Justin Martyr’s Diabolic Mimicry argument – Condensed:

I have previously written many, many words on the subject of Justin Martyr’s diabolical mimicry argument. In recognition that my two previous articles on the topic[i] were very, very long (and hence likely to end up in the “Too long – didn’t read” basket for many people), I thought perhaps it would be helpful for me to put up a short, condensed, point-form article on the topic, minus all the polemic back-and-forth that I did with Albert McIlhenny.

I spent quite some time researching for those articles and I believe I can do a good job of summarizing all the information that anyone should need to know on the topic. Hopefully this article will be more useful (and far more readable than the other two). I will concede that it is a common amateur mistake to make articles (and even books) way too long, and hence unreadable. I have certainly been guilty of this through the learning process.

So, let’s get into it:

–           In all three of his (undisputed) surviving works, Justin makes use of an argument in which he claims that the devil attempted to imitate Christ in advance, by reading into prophecies of the coming of Christ as (Christians believe) are found in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament).

–           Critics of Christianity (particularly mythicists) have cited Justin as showing that early Christians were well aware of the similarities between Jesus and pagan gods, that they were being accused (by pagans and Jews) of copying from pagan gods, and that they had to resort to a ridiculous argument in attempting to respond. Some have gone as far as to quote Justin as saying that Christianity and paganism were in fact the same.

–           Some Christian apologists have accused mythicists of misquoting Justin on this issue. Such claims are true in some cases, but not in others. That is, critics of Christianity have at times misquoted or misunderstood Justin. However, there are legitimate ways for mythicists to quote Justin in ways that are certainly embarrassing for orthodox Christianity.

–           Justin Martyr did not say that Christianity was the same as paganism. In fact he explicitly argued that Christianity was completely different from paganism. He argued that Christianity was the one true religion, and that paganism was simply the worship of demons, and was hence completely opposite to Christianity.

–           Justin Martyr did however concede that Christians and pagans believed many of the same things about their gods.

Now this is the important bit, which shows where Christian apologists have been trying to twist the data to support their contentions:

–           In his two Apologies to the Greeks, Justin used the diabolical mimicry argument to attempt to persuade the Romans to cease persecuting Christians. Justin was seeking to justify Christian refusals to worship the pagan gods (and the Emperor) and to explain to the Romans that Christians didn’t merely worship a mere mortal man, a criminal that was crucified. Rather, Justin was attempting to explain to the Romans that Christians believed that Jesus was God Himself, incarnate in the flesh.

–           Christian apologists hence argue that Justin was not responding to accusations against Christians that they had copied from pagan gods. Rather, apologists argue that Justin was actually the one trying to convince the Romans of similarities between Jesus and Greek and Roman gods (in order to persuade them to stop persecuting Christians), and that the Romans did not (or had not) seen such similarities themselves.

–           Furthermore, Christian apologists point out that many of the parallels that Justin drew were actually quite strained, as if he was trying to make a point that wasn’t actually there. Hence, some apologists may concede that it wasn’t a very good argument by Justin, but not for the same reasons as mythicists claim.

–           Hence, Christian apologists argue that mythicists have been misquoting Justin in trying to present his use of the diabolical mimicry argument to support the mythicist case for parallels between Jesus and pagan gods.

Now, the above is the standard, textbook Christian response to this issue, and if you were to rely only on Christian sources this is likely to be all you would hear about it. The problem for orthodox Christianity is that this isn’t a complete and accurate portrayal of the relevant facts.

–           In fact Justin Martyr also made use of his diabolical mimicry argument in his Dialogue with Trypho. In this case Justin uses the argument to attempt to counter the accusation that Christians had copied the virgin birth motif from the Greek god Perseus.

Now, as far as I am aware, most scholars believe that Justin wrote his Dialogue with Trypho after writing his apologies to the Greeks. Some apologists might therefore attempt to save the situation by arguing that Justin was therefore adapting an argument that he had originally composed in his Apologies to the purpose of countering the accusations of Trypho. The problem with this is that Justin himself (at the beginning of the Dialogue with Trypho) claims that the conversation between himself and Trypho actually took place shortly after his conversion to Christianity (and thus, before he wrote his Apologies).

