Answering 5 Questions from a Christian

Here are 5 questions a Christian asked, along with my answers. Some of this repeats stuff I’ve written here before, but perhaps repetitive questions require repetitive answers.

1.What percentage of the universe have you explored?

An extremely tiny fraction of a single percent.

2. For someone to say that God does not exist, wouldn’t they need to be omniscient?

No. Not necessarily.

For someone to say that no gods at all exist anywhere might require omniscience. I’m not sure.

However, for someone to say that a specific God does not exist as claimed or described doesn’t require omniscience, when the claims are falsifiable and / or when the descriptions are logical impossibilities. Without searching the entire universe or knowing all there is to know, we can be sure that there is no god who is both A and Not-A in the same way at the same time, just like we can know that there is no square-circle anywhere in the universe.

So, for example, if the claims are made that (1) God is love; and (2) love is not jealous; and (3) God, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god — we can be 100% sure that no god exists that is both jealous and not-jealous. Or, if claims are made that (1) God is love; and (2) love does not keep a record of wrongs; and (3) God judges people based on his record of their wrongs in his books — we know that there can not be any God that both does and doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. Likewise, if it is claimed that (1) God is perfectly just; and (2) God punishes some for the wrongdoings of others — we can be 100% sure that no god exists who meets both those mutually contradictory claims.

Or, if we’re told that God’s prophesies always comes true — and then we’re also told that God foretold that through his power King Nebudchadnezzar will destroy Tyre completely, break through Tyre’s walls, bring down its pillars, put all the people to the sword, scrape it to bare rock never to be rebuilt, etc., and then God will submerge Tyre under the sea, and Tyre will never be found again … and yet Tyre was never fully destroyed, never had its walls broken through by Nebudchadnezzar, and the population was never annihilated, and Tyre was never scraped to bare rock, never submerged under the sea, never lost, etc., and Tyre is still thriving to this day, right where it’s always been. We can be 100% sure that there is no God whose prophesies always come true, who also made this failed prophesy.

These are just a few of many examples of how, in some circumstances, it’s possible to know that particular gods do not exist as claimed, through logic and / or testing. Not only is omniscience unnecessary, it’s not even necessary to understand what people mean when they say “God” (which I don’t), to know that such claims can be definitively ruled out.

3. Since you are not omniscient, what evidence can you offer that God does not exist?

If you’re talking about a particular god as per specific claims made in some scriptures and / or claims made by adherents, then see my answer above to understand what kind of case can be made against the existence of some specific gods as claimed.

If you’re talking about gods in general: I don’t make the positive claim that no god exists, I merely assert that I don’t believe in any gods.

You might have trouble distinguishing between “I don’t believe” (i.e., I have an absence of belief in the existence of any gods), and “I disbelieve” (i.e., I have a presence of belief in the nonexistence of gods). Or you might even be one of those who contend that non-belief and disbelief are really the same thing, regardless what people like me say. Let me give you an illustration to help clarify the difference:

Imagine we’re talking about items in my refrigerator. Do you believe that I have buttermilk in my fridge, right now as you’re reading this? Probably not. I haven’t said that I do and I haven’t said that I don’t. Nor have you looked in my refrigerator. You are simply without the necessary information for a sensible opinion about whether there’s buttermilk in my fridge, and so you probably have no belief. Does that lack of belief mean you have an active disbelief, a feeling of certainty that I have no buttermilk in my refrigerator? Again, probably not, because you are still without the necessary information. Just like your absence of belief that I have buttermilk in my refrigerator does not equate to disbelief that I have buttermilk in there, one’s absence of belief in any gods does not necessarily equate to disbelief in all gods.

Since I don’t make the claim that no gods exist, why would I need to offer evidence for a position I don’t endorse? The burden of proof is on those who assert that God does exist to back up their claim, not upon me to back up a claim I don’t make.

4. Since you cannot do that, doesn’t that make you an agnostic rather than an atheist?

I am both an atheist and an agnostic.

As someone without any beliefs in the existence of any gods, I am an “atheist.”

As someone without knowledge whether any gods exist, I am an “agnostic.”

The two words, by the definitions I’m using, are on two entirely different continuums — one about belief (or lack thereof), and the other about knowledge (or lack thereof). From this view, you can be both an agnostic and an atheist. They’re not mutually exclusive.

I see many Christians insist that folks like me don’t even know what “atheist” means, and we’re using the word incorrectly, and we need to use it the way they tell us to. To those who take this stance and make it an issue, here are a few quick points to consider:

(A) The dictionary definitions of “atheist” include the way I’m using the word, as you can see here.

(B) Even if the dictionaries didn’t, dictionaries are meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive. In other words, they’re meant to tell how words are being used, not tell you how you’re supposed to use words. And since we know that one of the ways the word is being used is the way atheists like me are using it — we thereby have a descriptive understanding of that definition of “atheist.”

(C) Etymologically, the words’ roots mean the meanings I’m using. I am an “atheist” as a straight etymological construction of a-theist — someone who is not a theist / someone without theism, i.e, someone without beliefs in the existence of any gods. I am an “agnostic” as a straight etymological construction of a-gnostic — someone who is not knowing, i.e., someone who does not have knowledge whether gods exist.

(D) Regardless whether “atheist” should only refer to those making claims of certainty that no gods exist, the quibble over definitions and which words should be used has no bearing on the actual content of the discussion — the rationality, logic, and veracity (or lack thereof) of the positions, propositions, and arguments about whether gods exist. Once the parties in the discussion clearly understand how the words are being used by each other, pressing the definition and word usage issue any further is just a weak diversion from the real topic at hand.

5. So, then, wouldn’t you agree that there is no such thing as an atheist?

No. As I explain above, being agnostic does not exclude being atheist.

I could agree with you that those who claim to be absolutely certain that no gods exist appear to be holding that position irrationally, but the majority of atheists do not claim absolute certainty.

 

Lastly, your questions are a perfect opportunity for you to apply the Outsider Test for Faith to your Christian beliefs. How do your own beliefs fare by the standards you apply for others? To find out, direct your questions back at yourself, and answer them with the same outsider’s skepticism that you use with others. Ask yourself: What percentage of the universe have you explored? Would you need to be omniscient to say that the Norse gods, the Egyptian gods, the Aztec gods, the Greek gods, the Hindu gods, the Sumerian gods, and the Mayan gods do not exist? What evidence can you offer for their nonexistence? Doesn’t that make you an agnostic rather than an atheist about all the non-Christian gods? So, then, wouldn’t you agree there is no such thing as a Christian?

