First off, I'd like to apologize for my lack of activity for the last few days. Eli, mojoe, and I are currently working on a project called Chariots of Iron, an atheihumaskeptic (a word mojoe made up) podcast for freethinkers. In case you're wondering; yes, we are well aware of the abundance of atheist/skeptic podcasts on the internet and we've decided, with conviction, to add to the noise pollution anyway.

Now to the real point of this post: I need your opinions and input.

I would like to encourage group participation and foster a friendly, interactive learning environment. We have some really smart people in this group and I think that having some fun topics to discuss will produce some truly enlightening conversation.

As I mention in the group description, we're not going to concern ourselves with picking out minor contradictions (Did Solomon have 4,000 horses or 40,000?) or scientific errors (Pi equals 3? WTF?). While these errors are valid for any argument against scriptural inerrancy, they're really not that fun to talk about. Instead, I would like for us to explore much larger issues with scripture. So, I'm going to suggest some topics. These topics cover a lot of ground and each topic may span multiple threads in a series. Don't let that intimidate you; it'll be more fun than you think. Holy books may be nonsense, but I'll be damned if they're not interesting nonsense.

Here are the topics I recommend. I'd like for everyone to pick one for us to start with and express your opinion in a reply in this thread. On Monday we'll go with the topic that was most popular. If you're favorite topic wasn't chosen, don't worry. If you're involved in the discussion you'll still have a blast.

Topic 1: Disharmony of the Gospels
When I was growing up, I remember seeing a chart in the back of my bible called "The Harmony of the Gospels." The purpose of this chart was to demonstrate the reliability of those texts by showing how well they agree with each other. Well, as it turns out, they don't—at least not to the extent the apologists would have you believe. It can be demonstrated that the gospels contain mutually incompatible biographies, and the problems run much deeper than the contradicting genealogies of Matthew and Luke (which I assume you already know about).

Topic 2: There's a Boat in Them Thar Hills! Biblical Archeology
Is the archaeological evidence for the validity of the Bible really the slam dunk that apologists make it out to be? Who's providing all of this so-called evidence anyway? Are these real archaeologists or just Indiana Jones styled adventurers searching for lost arks, holy grails, and broken tablets. What does the archaeological evidence really suggest?

Topic 3: The End is Nigh! Christian Eschatology
Have you ever read the Book of Revelation? If so, did it feel like you were reading graffiti on the walls of a padded cell in an insane asylum? You're not alone. Nobody does "doomsday" better than the Christians, and no other religion I know of has as many conflicting hypotheses about the end times. Do biblical prophecies really describe our modern world? Was the establishment of the modern state of Israel really predicted? What about the Palestinian conflict, Islam, or the Western powers supporting the Jewish state? This is an enormous topic that will span a lot biblical text and denominational divides.

Topic 4: The Second First Coming! Jewish Eschatology
Since Jews aren't evangelical (G-d bless 'em), most people aren't aware that they too have their own Judgment Day beliefs. As one may suspect, they share a lot of prophecies with the Christians, excluding the New Testament. There's no Apocalypse, no mark of the beast, and no second coming of Christ. So, what do they believe? Are Jews still waiting for their Messiah? If so, what does the Tanakh and the Talmud really say about him? Do all Jews even agree on the issue, or are they divided like the Christians?

Topic 5: The Other Apocalypse: Islamic Eschatology
On careful observation of the current state of Islam, one would think Muslims were tired of waiting for Allah to bring an end to the world and have taken that task upon themselves. Appearances can be deceiving. They too have their own doomsday prophecies, and lucky for us, they're no less insane that anyone else's. Allah has no sons, but Jesus (Isa) is the Messiah, and according to many Shi'a theologians, there will be a second coming. What do the Sunni say? Are they just as nuts?

In closing:
If there's a topic that I haven't mentioned that you're more interested in, feel free to mention it. I'm all ears.

-- Lamar

Views: 35

Replies to This Discussion

I think that the order you laid them out in would actually work out pretty well. My $0.02.

That being said, I really am hoping this takes off. I love learning about history and scriptural criticism, but I am not so well versed as to make many statements of my own on the subject without some collaboration and dialogue going on.