Now, it is indeed true that many scholars believe that the Dialogue is merely a literary device for his apologetic work against Judaism (that is, either the conversation between himself and Trypho never took place, or it was largely embellished for the sake of the apologetic work). Nevertheless, we have Justin’s word that he first used the diabolical mimicry argument against Trypho, in attempting to counter the accusation that Christians had plagiarised a pagan god.

It is perhaps then up for debate as to whether mythicists should only quote from the Dialogue in seeking to cite Justin’s diabolical mimicry argument for their case, or whether it is justified to also quote from the Apologies, as Justin’s use of the argument there is put into context by its use in the Dialogue? I personally would argue that the actual content of the relevant passages in his Apologies shows that Justin was there also seeking to counter accusations of plagiarism, as Justin states that the aim of Satan’s mimicry was to attempt to convince people that the things said about Christ “were mere marvellous tales, like those told by the poets”[ii]. Either way, the point is made. Mythicists can indeed cite Justin as showing that Christians were indeed accused of plagiarism by Jews (and later by pagans, as we will see shortly), and Justin did indeed resort to a ridiculous argument in his attempt to counter the accusation.

So, this in itself should settle the score, once and for all. There are however a few more minor details to be aware of.

–           Now, we don’t really know what pagans (Romans, Greeks etc.) thought of Christians or their stories about Jesus back in the time of Justin and earlier. That is, not much at all (if anything) really survives. There are of course the brief (and somewhat controversial) references as found in Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger, but these are just really references to Christians, with only brief mention of a Jesus who was said to have been crucified in Judea under Pilate. There are no surviving records of pagan responses to Christian claims about the virgin birth, miracles or resurrection and ascension of Christ from the time of Justin or earlier.

There is however the case of the pagan philosopher Celsus and his work “The True Word” (or “True Doctrine”), written approx. 180CE. No copies of this work survive, however we do have access to significant portions of it thanks to the response of Origen approx. 250CE. From what we read in Origen, it seems that Celsus did indeed accuse Christians of plagiarising from pagan gods.

It is here disputable as to whether or not this is valid evidence in supporting the case for pagan parallels, as a very plausible case has been made that Celsus was himself familiar with the work of Justin. Hence, Celsus may have encountered the argument via Justin, in which case he would not be an independent source, but would rather simply be dependent upon what we have already encountered. Nevertheless, this is not concrete, we do not know for certain whether or not Celsus was familiar with Justin’s works and arguments. Likewise, whether or not Celsus had encountered the idea of pagan parallels from Justin, he still clearly found it agreeable, as he considered the evidence to be there.

Hence, I am of the opinion that Celsus is worth quoting on this subject, but that we should not attempt to draw any concrete conclusions from his work. However, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho very clearly makes the case for mythicists to both point out that Christians were indeed accused of plagiarism by Jews, and that Justin did indeed resort to a ridiculous argument in his attempt to respond.

–           Regarding the actual parallels claimed by Trypho and the parallels presented by Justin in his Apologies, there are distinct differences in the stronger and weaker examples. It is indeed true that amongst the parallels that Justin drew, some of them were really quite a stretch. However the fact remains that some of the parallels were quite clear, such as in the case of Dionysus. Likewise, the example of Perseus (as given by Trypho) is likewise quite clear.

I would argue that the strained parallels are all generally found when Justin is trying to connect prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures to pagan gods. Hence, this doesn’t weaken the case for parallels between Jesus and pagan gods, but rather simply shows the strained lengths that Justin went to in order to try and counter the fact that the pagan parallels were older than the story of Jesus.

–           Regarding the actual diabolical mimicry argument itself, by its very nature it concedes that the pagan examples in the parallels are older. Likewise, it naturally recognises that the obvious conclusion one would draw from this is that it was Christians who had copied pagans, and not the other way around. Hence, it attempts to reverse the natural implication by arguing that Satan had attempted to imitate Christ in advance, by copying from prophetic passages in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Justin’s very words recognise that the natural implications of parallels between Christ and pagan gods would be that people would naturally think that the things said about Christ weren’t literarily true. Hence, Justin’s convoluted argument about the pagan gods being precognitive imitations was a desperate attempt to avoid the obvious conclusion that Christians had indeed plagiarised from pagan gods, and that at least some of the things (if not all) said about Christ were made up.