If you sincerely apply these questions to your beliefs, you’ll find that your line of questioning is a double-edged sword, more troublesome for your Christian position than for my atheist position. If you still embrace the “reasoning” that you use on me, then consistency demands you declare that it’s possible that any or all of the other gods anyone has ever claimed also exist, thereby jeopardizing your compliance with Christianity’s core trinitarian-monotheistic doctrines. Alternatively, if you answer the questions about other gods the way I answered the questions about yours, you thereby accept the validity of my agnostic-atheist positions about your god.

What Would it Take to Change Your mind?

Theists often ask, “What would it take to change your mind about the existence of God?”

That’s easy. It’s really no different from what it would take to get me to accept any other questionable assertion:

First, you’d have to give coherent definitions of “God” and “exists,” with enough informative content that testable predictions could be made from the assertion “God exists.”

Second, you’d have to infer some such predictions and rigorously test them in an attempt to falsify them.

Third, you’d have to fail to thereby falsify them, instead getting results from those tests for which “God exists” has fewer and smaller assumptions, better corroboration, and broader explanatory power than the available alternative hypotheses for those results.

If someone does this, I will happily credit that “God exists” fits the available data better than any known alternative hypothesis, and I will tentatively hold “God exists” as something I know.

If the assertion “God exists” is true, it shouldn’t be that hard. People do this kind of thing every day, in all variety of fields.

How about you? What would it take to change your mind?

 

Atheists Cohabiting

A theist asked, “What’s the deal with atheists not getting married, but building their lives together? To each their own, but doesn’t that make it easier for people to walk away?”

Here’s my answer:

Many atheists don’t feel their relationships with their significant others need the sanction of God and government. Thus, there’s not always a lot of reason for them to seek the sanction of God or government.

It’s not necessarily representative of a lack of commitment to one’s beloved; it tends to be more representative of a lack of commitment to the notion that people must obtain the permission of others for their lifestyle choices.

Why Doesn’t “Hellfire and Damnation” Preaching Compel Atheists?

A theist asked me, “Why don’t atheists respond to ‘hellfire and damnation’ preaching?”

I can only speak for myself, from my own personal experience. Here’s my view:

1) You have to establish the believability of the assertion before the threat has any teeth to it — and this has not been adequately established. Without making a compelling case to believe your claim, threatening people that your god will toss them into a lake of fire comes across to those outside your faith the same way it would come across to you if I threatened you that my rainbow unicorn will rise from the bottom of the sea to trample you with its sparkling golden hooves and impale you with its iridescent purple horn.

2) Even if you persuasively establish it, “hellfire and damnation’ preaching still makes your god look like a petty, stupid malefactor, and makes you look like a toadying coward for propitiating him. It’s not appealing to worship such an unworthy god, as a matter of principle.

3) “Hellfire and damnation” preaching undercuts itself; by making your god sound like a psychotic and malicious tyrant, you make an eternity worshipping, glorifying, and serving your god sound equally punishing as an eternity of damnation.

Is Knowledge Better Than Belief?

Here’s a snippet of a recent forum discussion with theists.

A.C: Is a knowledge position better than a belief position?

Mike: It depends upon what you mean by those terms.

Tentatively holding an idea as according better with the available data than any known alternative, is better than uncritically taking an idea about something as true regardless of data and being unwilling to modify your position in light of new data.

If that’s what you’re asking, then: yes.

V.B.N: You’re assuming the belief is an idea. Belief usually comes from some kind of revelation. Knowledge is only as good as the the current idea of it whereas belief becomes who you are.

Mike: Agreed. Belief may not always rise to the level of a coherent idea. Belief often comes from personal revelation. Knowledge always remains subject to error-correcting revision while true belief can become an ingrained part of who you are.

Beliefs and knowledge are the impetuses for our actions.

As such, knowledge helps enable us to enact our desired goals. The closer our models of reality correspond with actual reality, the more effectively we can take action.

When beliefs don’t even form coherent ideas, they have no informative content to use. When they’re based in revelation devoid of observation, they’re more error prone, less likely to correspond with any external reality. When they’re not kept current with new data, and instead become an ineradicable part of you, they no longer have accuracy checks to help maintain conformance with reality. So, beliefs which aren’t developed ideas, which come from revelation, which become a part of you, serve poorly as impetus for effective action.

Your points make my case well that a knowledge position is superior to a belief position.

Would Proof of Life After Death Prove God?

Here’s a recent question from a theist, along with my answer:

Question: If I gave you scientific proof of “life after death” or to put it another way the continuation of consciousness, would you accept it as proof of God?

Answer:  Scientific proof of “life after death” = scientific proof of “life after death.”

Scientific proof of “life after death” ≠ scientific proof of God.

“Life continues in some way after death of the body” is a separate assertion from “God exists,” even if they are sometimes conflated.

Some people, such as most Buddhists, believe in various forms of life after death (ghosts, reincarnation, etc) without believing in God. Some others, such as Christadelphians, believe in God without believing in life after death. The two assertions are not necessarily connected.

The validation or refutation of one does not constitute the validation or refutation of the other. Each assertion must stand or fall on its own success or failure, not on the success or failure of some other assertion that some might possibly construe as tangentially related.

Proof of “life after death,” on its own, wouldn’t get us near to proof of anyone’s doctrinal conception of God (such as an immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent being that created the universe).

So, no. I would not accept it as proof of God.

A Conversation about Faith

The following excerpt is a transcription of an extended conversation about faith I had with participants on a Bible forum.

Please note: 1) I came to the Bible forum on their invitation. Even then, I made clear from the start that I was not sympathetic to their point of view, and would be expressing views they might find uncomfortable, if I stayed — and only chose to stay after they said they still wanted me there, regardless. 2) I’ve edited the conversation down and broken it up for brevity and clarity. 3) Some questionable points were left unaddressed, in order to stay on topic; 4) The conversation is somewhat lopsided, because it is quicker and easier to make problematic assertions than it is to explain how and why those assertions are problematic.

A.K.C:  Mike is not looking for our truth. [referring to God’s truth, i.e., “divine revelation,” within Christian theology.] … he has his own truth….

Mike: A.K.C. is incorrect that I “have my own truth.” This is not in the slightest anything I claim nor believe.

V.M: Perhaps, like Socrates, we should define our terms. Mike, what is truth?

