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Loftus, John W., editor. Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails. Prometheus Books, 2014.
    From Amazon’s comments: “In this new anthology critiquing Christianity, John Loftus—a former minister and now a prominent atheist—has brought together an outstanding group of respected scholars who focus on the harms caused by the world’s leading religion.” Before reading Loftus' latest, I viewed Christianity as the National Superstition; now I view it as the National Pandemic. I used to consider conservative Christians to be the opposition; now I regard them as enemies. Before Loftus I called bible defenders deluded believers; now I call them biblidiots. Dawkins' sentence on the cover is correct: reading Loftus will deconvert many who read it. 
    Although  Christopher Hitchens, Paul Kurtz, Dennis McKinsey, Dorothy Murdock, Victor Stenger, and Farrell Till are gone, we still have the voices of the atheists and skeptics listed below. Read them and fight the National Superstition ("fundagelicalism"), which is more threatening to the U.S. than AIDS, Ebola, and even militant Islam, combined; it is the only menace that controls a  major political party.
     Some prominent skeptics and atheists:
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Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Peter Atkins
Hector Avalos
Edward Babinski
Dan Barker
Ophelia Benson
Susan Blackmore
John Brockman
Sean Carroll
Richard Carrier  
Greta Christiana
Austin Cline
Jerry Coyne
Richard Dawkins
Daniel Dennett
Earl Doherty
Bart Ehrman
Barbara Forrest
Annie Gaylor  
Anthony Grayling
Tom Harpur
Sam Harris
John Haught
Stephen Hawking
Jennifer M. Hecht
Susan Jacoby
S.T. Joshi
 Lawrence Krauss
Stephen Law
John Loftus
Jeffery Lowder
Gerd Luedemann
Barry Lynn
P.Z. Myers
Michael Newdow
Kai Neilsen
Michel Onfray
Jonathan Pearce
Steven Pinker
Anthony Pinn
Robert M. Price
Bill Provine
Philip Pullman
James Randi
Bob Seidensticker
Michael Shermer
David Silverman
Peter Singer
Edward Tabash
Valerie Tarico
Barbara G. Walker
Steven Weinberg
Edward O. Wilson
Frank Zindler

Book Reviews Authors, L-P

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 Lataster, Rafael C. There Was no Jesus, there is no God: A Scholarly Examination of the Arguments for Monotheism, Kindle, 2013.
    I rate this book only three of five stars f
or content. He mentions Bayes theory often but never gives an example, so many readers might wonder how relevant it is. He is also too repetitive, and the book could be half its length without losing anything important. But he does one very good thing: he lists of the large number of reasons why Jesus, even if he existed, provides no proof of the Judeo-Christian God. The author’s poor writing is a major distraction, but he writes much more cleanly in later articles.  
Loftus, John W., editor. Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails. Prometheus Books, 2014.
    From Amazon’s comments: “In this new anthology critiquing Christianity, John Loftus—a former minister and now a prominent atheist—has brought together an outstanding group of respected scholars who focus on the harms caused by the world’s leading religion.” Before reading Loftus' latest, I viewed Christianity as the National Superstition; now I view it as the National Pandemic. I used to consider conservative Christians to be the opposition; now I regard them as enemies. Before Loftus I called bible defenders deluded believers; now I call them biblidiots. Dawkins' sentence on the cover is correct: reading Loftus can deconvert many. 
    Although  Christopher Hitchens, Paul Kurtz, Dennis McKinsey, Dorothy Murdock, Victor Stenger, and Farrell Till are gone, we still have the voices of the atheists and skeptics listed below. Read them and fight the National Superstition ("fundagelicalism"), which is more threatening to the U.S. than AIDS, Ebola, and even militant Islam, combined; it is the only menace that controls a  major political party. Some prominent skeptics and atheists:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Peter Atkins
Hector Avalos
Edward Babinski
Dan Barker
Ophelia Benson
Susan Blackmore
John Brockman
Sean Carroll

Richard Carrier  
Greta Christiana
Austin Cline
Jerry Coyne
Richard Dawkins
Daniel Dennett
Earl Doherty
Bart Ehrman
Barbara Forrest

Annie Gaylor  
Anthony Grayling
Tom Harpur
Sam Harris
John Haught
Stephen Hawking
Jennifer M. Hecht
Susan Jacoby
S.T. Josh

Lawrence Krauss
Stephen Law
John Loftus
Jeffery Lowder
Gerd Luedemann
Barry Lynn
P.Z. Myers
Michael Newdow
Kai Neilsen
Michel Onfray
Jonathan Pearce
Steven Pinker
Anthony Pinn
Robert M. Price
Bill Provine
Philip Pullman
James Randi
Bob Seidensticker

Michael Shermer
David Silverman
Peter Singer
Edward Tabash
Valerie Tarico
Barbara G. Walker
Steven Weinberg
Edward O. Wilson
Frank Zindler

Loftus, John W. and Randal Rouser. God or Godless? One Atheist, One Christian: Twenty Controversial Questions. Baker Books, 2013.
    Advice to Rauser: stop using analogies; they are pointless, boring, and annoying. Can’t you deal directly with Loftus’ points? To Loftus: You can do much better than wasting time making superficial replies to the lightweight, doctrinaire Rauser. Most of Loftus’ books are excellent, but this one is hardly worth the paper it’s printed on.

Loftus, John W., ed. The End of Christianity. Prometheus, 2011. 433 pages.
    This book consists of 14 essays on various aspects of Christianity, written by prominent experts. I review the essays individually. The authors, beside Loftus himself, in alphabetical order, are Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, David Eller, Jaco Gericke, Matt McCormick, Ken Pulliam, Keith Parsons, Robert Price, Victor Stenger, and Valerie Tarico.
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Loftus, John W., "Introduction" (to The End of Christianity): 
    Loftus introduces his well-known Outsider Test for Faith (OTF), a proposed test that any religion should be subjected to. It contends that almost any religion, especially Christianity, should be examined as if the examiner (typically a believer) were not at all familiar with it. Loftus claims, quite reasonably, that its doctrines would seem crazy to an outsider. Consider, for example, the key doctrines of original sin, redemption through God’s murdering his son, the son being both fully divine and fully human, the son’s ability to do supernatural miracles, and his resurrection after a few days in a tomb. Christianity is a religion of human sacrifice, deriving from much older sacrifice doctrines. The specifically Christian ones don’t include the claims in the Old Testament, which contain not only fairytales such as the global flood but picture Jehovah as a bloodthirsty monster.  
Loftus, John W.  “Christianity is Wildly Improbable,” Chapter 3 in The End of Christianity: 
    Christianity violates solid knowledge, for example claiming that events occurred that are physically impossible. Even if a few of the following assertions are wrong, the combination refutes the faith beyond rescue. I have added to Loftus’ list:
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   1. Noah’s Flood was impossible;
   2. The Sun stopping in the sky was impossible;
   3. A wall falling and killing 26,000 men was impossible;
   4. Archeology and Egyptian history have proved that the exodus never happened;
   5. A virgin birth is impossible for mammals;
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   6. Jesus’ miracles were impossible or faked, and real miracles are never seen now;
   7. Jesus was far from the ideal “person” that Christianity claims;
   8. An entity cannot be both wholly divine and wholly human;
   9. The Trinity is logically impossible;
  10. It makes no sense that God is timeless but can nevertheless affect worldly events;
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  11. It makes no sense to claim that Jesus, a human, is or was timeless;
 12. Resurrecting a dead person is impossible;
 13. The alleged resurrection was seen by only a small group of believers;
 14. God did not bother to evangelize most of the world;
 15. There is no evidence of Heaven or Hell, and their properties are impossible;
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 16. There are no specific, genuine, fulfilled prophecies in the Old Testament;
 17. Christianity makes far too many implausible claims to be correct;
 18. There is no reason to regard the OT or NT gods as good;
 19. The Gods are so different that believing in both is polytheism; and
 20. Christianity is a mix of wishful thinking, human sacrifice, and agent-attribution.
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    Christianity has no claim to superior morality or credibility. There are many competing religions and there is no objective way to choose among them.
  Loftus, John W. The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion is True. Prometheus Books, 2012.
    Loftus’ OTF idea is that every religion should be evaluated from scratch by someone who had never heard of it. Almost all of the book consists of defenses of the general OTF concept, rather than using it on, say, Christianity, which was certainly the original impetus for writing the book. He relies on two concepts, called RDVT (Religious Diversity Test) and RDPT (Religious Dependency Test). The first refutes all religions on the grounds that there are many, none of which is objectively superior to others. The second asserts that the religion one chooses depends largely on one’s parents, cultural environment, and irrational thinking. It cannot be a coincidence that almost everyone’s chosen faith is that of his or her parents! These two rather obvious facts should be enough to destroy belief, but Loftus continues, making a solid case.    
    He points out, correctly, that if, say, Christian believers used the same criteria to judge their own faith as they readily use to judge others, they would see that their faith is groundless. That is, if they rejected Islam or, or Mormonism, for example, and applied the same thinking to their own beliefs, they would be bound to reject them as well. (I have noticed that Christians will often say that the other religions don’t have the irrefutable Bible, but of course that is uselessly circular. It reminds me of the deluded soap-box preachers who loudly quote the Bible to prove that Christianity is correct, as if that would convince disbelievers!)
    Loftus answers numerous objections from Christians, including these:

  1. Atheists’ views depend on culture as much as religions do, hence atheism is no more trustworthy. But most atheists depend on rational evaluation of evidence, and rationality and observation are largely common to everyone, while religions share very little. Loftus admits that he and other nonbelievers live in an intellectual climate in which rationality is possible. True, but once rational thinking has been established, it is an advance just as other rational (scientific) discoveries are.
  2. Another way to state the objection is that, to be consistent, one must be skeptical of skepticism or apply the OTF to atheism. However, skepticism is not a set of beliefs but a procedure for evaluating claims. That process cannot be arbitrarily discarded. Atheism is not the claim that God does not exist (that’s antitheism) but simply a lack of belief in God. That view is the default, since the claims of all religions are implausible. In other words, the burden of proof is on believers.