I actually have a question that arose in a conversation I had with a friend of mine that I will make a post about later.
I know that you're not online right now (for obvious reasons) but if your question has anything to do with the Aramaic NT (as we discussed on the phone), be sure and post it in a new thread. That could be a fun topic to go over.
I would love to discuss the writings of eastern religions at some point. I just don't know enough about them to get the ball rolling. If you have studied any of these texts and would like to lead a discussion, that would be great. I'll happily participate.
I've got a Tao te Ching and I think I've got some other Eastern Texts, I'll search my library.
I have a problem with some handling of the Gospels by freethinkers. It's one thing to show that fundies are wrong, but it's another thing to assume that the first Christians were fundies or writing with fundies in mind.

Consider that "Harmony of the Gospels" Lamar mentioned. That was in the back of his childhood Bible. It's one thing to find mistakes in that but another to argue that that "harmony" was asserted by the *writers* of the NT.

I agree. Let me assure you that my bias ends with my atheism. I do not believe the religious claims made by the gospels, and even that can be changed with sufficient evidence. Our examination of the gospels will be exploratory and any conclusions we may reach (a lofty goal indeed) will be influenced by evidence; not agenda.

As I have said before—and it will probably be repeated often—I'm not interested in nitpicking the text by pointing out contradictions. Of course the Bible has contradictions, and those contradictions are valid when arguing against inerrancy, but giving them any serious treatment in this group would seem a bit petty and could only result in some terribly uninteresting conversation.
Disharmony of the gospels is an interesting enough topic... but as far as whether or not you are nitpicking depends really on whether or not you are a believer. I've followed some of Lamar's other threads that seem quite valid to me as a devout non believer (like who was Jesus' first disciple), but the apologist would argue that each gospel is simply filling in parts the other gospels left out(I think I heard somebody call this God of the gaps theology). This seems like a specious argument to me... but they will whip it out with a straight face every time. So obviously to the true believers this is all nitpicking.
So my question, as a complete non expert, is how do we(or more to the point y'all) objectively define the difference between pointing out major contradictions and nitpicking?
Bubba said: So my question, as a complete non expert, is how do we(or more to the point y'all) objectively define the difference between pointing out major contradictions and nitpicking?

Contradictions and errancy in the text will be discussed; it's almost impossible to avoid it. When I say "nitpicking," I'm really talking about taking two or more verses out of the text, showing that they contradict each other, and then leaving it at that. A good example, and one that you'll see on the web a lot, is the number of stalls for Solomon's horses. According to 1st Kings 4:26, there were forty-thousand stalls, but 2nd Chronicles 9:25 says there were only four-thousand. Even the most conservative apologists admit that the larger figure must be a copyist's error, pointing out that we don't have the original manuscripts and it is the originals that are truly inerrant. As far as they're concerned, the conversation is settled, and as far as I'm concerned, the conversation is uninteresting. So, why even have it?

Everett Marx has also expressed some valid concerns when it comes to our treatment of the Gospels. He rightly points out that we should not assume that modern Christianity is in any way a reflection of its roots in Late Antiquity. For example, modern fundamentalist Christians are overly concerned with defending the inerrancy and historical accuracy of the New Testament, but the early believers seem far more interested in the esoteric mysteries in their scripture rather than how factual it is.

Now, all that being said, the gloves come off in debate. In an argument with a modern Christian that insists that her faith is a reflection of the early church, then feel free to allow that assumption for the sake of argument. Your opponent is only bating herself. The same is true for arguing against a KJV Only literalist. The contradiction regarding Solomon's stables knocks that house of cards right off its pedestal.
I think this is the place Lamar is starting from. For although it may be enough *in an argument with an inerrantist who claims that every historical claim in the Bible is true in its literal sense* to point out a contradiction, atheists *as atheists* ASSUME books are fallible. We don't throw out Herodotus and Thucydides because they made up some speeches and made bad estimates about the size of armies in a particular battle. We sift the more reliable from the less so, all the time realizing we may have put something into one pile that will someday be shown to have belonged in another.

Exactly! I think that the best mindset to have when dealing with scripture is to remain skeptical AND open-minded. It would be falicious to begin with an assumption that nothing in a religious text is reliable simply because it is a religious text.
Excellent, I was really just looking for a sort of guide line between argument and 'nitpicking', and I feel like I have a pretty good idea of the line now.


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