Mike: V.M., for the purposes of discussion here, I think the dictionary definitions suffice. Here’s one from Webster’s Dictionary that seems fine for the discussion: The property of being in accord with fact or reality.

V.M: So how do we generally determine what is reality and what is not?

Mike: There are many epistemological methods for this. The one that appears to me to be most accurately determinative is: Put ideas, beliefs, theories, etc., to the test, if and when you can. Keep the ones that work. Toss the ones that don’t.

L.M: When you introduce faith into this, things get messy.

Mike: On that point, we can both agree.

However, that point may lead us in different directions. You might think that the inability of testing to neatly incorporate faith shows testing’s shortcomings as a method of determining reality. Whereas, I think that faith doesn’t merit a role in this regimen because it does not appear to increase the accuracy of determining reality.

The minimum requirement, in order for something to be testable, is simply that it must have an impact on the universe. Any impact of any kind at all. (To be clear, I’m talking about what is theoretically testable – what it is possible to design a test for – not necessarily what is practical for us to test.) So, to suggest adding elements to the determination of reality that are not testable is to suggest adding elements to the determination of reality that have no impact on the universe whatsoever. I am comfortable leaving such elements out of the method of determining reality.

Furthermore… Tests are expressions of the content of hypotheses. For examples: If X is true, then Y should happen under these circumstances. Or, if X is true, then Y should not happen under these circumstances. Or, if X is true, then we should also find Y. And so on.

We create tests from deriving the informative content of theories. Tests are elaborations of the information theories contain. The more a theory can accurately predict, the better. When a proposition / idea / hypothesis / theory / belief / etc., is not testable – when you cannot infer any specific, concrete prediction about it at all – that means it contains no usable information at all. If it did contain any, then it would be possible to make predictions and test them. Again, I am comfortable leaving such elements out of the determination of reality.

So, for these reasons, I am not convinced that faith merits a role in the methodology used to determine reality.

*  *  *  *  *

Mike: If you think that faith is a virtue, could you please explain why you think faith is a virtue, and how faith is virtuous? Faith appears to me to be the antithesis of a virtue, so I have a hard time grasping the notion that there is much that is positive about faith. I would love to better understand the “faith is a virtue” perspective.

Thank you.

RSH: My friend, the only way for anyone to understand the Bible and all that it says, is to become a child of God. Contrary to what people say, we are not all children of God.

DG: It’s a good question. Working from a perspective of the Bible, the virtues are based on what God loves, and those please Him. The New Testament carries this one step further by pointing out you can’t please God by disbelieving Him, so the first step towards a full understanding of any virtue or righteousness is faith. Hence why Abraham believed God “and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

JJ: Faith *in the truth* is a virtue. The mind tires and forgets so you have to remember to believe the truth God’s word regardless of what you momentarily fail to see and understand. The truth remains true regardless of what you happen to think.

Mike: Thank you for the answers, so far.

Please excuse my impertinence, but –

“Faith is a virtue because the scriptures I have faith in say faith is a virtue”

or

“Faith is a virtue because the God I have faith in loves faith”

or

“Faith is a virtue because sometimes when the mind tires you need faith to believe”

– these kinds of answers are circular reasoning; they assume the conclusion in their premises. They don’t get to the heart of the matter that I’m trying to understand. What is good about faith? Why would God love faith and want you to have it? How is faith virtuous?

Thanks, again.

DG: I think I see where you’re looking for an answer. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you would like objective evidence that faith is a virtue based on your comment. That is hard to arrive at for any virtue. Virtues, including faith, are value statements, saying that this goal is valuable for such and such reason. In this way, starting that “faith is a virtue because my God loves faith” is not a circular argument at all, it just tells you why the value of faith is important to those who worship God.

All virtues are prey to this because any time you state something is “good” or “virtuous” you are making a value statement, not an objective statement. Even such things that objectively advance humanity, such as vaccines or better public hygiene or crop yields are hotly debated because people have different ideas of what is good for them, or humanity, or whatever they value.

The concept of faith as a virtue grew from a culture of respecting God, in whose Scriptures it is well understood that valuing God requires believing in Him, a belief in “something unseen”, which requires faith and making it a virtue.

In short, all virtues are subjective statements of value to any human who might place value on any thing. A Christian generally believes that faith is a virtue, because without it there can be no place to stand on their walk with God.

Mike: Thank you.

I’m not necessarily looking for objective evidence that faith is a virtue. I’m just looking for something – anything – along the lines of a sensible explanation to understand. If you asked me why honesty is a virtue, or kindness, or generosity, etc., I could easily give explanations. Perhaps you wouldn’t agree with my explanations, or perhaps you might think they’re too subjective, but at least you’d understand my thinking. But when I ask why faith is a virtue, answers like “Because God says so” are explanatorily empty. Such answers don’t have any concepts underpinning them that I can try to understand.

With things like kindness or generosity, few would even bother to ask why they’re virtues, because the reasons are mostly obvious (even if you disagree with them). But in the case of faith, it is not at all obvious to me why it’s considered a virtue. In almost any other context besides religion, believing wholeheartedly and uncritically in the most extraordinary claims about things which can’t be detected, and being unwilling to to modify a position for any reason and regardless of any data, would be considered dangerous gullibility and willful ignorance, and would be immediately recognized as counterproductive. So, how is this different when it’s in a religious context? Why would God value such behavior so highly and make it a requisite for salvation? Is there any rationale you can put forth for me to understand what is virtuous about faith?

Thanks, again.

JJ: Faith is practical and that is not circular.

Mike: How is faith practical? Specifically, how is it practical to uncritically believe extraordinary claims about things which can’t be detected, and to be unwilling to modify belief in such claims for any reason, regardless of any data?

JJ: Virtue is practical when you look at it the right way. You seem to have forgotten that it is faith in the truth that is a virtue (or you intentionally neglected to respond to that). There is no virtue in believing a lie.

Mike: (1) Even if this is correct, it is only relevant if you can determine what is truth and what is a lie. But, in regard to your religious beliefs, you can’t know for sure that they are true.

You might proclaim that you definitively know you have the truth, and you may feel certain – but, no matter how sincere your proclamations are and no matter how intense your feelings are, they don’t necessarily make it so. You can’t actually know for certain, no matter how much you believe otherwise.

Meanwhile, there are billions of Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Shintoists, Sikhs, etc., who are just as positive that they have the truth with their religions as you are positive that you do with yours – but their beliefs contradict yours. Many, many millions of them are even convinced that they’ve personally witnessed divine revelation – with Gods and religions that contradict yours.