  3. Skeptics must doubt their beliefs and examine them for hidden assumptions, because all beliefs are equally faith-based. That is false. Being skeptical about everything would preclude all knowledge. To equate religious faith with “faith” that the external world exists and was not created five minutes ago is to murder the word. Faith is believing things without evidence, and evidence is what we have for the world and its history.

  4. Our senses cause us to believe in the external world, which is why Christians believe in God. That is an evasion: all sane people believe in the external world with relatively minor disagreements. But religious faith is more akin to a psychiatric delusion. Some people are delusory with respect to the Christian God, some with respect to the Hindu pantheon, etc. A private experience does not establish truth. If a Christian rejects a Hindu’s private experience, using the same criterion, she should reject her own.

  5. A believer may claim that if one applies the OTF to religion, it is justified to apply an outsider test to an entire worldview (OTW). There are at least two objections: first, it is not clear that there is such a thing as a worldview-outsider. What would they be outside of? Second, as Loftus says, it is perfectly possible to abandon one’s religion but keep the remaining worldview. The OTF and the OTW are not analogous.

  6. The OTF unfairly targets religion. That’s wrong. The OTF is aimed at religion more than at other things simply because religions make so many implausible claims that to separate truth from falsity, and to prevent fantasies from trying to rule the world, religion is the most worthwhile target. We’d be better off without it.

 7. Skepticism analogous to the OTF should be applied to science. But science is based on coherent, plausible, repeatable observations. Such observations are all we really have to understand anything. To doubt them is to abandon all attempts to explain anything. Religion explains nothing and never has.

  8. Believers are not using a double standard with respect to their faith vs. that of others because they know that their faith is true. That’s just silly; they are blatantly using a double standard. That’s what the OTF is designed to reveal.
The need for the OTF is proved by applying it to Christianity. That faith makes these claims, among others:
a. The first humans disobeyed God (whom they could not recognize).
b. Their disobedience cast an eternal curse on humanity, even on people who did not exist yet.
c. God hated what he had just created so he killed everything, trying to stop sin. (But sin resumed.)
d. God created a son, who tried to convince everyone that God’s kingdom was near. (It wasn’t.)
e. God killed his son to forgive humanity of a debt that we owed to God. (God is very confused.)
f. The son was part of a three-part God who really consists of one part. (That makes no sense.)
    Anyone who does not see the OTF’s value is immune to reason. Christianity is totally incoherent.  
​​Madison, David. Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: A Minister Turned Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith. Tellectual Press, 2016. 358 pages.​​
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    The author organizes is book into “Ten Tough Problems” that present Christianity with insoluble dilemmas. The book refutes Christianity so thoroughly that any objective reader (one who is able to change his or her opinion) could continue believing only by ignoring everything Madison has to say. Following a Prologue and Introduction, the problems are these:
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   1. Evil and Human Suffering: The coexistence of God and needless suffering has long been recognized (along with God’s hiddenness) as the most difficult theological problem in Christianity. He cites gun murders, which occur despite God’s supposed omniscience (He knows even when a sparrow falls from the sky; Matthew 10:29). The existence of both moral (human-caused) and natural evil is incontestable, but excuse-makers try to excuse God for it. Madison shows that “free will” is not an effective alibi for human evil (p. 48). He also destroys the excuses that we are being punished and/or tested, as well as the notion that Satan is doing it.
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  2. How Did You Find Out About God? Madison observes that Americans are in thrall to the idea that God is everywhere and God is good. However, omnipresence is unprovable, especially since God is permanently unseen. Also, there is no reason to call him good. The author lists several ways in which God supposedly communicates knowledge to us. Apparently the knowledge is only of his existence, not of anything real.
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   3. The Bible’s Revelation Ripoff: The author notes that the Bible fails every test that a divinely inspired book should pass. Among them are: the disappearance of the original manuscripts, its error-laden content, its unprovable authenticity, its lack of agreement with other ancient sources, and its highly immoral teachings on morality. (p. 98) He adds its largely trivial, irrelevant, and boring content (p. 116), and its mostly fatuous commandments.
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   4. The Absurdity of Western Monotheism: Madison goes into various Christian positions such as God’s creation of the universe, the Lord’s Prayer, and his selection of the virtuous vs. the sinners.
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   5. Which Monotheism? Which Christianity? The author points out that there are many religions (and many versions of Christianity), none having a superior claim to truth than any other. He mentions John Loftus’ “outsider test for faith,” which says that one should compare one’s own faith to others. No religion passes this test.
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  6. The Gospels Fail as History: The Bible fails every test that any proper history would pass. Its authors, except Paul, are anonymous; inconsistency reigns; no sources are cited; evidence for a living Jesus is extremely weak; and the Gospels contradict themselves and each other. Madison also relates the silly tale of Christ’s supposedly virgin birth. Each Gospel is examined, especially John’s, written so late that genuine information about him would have been lost. John specialized in bizarre theology, removing Jesus completely from earthly reality.
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  7. Why the Resurrection Is Not Worth Believing: Self-explanatory, but the author points out the well-known fact (denied by literalists) that earlier faiths had dying and rising gods. (p. 252) There is little original in Christianity except more guilt.
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  8. Just Say NO to Human Sacrifice and Cannibalism: The famous Bible statements that “without shedding blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22) and where Jesus says of some bread “this is my body” (Matthew 26:26) makes it obvious that Christianity is a religion of human sacrifice with hints of cannibalism. It is a direct descendant of primitive religions of sacrifice, both of animals and humans.
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  9. What a Friend We Don’t Have in Jesus (author’s summary, p. 340; paraphrased): “Even if all the overblown theology about Jesus is discounted – maybe we can remove the stuff about virgin birth, son of god, and resurrection – people are determined to affirm that he was a supremely good human, a magnificent preacher who set the moral compass for humanity. Yet the Gospels do not bear this out. They display him as a flawed person who preached hatred of family, and whose expectations about a soon-to-dawn Kingdom of God were delusional. His reputation is based on highly selective reading of texts.
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 10. Bad News Paul, a Delusional Cult Fanatic: Madison is more critical of Paul, who is described as a neurotic, dislikeable, but extremely energetic and persistent pusher of the Jesus figure. [Paul showed no interest in a possible living Jesus.]

Martin, Sean. A Short History of Disease: Plagues, Poxes, and Civilisations, Pocket Essentials (UK), 2015.
    From the back cover: "Analyzing case studies including the Black Death, Spanish Flu, cholera, leprosy, syphilis, cancer, and Ebola, this book systematically maps the development of trends and the latest research on disease into a concise and enlightening timeline." I agree with this description.
    The author shows that prehistoric humanity was, despite legends of early sinless existence, anything but free of disease. This is convincingly proved by fossils; they are preserved bones, while most afflictions would affect soft tissue. Therefore, for every diseased bone found, there were undoubtedly many afflicted tissues that left no evidence.
    Martin devotes a chapter to each time period:

Chapter   1. Prehistory: Yaws, sleeping sickness, tuberculosis, joint disease, many others, not known.

Chapter 2. Antiquity: In ancient times of vast ignorance, ailments were attributed to evil spirits, so religion, including Judeo-Christianity, contributed to the misery. Egyptian records mention a disease that could have been leprosy (which still exists today), and perhaps smallpox. The latter was recently eradicated by humans with no help from God. In Rome, a crowded and dirty city close to a marsh, malaria was perhaps the biggest health issue, but dysentery, leprosy, typhoid, jaundice, tetanus, and elephantiasis were not far behind. The famous physician Galen lived to see the plague affect Rome, which in the late second century killed up to 2000 people a day. Epidemics of plague occurred in the next few centuries. Christianity, installed as the Empire ‘s official religion in the fourth century, was no help.

Chapter 3. Dark and Middle Ages: After about 750 CE, Europe experienced fewer epidemics, not because God finally decided to help out, but because the plague had killed so many people that the chance of contracting a serious disease from another person was much smaller. Famine due to unfavorable weather was one of the most serious health problems, but typhus, leprosy, and ergotism may have been equally deadly. Worst of all, the plague, or Black Death, made a horrible visit starting in 1347. God was often called on, but religious practices such as crowded burial ceremonies made transmission more likely.

