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Book Reviews, Authors Q-Z

Ray, Darrell. The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. IPC Press, 2009.
      The author makes a good point that is obvious in retrospect: religion behaves like a virus in many ways (page 23). Its actions include:
   1. Infecting people and making itself very hard to remove;
   2. Making antibodies that prevent other viruses from entering the host;
   3. Controlling cognition to the host does not realize the absurdity of what he or she believes and spreads;
   4. Making the host intolerant, favoring the mental defect called faith;
   5. Rejecting unwelcome arguments out of hand, a lie of omission;
   6. Hiding, so that the host is unaware of the infection;
   7. Spreading itself in specific ways; and, most important,
   8. Programming the host to replicate and spread the virus.
      Point 2 above explains by analogy why each religion opposes others and insists that it is the sole possessor of God’s truth. If religion is like a virus, it is proper to call it a disease. The virus is very clever in spreading itself into politics, culture, schools, courts, and other important areas. The God virus, like biological ones, makes use of “vectors,” which are the unwitting people who spread it. the vectors include preachers, priests, ministers (including liberal ones), sports coaches, some CEO’s who jam the virus into their companies (Hobby Lobby), and the thousands of Christian radio and TV stations. In addition, there are thousands of Web sites that try to shove the National Superstition down our throats.
     The exclusive and hypocritical nature of the religion is proved by quotes (page 14) from well-known Christianity pushers such as the thankfully dead Jerry Falwell, the deluded demon hunter Pat Robertson, and the divorced anti-abortion fanatic 
Terry Randall. Jesus condemned wealth and divorce but not abortion. No Jesus pushers have sold their stuff and given all the money to the poor.
     Religion viruses spread easily but fighting them is slow and chancy. It is no wonder that the Christian supertition is widespread.
     Ray lists some social effects on page 68. The vectors, in their efforts to take over the U.S. have partially succeeded, especially with the election of president D. Trump, who will do anything for votes and to justify his infantile narcissism. (Every evangelical who voted for him is a loathsome hypocrite who is interested in ;power, not Christian values.) It is almost impossible for a nonbeliever to be elected to national office, largely due to the false claim that you have to be a believer to be moral. Trump is living proof that claiming to be Christian in no way improves behavior.
    Ray goes into the sex-negative controlling nature of the virus, in which its Christian manifestation confuses sexual behavior with morality. (Chapter 5) Iin relatively rew pages, he does a good job of showing that Christian morality is not absolute, one of the major claims of theologians. Morality varies with time and place. He also explores the roots of avangelicalism, the connection between personality and religious belief, and how to battle the virus’ takeover. A valuable book.

Salm, Rene. The Myth of Nazareth, the Invented Town of Jesus. American Atheist Press, 2008, 375 pages.
       The main table of contents:
   1. The Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages
   2. The Myth of Continuous Habitation
   3. The Hellenistic Renaissance Myth
   4. The Time of Christ
   5. Gospel Legends
   6. Nazareth and Nazara
   Illustrations and Photographs
      Salm shows that the Galilean town of Nazareth did not exist at the alleged time of Jesus, but was inhabited starting in the late first century. Salm presents a huge amount of archeological evidence, going into great detail about artifacts such as ceramic oil lamps and tomb designs. In claiming the late origin of the town, Salm contradicts numerous well-known researchers, so he had to gather as much high-quality evidence as possible. Most archeologists who dug at Nazareth were Christians, who of course would eagerly seize on any evidence that would confirm their faith and show the Gospels to be accurate. The Gospels mention Nazareth 22 times, so if it its early existence were to be disproved, their truth andthe faith would be severely compromised. Salm states that no Jewish writings of the time mention the town, nor does Josephus, who lived only ten miles away.Taken together, the evidence throws serious doubt on Jesus’ supposed hometown. Also see Chapter 9 in Kenneth Humphreys' short book Jesus Never Existed.