Faith-based certainty is an unreliable basis for knowing truth, and personal experiences of divine revelation are unreliable as a basis for knowing.

Even within Christianity alone, there are over 40,000 different recognized denominations, most of which split off from the others due to irreconcilable disagreements of belief about every aspect of Christian doctrine. In fact, most Christians disagree with most other Christians about what are and what are not the correct tenets of Christian faith. Whether it’s the Protestants rejecting transubstantiation, or the Quakers rejecting baptism, or the Christian Scientists rejecting the trinity, or the Calvinists rejecting that faith and works affect foreordained election to Heaven, or the Orthodox Christians rejecting immaculate conception and original sin, or Jehovah’s witnesses rejecting the divinity of Jesus and instead insisting that he is actually the Archangel Michael, or Christadelphians rejecting the immortality of the soul, or Mormons adding the Book of Mormon to the Old Testament and the New Testament, or The New Church rejecting the historicity of Adam and Eve and saying they are metaphorical, to name just a few examples – most Christians consider at least some of the beliefs of most other Christians to be heresy. Indeed, some of the worst wars in human history have involved differences among Christians about what is true Christian doctrine. In this context, each sect’s and believer’s declarations of exclusive truth are a little hard to swallow.

We may not be able to definitively determine whether any one person’s specific beliefs are true or false, however we can know for sure – because there are so many different religions that contradict and exclude each other, and none have close to a majority of the world’s religious population – that at least most, or possibly all, people are mistaken about their religious beliefs. Everyone believes “I’m the one who got it right,” but statistically speaking, you are probably one of the people who got it wrong.

(2) Adding “in the truth” to “faith is a virtue”“faith in the truth is a virtue” – does not seem to me to make it any more sensible.

How and why would faith in the truth be a virtue? Other epistemological alternatives, such as logic, testing, and corroboration, have strong records of success at distinguishing truth from falsehood well enough for practical application. Whereas faith does not. Faith only comes into play when the preferable epistemological options are unavailable, and faith is only used in cases where the conclusion has been decided from the start for other reasons. Faith turns the most productive knowledge methods we have upside down, from looking for flaws to disconfirm ideas which don’t pass muster, to looking for ways to justify ideas which don’t pass muster.

Again, faith seems to me to be the antithesis of a virtue.

I do not have faith in the truth. I don’t even consider the best-tested and most corroborated scientific theories to be utterly securely founded as “truth”. Rather, I merely consider them to be models that best fit with the currently available data, and consider them to always be tentative, always subject to revision, based upon better information.

JJ: What do you have against the fact that objects can’t make you so the fact is you have a supernatural maker?

Mike: A few things.

[A] It’s an unfounded, unexamined, untested, uncorroborated assertion.

Basically, it has nothing going for it that might lead me to take it seriously. If it did, I would.

[B] The general assertion “God did it” is empty of informative content. It gives no specific explanations to understand, no specific predictions to infer, no practical applications to utilize. It’s more like an empty placeholder for an answer than like an actual answer. I’d rather look for answers with some substance, answers that actually answer something.

[C] You are connecting the negation of hypothesis X (that objects can make themselves) with the verification of hypothesis Y (you have a supernatural maker). However, these two are not actually connected. The failure of one hypothesis does not, on its own, constitute the triumph of another hypothesis. (Whether our hypothesis X is actually a failure is a matter I’ll put aside for some other time.) Each hypothesis has to be evaluated on its own merits, not upon the standing of other hypotheses. The negation of X tells you nothing that verifies Y. If you assert hypothesis Y, you still must make the case for hypothesis Y, regardless of the status of hypothesis X.

[D] Your assertion fails if you try to apply it consistently, due to infinite regression.

An infinite regress is defined in the dictionary as, “causal or logical relation of terms in a series without the possibility of a term initiating the series.”

In this case, if you assume that things like me require a maker, such as God, to design and create them, then you are merely moving back one step in a regression that never ends, as you must further assume that your explanation for “What created Mike?” – God – also requires a maker – Grand-God – to create it, which requires Great-Grand-God to create it, and so on. No conclusions are ever reached by this path; the question just keeps getting rephrased. (i.e., Instead of previously asking, “What created humankind?”, now asking, “What created God?”) Most theists stop short of assuming that God also requires a maker, content with the idea that God is timeless, had no beginning and no end, and never “originated.” Accepting that God is not the product of special creation by Grand-God is an acceptance that beings do not require supernatural makers. And if we accept that, then there is no reason to resort to this kind of explanation for you and me.

Answering Five Questions from a Theology Student

A South African theology student wrote to me, asking me five questions. I’ll answer them here, so everyone can read my thoughts on these matters.

(1) According to your understanding, who was Jesus Christ?

There are 2 different ways I could interpret this question, and I’m not sure which you are asking. You could be asking, “According to my understanding, who do theists believe Jesus Christ was?” or you could be asking, “Who do I think Jesus Christ was?” I’ll answer both.

As for who theists believe Jesus Christ was:
Most sects of Christianity think Jesus was the son of God, the Word, the perfect sacrifice whose blood washed away humanity’s sins, one of three parts of the Trinity, the messiah who came to intermediate between God and man and thereby bring salvation from the wages of sin and from eternal torment. Most sects of Islam think he was a prophet of God who has been misrepresented by Christians. Most sects of Judaism think he was one of a long line of false messiahs. I imagine most Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, Jains, Zoroastrians, and so on, also reject the claims of Jesus’s divinity, if they think about Jesus at all.

As for who I think Jesus Christ was:
I think he was most likely an entirely mythical figure who was never closely based on any actual historical figure at all. I say this for several reasons.


[A] There’s no evidence outside of the Bible that Jesus ever existed. No tomb, dwelling, boat, scourge, cross, thorn crown, burial shroud (I’m not counting the Shroud of Turin because it’s a fake), nor artifacts of any kind, no writing by him or by his peers about him, no accounts from anyone who met him nor from of any of his contemporaries at all … no anything whatsoever. Supposedly the son of God came into the world — allegedly the most important person and most important historical event ever — and left literally no trace. His birth incited King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents, slaughtering all of the young males in the vicinity of Bethlehem … but no historian, magistrate, nor anyone else at the time felt it deserved mention, and no trace was left that it ever occurred. Jesus was purportedly traveling the land and sea, feeding the hungry, healing the sick and raising the dead, tossing the moneychangers out of the Temple, preaching his message to crowds of thousands — all at the same time and same area as numerous notable historians, theologians, business people, monarchs, politicians, and commentators … such as Pliny the Elder, Seneca the Elder, and Philo of Alexandria — but literally nobody bothered to mention him even once. He triumphantly rode into Jerusalem as the King of Israel, while the crowd cheered — and neither presiding king nor the locals bothered to make note of it. The Bible tells us that upon his death, the world was cast into unnatural darkness from noon until three, a devastating earthquake occurred, and the dead rose from their graves and walked the streets of Jerusalem — but, again, nobody at the time found any of this worthy of mention. In short, the son of God came and rocked the world, and nobody said a word about it even once until about half a century later.