Chapter 4. The New World: Cortes is famous for defeating the more numerous Aztecs in only a few years, but smallpox, which the natives had no immunity to, did most of the killing. This devastation continued, and in the 17th century, almost 90% of the native population in the Americas had perished. Ironically, the New World may have taken revenge on Europe by sending syphilis back with Columbus. Other prominent sicknesses included cancer, gangrene, tuberculosis, scrofula, rabies, dysentery, leprosy, measles, and plague. The most mysterious disease was “madness,” naturally ascribed to demons; exorcisms were performed for Catholic patients and are still done today. After a time in a lunatic asylum such as Bedlam in England, you would be crazy even if you were not to begin with. It is hard for us to imagine getting one of these terrible maladies and having no effective treatment available. No wonder they prayed and did other religious rituals. One would think that after observing hundreds of ritualistic “cures” and finding no difference in the patients, they would have deduced that their practices were useless. No: they had nothing else to resort to, and religious belief is immune to reason.

Chapter 5. Early Modern to 1900: Yellow fever, one of the worst calamities to hit the Americas, was probably imported from its home in Africa through slaves. It comprised revenge for kidnapping blacks. It almost caused the Panama Canal project to be aborted. Smallpox was almost as serious, until Jenner found that inoculation with cowpox virus prevented smallpox infection. Also, round this time tuberculosis was rampant. Typhus was another serious problem: it thrived in crowded, dirty conditions, which characterized all of Europe’s cities. The terrible Irish potato famine in the 1840’s was eclipsed by the return of typhus, which struck England particularly hard. Another disaster was typhoid fever, not the same as typhus, but bred in similar surroundings. But the most feared disease was cholera, thought by some to be caused by bad air or the like; this delusion persisted until almost 1900, when a vaccine was developed. Cholera was subdued not by God but by Robert Koch, Lois Pasteur, and other researchers. A practice that is unthinkable today was common before the 1880’s, when doctors would go directly from conducting autopsies to attending births. It was found that washing hands and sterilizing instruments drastically reduces childbirth-associated disease. Koch and Pasteur were also instrumental in combatting the hardy microbe that causes anthrax. Another major scourge was that old enemy, malaria. (It still kills millions, especially children in sub-Saharan Africa.)

Chapter 6. The 20th Century: Epidemics of typhus and typhoid fever led off the new century, but their effects were minor compared to the “Spanish flu,” that became major in 1918. Estimated deaths were as high as 100 million, making it the worst pandemic in history, exceeding in numbers even the 15th century plague. The flu may have caused more deaths during WWI than the war itself. (Previous flu epidemics occurred in 1510, 1557, 1580, and 1889, in Russia.) Major breakthroughs occurred in the 20th century: penicillin, polio vaccines, the eradication of smallpox, and others. Christians may claim that God enabled these discoveries, but there is no sign of that. It was done by humans, with no reason to invoke the Christian superstition A major event was the arrival of AIDS; Christian preachers shouted that it was God’s punishment for homosexuality, but that stupid notion was dispelled by finding that AIDS attacked people who were not gay. Did the preachers admit they were wrong? Guess. What was originally a local infestation could become worldwide in a few days because of high-speed transportation. The century was the first time that doctors predicted that infectious diseases would be eliminated through antibiotics. It is now clear that this was a naïve hope; bacteria can become immune to almost any antibiotic, especially given their fast evolution and profligate use on farm animals. Another development was and is the epidemic of obesity and diabetes. As of 2017, this is more serious than ever. Other lifestyle diseases were alcoholism and cigarette smoking; the latter was causing over 400,000 deaths from lung problems per year in the U.S. Fortunately, smoking is declining, at least in the U.S. However, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are more evident because people live longer.

Chapter 7. New Diseases: Being quite recent, these are well-known, so it will suffice to list the major ones as well as old afflictions that are coming back: 
  New and Increasingly Common

Diseases
Marburg virus
Lassa fever
Ebola (almost became an epidemic)
Legionnaires’ disease
SARS
New strains of flu (H5N1, avian, etc.)
Autism
Alzheimer’s 
Reappearance of Old Diseases

MRSA
Tuberculosis
Lupus erythematosus
Cholera
Polio
Lyme disease
West Nile Virus
BSE (bovine spongiform encephalitis)  
 Glossary of Diseases: Martin provides a very useful list of about 100 diseases that are mentioned in the book. The descriptions are quite short but still valuable.
    The book ‘s endnotes consist of 522 references to detailed sources. His research is beyond criticism. Martin shows that humanity has, without pause, been the victim of innumerable epidemics and pandemics. Anyone reading this history and claiming that there is a benevolent, omnipotent God is crazy. The usual Christian excuse that disease is due to “original sin” is beneath contempt.
Shroud of Turin
Mattingly, Stephen J. How Skin Bacteria Created the Image on the Shroud of Turin, See -
McCormick, Matt. “Salem Witch Trials and Evidence for the Resurrection,” Chapter 8 in Loftus' The End of Christianity
    The author makes an interesting comparison that I have not seen previously. In both the resurrection (30 CE) and the witch trials (1692), supernatural events were reported by “observers.” The witch trials were much more recent and many written reports exist which are mutually compatible. That was not true in the case of the resurrection. The Gospels, supposedly biographies of one year (or three) depend on one writer, Mark, who did not mention the resurrection. Matthew and Luke added dramatic fiction to Mark.
Why are the Salem reports [and the visions of Mary at Lourdes, Fatima, Medjugorje, etc.] rejected but the resurrection is accepted? Because apologists consider Christianity to be invalid without the latter (which was not necessary for Jesus’ mission), while the other fairytales can be dismissed without damaging the faith. Inconsistency between criteria for the beliefs is obvious. Belief originates in emotional dependence, not from reason and evidence, which are invoked only as backup. People see what they want to see even if it’s utterly improbable.
    This chapter could have been half its length and lose nothing.
McCormick. Matthew S. Atheism and the Case Against Jesus, Prometheus, 2012. 332 pages.
    This book’s importance deserves a long review. The author’s main purpose is to disprove that the resurrection of Jesus was a real event. He uses a lot of space to show that the resurrection was doubtful when first reported, and gets more doubtful as it is passed through unreliable editors, and copyists. The authorities arbitrarily decided what to include or exclude in the final canon.

 ​ 1. Epistemic standards, those we use to judge the reliability of reports of alleged events, are very low when applied by believers to the resurrection, much lower than those they use in the rest of their lives. If a Christian were presented with the tale of Mohammed splitting the moon, he or she would dismiss it immediately. But if the same low standards applied to the resurrection were used, the Christian would have to accept the tale. The same thing applies to all supernatural events claimed by all religions. The resurrection-believer is applying a double standard. (p. 11, 103)

  2. A claimed unusual event must be checked against other possible events that could result in the same observation. (p. 12)
  3. God’s world, assumed perfect because he’s perfect, would need no correction, so there would be no need for miracles. (p. 12)

  4. [Not from the book] Jesus’ resurrection is not relevant to his main purpose of being humanity’s savior. It was his death that supposedly forgives us, not his return to life. This makes the resurrection a side issue – but Christian leaders say the whole faith rests on the reality of the event. They do not address this matter.

  5. Faith, the only way to believe the resurrection, should be private. Unfortunately, it affects all of us because of the constant efforts of fundagelicals to regulate education, control the government, and judge everyone’s private behavior. But faith, defined as believing without evidence, is the worst way to find truth. Asserting faith amounts to a lie because it claims truth without having any. If a claim is about reality, it must be tested against reality. (p. 215-238; see below)

 6. Faith-heads, when asked whether evidence could exist that would make them disbelieve, would say, “Such evidence is impossible.” It’s not that they won’t give up their conviction; they cannot. They are addicted, like an alcoholic. (p. 19)

 7. The author mentions the well-known phenomenon of confirmation bias, in which “evidence” that affirms pre-held beliefs is remembered while disconfirming evidence is discarded and forgotten. (p. 21)

 8. The 40- to 90-year delay between Jesus’ death and the composition of the Gospels would allow lots of exaggeration and distortion to creep in. Christians disagree, citing the ancient Jews' practice of repeating stories to the next generation very accurately. But this explanation fails because the Jews transmitted only deeply held doctrines, not tales about a random heretic such as Jesus, whom they did not accept as the messiah. (p. 39, 108)

  9. No follower of Jesus claimed to have met him or to have observed any of his life events, even the resurrection. (p. 40)

 10. We have no original manuscripts from early Christianity except for a tiny fragment of John's Gospel. Confirmation bias could have affected the copying, so what the originals said is unknown. (p. 39) The Bible did not reach its final form until the fourth century; many manuscripts having as much plausibility as the ones accepted into the canon were discarded, probably because they were inconsistent with the official story. Most of the Bible is propaganda, not accurate history or biography. Its mentions of a few real people and places does not change that; anyone can write fiction about real places and people.

 11. The Gospels disagree in important ways about the crucifixion and resurrection. Which Gospel are we to believe? The best answer is “none of them,” as in a court trial where testimonies of witnesses cannot be reconciled.

 12. Everything we know about Jesus’ life was filtered through the Gospel of Mark or was invented by him. The other Gospels derived from it. (Mark does not mention the resurrection.) If Mark meant his material to be religious persuasion and not history, the others are also fiction.