Sentilles, Sarah. Breaking Up with God: A Love Story. Harper One, 2011.
     Sentilles presents herself as a bright but fragile and uncertain woman who obviously has had self-esteem problems from the start. Her venture into Christianity was, as she honestly admits, a way to validate herself. But that validation depended very much on what she wanted others to think of her, rather than being purely internally driven.
     Consequently, the book is stronger on personal issues (which should have been condensed) than on theological ones. Her largely emotional concept of Christianity made it clear to me, more than any other book I've read, the extreme attraction that nonnatural belief systems can have. I'm thinking of pentecostal services which are about as theological as a gangbang. Sentilles' book makes an interesting contrast with one written by Colette Livermore, a long-time "slave" of Mother Teresa. Livermore finally quit in disgust because it became obvious that "Mother" valued rules and obedience far more than relief of suffering. Livermore was clearer in her reasons to dump Christianity than Sentilles, but their aims were different. A hard-core atheist and believer in people over ideology, I found both books to be enlightening.

Schafersman, Steven D. ​A Skeptic's View of the Shroud of Turin. See the Shroud of Turin page.
The Shroud of Turin
Schwortz, Barrie M. "Welcome to the Shroud of Turin Website"
Stenger, Victor J. “Life After Death: Examining the Evidence,” Chapter 13 in Loftus' The End of Christianity
    This chapter is largely a refutation of the life after death (LAD) claims made by Dinesh D’Souza, a right-wing Catholic. Typical of his absurd statements is this: “The atheist has no better proof that there isn’t LAD than the believer has that there is.” What about the utter absence of evidence and all the facts that argue against it? D’Souza is typical of Christians who make claims that are backed by nothing. He says that absence of evidence (of LAD) is not the same as evidence for absence, but that idea does not hold when there should be ample evidence but isn’t. As an extraordinary claim it needs extraordinary proof but no evidence whatever exists for LAD. Like so much of religion, it’s wishful thinking.
    D’Souza also claims that the near-universal belief in LAD indicates that it is very likely true. Wrong; that expectation is also wishful thinking. Cultures vary immensely in what they think LAD will be like. Contrary to another of D’Souza’s assertions, this variability indicates that the notion is false. Like many superstitious fantasists, he posits near-death experiences (NDE’s) and the related out-of-body experiences (OBE’S) as additional “proof.” But no studies show that genuine OBE’s exist, and researchers have shown that NDE’s are caused by lack of oxygen or epileptic activity in the brain.
    Stenger summarizes the arguments against LAD on p. 319. They are conclusive. He also lists arguments for and against the belief (p. 329). One of the daffiest claims made by D’Souza and other dogmatists is that LAD provides a moral grounding for life before death (LBD). That is also wrong: those who expect a reward in heaven are less likely to behave morally here on earth as shown by millennia of Christian violence. The LAD reward shares much with the Christian claim that they can be forgiven no matter what evil they do here. (Popular bumper sticker: “We’re not perfect, just forgiven.”) Stenger also refutes the claim that modern physics indicates that nonmaterial causes and effects indicate that a soul or LAD might exist. D’Souza’s claims are defunct. He should go back to editing the dogmatic right-wing National Review.
    Advice to D'Souza: when you’re a married Catholic and have an illicit affair, you may not use contraceptives, and if she gets pregnant, no abortion! I doubt that he obeys the Church on these matters.
Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. 2nd Edition, Oxford, 2004.
    Something not often mentioned is that whenever anyone attributes a property to God, that limits him, making his ineffability and infinity impossible, not to mention his being "wholly other" or incomprehensible to humans. For example, If a person posits that God is omnibenevolent, the person is also saying that God is comprehensible with respect to benevolence, and is asserting the unprovable claim that there is no evil act that God could possibly do. If God is infinite in any sense of the word, claiming to understand anything about him is unjustified. There is no inductive or deductive reasoning that leads to any property of God. Swinburne lists many properties of  his God and says that God provides a “simple” answer to the properties of the universe. But a simple God cannot have many properties. (The Existence of God is a philosophical equivalent of his popular book, Does God Exist?)