[B] The Bible’s gospel narratives of Jesus’s life contradict each other on almost every point. Who was it that the angel informed about Mary’s immaculate conception of the son of God, Joseph or Mary? When was Jesus born, before 4 B.C. or after 6 A.D.? Where and when did Peter and Andrew meet and start to follow Jesus, by the Sea of Galilee after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, or in Bethany by the River Jordan before the imprisonment of John the Baptist? Did Jesus carry the cross all the way to Golgotha by himself, or did Simon of Cyrene help him carry it part of the way? Was Jesus crucified around 9 AM on the first day of Passover or some time after noon on the day before Passover? Did Jesus drink vinegar while he was on the cross, or refuse wine mixed with myrrh and drink nothing at all while he was on the cross? Was Jesus dead for three full days before his resurrection, or a day and a half from late Friday afternoon until early Sunday morning? Did Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome anoint Jesus’s dead body, or was it Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who anointed Jesus’s dead body? These questions and many more have multiple, incompatible answers, depending upon which gospel you read. When you actually look at the details of each of the gospel accounts side by side, they disagree with each other in hundreds of particulars, amounting to wholly inconsistent accounts of Jesus’s life, overall. The only source for Jesus — the Bible — is comprised of contradictory, anonymous, generations-later reports. It’s not reliable.


[C] The anonymous authors of the gospels, writing down their Jesus stories generations after they were supposed to have taken place, wrote lots of stuff that historians and archaeologists know to be erroneous. Stuff like Jesus being raised in Nazareth, when it’s known that Nazareth didn’t exist in Jesus’s time. Or Jesus teaching and preaching in synagogues around Galilee, when it’s known there were no synagogues around Galilee in Jesus’s lifetime. Then there’s that bit about Joseph needing to leave Nazareth and travel to Bethlehem for the census because his lineage was from there — a fictitious census policy that the Romans of course never had, which would’ve been both pointless and insanely disruptive to the entire nation. (Plus the Romans kept careful enough records for us to confidently know that this census never took place at all). And there’s Jesus’s conversation with the thief on the nearby cross, when it’s known that Romans did not execute thieves. To name just a few examples. 


[D] Jesus is one of a long line of similar, purported gods to emerge from the ancient Middle East and surrounding areas. There was a personal-Savior-dying-and-rising-God fad sweeping through all of the national cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East at the time, and Jesus was the one that emerged from Judea. When you look at the details of the Jesus story in the context of the religions in the region and time, it appears that Jesus’s story is an amalgamation of the beliefs in the surrounding cultures.

Or to put it as the Christian theologian and apologist Justin Martyr put it in 150 A.D.: “When we say that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.”  


I’m open to the idea that the Jesus character in the Bible is based on an actual historical figure, should new data lean in that direction. However, even if the gospel stories of Jesus are rooted in a real historical figure, I still doubt his divinity, for a lot of reasons.

For instance, one reason I doubt Jesus’s divinity is because of Jesus’s ignorance. He erroneously said that the mustard seed is the smallest seed on Earth (Mark 4:31). He mistakenly thought salt can lose its flavor (Matthew 5:13). He falsely claimed that birds don’t sow, reap, and store food (Matthew 6:26), when many kinds of birds — such as sapsuckers and woodpeckers — do. In numerous Bible passages like these Jesus demonstrated that his knowledge was as error-prone as every other insular bronze age peasant’s. Furthermore, he imparted no special insight nor useful knowledge that wasn’t known to everyone else. A brief comment about quantum physics, general relativity, stellar nucleosynthesis, DNA, or some such, would’ve shown that he actually knew something tangible that others in his time and place didn’t and couldn’t. If he’d really been divine and benevolent, he could’ve shown mankind how to harness electricity and make electric motors work for us, or how to make antibiotics and cure diseases, or how to do calculus, to name just three out of many possible ways he could’ve greatly improved life for everyone if he’d actually known anything worthwhile and shared it. Instead, you find just the opposite in the Gospels — numerous passages where Jesus ignorantly teaches extremely harmful errors which significantly worsened humanity’s plight. For example, Matthew 15:1-11 and Mark 7:1-15, where Jesus instructs people that they need not bother washing their hands when preparing or sharing food, because it’s only the words that come out of your mouth, not what you put into your mouth, that cause you harm. This disastrous, dysentery-and-cholera-spreading teaching was made possible by Jesus’s ungodly unawareness of the germ theory of disease.

Some of the more obsequious non-Christians will say that if Jesus existed and was not divine, then he was at least a very wise teacher. But upon actually reading his words in the Bible, Jesus doesn’t appear to have been at all wise. Thinking he was a sagacious teacher requires some combination of presupposing Universalist premises and selectively ignoring the many foolish and vile things the Bible says Jesus said. To give a few examples: “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother… And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” (Matthew 10:35-37); “…There be some eunuchs, which have gelded themselves for the kingdom of heaven. He that is able to receive this, let him receive it,” (Matthew 19:12); “As for my enemies who don’t want me as their king, bring them here and slaughter them before me” (Luke 19:27); and, “…Those who believe will be able to … drink poison without being hurt.” (Mark 16:17-18)

(2) “According to your understanding, what is the Bible?”

The Bible is a collection of ancient Middle-Eastern folk tales, genealogies, poems, songs, proverbs, legal codes, missive letters, and various odds and ends, written by numerous anonymous authors over hundreds of years. The Old Testament of the Bible starts with the story of creation, then mostly relates rocky events in the rise of the Israelites. The Gospels in the New Testament relate the story of the final years of Jesus, who is claimed to be the messiah, and Revelation prognosticates Jesus’s and God’s future plans for humankind. The Bible is the foundational sacred scripture for those of Judeo-Christian faiths, many of whom take it to be historically accurate, and believe it to have been given by inspiration from God. Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and other groups disagree with each other as to exactly which texts belong in the collection. Each sect decided for themselves which texts do and which do not belong in the Bible, based on their own doctrines, and their own socio-political interests.