 13. McCormick shows that the evidence for witchcraft activities in Salem in 1692 is  more abundant, recent, and reliable than alleged  evidence for the resurrection. If a believer accepts the resurrection and uses consistent standards, he or she is bound to accept the literal truth of Salem witchcraft. Few do, because if the Salem story is false, Christianity is not seriously damaged, while if the resurrection is false, the faith collapses. The author elaborates on the Salem matter in his essay in Loftus’ The End of Christianity.

 14. Alleged observers of the resurrection could be easily misled. They could have a bereavement hallucination, mistake another man for the resurrected Jesus, think he was dead when he wasn’t, etc. (p. 62)

 15. The only people who supposedly saw the resurrected Jesus were already believers. Why didn’t he appear to more of the population such as the Jews, Greeks, and Romans? This almost proves that the story was invented by his partisans. (p. 63)

 16. Some believers claim that evidence does not matter but faith does. That contradicts their behavior in other areas. Why don’t faith-heads drive to work with their eyes closed and depend on faith in Jesus to get them there safely? Anyone who depends on faith in Jesus but drives with their eyes open is a self-contradicting hypocrite. W.L. Craig says that his faith is “self-authenticating,” but my self-authenticating faith says that Craig is wrong and that Jesus never existed. (p. 69)

 17. Ancient people were entirely ignorant of psychological and observational effects that can distort or create observations. Hallucinations are well-known mental events now, but were a mystery then. Paul’s vision of the resurrected Jesus fits the definition.

18. When repeating stories, people can embellish, exaggerate, and conflate to add drama, which can impress listeners with the speaker as well as the story. (p. 87) As time passes, memory gets weaker but as studies have shown, confidence in it increases. This could convince someone who did not see an event that he/she did. (p. 91, 113)

 19. Entirely ignorant of abstract causes, ancients would attribute events to conscious agents, because agents were familiar as couses. Spurious personalization still occurs; religion is a good example of it, being based on anthropomorphism. Also the ancients, who dealt mostly with mentally simple activities such as farming, cooking, and crafts, were less effectively intelligent than we are now. (p. 99) That would make them even less able to correctly spot true events and causes.

 20. The chain of communication informing believers that the resurrection was real consisted of many unreliable steps. At each step, errors and modifications were likely: (p. 101)
a. The original observers of the resurrection;
b. The oral communicators, who retold the story until it was written much later;
c. The authors of the Gospels, putative mini-biographies of Jesus;
d. The copyists, who copied the originals and may have “corrected” them; and
e. The canonizers, who decided what to include or exclude from the final Bible.
    The original observers are particularly suspect. Witness the silly stories of Lourdes, Medjugorje, and other places renowned for "miracle cures." Of the millions of visitors to Lourdes who hoped for a cure, the Church has verified only 67, and the real number of cures through supernatural means is probably much smaller. Why is God so selective? Why were millions not cured? And why were the victims on 9/11 who were falling to certain death while praying not saved? Prayer is worthless if invoked hoping for an external effect (but it may have internal benefits). Probably billions have died while praying to whatever their god happened to be.

 21. McCormick gives examples of other beliefs that are much more plausible than the resurrection. Examples are the notion that Elvis or Michael Jackson lives, or that the Heaven’s Gate asteroid and spaceship existed, or that alien abducted is real. Those claims are more plausible because aliens need not be supernatural, and the other fantasies are logically possible. (p. 125)

 22. The author also points out that in order to be rigorously prove an unlikely event such as the resurrection, one would have to look for contrary evidence. That is not done. The idea probably never occurs to believers. (p. 135)

 23. A strong defeater of God as he relates to the resurrection is this: God is obviously hidden but is revealed to us through Jesus. If God wanted people to believe, as Christians claim, he could have made the evidence for Jesus much stronger. We are left doubting that God really cares about human belief or our love for him. (p. 161)

 24. The reasons suggested for why God hides include his not wanting to overwhelm us or force us to believe. He wants us to love him voluntarily rather than being compelled. (The first problem with voluntary love is that the Bible repeatedly says that disbelievers will be roasted forever. One cannot love voluntarily under a major threat.) “Voluntary love” is a often invoked excuse for why much of the evidence for Christianity is so weak. But believers insist that the resurrection is proved by solid evidence. Evidence is either adequate or marginal. (p. 167)

 25. Even genuine miracles are not proofs of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God. A god with considerable but finite power could create a universe and do miracles such as healing the sick. Healings may prove benevolence but not omnibenevolence; why did God not eliminate all disease? Also, the God need not be the personal god beloved by Christians or the God who is a “person,” which many theologians claim. (p. 183)

 26. McCormick describes ways that miracles could be convincing (which they are not):
a. Make sure the observers are impartial, not dedicated partisans;
b. Collect more evidence for the miracles, not just decades-later reports;
c. Perform undeniable miracles such as showing the resurrected Jesus to the world;
d. Allow for human fallibility rather than just Mark’s Gospel and its derivatives;
e. Avoid claiming miracles that could be faked, e.g. by skilled magicians;
f. Make the miracle worthy of a powerful God, not something small-scale;
g. Be sure that the miracle is not something that is merely fortuitous; and
h. In healings, allow for the placebo effect.
    The miracles related in the Bible fail all these tests. They are “underdocumented, ambiguous, obscure, underwhelming, and divisive.” (p. 188) No god worth his cloudy throne would resort to such lame fairytales.

 27. The problem of proliferating religions is worse than Christians admit. McCormick shows a list of 500 gods, all of whom are dead or obsolete. He says that in the presence of hundreds of contradictory god-stories, it is worthless for believers to debate whose interpretation of the Bible is the correct one. Do we have evidence that makes it reasonable to believe that the supernatural claims in [the Bible] are true?” No; they’re all wrong. (p. 195-202)

 28. There are private experiences that make someone believe a religious fiction. But the experiences are totally subjective and do not apply to anyone else, so there is no real need to listen (except perhaps for psychological insight). Similar experiences can be induced by drugs, sleep deprivation, and the influence of other people with similar beliefs. (p. 205) A factor that permits religious delusions (and much other thinking) is the largely subconscious processes that occur in the mind. This and the presence of multiple religions shift the burden to the believer. The nonbeliever does not have to disprove a god; he or she can merely say, “If you can’t show me why your religion deserves more consideration than the dozens of others, I will ignore it until you can.” Threats of hellfire, etc., will have no effect on a disbeliever except to prove the believer’s sadism, feeling of superiority (“I’m saved and you’re not!”), and schadenfreude.

 29. Faith, or believing things without evidence or when disconfirming evidence exists, is the universal fallback position that believers give when it is pointed out that their beliefs are based on nothing. (p. 215-238) Faith has several serious drawbacks. First, in what areas of their lives do faith-heads use faith? Surely, as mentioned above in #16, they would not drive with their eyes closed and depend on faith to let them arrive safely. That may be an extreme example, but the point remains that there is no criterion about when to use faith and when to use real thinking. Second, use of faith reduces one’s critical faculties to the point where anything can be believed. See Christianity in Ruins, Chapter O1, for a list of about 500 implausible claims that are often taken on faith.

 30. According to McCormick, most religious people believe in inclusivism, the view that there are many paths to God and that the Bible should not be interpreted literally. They may feel that religion expresses hope or that they enjoy the trappings of church. They care much less about the truth of their faith. They should be asked, what are you asserting about the world, and how are you gathering the information to back up your assertions? When they participate in rituals, are they faking it or do they believe what the rituals claim? Liberal participants are much less of a threat to the U.S. than exclusivists, but they lend respectability to magical thinking. Some of the institutions they support may help fund others which attempt political domination. Liberal religiousness should be discarded in favor of reality, evidence, knowledge, and truth. (p. 247) And the lack of and disrespect for those values encourages beliefs that are even sillier than the claims of Christianity – for example the vast set of New Age claims.

 31. The author says that his aim is to weaken many of the institutes of magical thought, including for example Mormonism, Scientology, and other “faiths” which appeal to those who have a weak grip on reality. In that effort he is joined by most secular philosophers, many of whom have examined those belief systems and unequivocally rejected the
McCrone, Walter. Judgement Day for the Turin Shroud, See the Shroud of Turin page. 
The Shroud of Turin
McKinsey, C. Dennis. The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy. Prometheus, 1995.
    McKinsey's 540-page book is not aimed at scholars who know the background, context, and history relating to the Bible. His aim is mostly at the naive bibliophile who believes the whole thing, and at those non-Christians who wonder what the fuss over the Bible is about. In those aims, he succeeds very well. He also has many things to teach so-called Bible experts, who probably have never seen all the mistakes gathered in one place. He shows that the Bible is so loaded with errors that it can't possibly have been guided by God. It is a purely human work, and a lousy one at that. McKinsey proves that beyond all doubt. Bibliolaters who say Christianity is the last hope for the traditional family apparently don't know beans about JC, especially his deplorable “family values” (such as you must hate your parents). And his Sermons, which were either on a mountain [Matthew] or a plain [Luke], said very little that's not implied by the Golden Rule. Despite desperate assertions by fans of JC, he was not in the earth for three days; Friday night to Sunday morning is 1.5 days, even with the Jewish way of counting days. McKinsey has done a great service in helping to show what an error-filled, incoherent, contradictory, ambiguous mess the Bible is. If God was involved, he should repeat third grade.