Tarico, Valerie. Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, Oracle Institute Press, 2010. (Revision of The Dark Side, 2006) https://valerietarico.com/about/ 
    The table of contents is available on Amazon at the book’s home page (Look Inside), so I won’t repeat it here. Tarico mercilessly dissects evangelicalism, formerly regarded as a sect but currently the most popular variety of Christianity in the U.S. It is the greatest ideological threat to liberty and democracy, having captured the Repubican Party. A former fully committed insider, she knows it very well. Evangelicalism is like fundamentalism (but maybe less dogmatic) so I use the terms “fundagelical” and “fundie” to refer to both.
     One thing that shook her faith was the disagreements about Christian doctrine even within the cramped ideology of Wheaten College, an evangelical school. (Page 6) If these experts disagree, which one has God’s unique truth? All? None? Religion is opinion only, free of facts. Tarico lists some major questions that should, but usually don’t, bother believers. (p. 7) Christians may sneer at the Sunni-Shiite split in Islam, but do they ever consider that their favorite superstition is much more divided? (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern, Mormon, the fundie vs. liberal view, etc.; p. 11.)
        Other things that bothered her:
   1. The very human development and rather ridiculous anti-science content of the Bible (Chapter 3);
   2. The unequal status of women and the sexually unusual (Ch. 5);
   3. The absence of love and presence of intolerance among many Christians;
   4. Their profound ignorance of even their own religion (most do not know that Catholics are Christians; evangelicals would deny it);
   5. The very serious problem of why God allows pain;
   6. The obvious absence of real miracles (Ch. 10);
   7. The preoccupation of sexual “sin” to the near-exclusion of real morality (Ch. 11);
   8. The ineffectiveness of Jesus’ alleged sacrifice;
   9. The obsession with belief (which allows them to sin and be forgiven, perhaps explaining the rampant sins of so many preachers) to the near-exclusion of helping those in pain or in trouble;
  10. The lack of coherent descriptions of Heaven but the detailed picture of Hell;
  11. The illogical particularity of Jesus’ mission (preaching only to the Jews in a tiny fraction of the world) but later modified by the Great Commission;
  12. The obvious complete or near-complete failure of prayer;
  13. The changes in what are considered moral values (violating the claim that God-mandated morality is unchanging and universal);
  14. The numerous killings by God and approved by him in the Old Testament; and
  15. The persistence and effectiveness of the Christian virus.
      Tarico concludes that evangelicalism violates what she imagines are the teaching and values of an actual God. Tarico has thrown out most of Christianity but not all. As with most newly liberal believers, only unacknowledged emotional dependence is why she hangs onto any faith at all.

 Tarico, Valerie. “Why the Biblical God is Hopelessly Human,” Chapter 6 in Loftus' The End of Christianity
    Tarico shows beyond doubt that the Christian God and his predecessor, Jehovah, are simply primitive projections of the feelings of the Bible writers and the customs of their societies. God is pictured as an alpha male: powerful, fear-inducing, and intolerant of competition. We are to cravenly submit to his every wish without questioning them.
    Further, we forget to ask why an omnipotent God would need to get angry. He lacks what psychologists call emotional regulation. He already has everything he wants, including energy that results from anger; he does not need more energy. The confusion of Christianity is illustrated by the huge mismatch between the grandiose God who made the universe and the trivial God who cares about what each human does. He is the ultimate micromanager, and like almost all micromanagers, the result of his poorly aimed attention is incompetence. He cannot run a universe or probably even a taco stand.
    Another good point Tarico makes is the quality of the Bible. There is endless conflict among believers as to what should be taken literally versus metaphorically. A competent communicator knows not only how to write but knows the audience he/she is writing for. God fails this test thoroughly. The Bible is misdirected and is full of inconsistencies, errors, and ambiguities. If I were to meet “God,” I would point that out and paraphrase Bertrand Russel, saying, “God, why is the evidence for you and Jesus so terrible? Do you want people to believe in you or not?
    Tarico adds another nail to the coffin of the National Superstition.
Unwin, Stephen D. The Probability of God: A Simple Calculation That Proves Ultimate Truth. Three Rivers Press, 2009.
     This book explains Bayesian concepts clearly, but it's heavily padded with text that doesn't need to be there, and the math is explained at such a glacial pace that it's harder to understand and use than necessary. As part of the padding he includes some distracting dialogs that should have been omitted. Also there is a much more compact way to explain the math. Unwin is a theist. He finally says that he believes in God's existence with 95% confidence. Of that, the Bayesian analysis supplies 67% and "faith" fills in the 28% that he needs. This honestly admitted bias heavily influences his estimates of the various factors ("evidentiary areas") that go into the Bayesian 67%. He says he has honestly estimated those factors, but it seems obvious that he selected them so the final result would be in God's favor (since he was a theist long before doing this analysis), but not so overwhelmingly so that his bias would be blatantly obvious. The known problem with Bayes is that many fairly arbitrary guesses must be entered at various places in the calculation. One is the a priori probability of the point to be proved: in this case it’s the initial guess that God exists, which Unwin puts at 50%. God is an extraordinary claim so his initial probability should be made a much lower value. In my calculation I put it at 10%, which with my estimates of other factors, gave a final probability of God of about 1/99. Others gave much more pessimistic probabilities. Unwin’s explanations are clear but you need lots of patience to get through them, and his final result has no credibility.