In the larger sense, both the Old and New Testaments are the story of the god Yahweh’s relationship with mankind. To most believers who have not actually read the Bible themselves, it is thought to be the story of a mistreated, long-suffering God’s enduring love for thankless and wicked humankind. To most nonbelievers who have actually read the Bible themselves, it appears to be the story of a despicable, psychopathic, stupid, jealous, hateful, misogynistic, racist, warmongering, genocidal, incompetent, dictatorial cosmic monster making a long series of monumental blunders, then always blaming his mistakes on humanity and punishing people for his own shortcomings.

Those of Judeo-Christian faiths also often think of the Bible as our source of moral guidance. They believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and thus a reference to God’s morality, which is considered to be perfect by definition. In actuality, much of the morality of the Bible is perverse and dysfunctional. For example, God’s unmitigated advocacy of slavery, including kidnapping foreigners and enslaving them, brutally beating slaves, and selling your daughter as a sex slave.  Thus, believers frequently ignore or willfully misinterpret the parts they find morally abhorrent — which shows that they are not deriving their morality from Yahweh nor from their religions, but rather imposing their pre-existing morality onto their interpretations of their religions and onto their imagined divine sources.

(3) “According to your understanding, what is the most important reason that people join a religion?”

Historically, most people who joined religions did so due to threats that they would be persecuted, exiled, imprisoned, tortured, or executed, if they did not join. Think of the many Christian inquisitions, such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Portuguese Inquisition, the Peruvian Inquisition, the Mexican Inquisition, and the Roman Inquisition; or how American slaveowners converted black slaves at the end of a whip; or what I.S.I.S. / Daesh is doing currently in Syria.

In the words of the Roman Emperor Theodosius’s decree in 392 A.D., “It is Our will that all the peoples who are ruled by the administration of Our Clemency shall practice that religion which the divine Peter the Apostle transmitted to the Romans…. The rest, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas… and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative.” (Codex Theodosianus, XVI 1.2) That is an example of why people have joined religions.

These days, most adherents were born into a religious culture, wherein the people who raised them inculcated their religious beliefs into them. It’s natural for most kids to believe what their parents, and all of the other authority figures they trust, have told them. When they grow up, it’s often hard to face the harsh reality that everyone they trusted, believed, and cared about filled their heads with a load hooey. Especially when admitting they were duped seems shameful, and also casts their loved ones in a worse light, because what they were told was so obviously puerile, and so clearly depraved. Add to this that disavowing the religions they were raised into often means being disowned by their parents, divorced by their spouses, losing custody of their children, being ostracized by their friends and their social networks, and losing their jobs — and in many places, also being imprisoned, tortured, and / or executed — and all of these factors come together to permanently lock in most of those raised in a religion.

Many other factors may also come into play. Here are a few that come to mind: 1) lack of critical thinking skills often play a role in coming to religion, especially among people who are scientifically illiterate and are misinformed by creationists, apologists, theologians, and clergy; 2) some people join religions as a precondition from their spouse, in order to marry;  3) the Bible and Qu’ran are full of threats of eternal torment for everyone outside of the religion, and some people who find those threats frightening join religions to hedge their bets against damnation; 4) schizophrenia, hallucinogenic drugs, seizures, severe brain injury, and a variety of other types of neurological impairment may lead people to have experiences that they believe are best explained through religion; 5) missionaries prey upon the weakest and most vulnerable in their times of most unbearable distress — such as alcoholics who have “hit bottom” — luring them in with false hope and solace when they can’t think clearly.

(4) “According to your understanding what do you consider sin to be?”

Sin is: thinking or acting against the purported will of a god, particularly in accordance with what a supposedly holy scripture claims that god’s will to be. In your point of view, I presume, that means thinking or acting against the will of Yahweh, as the Bible claims Yahweh’s will to be.

It’s a strictly theological concept, of no relevance to nonbelievers. Notably, “sin” bears no particular relationship to being bad to others and “righteousness” bears no particular relationship to being good to others. In other words, sin has nothing to do with humanist values of right and wrong. On the one hand, the God of the Bible thinks that shrimp are abominations and eating them is a sin. Or wearing mixed fabrics. Or planting two kinds of crops in the same field. Or even merely being born. On the other hand, the God of the Bible thinks that it’s righteous to execute people for practicing homosexuality. Or for following other religions. Or gathering sticks on the weekend. From the viewpoint of a nonbeliever, a lot religious codes about sin are pernicious nonsense, influencing people toward unfounded guilt, self-hatred, sexual psychosis, and unwarranted harassment of people who have not harmed anybody. Most nonbelievers would rather just focus on trying to help others, and trying not to harm others, without framing morality in terms of unsupported supernatural claims.

(5) “According to your understanding what happens when one dies? Considering you lead a good life. Why?”

I have no reason to suspect anything happens when one dies other than cessation of the existence of the person who died. The body dies and the brain along with it — and as far as we can see, the dead person is no more. Eventually the atoms that the person was made of recycle into other things. Anything beyond that is a departure from what we have so far been able to discover.

Is there not more? Those who assert they know — often with all kinds of specifics details! — are either lying or deluded. Nobody has ever demonstrated any sound basis for any claims about anything hereafter. That’s really all there is to say on the matter.

By the way, I’m intrigued that you wrote, “Considering you lead a good life” — when you were specifically writing these questions as a Christian writing to atheists. I’m intrigued by that because it seems unbiblical to say that atheists can lead good lives. It goes against what it says in Psalm 14:1“Only a fool would say, “There is no God!” People like that are worthless; they are heartless and cruel and never do right.” In any case, I’m pleased to see that you recognize it’s possible for atheists to lead good lives, and I’m pleased to see that you can reject what the Bible says when it is false and divisive.

Misogyny in the Bible

[Editorial note: if you have any issues with what I’ve written, please be sure to read my Caveats page.]

The Bible is brimming with misogynistic passages, a dazzling extravaganza of ignorance and ignobility toward womankind, breathtaking in its presumptuousness.

It starts in the story of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2, the Bible says:

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

The Lord God had formed all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He had made all of them out of the ground. He brought them to the man to see what names he would give them. And the name the man gave each living creature became its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, all the birds in the sky, and all the wild animals.”