McKinsey, C. Dennis.  Biblical Errancy: A Reference Guide. Prometheus, 2000.
    The Guide, like his Encyclopedia, is organized by topic, but it has a table of contents ordered alphabetically. Almost all the book consists of Bible verses, arranged so the contradictions are obvous. The (
expensive!) 850-page Guide is essential for anyone doing serious Bible research. Its contents will not be found in the usual collections assembled by believers, who can honestly refute all the conflicts pointed out . Many of the difficulties are quite serious for any thinking believer, so Christians try mightily to refute everything McKinsey alleges. Their arguments are not successful except on some minor points. A respectable attempt to disprove McKinsey’s books is The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy Refuted, at http://www.tektonics.org/af/ebstart.php . McKinsey easily wins the debate.
McLennan, Scotty. Jesus Was a Liberal: Reclaiming Christianity for All, St. Martin, 2009.
    If all Christians were like McKennan I would disagree strongly with them but not worry about their political power. The author poses no threat to U.S. democracy. The book goes on and on about love and how God and Jesus make that more accessible to us, but the idea is built on a foundation of mud. He never questions the existence or legitimacy of Jesus and, so far as I've read, avoids the huge amount of negative stuff, not just in the power-grubbing behavior of evangelicals, but in the basic material itself. How can someone make silly excuses for the way the God-Satan team treated Job? How can he make excuses for the approximately 80 genocides that Jehovah did or ordered? Jehovah was a maniac and Jesus said that the OT laws were still in effect, o Jesus was complicit after the fact. The Bible has hundreds of contradictions, ambiguities, scientific errors, continuity problems, and extremely immoral teachings - along with a small amount of good advice. Overall, McLennan has written a tract to persuade doubters that everything is just lovely. But given the election of 2016, he might change his mind.

Murray, Michael J. Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, Oxford, 2008.
     Murray goes to great lengths to minimize the experience of pain in animals, but the facts contradict him: all evidence indicates that mammals, at least, experience pain directly much as we do. He claims that the "secondary experience" of pain is important, that is, the animal is not fully aware that it's in pain. Murray tries to move the obvious emotion of pain to a more cognitive level in the animal, but it doesn't work. Animals are do not think about their situation, so thought doesn't matter for the experience of pain. You can tell when a Christian is desperate by the fact that he finds it necessary to engage in fuzzy, complex, far-fetched, speculative philosophy when the problem is obvious. The existence of evil, including animal pain, dumps the notion of a benign, powerful God into the trashcan, exactly where it belongs.

The Shroud of Turin
Nickell, Joe. Inquest on the Shroud of Turin, See the Shroud of Turin page.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Anti-Christ, translated with an introduction by H.L.Mencken, See Sharp Press, 1999.
    The author and translator make a good pair. Far from reasonable or balanced, they are both angry elitists who are convinced of their superiority. (They are indeed better than the general public in terms of accurate, objective thinking.) A typical statement by Mencken (page 2): “The American people constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag.” And at this time when the horrible president-elect (the “Orange Outhouse”) is determined to set the country back at least 100 years, we see that Nietzsche and Mencken were correct. From Nietzsche: “One must make ones’ self superor to humanity in power, loftiness of soul, and contempt.” Nietzsche was not a typical philosopher writing as incomprehensibly and abstractly as possible; he wrote in a disorganized, ranting, semi-coherent manner which makes his good points hard to extract. I did not find this book worth finishing, although Nietzsche is admirable for stating that God is dead.

Noll, Mark A. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Eerdmans, 2015.
    On page 198, Noll says "Creationism, at root, is religion. It has become politics because of the overweening metaphysical pretensions of elitist pundit.s exploiting the prestige of "science." While it is nice to see a Christian admit what fundies vociferously deny but which is obvious to everyone else, his comment is way off base. It is not scientists who have “overweening metaphysical pretensions,” it’s Christians such as the author, who arrogantly claim that Christianity has a useful role in explaining the objective world. The religion has never made any contribution to genuine knowledge, so scientists, who use the only legitimate method for gathering that knowledge, are not stepping outside their domain in claiming objective truth. The default explanation for any phenomenon is naturalism, which works exceedingly well. "Elitist pundits" sounds like something Pat Buchanan or some other deluded ax-grinder would say. Noll is a one-man refutation of "Christian humility." If reason, the basic tool of science, were applied objectively to Christianity, there would be nothing left

The Shroud of Turin
Oxley, Mark. The Challenge of the Shroud: History and Science. See the Shroud of Turin page.
Parsons, Keith. “Hell: Christianity’s Most Damnable Doctrine, Chapter 10 in Loftus' The End of Christianity
    It is not often realized that the claim of Hell is highly immoral. Parsons: “Christianity embraces the doctrine of hell, so its claim to be the light of the world is discredited.” The author describes those “repugnant fantasies” in some detail and mentions the many theologians who propound them. Some prominent churchmen (Tertullian, Aquinas) think that the saved, residing in heaven, get joy from watching the tortures of the damned. An even creepier doctrine favored by a few is that God created the damned only to provide pleasure for the saved in heaven. Those assertions are suitable only for psychopaths, as is much else about Christianity. When we add that consignment to hell applies to nonbelievers more than to evildoers, we can characterize the religion as collective psychopathy.
    Claiming that torture in hell is only a metaphor is to ignore the Bible, which makes it quite clear that it is meant literally.
Parsons: “Why would God create hell and then make the only way to avoid it depend on acceptance of certain beliefs that he already knows billions will not accept?” Even Hitler could get to heaven, despite his immense evildoing, if he just accepted Jesus. That is why belief is a sick criterion for escaping hell. Two well-known apologists have the nerve to claim that God is not to blame for torture in hell because nonbelievers freely choose not to believe. Parsons points out that most nonbelievers do not choose to disbelieve but are unable to swallow doctrines that are not just implausible but morally revolting. God has no excuse, especially considering that he supposedly created a perfect world. The author also points out that eternal punishment is disproportionate even for a lifetime of sinning. Apologists often claim that because God is infinite, the punishment for rejecting him must also be infinite. That implies that God can be injured by lowly humans, which is a crazy thing to believe.
    Parsons thoroughly criticizes the respected Christian writer C.S. Lewis. Lewis is clever in hiding the real problems in his superstition. Contrary to the claim that only morally defective people go to hell, Parsons lists 26 moral exemplars who also exist there.
Paul, Gregory. “The Great Scandal: Christianity’s Role in the Rise of the Nazis,” in The Harm Done by Religion, Ronald A. Lindsay, Andrea Szalanski, Nicole Scott, and Tom Flynn, eds. Inquiry Press.

     This slim volume contains several essays that I do not review, concentrating instead on Paul’s searing indictment of Christianity’s cooperation with the Nazis. His two essays (2003 to 2004) present a short but very clear picture of the situation. They are the most valuable part of the book.
     Jehovah’s acts helped legitimize genocide in passages such as Deuteronomy 7:3-6, where he orders the Jews to utterly destroy the Canaanites. Scripture abounds with “final solutions.” (page 74) Christianity takes the Old Testament as part of its scriptures, so it is not surprising that Christianity helped pave the way for Hitler’s genocide. Catholicism had millennia of Jew-hatred behind it, espoused by early Church fathers and virulently expressed by Martin Luther in 1543. The author cites much more recent Catholic expressions of anti-Semitism (page 39). Atheism had nothing to do with Hitler’s rise; he often claimed he was doing God’s work in killing Jews. (Some anti-Semitic Christians actually claimed that Jesus was not a Jew, in plain contradiction to the Bible.)

     Hitler’s personal relationship with Catholicism is ambiguous. He was raised as a Catholic and as an adult repeatedly declared himself one (p. 41), but he was not observant in the usual sense. He sharply criticized the established churches, but he never declared himself to be a nonbeliever. The Nazi regime and its wars cannot be blamed on atheism (as defensive Christians do). Atheists and freethinkers were among those persecuted and even killed, probably because they were less sheep-like in accepting the doctrines of a demagog and Jew-hater. Mein Kampf, Hitler’s 1925 expression of belief, was strongly anti-Semitic. He was democratically elected well after his anti-Semitism was known. The German public did not care. The Church never excommunicated Hitler, but if he had come out as an atheist, they would have had nothing to do with him. That shows what kind of morals the Church had: fascism is better than atheism. (Today, many of Trump’s admirers might agree!)

     Paul shows conclusively that Christianity and Nazism were intimately connected. Most top Nazi leaders were raised as Christians. Hitler gained respectability by signing a Concordat (1933) with the Vatican. Previously rescued from bankruptcy by Mussolini, it was eager to receive money from larger and more affluent Germany. The Concordat allowed that to happen. Cowardly popes avoided criticizing murder of the Jews, retreating to bland statements which never mentioned the killers or their Jewish victims. To anyone who is has any awareness of history, the Vatican’s moral standing is in the toilet.