Walker, Barbara G. Belief & Unbelief. Humanist Press, 2014. 175 pages.
     Walker is an atheist and committed feminist. She is well-qualified to explain the roots of Judeo-Christianity (which she does on pages 37-62 and elsewhere). Part of that explanation is exploring patriarchy, the system established by men who were and are determined to rule women. They have done so, often with disastrous results. This situation exists in all Abrahamic religions, most dictatorially in Islam. Women in countries ruled by Islamists have severely restricted rights. In the worst of those countries, Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive or even get a passport without the permission of a husband or other male relative. The Saudi rulers do not believe that women are human.
     Walker’s outrage at patriarchy is well-deserved. Her book covers topics that are not directly related to anti-woman movements, although she explores Judeo-Christianity and the Bible, impor1tant causes of patriarchy. She shows that Biblical morality is anything but moral, despite theologians’ claims that it is. In one chapter (p. 23-27) she lists about 100 immoral acts committed by Jehovah and his pitiful Israelite stooges – who are only too happy to comply with his savage orders, as it often led to their taking over land that was not theirs.
      In discussing that favorite Christian notion, the soul, she points out something not often clearly realized: putting a name on some idea does not bring it into reality. Humans have a tendency to reify anything that has a name. “Soul” is a name corresponding to nothing. She covers Gnosticism, cannibalism (Jesus insisted that his followers “eat his body and drink his blood,” obviously a carryover of primitive human sacrifice); the Islamic holocaust; religion as a major cause of war; and animals and religion.
    A section that would be funny if its subject weren’t so preposterous concerns New Ageism, which feeds off ignorance even more, if possible, than religion. But New Agers are tolerant and do not try to take over the U.S., so the New Age is better for society than Christianity.
     Two short final sections cover Women and War, and Family and the Future. Walker’s book is valuable for any disbeliever.

Walker, Barbara G. Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Castle Books, 1999. 1121 pages.
    This valuable, 1121-page book of mythology is equally applicable to men and women, but it has a greater emphasis on women, as the title indicates. These are some of the longer and more relevant entries, which are only a small fraction of what the book covers.

Birth control

Constantine I
Dark Age

Free will
Grail, Holy

Jesus Christ
Jews, persecuted

Knights Templar

Nicholas, St.
Paul, Saint

Peter, Saint
Virgin birth
The Shroud of Turin
Wilcox, Robert K. The Truth About the Shroud of Turin. See the Shroud of Turin page.
 Zuersher, Bill. Seeing through Christianity: A Critique of Beliefs and Evidence. Kindle, ​​Xlibris, 2014. 220 pages.  ​​
     Also see his video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9BEXz_c0mo
     This book refutes Christianity thoroughly, making most other books on the subject superfluous (but not my Christianity in Ruins !). Because of its value, this review is quite long.

Beliefs and Evidence (p. 13) Apologists have had 2000 years to make Christianity plausible. They have been unable to. The nature of beliefs and evidence merits rejecting it, 

God’s Love and Purposes (p. 19)
  1. “God is love” (1 John 4:8) is contradicted by the amount of suffering we see every day. What would the world be like if God was hate? Or indifferent? We do need his kind of love.
  2.  "Suffering builds character" is like saying that cars break down so we can have the character needed to fix them. That’s ridiculous.
  3. Free will, valued by God, allows us to sin and cause suffering. But much suffering results from God’s natural disasters.
  4. Humans are too stupid to grasp God’s purposes. That's a lame excuse for the religion's deficiencies, nothing more.

Adam and Eve (p. 23)
  1. If Adam and Eve were created perfect, they could not sin or disobey. Their free will would disallow sinning.
  2. If A&E did not know good from evil, so why did God put the forbidden tree in Eden? That’s entrapment.
  3. An omniscient God would already know what A&E would do so would have no reason to test them.
  4. A&E’s trivial disobedience condemns their descendants forever unless they accept Jesus. That doctrine is worse than stupid.