“But Adam didn’t find a helper that was just right for him. So the Lord God caused him to fall into a deep sleep. While the man was sleeping, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs. Then the Lord God closed the opening in the man’s side. Then the Lord God made a woman. He made her from the rib he had taken out of the man. And the Lord God brought her to the man.”

The man said, “Her bones have come from my bones. Her body has come from my body. She will be named ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of a man.”

Genesis 2:18-23

So, in this passage we can see:

(1) Man was made first;

(2) Woman was not part of God’s original plan. God only concluded that Adam shouldn’t be alone as an afterthought. Even then, God tried first to pair Adam up with wild animals (!) before it occurred to Him to try making a woman. Women aren’t even an afterthought of God’s — they’re an afterthought-of-an-afterthought;

(3) Woman was specifically made for man, to be his helper;

(4) Woman was made from man and is part man, but the reverse is not true.

In Genesis 3, the story continues:

“The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat fruit from any tree in the garden’?”

“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But God did say, ‘You must not eat the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. Do not even touch it. If you do, you will die.’ ”

“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “God knows that when you eat fruit from that tree, you will know things you have never known before. Like God, you will be able to tell the difference between good and evil.”

“The woman saw that the tree’s fruit was good to eat and pleasing to look at. She also saw that it would make a person wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. And he ate it.”

Genesis 3:1-6

From this passage, we are supposed to infer:

(1 A) The serpent managed to lead Eve astray, when the serpent had not been able to lead Adam astray;

— and —

(1 B) Eve lead Adam astray, after the serpent could not.

And from these, we are supposed to conclude that Eve was childishly naive and foolish; easily manipulated; impulsive and indulgent; shady and untrustworthy; disloyal and disobedient; naturally inclined toward temptation, mischief, sin and evil. Instead of also reaching similar conclusions about Adam for his role, we’re supposed to interpret that Eve also had bewitching powers of seduction. Then, we’re to take it that Eve-as-wicked-temptress embodied the nature of all women.

Additionally —

(2 A) Eve was the first to disobey God;

— and —

(2 B) Eve is responsible for the downfall of humankind, and therefore literally everything bad in the entire world.

For this, God punishes Eve — and all women — in Genesis 3:16.

The Lord God said to the woman, “I will increase your pain when you give birth. You will be in great pain when you have children. You will long for your husband. And he will rule over you.”

Here we can see:

(1) The pain of childbirth is a punishment upon women from God;

— and —

(2) Men are to rule over women, by divine decree, since women can’t be trusted to behave themselves.

 


Some readers might object here, “What do you mean ‘supposed to infer’ and ‘supposed to conclude?’ How do you know? That’s not the way I interpret the story at all!” I know because the Bible repeatedly and explicitly tells us all of the above, along with giving explanations of how women must be muzzled and controlled, as the bad seeds that they are.

Here are a few examples.

In 1 Corinthians, it says:

“Men were created to be like God and to bring honor to God… Women were created to bring honor to men. It was the woman who was made from a man, and not the man who was made from a woman. He wasn’t created for her. She was created for him.”

1 Corinthians 11:7-9

In Ecclesiasticus, in Catholic versions of the Bible, we find the following:

“No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman, may a sinner’s lot be hers!”

— Ecclesiasticus 25:19

“Sin began with a woman, and thanks to her we all must die.”

— Ecclesiasticus 25:24

“If she will not do what you tell her, get rid of her.”

— Ecclesiasticus 25:26

In 1 Timothy, it says:

“I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

1 Timothy 2:12-14

And so on, ad nauseam.

 


Beyond the Adam and Eve story and inferences, the Bible also has a variety of mean-spirited, pointless double standards against women. For examples:

“The price for a man from 20 to 60 years old is 50 shekels of silver… The price for a woman who is 20 to 60 years old is 30 shekels. The price for a man from 5 to 20 years old is 20 shekels. For a woman the price is 10 shekels. The price for a boy from one month to five years old is 5 shekels. For a girl, the price is 3 shekels. The price for a man who is 60 years old or older is 15 shekels. The price for a woman is 10 shekels.”

Leviticus 27:3-7

Not only does God literally put a price on people, He values women and girls about half to two-thirds as much as men and boys.

“When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shouldn’t be set free in the same way as male slaves are set free.”

— Exodus 21:7

If it seems bad that Israelite men get to go free after six years, while Israelite women are enslaved for life: it’s actually even worse than it sounds. This passage is about selling daughters as sex slaves. (If you’d like to read more about slavery in the Bible, click here.)

“If a woman conceives a child and gives birth to a son, she will be unclean for seven days—just as she is during her menstrual period… But if the woman gives birth to a daughter, she will be unclean for two weeks—just as she is during her menstrual period….”

Leviticus 12:2,5

Three in one! In one short paragraph, this tells us (1) Menstruation makes women unclean; (2) childbirth makes women unclean; and (3) giving birth to a daughter is twice as unclean as giving birth to a son.

 


Aside from the Eve related slurs, and the double standards, the Bible is peppered throughout with hundreds of anti-women gibes, slanders, assumptions, recriminations, assaults, injunctions, and themes. For examples:

“It is a disgrace to be a father of an undisciplined son, and the birth of a daughter is a loss.”

Ecclesiasticus 22:3

There you have it. According to the ironically apellated “Wisdom Literature” in Catholic versions of the Bible, the birth of a girl is a loss, plain and simple.

“They called out to Lot and asked, “Where are the men who came to visit you tonight? Bring them out to us so we can have sex with them!”

“Lot went outside to them, shut the door behind him, and said, “I urge you, my brothers, don’t do such a wicked thing. Look here, I have two daughters who are virgins. Let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them whatever you wish, only don’t do anything to these men, because they’re here under my protection.”

Genesis 19:5-8

Apparently, an entire city gang-raping Lot’s daughters would not be “such a wicked thing” — certainly preferable to letting the town get their hands on men. Also apparently, the status of being a daughter does not warrant protection, as merely visiting does if a stranger happens to be a man. And, of course, Lot’s daughters were his property to offer for rape if he wished.

By the way, note that Lot and his family were saved by God after Lot offered his virgin daughters up for gang rape by all the men in the city, because Lot was the only righteous man in Sodom. Still perfectly righteous … after offering his daughters for all the men in Sodom to gang-rape.

“…a seductive woman is a trap more bitter than death. Her passion is a snare, and her soft hands are chains. Those who are pleasing to God will escape her, but sinners will be caught in her snare.”

“Only one out of a thousand men is virtuous, but not one woman!”