–           Whilst Christian apologists will not go out of their way to tell you about Justin’s use of the diabolical mimicry argument in his Dialogue (and the text which states that this was prior to his Apologies), they still will not accept that this shows that Justin originally conceived the argument in self-defence. I have attempted to engage two Christian apologists in discussion about this previously (J.P. Holding and Albert McIlhenny), and both have attempted to dismiss the passages from Justin’s Dialogue and only make use of the Apologies. Holding responded by stating that I don’t understand Jewish exegesis, whilst McIlhenny argued that Jews naturally created a dichotomy between Jewish and pagan religion (and mythology), and hence as they didn’t consider Christianity to be Jewish, they naturally argued that it was pagan.

Obviously McIlhenny’s point about Jews creating a dichotomy between Jewish and pagan religion is true, and other exclusive faiths (such as orthodox Christianity or Islam) do it too. McIlhenny was however trying to argue that without this exclusive dichotomy, Jews would not have accused Christians of plagiarising pagans. McIlhenny was therefore arguing that the parallels weren’t actually there, but that Trypho (or the Jews being represented by Trypho) had strained in making this argument to match their bias. On this matter McIlhenny was himself straining, in trying to get vital evidence that rebuts his case thrown out on a technicality. Christian apologists are quite fond of the courtroom analogy, and I think it is quite fitting in this case. Christian apologists have attempted here to get damning evidence against their client thrown out of court, after the judge and jury have already seen the evidence. The fact is that we can’t un-see it.

We can speculate about whether or not the Jewish critics in Justin’s time were driven by some particular motivation to argue that Christians had plagiarised from pagans, but the fact remains that Justin attests that they did make the argument, one way or another. Hence, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho absolutely refutes the Christian apologetic case and absolutely makes the critical, mythicist case on this matter. Case closed!

Obviously Christian apologists have lots of other arguments about pagan parallels, that there are no actual sources for the claims of pagan gods being resurrected (false), that there is no evidence that Jews/Christians in Judea had heard of any pagan dying and rising gods (false), that pagans actually copied Christians (false – and everything in this article adds towards that), that the differences outweigh the similarities and hence any apparent similarities are merely superficial (false) etc., all of which I have dealt with before[iii], as have many others.

And that my friends should be all you need to know specifically on this topic. The evidence is clear; the question is simply whether you are open to accepting it.

Peace

[i] See the following for my original piece on the topic: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/ , and the following for my response to Albert McIlhenny (who had responded to the above piece with a series of short articles): https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/diabolical-mimicry-part-2-response-to-alberts-mcllhenny-back-in-the-ring/.

[ii] Justin Martyr, 1st Apology to the Greeks, Chapter 54.

[iii] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-pagan-parallel-thesis-and-why-practically-every-single-major-objection-to-it-is-false/.

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Four reasons why orthodox Christianity cannot possibly be true:

Many people have written short articles under the title of “Why I am not a Christian”, and effectively this is like my own version. However, this is not so much about my own personal journey away from Christianity, but rather a short, condensed, point form summary of a few good reasons why orthodox Christianity cannot possibly be true.

Please note here that I am referring to orthodox (with a lower case ‘o’) Christianity as a whole (rather than Orthodox with a capital ‘O’), and hence am referring to all orthodox sects and denominations (i.e. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Church’s, Anglicans, Protestants etc.). Also, obviously I recognise that (to their credit) there are many Christians today (and also in the past) who have attempted to reform Christianity, throwing out the chaff and keeping the wheat, throwing out the bathwater but keeping the baby. Obviously, I commend liberal Christians for this, and this article is not aimed towards them. Any criticisms I have of liberal Christianity are of a much milder nature, but this article is not about that.

In this article I will not be looking at anything I think is worthy of debate, or which cannot be easily and quickly validated by anyone wishing to do a quick fact-check. Rather, I am just going to lay out a few really obvious issues, which naturally preclude Christianity from being true. In other places I have gone into significant detail about many of these points. This article is intended to be a quick summary on the topic.