God’s Irrationality (p. 26-28)
  1. God changed his immutable mind and decided to kill everyone. This did absolutely no good. Sin continued as before.
  2. Christianity holds that God created the world but is not responsible for anything bad that happens. That belief is worse than silly.
  3. Original sin was created only to justify Jesus’ public execution. Original sin remains a stupid idea.

God’s Helpers (p. 30) An omnipotent God would not need helpers such as thousands of preachers, churches, books, televangelists, angels, Satan, or even Jesus and the Bible. He could just magically make everyone believe.

Atonement and Justification (p. 34-40) Zuersher considers ideas as to why God’s murder of Jesus forgives us. None makes sense:
  1. Ransom: Satan owns us so God buys us back by killing Jesus. Ridiculous.  
  2. Victory: Jesus liberates us by defeating the devil. But he’s dead! 
  3. Moral: Jesus’ death shows God’s love for us. An insane way to show love.
  4. Recapitulation: we are united in Jesus so mankind’s fall is reversed.
  5. Satisfaction: Jesus’ sacrifice is our restitution. Oh, please.
  6. Penal: The old, immoral idea of substitutional punishment.
    The author shows why all these notions are vacuous or worse. They are pitiful attempts to explain the mess that’s Christianity. God had no reason to carry out the murder of his son. And Christians call God good!

Death (p. 41-42) The existence of death argues against a benevolent creator. The dead body’s molecules dissipate, so bodily resurrection is impossible. In what form are defective bodies resurrected? Why have post-death bodies at all?

The Mind (p. 43) Consciousness is a mystery, but the mind depends completely on the brain. There is no evidence for a separate soul.

Humans in the Afterlife (p. 45-46) Humans in the afterlife lack many properties that make us human: anger, jealousy, insecurity, resentment, etc. Then what are the post-death creatures? How would “we” retain our individuality?

God’s Communication (p. 48-49) God could communicate with us supernaturally. He would not need a book. Books are used by humans to communicate with other humans. An omnipotent God could make himself completely clear and avoid the many different beliefs of Christians. Then either God is absent or ineffective.

Hiddenness and Free Will (p. 50-52) A standard Christian argument: if God’s existence were unmistakable, our free will would be compromised. Wrong. If we were certain, almost all acts and decisions would still be under our control. God’s hiddenness prevents many sincere seekers from believing in him or makes them believe in other gods.

Where do we Get Faith? (p. 53) Christians cannot claim true faith when almost all of them accept the faith of their parents or their society. Faith is a cultural meme, not truth. Faith is voluntary stupidity. It is a flaw, not a virtue.

Pascal’s Wager (p. 56-57) It is better to believe in God than not, because if you don’t believe but he does exist, you will fry forever, but if he does not exist, you’re no worse off than a nonbeliever. That is a butt-saving vacuity: one cannot will one’s belief, and what if you believe in the wrong god?

Salvation Through Belief (p. 55, 59-61) The Christian claim that getting to heaven requires only belief in Jesus is repugnant because it trivializes conduct, the only real test of morality. Why did God let almost all of the world be ignorant of Jesus, therefore condemned to hellfire? Calling this immoral is like calling Mt. Everest a hill. And if salvation depends on one’s behavior, Jesus is superfluous.

Christianity is Based on Sadism, not Love (p. 64, 68) Christianity modified the Zoroastrian concept of Hell and turned it into eternal punishment, which is immoral  for a finite lifetime of sins. Given that and God’s torture and killing of his “son,” Christianity is a very sadistic religion. The claim that “God is love” is silly. Christians thank God for saving them, but from the eternal hellfire that he created is like thanking an arsonist for snuffing his own fire.

The Trinity (p. 68) All explanations of the Trinity are silly. If God is omniscient and omnipotent, there is no need for Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The three-phase ice-water-steam analogy fails because H2O can be in only one state at any time but the pieces of the Trinity coexist at all times. Can the three parts disagree? If so, chaos would reign. If not, there is no need for two of the parts. The Trinity is a stupid attempt to have both monotheism and a form of polytheism. It is incoherent at its core.

The Mystery of God (p. 69) The excuse that God is a mystery so we should not expect to understand his ways is a lie, because theologians claim to know a lot about him, They invoke God’s mysterious ways only when they cannot explain something.

Other Religions (p. 71) Christians reject religions that are less preposterous than their own; they are plainly addicted to Jesusism.