Ecclesiastes 7:26,28

More pearls of wisdom. There are no virtuous women. Not one.

“If a man encounters a young woman, a virgin who is not engaged, takes hold of her and rapes her, and they are discovered, the man who raped her must give the young woman’s father 50 silver shekels, and she must become his wife because he violated her. He cannot divorce her as long as he lives.”

Deuteronomy 22:28-29

In other words — You break it, you buy it!

“How can anyone born of a woman be pure?”

Job 25:4

This simple rhetorical question is a classic commentary on how women are intrinsically tainted and contaminate everyone.

“Therefore will I give their wives unto others, and their fields to them that shall inherit them: for every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness, from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.”

Jeremiah 8:10

This is one of several occasions in the Bible where Yahweh punishes men by giving their wives to other men.

“I will bring all the nations together to fight against Jerusalem. They will capture the city and destroy the houses. The women will be raped, and half of the people will be taken away as prisoners.”

Zechariah 14:2

This is one of several instances in the Bible where Yahweh exercises his omnipotence to ensure that all the women in a large population get raped.

“So now kill every boy and kill every woman who has had sexual intercourse, but keep alive for yourselves all the girls and all the women who are virgins.”

Numbers 31:17-18

War booty — in both senses of the word.

Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

— 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35

Like the 1 Timothy quote above about teaching and usurping authority, here’s another one of several instances of the Bible telling women to shut up.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.”

Ephesians 5:22-24

In case it wasn’t clear the first time, husbands rule over their wives.

“[The elders] commanded the Benjamites, “Go and hide in the vineyards. Watch, and then when the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, come out from the vineyards and have every man grab a wife for himself from among the daughters of Shiloh. Then go to the land of Benjamin. When their fathers or their brothers come to us to complain, we will say to them, ‘Be favorable to them for our sakes, because we did not take for each man a wife in the battle…’ ”

So the Benjamites did this. They carried away wives for each man from among the dancers that they caught.”

Judges 21:20-23

Gay marriages may not be biblical, but kidnap-and-rape marriages are.

Even the passages above pale next to the … “story” … the Bible tells in Judges 19. Click on that link and read it for yourself. I can’t even….

 


Of course, the many misogynistic passages in the Bible have been reflected in the thinking and writing of almost all of the most influential Judeo-Christian theologians throughout history. Here are some examples:

“…the attitude of man is informed by reason, that of woman by sensuality.”

— Philo of Alexandria, De Oificio Mundi

 

“The woman is inferior to the man in every way. Let her accordingly be obedient, not for her humiliation, but that she may be directed; for authority has been given by God to man!”

— Josephus, Contra Apionem

 

“Men should not sit and listen to a woman… even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since they came from the mouth of a woman.”

— Origen

 

“Every woman should be overwhelmed with shame at the thought that she is a woman.”

— St. Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus

 

“Fierce is the dragon and cunning the asp; But woman have the malice of both.”

— St. Greogory of Nazianzus

 

“Do you not know that you are [each] an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age; the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the Devil’s gateway: You are the unsealer of that [forbidden] tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law; you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. On account of your desert—that is , death—even the Son of God had to die.”

— St. Tertullian

 

“Remember that God took the rib out of Adam’s body, not a part of his soul, to make her. She was not made in the image of God, like man.”

— St. Ambrose

 

“[Satan turned to] the inferior of the human pair … supposing that the man would not be so easily gullible, and could not be trapped by a false move on his own part, but only if he yielded to another’s mistake.”

— and —

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother; it is still Eve the temptress that we must be aware of in any woman… I fail to see what use women can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”

— St. Augustine

 

“It does not profit a man to marry. For what is a woman but an enemy of friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a domestic danger, delectable mischief, a fault in nature, painted with beautiful colors?”

— Saint John Chrysostom

 

“Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex, while production of woman comes from defect in the active force.”

— and —

“The woman is subject to the man, on account of the weakness of her nature, both of mind and of body. Man is the beginning of woman and her end, just as God is the beginning and end of every creature. Woman is in subjection according to the law of nature, but a slave is not. Children ought to love their father more than their mother.”

— Saint Thomas Aquinas

 

“Woman is less qualified [than man] for moral behavior…  women are inconstant and curious. When a woman has relations with a man, she would like, as much as possible, to be lying with another man at the same time. Woman knows nothing about fidelity. …if you give her your trust, you will be disappointed. … For this reason prudent men share their plans and actions least of all with their wives. Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his… What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Woman is strictly speaking not cleverer but slyer (more cunning) than man. … in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.”

— St. Albertus Magnus

 

“Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey man, not rule and command him.”

— John Knox

 

“God created Adam lord of all living creatures, but Eve spoiled it all.”

— and —

“Women are ashamed to admit this, but Scripture and life reveal that only one woman in thousands has been endowed with the God-given aptitude to live in chastity and virginity. A woman is not fully the master of herself.”

— and —

“Woman must neither begin or complete anything without man: Where he is, there she must be, and bend before him as before a master, whom she shall fear and to whom she shall be subject and obedient.”

— Martin Luther

Imagine seeing your mother, wife, sister, or even newborn daughter this way. Imagine behaving so dysfunctionally toward half the people you meet, half the people in the world, for no other reason than their sex.

Unfortunately, the numerous misogynistic passages in the Bible continue to badly influence some religious people today, sometimes causing warped perceptions of women, abusive behavior, and harmful policies. This is especially true among the Christians who believe, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy3:16).


 

Christian apologists are quick to insist that the Bible is not misogynistic. Their two main arguments about this seem to be:

(1) “There are also passages in the Bible that show good women whom God loves, and passages that explicitly state women are equal in the eyes of God.”

Yes, there are. For example:

And when you were baptized, it was as though you had put on Christ in the same way you put on new clothes. Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.”

Galatians 3:27-28

The pro-women parts of the Bible are outnumbered easily more than 100-to-1 by the misogynistic parts, but there absolutely are a few parts that are egalitarian toward women, nonetheless. The problem is that the misogynistic passages still exist, still say what they say and mean what they mean — and people who take everything in the Bible as God’s message can’t easily ignore them.

(2) “You’re cherry-picking Bible quotes to twist God’s word.”

How many misogynistic passages must there be before they’re actually the Bible’s message on the topic, rather than twisted misinterpretations of God’s word based upon cherry-picking? A dozen? A hundred? A thousand? Because there are well over a thousand in the Bible. It’s not like some strange aberration that only surfaces a couple times. It’s prevalent from start to finish.