1)        The doctrine of eternal damnation is completely unjust, illogical and just plain vile.

There are clearly better options for divine justice and love to be balanced for those of us that believe that spirituality is objectively real. If eternal damnation were true it would make God a demonic monster, which is of course self-refuting. By comparison Perennialism states that all beings are naturally welcomed into the astral heavens after death regardless of their deeds, though some might reject the light (or be unaware of it) for a period of time. There are still however rewards for those who live a life of love and service, and there are ways for justice and reparation to be served without requiring infinite and eternal torture.

Christian apologists of course have their responses and defences of the orthodox Christian doctrine, which may lead many believers to think that it is philosophically sound. However, upon closer examination they all fall apart. You do not need a degree in philosophy or theology to understand that eternal damnation cannot possibly be true. To their credit, many Christians have rejected the doctrine in favour of universalism. Such Christians are by definition liberal Christians (as what has been known as orthodox Christianity from very early times has always believed in eternal damnation[i]), and hence this article isn’t aimed towards refuting their doctrines.

To anybody interested in going further, please read for yourself the defences given by Christian apologists and philosophers such as William Lane Craig on this topic[ii]. They may seem deeply intellectual at face value, but the actual content is so explicitly flawed. Many Christian apologists have argued that God is merely being compassionate in giving people what they want (hell), despite it paining Him. Yet of course, nobody rejects Christianity with the specific intent on wanting to go to hell and suffer infinite, eternal torture (ok, perhaps with the exception of Glen Benton…). Most people reject Christianity because they do not believe it is true.

A good, loving God would not, could not, allow one individual person to suffer for eternity (let alone billions). Any being that would not feel compassion and want to offer assistance to the extent of their capacity is not worthy of being termed good. Any being unable to save someone from eternal torment is unworthy of the term God. It really is that simple (though I have written far more on in my upcoming book).

2)        The Hebrew Bible (which Christians take as their Old Testament) suffers from massive, continuous moral failings, which clearly indicate that it could not possibly have been inspired (or authored) by God.

The Hebrew Bible openly condones and mandates slavery, genocide and mass murder (including indiscriminate murder of civilian women and children), the death penalty for all manner of trivial things (many of which are not actually crimes at all), contains mixed opinions towards human sacrifice (some positive, some negative), presents women as the property of men etc.

Hence, the Hebrew Bible is largely par for the course from the ancient Near East (ANE for short), laying down cultural and religious norms from the time and place in which it was composed. The Hebrew religion was simply an evolution on the standard Canaanite religion, rather than a complete separation from it. Giving divine status to this text literally keeps the injustices of the past alive, giving fanatically minded individuals divine inspiration and validation for their bigotry and hatred. Considering this text (or collection of texts) to be sacred is holding us captive to ancient superstitions and barbarity. It is time to let it go and face the true nature of the Biblical text.

It is not simply the case that perhaps the Hebrews did these things and then attributed the inspiration to God. If this were the case then the Hebrew Bible could not be the word of God, for the text itself repeatedly states that Yahweh told the Hebrews to do these things, that Yahweh gave the Hebrews these laws etc. Christian apologists have many arguments in defence of the Biblical text. Again, they all fall apart under closer examination. And don’t just take my word for it, examine the two contrary cases side by side; please read Thom Stark[iii] vs. Paul Copan[iv] and see who is telling the truth. I have written a number of articles on this before[v], as have many others, so please, if you have an interest in the topic, please check it for yourself.

3)        Many of the tales of the Hebrew Bible are historically impossibly, as they are incompatible with archaeological and historical records. Likewise, some of the mythology of the Hebrew Bible is clearly borrowed (or at least derived in part) from older mythology.

Now, both of these aren’t really an issue for liberal Christians at all, as they generally are quite happy to accept these things. However, orthodox Christianity needs a fairly literal and historical reading of the Hebrew Bible. It is indeed true that throughout its history major Christian thinkers have expressed support for an allegorical reading of Scripture. However, this does not mean that they ever accepted that the tales of the Hebrew Bible were mere myth. Rather, it gave Christian authors license to “find” prophecies of the coming of Christ (amongst others) in whatever text they liked (thought it is also true that the actual narrative of Christ was in part written from the Hebrew Bible), and sidestep any passages that they were uncomfortable with. The fact remains that an acceptance of the Hebrew Bible as being largely mythological, and acceptance that some degree of syncretism (cultural borrowing) took place doesn’t cut it for orthodox Christianity.