Is Jesus: Fallible? (p. 72) Jesus the human was fallible but Jesus as God was not. That’s a contradiction.

Heresies (p. 73-75) An early belief was Gnosticism, which held that mystical knowledge is the secret to becoming divine. It rejected the physical Jesus and his resurrection and disdained the Church’s authority. It was declared a heresy even though Jesus himself advocated some of its doctrines. Other early heresies included Monophysitism and Arianism . In religions based on no information, heresies abound and cannot be disproved. Or proved.

Mary, Mother of God? (p. 76) The Catholic Church made up several daffy non-biblical doctrines about Mary, Jesus’ mother. She was conceived without the sex act and physically ascended to heaven. These silly notions were invented by mortals, not God. The Church thus rejected reasonableness and divine inspiration.

Personally Knowing God (p. 79)
    Alleged inspirational experiences prove nothing. “Personal knowledge” of God occurs in many faiths. The God people sense is the God they already believe in. The visions are delusions or hallucinations. They are a useful tool because an alleged subjective experience cannot be argued with.

God is not Moral (p. 82-83) The Judeo-Christian god is no example of good morality. In the OT he mandates the death penalty for acts that are not crimes, e.g. being a non-virgin bride. In the NT he insists that all who disbelieve in Jesus are sent to God’s Great Griddle, where the flames never go out. But “God is good!” The Ten Commandments, stupidly esteemed by literalists, are largely about religious observance, not morals. Christianity advocates the Golden Rule, but it long predates Jesusism - which faith offers little new about morality. God approves of slavery, ordering them to obey even harsh masters. The Bible was (correctly) used by the U.S. confederacy to excuse slave owning.

Christian Behavior (p. 84) Evil behavior of Christians is excused by the notion that all will be righted in the afterlife. Then the more religious  a person is, the more likely it is that they will behave badly. Any degree of evil can be forgiven, even Hitler’s, if he accepted Jesus before killing himself.

Christian Morality (p. 87-88) Bible believers get their morality from the verses they decide to obey. Their morals are largely the same as those of skeptics. The Bible contributes nothing. “True morality is conduct that aims to reduce suffering or increase well-being. It comes from empathy and the reasoning process.” But there is “divine command morality,” which holds that whatever God commands is moral by definition. W.L. Craig accepts this, so if he heard God telling him to kill his wife, he would do it. The reply that God would never do that is just stupid. True morality comes from the person, not from an obsolete book.  Belief in a god can encourage believers to commit atrocities; examples are Job and Abraham. Good people do not need a god to behave morally.

Christian Hypocrisy (p. 90) Christians reject biblical teachings in favor of secular values: gathering wealth, prohibition of divorce, etc. 

Christianity and Jews (p. 93) The Holocaust was the climax of Christian attitudes toward Jews. Hitler said that killing Jews was doing the Lord’s work.

God and Humans (p.94-95) Why did God create humans? To flatter him is senseless. Why would a perfect God need an ego-boost? In fact, why would a perfect God create anything unless it was also perfect? The created universe obviously is not. An omniscient God would know that most of his creations are doomed to eternal torture. Why would a god do that unless he loved suffering? 

The Meaning of Life (p. 96) Craig and other dogmatists say that our short lives are meaningless without God. If so, why would extending those lives give them meaning? That's incoherent. We make our own meaning by loving, creating, and doing good.

The Church and its Doctrines (p. 99-100) Jesus was not a competent teacher. Arguments over authority and interpretation caused the religion to divide irrevocably. With no objective standard, disagreement is guaranteed.

Saved by Faith or Works? (p. 101) There is confusion on how to be saved. James said works and Paul said faith. But the Bible mentions at least 12 ways, all necessary and sufficient. That is logically impossible. (Jesus said you have to sell everything and give the money to the poor. Probably less than 1% of believers do that.

Disagreement on Getting to Heaven (p. 104) Catholics believe that you have to be purified in Purgatory before entering the presence of God, rather like showering before entering a swimming pool. Protestants think the dead go directly to heaven or hell. How could confusion exist about such a fundamental issue?

Prayer (p. 105-107) If you pray, you can get and do anything. That fails all real tests and implies that you can get God to do things against his will. The statement that “your (God’s) will be done” (Matthew 6:9) is unnecessary because God’s will is always done. The seeming effectiveness of some prayers is an unprovable delusion. Prayers have failed all controlled tests. Confident believers should welcome any fair test of prayer, but they say you can’t test God. (Matthew 4:7) That’s an obvious excuse for a failed claim.