     Apologists often claim that the Church had to cooperate, because if it had not, the Gestapo would persecute it and its members. But according to Paul, the regime would risk losing popular support. Hitler’s deeply racist goal was to establish a pure Christian nation without the influence of the Roman Church or Jews with their corrupt natures. He almost succeeded, for by 1945, 80% of Europe’s Jews were dead. Very few Christians were killed because they did not object to Nazism. Paul cites many things the Pope and Vatican could have done to relieve the plight of the Jews (page 72):

Wear a Star of David to show solidarity
Called for equal treatment of Jews
Insist on unannounced personal inspection of the camps
Called Jews and atheists his brothers and sisters
Told Catholics to help them
Denounce authoritarianism and aggression
Told other countries to accept refugees
Provided money to help refugees escape
     The Nazis would have been humiliated and perhaps forced to stop murdering. In my view, if Hitler had not been so stupid as to conduct war with the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. at the same time, he might have dominated all of Europe and killed all its Jews. The Church would not have objected.
 Paulkovitch, Michael. Beyond the Crusades: Christianity’s Lies, Laws, and Legacy. Foreword by Robert M. Price. American Atheist Press, 2016. 476 pages.​​ (This is No Meek Messiah plus Price's Foreword)

    Price makes several important points in his seven-page foreword: 
   1. Believers should be upset by Christianity’s similarity to earlier religions, but they deny this, claiming that their religion is unique. They are wrong; it shares many common features such as virgin births, resurrections, miracles, etc.
   2. The Bible promotes acts that we consider savage, for example executing rebellious children.
   3. It contains many forgeries, atrocities, and frauds. If God was involved, he’s a criminal and/or an idiot. 

     My review is more of a summary of Paulkovitch than a review. In his takedown of Christianity, Paulkovitch holds back nothing. In that respect, his approach resembles mine, but he inserts lots of jokes and wisecracks. They can be distracting, but the National Superstition deserves everything he gives it. I skip over the author’s minor errors and some of his chapters.

PART 1. CHRISTIAN TIMELINE


Chapters 1-10, Before Current Era: “Between 900 and 500 BCE, the Hebrews borrow many rituals, laws, and religious beliefs, and scores of gods, from Egyptians, Persians, Canaanites, Babylonians, and others, to create their Bible, the Tanakh.” Those earlier myths were the source of creation stories, forbidden fruit, flood stories, and more. A bit later, Mithraism further influenced the Hebrews, who adapted some of their doctrines. In the 3rd century BCE the Septuagint, a translation into Greek from the original Hebrew was created. Its claim that a savior would be born of a virgin is triply wrong: first, thing, the Hebrew word meant young woman, not virgin; second, the stated name was not ‘Jesus;’ third, the tense is present, not future. The Catholic Church’s entire obsession with virginity (and sexual conduct) is based on one translation error. The Evil Empire makes its own doctrines, such as virginity and its arbitrary, unbiblical emphasis on Mary.

Chapter 11, 1st Century CE: This was the century of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, supposedly the son of both Joseph and God. However, if he is or was God’s son, that deity unaccountably made the evidence for Jesus amazingly bad. Among the reasons to doubt: Paul, the first Christian writer, clearly did not believe that Jesus ever lived as a human. Second, it is well-known that no writer of Jesus’ time ever mentioned him, even though the Gospels repeatedly say that he was famous throughout the region. Paulkovich includes mini-biographies of no less than 126 writers who would be expected to describe Jesus and his doings. He also cites works by about 120 mythicists who did not or do not believe in a historical Jesus. The Bible contains many contradictions and inconsistencies about God’s son; for example, Acts10:39 says that Jesus died not by being nailed to a cross but by being hanged on a tree; for another, Rene Salm proves that Jesus’ supposed hometown of Nazareth was not inhabited until the 2nd century.3 About Jesus’ birth, John 8:57 implies that Jesus lived into his forties, contrary to his alleged lifetime of 4 BCE to 30 CE. Also, Jesus knew nothing about the Universe but did believe in fairy tales (page 53). The Gospels are anonymous hearsay, so they are inherently unreliable. They were not composed by the disciples Mark, Matthew, Luke, or John.

Chapter 12, 2nd Century: Scholars agree that the Mark 16:9-20 verses were added to make his account describe the resurrection. Without that sequence, added in the second century, it would be clear that Matthew, Luke, and John’s Gospels were augmented without evidence. A major heresy was that of Marcion (about 144 CE), who contradicted the Gospels by saying that God plopped Jesus down fully grown. There are other discrepancies that indicate that Jesus was a fiction (at least his miraculous, divine nature). The Gospels cannot be trusted.

Chapter 13-15, 3rd-5th Century: The 4th century was one of the absolute worst in history. At that time, Emperor Constantine and two of his successors installed Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. They forbade practicing other faiths and began destroying non-Christian churches. A deadly blow to knowledge and reason was the savage destruction of the famous library at Alexandria and the murder of its librarian. A mob of rampaging monks, acting on behalf of the gentle and saintly Jesus, helped God by eliminating his competition. (Why does God need help?) Since the Empire (and Alexandria) were the center of the western civilized world, the actions of the Church and the Emperors cursed humanity for the next 1600 years. May they experience horrible pain in Hell for 500 trillion years. (An idea originating with Jesus and the Church.)

Chapter 16-17, 6th-7th Century: The Church was so confident in their idiot delusion that it started a become-Christian-or-die rampage, murdering and torturing Jews, Pagans, and other nonbelievers. If there had been less competition, the 6th and 7th would win the Most Savage Centuries prize. It is a sign of power-hunger that the Church ignored Jesus’ most important proclamation: Love thy enemy (Matthew 5:44).

Chapter 20-22, 11th-13th Centuries: The infamous persecution of the Cathars (or Albigenses), in southern France starts. This was the first step in Innocent III’s creation of the vicious Crusades. Realizing the incoherent nature of the Bible and its potential to repel Christians, he forbids reading it, on the usual pain of death. He invents the clever idea of the Immaculate Conception, which claims that Jesus’ mommy was born “immaculately.”

Chapter 24, 15th Century: This period is notable for the burning of Joan of Arc for heresy. (Contrary to opinions of ignorant believers, she was not Noah’s wife.) Columbus rediscovers America. Jews are expelled from Spain.

Chapter 25, 16th Century: Following the Reformation, Henry VIII of England throws out the monasteries and other signs of the Roman Church because it would not let him get a divorce. Proving that he was no more just or merciful than the HQ of superstition in Rome, he kills an ex-wife or two. The Roman Church continued its persecution of Jews, further setting the stage for the Holocaust. Apologists stupidly blame it on atheism. Calvin continues a noble Christian habit by roasting Miguel Servetus at the stake.

Chapter 26, 17th Century: It begins inauspiciously with roasting at the stake Giordano Bruno, who claimed that there were other worlds which would not be subject to the Catholic Superstition. Bishop Ussher calculates that the world began on October 23, 4004 BCE. (A sure sign of delusion is making a prophecy whose precision far exceeds available information.)

Chapter 27, 18th Century: Annihilation of Native Americans begins in earnest. They suffered a holocaust worse than that of the Jews under Hitler. Slavery is common. These were carried out mainly by Christians.

Chapter 28, 19th Century: Post-superstition modernism gets stronger. Darwin’s main book appears in 1859 and creates a firestorm, which, disgracefully, is still going on. Intelligent Design advocates are still trying to sabotage education in America. May they roast in Hell with extra gasoline. (That’s what they wish for disbelievers.)

Chapter 29, 20th Century: Hitler manifests the consequence of millennia of Christian Jew-hatred. He kills six million European Jews for the accident of their birth. The Popes during WW II were complicit in carrying out Der Fuhrer’s plans. Imbeciles and ideologues in the U.S. try to prevent evolution from being taught, because If evolution is true, Adam and Eve did not exist, hence no “original sin” and no need for God Jr. Some Christians kill their children by praying and refusing medical attention. The parents should be jailed.

Chapter 30, 21st Century: More child deaths occur due to reliance on  prayer, but prosecuting parents is becoming more common. Hatred of President Obama increases, based on racist fundamentalism. Stupidity is steadily taking over; see the 2016 election. Christian leaders like stupidity in their flock because morons think of fewer difficult questions. 


PART 2: A CASE AGAINST RELIGION

Chapter 31, Extermination: It is estimated that the number of Native Americans who died as a result of the European invasion is 50 to 100 million. Those whom God’s diseases didn’t kill, Christian invaders did.

Chapter 32, Armageddon: The filthy swine (Muslims hate swine) who flew planes into the towers in NYC thought they would be greeted by a swarm of virgins, but they will be greeted by worms and bacteria that will eat their bodies.

Chapter 33, Witch Hunts: Killing witches is an order straight from the Holy (?) Bible, which blames humanity’s fall on Eve. Most of the “witches” were women, giving the killers an excuse to murder both women, whom they hate and fear, and God’s other enemies. 

Chapter 34, Bible Bunk: Paulkovitch says that Jesus was highly imperfect (page 181). If he existed, he was:
    1. Ignorant: Matthew 6:25-26, 34; Acts 1038
    2. Contradictory: Luke 16:16, versus Matthew 5:17, Romans 6:14, Matthew 19:17
    3. Violent: Mark 7:10, Jude 1:5-8, Luke 19:27, Matthew 11:20-24
    4. Unjust: Luke 12:46-49
    5. Unforgiving, lacking empathy: Matthew 23:14
    6. Intolerant and racist: Matthew 10:5-6, 15:22-24, 2 John
    7. Illogical and nonsensical: Matthew5:29-30k 24:37-39, 12:40, John 3:14
These are not accusations by some crackpot atheist, just plain inferences from some crackpot Bible.