Again, the actual evidence of this is so clear and undeniable, though again, Christian apologists and scholars attempt to avoid this conclusion. The consensus view amongst historians is that the Exodus from Egypt and subsequent conquest of Canaan as told in the Bible never happened. Now, I may often go against consensus views, so I’m not simply resting my case upon this. However, please, if you are not already familiar with the reasons for this, please investigate yourself[vi]. Any debate amongst historians is simply as to when the Bible starts to coincide with actual history, and to what degree. Historians however are not arguing over whether the Hebrew Bible is historically accurate as a whole.

Regarding the second part of my initial statement, the fact that some of the Hebrew Bible’s mythology is borrowed from other cultures is likewise not a controversial idea, outside of orthodox Christianity. The story of Noah’s ark is clearly derived from the Mesopotamian flood myth[vii], which is much older. Of the causal relationship there should be no doubt, though of course a number of conservative Christian apologists have attempted to either deny the similarities, or argue that the Mesopotamian versions are evidence that the story of Noah is actually true (and they attempt to argue that the story of Noah is older, against all evidence to the contrary).

Probably the clearest example of borrowed mythology in the Hebrew Bible (that I am aware of) is the case of Proverbs 22:17-24. The text in question is practically a verbatim copy of a section of an Egyptian text called “The instructions of Amenemope”[viii]. All evidence supports the priority of the Egyptian text, hence it is almost certain that the Biblical author has completely plagiarised the Egyptian text. This is very controversial for orthodox Christianity, which insists that Biblical Judaism (and Christianity) are exclusive and distinct from other religions.

Aside from this there is also the parallel between the story of the birth of Moses and the birth of Sargon[ix] (noting again the evidence which shows that the Akkadian story is older), or the story of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta[x], which has major similarities to the story in Genesis 11:1-9 of the Tower of Babel. There are other parallels which others have put forth which aren’t as clear to my eye, and hence aren’t worth putting forth here today (though they are worthy of in-depth study by those that wish to go into the topic at depth).

Anyways, the point is that the Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament) cannot be taken to be historically accurate, and it clearly reveals that the ancient Hebrews did indeed borrow ideas from other nations. Christian apologists of course have their objections, and again, please read for yourself and compare side-by-side.

4)        The New Testament is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions, historical impossibilities and mythology. Hence, Jesus Christ could not possibly have existed in the form that orthodox Christianity requires.

Anyone familiar with my writings will know that I strongly favour mythicism for Christian origins. Obviously I know that this is not a consensus view amongst experts in the field, but rather is consider a fringe view by many. Today I am not relying upon an acceptance of the view that the Jesus of Christianity is purely mythical. Rather, even if we accepted the minimalized Jesus of mainstream scholarship that is still a long way from the full-blown Jesus of orthodox Christianity and the NT Gospels.

Orthodox Christianity absolutely needs the New Testament to be historically accurate, but it simply cannot be. The Gospels contradict each other in many significant ways, particularly in regards to the birth and resurrection narratives, to the point that at least some of them can’t be true. The story of the cleansing of the temple that is quite significant in the Gospel narrative is practically historically impossible in light of how big the Jewish temple was, that the traders chastised by Jesus (in the story) were essential for the running of the temple, and primarily also because Roman guards were situated outside the temple. It would have taken a full-blown riot or uprising to clear the temple, and any people involved in this would have been killed on the spot (or arrested on the spot?) by the Romans. It basically would have started a war, there and then. Josephus never says a word about it, nor does Philo, nor (apparently) did Justus of Tiberias. Basically, it couldn’t have happened as the Gospels state it did, and a minimalized version doesn’t even work very well historically either, not to mention that a minimalized version doesn’t cut it for orthodox Christianity.