Miracles (p. 109-111) Jesus’ "miracles" are not seen today. They were all temporary and small-scale, things that a stage magician can do. Witnesses were undoubtedly committing confirmation bias and defective observation, but more likely, the Gospel writers just made up the miracle claims, like they made up other stories about Jesus – for example the phenomena that happened when he died. There is no reason to accept Christian miracles while rejecting those of other faiths, such as Mohammed splitting the moon

Prophecies (p.115-118) An omnipotent god would not prophesy through one person, where distortion and misinterpretation would be likely. The god could easily transfer its lessons simultaneously to everyone. But the Christian god or his followers, none too bright, claimed that only Jesus carried the messages. The prophecy claims were due to careful selection of only verses that seemed to fit. The interpretations were totally inappropriate, for example mistaking a prayer for a prophecy. To make that mistake you have to be either dishonest or over-credulous. Also, the NT writers often made their verses match ones in the OT. Many prophecies failed, such as the coming of world peace, universal awareness of one true god, the return of all Jews to Palestine, etc. Unlike many of the other “prophecies,” these are quite specific, thus easily refuted.

The Return of Jesus (p.120-122) Jesus, in his apocalyptic prophet role, repeatedly said that he would be back in a few decades or sooner, with signs in the heavens. No one has seen him for 2000 years, but Christian dupes are still waiting. Many specific dates have been proposed and all have failed. By the time that John wrote,, perhaps 100 CE, it was obvious that Jesus’ prophecy was wrong, so John just excluded it. Jesus was wrong, period.


Divine Births (p.127-130) In the ancient eastern Mediterranean, it was common to believe in demigods that were the offspring of a god and a mortal: Minos, Gilgamesh, Achilles, Aeneas, others. Jesus was just another example of the hero archetype. Why believe in only Jesus? His birthday is not given in the Bible; later authorities placed it on the winter solstice, which ties in with sun worship. The sun seems to be reborn on that day.

Resurrection (p. 131-135) Restoration to life of a god was another common element in ancient middle-east religions. Judaism had elements of the idea and Christianity adopted it with changes. In the whole Jesus tale there is almost nothing that is truly original; some early church fathers actually admitted it and blamed it on Satan. If God created Christianity, why did he let it be so similar to other myths? Maybe he wanted to discourage belief.

Saul/Paul (p. 136-139) He was the main founder of Christianity but not its central figure, much like Mohammed representing Allah. Paul claimed to have encountered the risen Christ, but he never met the living Jesus, and says almost nothing about his mortal life, probably not believing in it. Paul never quotes him, although if he had it would have strengthened his claims among contemporary skeptics and competitors. He may have received oral reports about Jesus, but he never cites sources. 

The Gospels (p. 144-147) The Gospels fail as proper biographies of Jesus because:
  1. They are all anonymous;
  2. They were hearsay, written decades after Jesus died;
  3. The authors never claim to have met Jesus;
  4. They have irreconcilable disagreements;
  5. Jesus’ supposed sayings are often inscrutable;
  6. Matthew, Luke, and John are dramatizations of Mark, the earliest; and
  7. The miracles and prophecies they contain have fatal difficulties.
     Many experts claim that the Gospels were not intended to describe the life of a living person, but were recruitment texts, rather like the flyers left on car windshields. All “information” about Jesus comes from the Gospels; there are no secular reports of him, despite his claimed fame.

The Canon (p. 151-158) The New Testament (NT) was assembled over centuries after infighting and arguments. Various books were included and then excluded. If God guided the process, why did he make it look like an accident. The NT appears to have been selected and edited like any other human-made book. That, and incompetent editing, accounts nicely for its contradictions, forgeries, ambiguities, and other errors. God, unless he’s an idiot, would be expected to produce something far more clear and correct. The claim (2 Timothy 3:16) that scripture comes from God is circular and useless. (I could claim that the text you are reading comes from God.  But I won’t.)  Of the 27 NT books, only eight have identified authors.
The NT, and the entire Bible, indicates that the omnipotent God needs a book to communicate with humans, but there are other, better methods. Why doesn’t he just tell us directly by a miracle?  
Book Reviews and Summaries