Chapter 35-36, Other Issues: The Bible approves of slavery and never condemns rape or incest, but these and other verses reveal it:         1. Nail [the slave’s] ear to the door (Exodus 21:6), and
    2. It’s OK to torture the slave if he survives for a day or two (Exodus 21:20-21).
    Craven apologists wrongly claim that Israelite slavery was very different from more recent slavery, and they have the temerity to lecture skeptics about moral issues! By any objective standard, Jehovah was in the same league of evil as Hitler. On the gay issue, Christian hypocrisy at its most loathsome is manifested by homosexual preachers who condemn it while practicing it secretly. Sex, itself, is not a moral matter; Christianity is sex-negative, a form of fake morality aimed only at control.

PART 3:  ROOTS OF CHRISTIANITY

Chapters 38-47, Earlier Myths: Christianity, except for its greater emphasis on guilt and a few other negatives, evolved from earlier fairytales. Guilt and fear are tactics to keep suckers committed, because If they felt free they might see that the whole thing is false. This is not to say that all preachers are corrupt; many believe what they teach, which is unfortunate: criminals are more rational than fanatics, hence less dangerous. Paulkovitch shows that one of Christianity’s main predecessors was Egyptian, with many close connections mentioned in the Bible. Even though the supposed exodus of the Hebrews never happened, Egyptian myths had a major influence on parts of the Bible, such as the Psalms. Another major influence was the earlier religion of Mithraism. The similarities are quite convincing, as are those between the Bible and the story of Apollonius of Tyana. There is also a strong connection between Christianity and eastern faiths such as Buddhism.

PART 4:  THE BIBLE

Chapters 48-49, Josephus and Other Silent Writers: Josephus was a Jewish historian who supposedly praised Jesus in two tiny passages. There are many reasons to believe that the passages are later Christian forgeries. (My book Christianity in Ruins gives details: J3h, page 511) Naturally, apologists seize on even the smallest sign that the passages are genuine, but they err to the point of dishonesty. As mentioned above (see Chapter 11) there were many historians and writers in Palestine at the time of Jesus who would certainly have mentioned him. They did not, which alone disproves his existence. (Paul’s supposed 500 witness of the reborn Jesus is not mentioned in the Gospels, and none recorded their experience. Paul wrote fiction.)

Chapter 53, The Old Testament: The OT disagrees with objective knowledge so thoroughly that only ignorant literalists could believe it. Unfortunately, much of the U.S. population fits that description, so the flood myth and other OT fictions are widely accepted. The flood story, especially the parts about the animals is absolute rubbish unworthy of a smart 8-year-old. (How did they know where to go? How did they get back to their native lands? How did they survive in a pitch-black boat for a year? Where were the plants that they needed? Did the carnivores eat the other animals? Most important, if God managed all these details, why did he need Noah?)

Chapter 54, The Jesus Character: He makes many mistakes, notably his prophecy of returning quickly. He said he would be back within the lifetime of his audience, but no one has seen him for 2000 years. He also said he’d be in the tomb for three days and nights, but it was only 1.5 days and nights. Further, he contradictorily announced both that the Old Law (OT) was superseded (Luke 16:16) and that it was still in force (Matthew 5:17). Which is it? Other errors are connected with his birth, such as the tale of the three astrologers who follow a star in the wrong direction to find him. What Jesus cries on the cross (Matthew 27:46) comes directly from Psalm 31, only one of many verses swiped from the OT. Apologists, naturally, claim that the OT prophesied Jesus. If that’s true, the Sun will turn into a can of beer tomorrow. Stupidity and overcredulousness reign.

Chapter 55, Polytheism: Jehovah was aware that other gods existed whom his favorites might be tempted to worship. He said “You may have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Many other verses show that the insecure God of the Israelites had terrible self-esteem. Why else would he make that the first Commandment?
Scholars, except for deluded fundies, know that Judaism evolved from polytheism to monotheism.
I have covered most of Paulkovitch’s book but by no means all. 
 Pearce, Jonathan MS. Did God Create the Universe from Nothing? Countering Craig’s Kalam Cosmological Argument, Onus Books, 2016. 169 pages.​​

    William Craig wants to show that God must have created the Universe by invoking the kalam cosmological argument (KCA). It does not initially mention God, but proceeds as follows:

a. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
b. The Universe began to exist.
c. Therefore, the Universe has a cause. (Guess what he thinks the cause is.)
    Craig writes as if premises a and b are obvious, so the logically necessary conclusion, c, must follow. I will begin by laying out my own objections, then get to Pearce’s book.
 
  1. Premise a: First, premise a depends on intuition and everyday experience, which does necessarily apply to the Universe. Even if causes apply to things in the Universe, the assumption that they apply to the whole Universe is the fallacy of composition. (Also, in quantum theory, certain things can begin to exist without a cause. That shows that our intuition is a very unreliable guide to reality.)

 2. Premise b: Cosmologists, the authorities on these matters, do not consider b as obvious or necessary. They agree that the expansion of the Universe began at a particular time (13.8 billion years ago), but the Universe itself may not have; there may not have been an instant of singularity, which has been assumed until recently. Hence, premises a and b are not a good basis for constructing a deduction. A deduction depends on the truth of its premises; if they are weak, the deduction is. To show the necessity of b, Craig must establish the following, which he has not even begun to do:
2a. An initial singularity caused the Universe to begin;
2b. There was no preceding cause;
2c. An eternal Universe is impossible;
2d. An oscillating or cyclic Universe is impossible; and
2e. Multiverses are impossible or require a similar type of beginning. (Pearce, page 72)

  3. Creation ex nihilo: Craig claims that creation from nothing is impossible, but the KCA assumes that God does exactly that. Then the theistic explanation has several puzzles:
3a. What caused God?
3b. What are his abilities and goals?
3c. Why did he decide to create a Universe?
3d. Why would he make this Universe rather than a different or better one?
In contrast, assuming a natural cause of the Universe has one (admittedly major) puzzle: what, if anything, was that cause? That may be amenable to scientific research, while God-as-cause is not. Also, introducing “God” violates Ockham’s Razor, the suggestion to eliminate unnecessary entities or ideas in an explanation.

  4. Beginnings are caused: Craig’s remark applies to things that begin to exist, not to everything that exists. He states it this way to allow for eternally existing entities, that is, God. (He does not mention that this is the reason for his formulation. That is one of several things Craig sneaks in.) If one makes God the exception to all rules, he can be used to prove anything, a tactic much used by apologists. This short discussion by itself vitiates Craig’s argument, but Pearce takes his counterargument much further in his short book. Now we consider that.

  5. Causality: In his Part 3, Pearce considers the complex subject of causality, giving several examples which show its ill-defied and confusing nature. The idea of cause comes from our intuition. Intuition developed through evolution to allow quick decisions in everyday situations. It applies very well in cases such as throwing a rock through a window, which causes the window to break. But additional causes can be cited even in this simple case: did the window break because glass is fragile? Because buildings have windows? Was a cause the fact that humans exist and evolved to be able to throw rocks and make windows? This sequence can be traced all the way back to the Big Bang. Such examples show that causes are not always discrete; that is, all events are connected in one long causal chain. But causation requires time since the cause must come before the effect. But if the Universe marked the creation of time, it could have no cause. (page 91) Craig tries to get around this with “simultaneous creation,” which notion is thoroughly refuted by scientists and philosophers. (p. 95)

  6. Creation: It is also important that all creation we observe is not from nothing, but is a transformation of material into something we name. A chair, for example, is the label of a particular transformation of pre-existing wood. At what stage did the chair begin to exist? When the wood was first sawn into proto-legs? When the final finish was applied? At an intermediate stage? Was the cause of the chair its carpenter? Or its material? Pearce says that what has begun to exist is an abstract concept, which by itself is causally inert. (page 29)

  7. God’s freedom: Tracing causality back to God, theists assume he is a free agent who can do anything. Either he caused the Universe deliberately or not. In the latter case it was random, contradicting God’s perfect control. If he caused it deliberately, how can it be imperfect while God is perfect?

  8. Eternal existence: In Part 4, Pearce considers Craig’s claim that the Universe cannot have existed forever. Craig contends that physical infinities cannot exist, but cosmologists allow that certain ones might, for example the density at the center of a black hole, the future duration of the Universe, and possibly its past duration. But God, the perennial exception, may have existed forever. That idea clarifies nothing. Like so much of Christianity, it appeals to magic. Further, Craig makes some mathematical errors that render his reasoning false. He also bases his eternality-is-impossible claim on the work of several physicists, but they say that his conclusion is unwarranted. (page 75) Further, new tentative theories in cosmology allow for an eternal Universe.
 
  9. Other Factors: There are two main theories of time, denoted A (tensed) and B (tenseless).1 Craig admits that the KCA depends on the correctness of A: “If time is tenseless, then the universe never really comes into being, and, therefore, the quest for a cause of its coming into being is misconceived.”2 Almost all physicists and most philosophers hold to the B theory, presenting Craig with a big problem. He often chooses unusual views of scientific theories to support his Christaholism. But time is not his worst problem. Craig tries to go from arcane cosmology to the existence of a personal [Christian, of course] God. But there could be lots of Gods or even a simulation that lets us experience an apparently real Universe. There is no way to disprove a simulation or a committee of gods for whom we are inhabitants of a zoo.