The Gospels are filled with explicit parallels to older mythology. The Gospel texts frequently re-write stories from the Hebrew Bible (such as the stories of Elisha – see 2 Kings 4:43-44 and Mark 6:30-44, 8:1-10, or 2 Kings 4:8-37 and Mark 5:21-43), or write the Hebrew text into the new narrative (such as Psalms 22 and the crucifixion narrative) etc. There are many great articles written on this topic by many authors[xi], and I have written on it previously myself[xii]. There are even a number of NT passages which basically concede that this was the method through which knowledge of Christ was largely derived (see Romans 16:25-26).

Likewise, the Gospels are filled with references to Greek mythology (amongst other so-called “pagan” nations). There are numerous explicit parallels between the story of Jesus and a serious of pagan gods (Inanna, Osiris, Dionysus, Attis, Adonis etc.) who were believed to have died and returned to life, often bringing eternal life to their followers. Now, this matter continues to be controversial, and in that sense seems to go against the overall grain of this article. However, that this matter remains controversial even to mainstream, liberal scholars simply shows how deep the problems with New Testament scholarship goes. That is, it is not only conservative Christian NT scholars that seem unable to recognize the unavoidable conclusions on this matter, but also liberal and even secular mainstream scholars.

I have written on this matter elsewhere[xiii], as have many others before. It is one of those things where it is controversial now, but there is no question that in the future this will be the consensus view, as the evidence is so overwhelming, and the arguments to the contrary are so clearly false (and have been shown to be). Aside from the controversy surrounding death-resurrection parallels, mainstream scholars are however generally quite happy to accept the case of similar parallels regarding the miraculous birth narrative. That is, there are likewise many, many similar stories of miraculous (even virgin) births in both Jewish and pagan mythology, again leading to the obvious conclusion that the Gospel authors simply borrowed this common motif from older myth.

Then there is the case of the Gospel of Mark and the various works of Homer (primarily the Odyssey). There are again numerous clear parallels here showing that the author of Mark (the earliest Gospel, used as a source for the other narrative Gospels) was clearly at the very least embellishing his narrative via reference to Homer, and in all probability using Homer as a source for his tales[xiv]. From what I can see this is something that is currently in a state of flux in regards its widespread scholarly acceptance. That is, it isn’t exactly a consensus yet, though there are many scholars who will accept a degree of the theory. Even if we minimalize the level of Homeric embellishment, the evidence is still quite clear and consequential. Everybody that wrote Greek in the ancient world (in the time of the birth of Christianity) studied Homer, so there is pretty much no way that at least the strongest parallels could be purely coincidental.

The earliest texts in the New Testament (that being the authentic letters of Paul, and perhaps a few others) make practically no mention of any earthly narrative for Christ (there are a couple of notable exceptions, however one way or another, this fact still stands). Rather, they almost always only speak of knowledge of Christ as known through revelations (visions and inspired reading of the Hebrew Scriptures – probably often in Greek though). Given that these texts would have existed by themselves prior to the composition of the Gospels, it is clear that early Christians were (one way or another) not relying strictly upon literal historical narratives as told by eye-witnesses, but were rather employing various methods to “learn” about Christ that don’t cut it to historians. We can’t expect historians to “learn” about WW2 by letting them have religious experiences and “find” prophecies of Hitler amongst pre-war German writers can we?

So, one way or another (whether or not there was a minimal historical Jesus – you all know my opinion), there is no way that the Gospel’s portrayal of the full-blown miracle working, divine Jesus Christ of faith could be accurate. And with that, orthodox Christianity cannot stand.

As with everything I have written here, don’t just take my word for it. Read it yourself. If this is controversial for you, then you need to be aware of it, and you need to weigh up the evidence for yourself, rather than simply relying upon your own expert on the subject (i.e. Christian apologist) to keep you properly informed.

In closing:

Please note that I do not hate Christianity, nor do I hate Christians, and I certainly do not hate God. I do not deny that there is also good in Christianity and that there is even (some) good in the Bible. I have many friends and family who are Christian and I love them deeply. Many of them have been far better people then myself in so many ways. And I love God deeply, I am completely convinced of the objective nature of spirituality, and believe that God is love. Through my spiritual path I have come into an experience of continuous peace and bliss, and I feel like I am finally starting to integrate that into my outward life, hopefully healing various weaknesses that I have struggled with throughout my life.

