote concerning childbirth:
"The reason for the pain in childbirth is understandable with a quick lesson in evolution. When our ancestors started to walk upright, the shape of the pelvis began to change to accommodate a walking gait. Specifically, a narrower pelvis developed. Over hundreds of thousands of years, human brains gradually became more complex and grew bigger to accommodate a higher level of intelligence. The coincidence of these two changes resulted in a baby with a larger head being delivered through a narrower pelvis. Pain, therefore, results as the mother pushes a bigger baby through a smaller opening. (Today, where a child cannot be delivered through this opening, a caesarean section must be performed.)" LINK.
At the end of her essay Garst recommends a book I blurbed which was written by Dr. Abby Hafer, The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not. Hafer wrote a chapter for my soon to be released anthology Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion. Garst wrote a blurb for that anthology. There, that about covers everything. ;-) Enjoy. Go read it. Now. Read and learn.

Michael Moore On His New Film "Where to Invade Next"

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I've recommended this film before right here. He sent out fundraising email saying you'll get a free DVD of it if you send the progressive MoveOn organization 27 bucks. Here's what he said about his film:
My latest film, "Where to Invade Next," comes out on DVD today!

OK, let me tell you a little about the film—and why I think it's a great fit for MoveOn members like you and me. "Where to Invade Next" is, as one critic pointed out, my “most dangerous and subversive film.”

You Don't Need a PhD to Criticize Religion

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Hemant Mehta nails this subject. It goes right along with what I'm writing in my book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. The full text of his talk can be found below.

Robert Conner, Christianity’s Critics: The Romans Meet Jesus, Part 5

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Robert Conner studied Greek, Hebrew, some Aramaic and even Coptic back in the mid-70's at Western Kentucky University. He's written nine books, including Jesus the Sorcerer, The Secret Gospel of Mark and Magic in Christianity, as well as a number of articles and essays. If you want a primer on what the earliest critics of Christianity had to say about this new cult then I'm publishing an essay he wrote in several parts, with approval. This is Part 5. To get up to speed follow this tag.

Animated map shows how religion spread around the world

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Here's how five major world religions spread. If you look into it you'll find they spread by conquest. That's a nice way to get people to believe, isn't it? Those of us raised in a particular culture are taught to believe what was forced on our ancestors by killing and the threat of sword. You believe what you were taught to believe and that's it.

CLS Is A #1 New Release

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We are officially in the proofreading stage. It won't be long now. Get it today.

Galileo, The Bible, and Science

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Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
I have published a newspaper column on "Galileo, the Bible, and Science." May 26 will mark the 400th anniversary of a "Certificate" issued to Galileo by Robert Cadinal Bellarmine, who warned him not to hold or defend the idea that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo was tried in 1633 for violating that injunction. The fact that the Church thought that heliocentrism was wrong has been one of its greatest challenges in history. After all, if it was so wrong on something so basic about how our cosmos works, then why should it be trusted on anything it teaches?