 10. Final Agnosticism: Cosmologists are experts on the Universe, unlike Craig. They admit that the cause and temporal extent of the Universe are not currently known. In evaluating naturalism vs. supernaturalism, Pearce notes that there have been dozens of instances in which science has replaced magical God-causation with testable, well-confirmed theories, while supernaturalism and theology have never explained anything. While we’re at it, the two gods of Christianity, including Judaism, are anything but moral exemplars. As a theory of the world and a moral guide, Christian theology is worthless. Let it die without doing further harm. 

Price, Robert M. "Changing Morals and the Fate of Evangelicalism," Afterword to Loftus' The End of Christianity.
​    Price contends that evangelicalism is undergoing profound changes in its belief in Hell, Christian exclusivism, biblical inerrancy, acceptance of gays and women's equality. However many fundies (fundamentalists and evangelicals) are still intolerant and obnoxious, especially some of those at the top levels of U.S. government under Trump. Price says that their nonsensical attitudes toward sex will result in their demise.  These changes follow similar loosening of past policies such as attitudes toward blacks. Whether these welcome changes will really occur is anything but certain.
Price, Robert M. and Edward Suominen, Evolving Out of Eden: Christian Responses to Evolution. Kindle edition, 2016.
    Good information, but the book spends too much time redundantly refuting specific apologists' futile attempts to reconcile evolution with Christianity. I would prefer more detail about evolution and less about individual deniers. Amazon: “It is now beyond any scientific dispute that all life evolved by a natural process of random mutation and DNA crossover, genetic drift, horizontal gene transfer, and natural selection. We are the highly refined but happenstance products of blind experimentation carried out in a design laboratory that has been running itself for billions of years.”

Price, Robert M. “Explaining the Resurrection Without Recourse to Miracle, Chapter 9 in Loftus' The End of Christianity
    Price, a Bible expert, claims that the Gospels can be reasonably interpreted to show that Jesus’ body disappeared for purely natural reasons, implying that there was no resurrection. His readings of the Gospels are subtle and will leave believers unconvinced. He states, correctly of course, that there were other mythical heroes whose stories are just as plausible (or not) as that of Jesus, so the burden is on believers to show that Jesus was resurrected. Some of his reasons for not taking the Gospels in the traditional way:
  1. Jesus asks God to spare him from crucifixion. Price says that Jesus’ willingness to be tortured, not the actual torture and death, are what saves humanity.
  2. It is quite suspicious that Jesus died so quickly and that he was given a drug or bitter drink so close to his alleged death. Was he drugged to allow him to escape while alive?
  3. The story of Jesus’ physical presence (Luke 24:36-43) is almost identical to the story of Apollonius of Tyana. The latter did not die and probably neither did Jesus (if he ever existed). Many mythical heroes were said to go into hiding rather than dying.
  4. John 19-20 imply that the tomb where Jesus was laid was a temporary grave and his body was moved elsewhere. (The location of Jesus’ final resting place is still unknown, contrary to the near-certainty that it would have been carefully recorded.)
  5. It is odd that the women who saw Jesus in the tomb did not recognize him later. This could mean that the body was not Jesus.
    Non-experts will have to use their judgment to assess Price’s claims. They are plausible but not ironclad. It seems more reasonable to consider the Gospels as religious propaganda rather than history. Paul, the earliest Christian writer, did not believe in a physical Jesus. If Jesus was not a mortal, the Gospels are fiction.
Probulous, I.M. Over 365 Quotations for Atheists Agnostics and Secular Humanists. Kindle Edition, 2013.
      Compact but thorough, and. very useful for my own book writing and for any unbeliever. Probulous has about six inexpensive books listed by Amazon, most in list formats

Probulous, I.M. The Big Book of Lists for Atheists, Agnostics, and Secular Humanists.  Kindle Edition, 2013.
      Lots and lots of good data for religion doubters, easily accessible and compact, much not available elsewhere. But the author should have organized the lists in better order and included more source citations.

Pulliam, Ken. “The Absurdity of the Atonement,” Chapter 7 in Loftus' The End of Christianity
    This chapter is about Penal Substitution Theory (PST), the notion that Jesus died for our sins. Let’s start by noting two things: first, the notion of original sin holds that humans are all guilty because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. That places eternal blame on us for things we did not do. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we can avoid eternal punishment only by accepting that Jesus died for us. Note that he also died for things he did not do, so the Christian religion gets punishment wrong twice. Its morality is as well-aimed as confetti tossed out of a 50th floor window on a windy day. And evangelicals have the nerve to lecture nonbelievers about morality! Christianity would not recognize morality if morality sat on its face; they care only about censoring sexual behavior and orientation. The idea that only Christians can be moral, a popular belief in the U.S., is too silly for words.
    Pulliam shows that PST is illogical, immoral, and incoherent. It is illogical because an innocent person can be injured but not truly punished, because punishment is defined as applying only to the guilty. It is immoral because Christian morality supposedly originates with God. If that’s true, God is guilty of punishing the innocent. (The Bible proves God’s guilt in many places.) Also, Ezekiel 18:20 proclaims the near-universal principle that only the guilty party is to be punished, not his sons. Jesus, whatever his faults, was not guilty of “original sin,” so torturing him to death for Adam and Eve’s sin is worse than immoral. PST is incoherent because it makes no sense for God to punish himself by killing part of himself. Furthermore, Jesus’ (God’s?) sacrifice was not a big deal because Jesus (God?) was resurrected after a few days. The whole idea of PST is beyond crazy. Its advocates should be put in padded cells until they renounce their ideas. If they believe in PST, they are likely to believe anything, including the conviction that God is telling them to kill their neighbors or families. (That has happened!) Christianity (and Islam) are curses upon humanity, as is Islam.
Pearce, Jonathan and Tristan Vick, Beyond an Absence of Faith: Stories About Loss of Faith and Discovery of Self, Onus Books, 2014.
    This book relates about a dozen stories about how certain Christians became ex-Christians, and includes several tales of former Muslims. There are many similar books but this one explains clearly why each former believer left the faith. The book begins with a quote from Wittgenstein, “Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself,” a test failed by almost every Christian. Reliance on faith is nothing more than self-deception.
     A theme common to former believers is being raised in a bubble of fundamentalism, in which the victim knows no world-view except the one he or she has been brainwashed into. Being in such a bubble damages self-esteem, prevents healthy relationships, and can destroy marriages.
     Sometimes ex-believers quit because they finally saw Christian doctrines to be nonsense. That motivation requires clear thinking, but often the reason to leave was more emotional than intellectual. One cognitive flaw, not often pointed out, is the contradictory pair of claims that humans are both the highest forms of creation and the scum of the earth (p. 147). Acknowledging this and similar problems is attributed to Satan, who provides a handy excuse for the fatal shortcomings of Christianity and its God. There is no reason to think that Satan or demons exist.
    Other common arguments are “You must have faith,” “You cannot expect to understand God’s ways,” (p. 130) and “masturbation is an unforgivable sin,” (p. 156). One story concerns a man who loved his wife and saw that a gay couple felt the same way. The man said that no one could tell him that their love is wrong. (p. 129) I wish more fundies would realize that, but they defensively stick to their rigid, legalistic rules. They want the power to control others. 
    A universal experience reported by ex-believers is how extremely difficult it was to leave the faith; the process of quitting often ruins family connections and friendships, and for religion professionals, can destroy their livelihood. If this were not true, how many preachers, priests, and ministers would leave? Maybe not a majority, but certainly many thousands.
     This is a valuable book, easy to read and free of theology.

Wilcox, Robert K. The Truth About the Shroud of Turin: Solving the Mystery. Regnery, 2010.
      The authenticity and inauthenticity theories of the Shroud both have major problems. The latter's difficulty is the alleged near-impossibility of a medieval artist creating an artifact that withstands examination by modern analytic techniques. On the other hand, the authenticity view has never satisfactorily explained how the image got onto the linen. Wilcox bypasses this probl;em in his eagerness to declare the Shroud authentic. He mumbles about radiation, of which he has no understanding. If the body's mass were completely converted to energy, necessary for the body to disappear entirely, the energy released would be about the same as a 1500 megaton H-bomb! There would be an immense crater in Judea andthousands dead. Physics has no plausible naturalistic theories about how the body could disappear. I conclude that the whole thing never happened, and that Mark, on whom all the other Gospels depend, was not trying to recount history, but to write a religious tract for potential converts. This does not explain the Shroud, which at this point will remain unsolved until the Church allows more testing - although I regard the probability as favoring inauthenticity - that is, the Shroud is fake.
     Wilcox does something that ruins his claim to objectivity: he discusses at length a woman who claimed to have visions of Jesus, who told her the Shroud is genuine. Wilcox takes her seriously, but a better journalist would have mentioned this screwball in one sentence at most. This book is the least valuable of those I've read. If you want a book by a believer, get Antonacci.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] “Time and the Kalam Cosmological Argument,” http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=11530 
[2] The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, pp. 183-184.

[3] Salm, Rene. The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus, American Atheist Press, 2008. 371 pages.

Book Reviews and Summaries
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