I write articles such as these because religion is such a mixed bag, a poison fruit. We do not need to accept and defend the deep flaws in the world’s religions. We can be deeply spiritual and still accept the human origins of the world’s religious texts. We can be sincere in our spiritual pursuit without needing to defend every ancient pathway to God. We are allowed to grow, evolve and reform the institutions that have held power throughout the world over human history.

The problems with orthodox Christianity are just so simple, so explicit, and so easy to verify. If you honestly think that Christian apologists, philosophers, theologians and historians have given a thorough defense of Christianity and refuted criticisms of it, can I challenge you to really read those who are presenting an alternate case, and truly consider their arguments and the evidence they present. That is, do not merely listen with the intent only of working out how to respond, but listen with your heart and mind open, in consideration of the possibility that they may possibly be at least partially correct about something. When you compare criticisms and defences of orthodox Christianity side-by-side it is so clear that orthodox Christianity cannot survive. Christian apologists are merely industry spokespeople, lawyers with a vested interest in their client. That is, they never even open the door to the possibility that their prior assumptions could be wrong.

Of course, as I have said many times before, this is not merely a problem that only Christians face. From where I stand, Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc. all do it too. Atheists and agnostics do it. In the political realm, those on the left do it just as those on the right do. This is human egoic behaviour. However, again, for fear of repetition, we have an immense capacity to change, just as we have the capacity to stubbornly hold our ground. We do not however become less by letting go of limiting beliefs, but rather we come into more of a realization of our vast potential, and the peace and contentment of our true nature.

Peace.

[i] Contrary to the misleading claims made by some liberal Christians that the doctrine of eternal damnation was invented by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages. The online Catholic Encyclopedia quotes various passages direct from the NT that presupposed the existence of hell (Matthew 5:29, 8:12, 10:28, 13:42, 25:41, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, Revelation 21:8 etc.). Whilst one can certainly then argue over the interpretation of some of these passages, the linked article also cites various passages from the 2nd Century Church Fathers who clearly stated the doctrine of eternal damnation (and it may well have been these very people who came to define what we know as orthodox Christianity). One way or the other, it clearly shows the existence of the doctrine from the very beginning of Christianity: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm.

[ii] See the following for an example: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-a-loving-god-send-people-to-hell-the-craig-bradley-debate. The Reasonable Faith website (http://www.reasonablefaith.org) is filled with articles arguing similar things.

[iii] http://thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf .

[iv] http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/.

[v] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/on-interpretations-of-scripture-why-many-religious-conservatives-and-progressives-misread-ancient-texts-and-misunderstand-religion-in-general/, and also: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/essential-reading-on-the-historical-context-of-moral-issues-with-the-hebrew-bible-thom-starks-is-god-a-moral-compromiser/.

[vi] See “The Bible Unearthed” with Israel Finklestein and Neil Asher Silberman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_ZPgYrQ6iI&t=20s or “The Bibles buried secrets”, with a slightly more moderate view and a range of scholars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfd4kFPWjzU .

[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atra-Hasis and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilgamesh_flood_myth.

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instruction_of_Amenemope.

[ix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sargon_of_Akkad#Birth_legend.

[x] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enmerkar_and_the_Lord_of_Aratta.

[xi] See Robert Prices’ “New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash”: http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/art_midrash1.htm.

[xii] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/on-christian-origins-part-1-why-i-favour-mythicism/.

[xiii] See the above footnote (“Why I favour mythicism”) and the following: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-pagan-parallel-thesis-and-why-practically-every-single-major-objection-to-it-is-false/ , also two very lengthy articles on Justin Martyr: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/ and https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/diabolical-mimicry-part-2-response-to-alberts-mcllhenny-back-in-the-ring/.

[xiv] See https://www.amazon.com/Homeric-Epics-Gospel-Mark/dp/0300172613, Richard Carriers review: https://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/homerandmark.html and the Vridar page on the subject: http://vridar.info/xorigins/homermark/mkhmrfiles/index.htm.