Printed from http://tektonics.org/lynchmob.php
In recent days I received one of those emails with trumpeting attached, titled "TOP TEN Reasons Why I Am Not A Christian" by one John Lynch. Lynch responded to my inquiry of why he sent this to me with this note:
Actually, I wrote this list as a joke and then started to send it around to different groups, apologetics and tract publishers, and no one has been able to repudiate them in three years. If you want to try or know someone who would like a challenge, I am open minded about this subject and would love hear why they are wrong.
Don't expect me not challenge your ideas though.
If you can get through my challenges, you will have won a soul for Christ. If not, maybe you should rethink your beliefs.
Well, yes. We should all certainly "rethink our beliefs" at the behest of a collection of ten summary statements with no documentation to speak of; that is indeed what Lynch's "Top Ten" enumeration amounts to, though I suspect some of the commentary comes through the filter of popular freethinking sources.
By this accounting, Tekton's nearly 1600 articles to date, with their fill of documentation, ought to send Lynch to his knees immediately in repentance. But what of those ten reasons? A small number turn out to be beyond our scope (creation/evolution issues) and we politely declined comment. As for the rest, we'll have a look see, shall we?
Number 10: Other Christians -- Ever since the Christians have become state sponsored (Rome 330 AD); they have been persecuting rivals inside and outside their faith. From the persecution of the Gnostics to the burning of books early, to the Crusades, the pogroms against the Jews, and the Witch Trials of the Middle Ages, as well as the religious wars of the 17th century over who best represented the Prince of Peace, and more recently - the support of the genocide in the Americas, the enslavement of the Africans, and the support of the imperialist domination of the world by the West and maintaining its status quo. Christianity is guilty of enough crimes throughout history to warrant extinction.
We can be pleased that this one is #10 and last; it is common, and the most fallacious of arguments used by critics.
Does any of this alter in the least any factual claim of Christianity? Of course not. Does Islam become less true simply because of 9/11? And if this is valid, then can we pile on lists of persons like Joseph Lister, Mother Theresa, and Saint Francis, and make Christianity true? Shall we pile on books like Stark's For the Glory of God documenting Christianity's positive effects on history, and Schaefer's Hasn't the overall influence of Christianity been negative? (part of a larger essay) and call it a win or at least a draw? I doubt if Lynch would take that kindly.
The argument is emotional and irrational. It also needs some qualification, where it says, "Ever since the Christians have become state sponsored (Rome 330 AD); they have been persecuting rivals inside and outside their faith. From the persecution of the Gnostics to the burning of books early..."
Such persecution and burning of sacred lit was the "status quo" long before Christianity. The Romans were burning books of rival sects long before that, so blame them for setting the example.
"...to the Crusades..." On that see here.
Most of the rest is beyond my scope, though I would add that of "the enslavement of the Africans," the great abolitionsists were Christians (and if Lynch wants to argue about Biblical slavery, he can answer this).
Finally, if "Christianity is guilty of enough crimes throughout history to warrant extinction" then Skepticism earned their own sentence after Stalin.
(Also, if people like Pope Pius VI, Jesse Jackson, Jim and Tammy Baker, Jerry Falwell, pedophile priests, and all of those self-righteous pundits are going to Heaven, I don't want to go).
No one knows for sure which of these of any (it is "Bakker" by the way) is on the way to Heaven, and if nothing else we wonder who set Lynch up as a judge in the first place. Apparently he would deny people divine forgiveness simply because he doesn't like them. Is that showing tolerance?
Number 9: Archaeology -- he archaeological evidence of the Bible is scarce. In fact, it is non-existent. After 200 years of Christian archaeologists digging up the whole Middle East, they haven't found any proof of the events supposedly taking place in the Book of Exodus. NONE !!! Ditto for the Tower of Babel story. Ditto for the Hebrew invasion of Canaan. They should have been easily found if they were really historical events! Furthermore, the Sinai Desert has no proof of any large group of people traveling through it (remember the Bible says six million people took part - that's the population of a city the size of New York leaving no trash, no buried dead, no refuse, and no trace in a desert which hasn't seen rain in 10,000 years. I find that very difficult to believe). The first evidence correlating to the biblical story doesn't appear in Canaan archaeology until around 150 years before the Babylonian Captivity (around 675 BC), which is well after most of the greatest events supposedly took place.
I have to wonder what books of archaeology Lynch is reading, to have subsumed all "archaeology" under supposed lack of proof for the Exodus. There are hundreds of years of history in the OT and NT beyond this. As for that alleged lack, we invite Lynch to give us comparable evidence of the nomadic Scythians (see here) over a much longer period, also leaving "no trash, no buried dead [other than the royalty], no refuse [isn't that the same as 'trash'?], and no trace" on the steppes.
(This lack of evidence includes such persons as David and Solomon, who supposedly lived relatively close to those who wrote the Bible in the Babylonian Captivity around 550 BC. At the least, they should have been mentioned by other nations).
I'll save this one for below. We had quite a discussion about this.
(The Bible DOES mention a few lost cities which have been found, but that is to be expected from a book written at this time. But, just because archaeologists found the ruins of Micea and Troy doesn't mean that Zeus, Athena and Aphrodite in Homer's the Iliad are real).
Where is "Micea"? No matter -- really, no one claims that found cities validates the theological aspects of the Bible; but the critics do tend to object (as above) when evidence is NOT found for cities, etc. so what is Lynch objecting about?
(Any contemporary evidence of Jesus is non-existent. I believe he lived and if I could travel time, Judea 30 AD would be my first stop, but after that, we only have some later reports and the 20 or so gospels. The Slaughter of the Infants didn't happen and there were many "Messiahs" of this time trying to raise the Jews against the Romans and create an even greater empire led by the One True God and his Chosen People - which got them eventually slaughtered and exiled from their homeland).
"Contemporary evidence" for Jesus isn't necessary. Who does he think should have mentioned Jesus and why? (He may consider this.) On the Slaughter see here. There was no other person who claimed to be "Messiah" until Bar Kochba in 135; those Lynch refers to are military persons whose mission was nothing like Jesus'. More on this below.
The next three are creation/evolution bits. Our only comments: For the allegation of two creation stories in Genesis that are contradictory, see here. It is vaguely said, "Genesis seems to be an amalgam of Egyptian, Canaanite and Babylonian myths," to which we specifically answer on Babylon here.
Lynch also shows us where he has put his ideology in saying, "Yahweh is as real as Zeus, Osirus, Thor, Satan, and Santa Claus. I believe he is the pagan god Aten from Egypt, but that is another story." Perhaps he would find this relevant.
Number 5: Messiahs -- Jesus is not a Messiah (or even a Prophet) to the Jews. A Messiah (or Anointed One) is clearly a military leader who is "anointed" by God to lead his people. The Bible is actually filled with messiahs - Moses, Joshua, Saul, David, Solomon, even Cyrus the Great of Persia, who sent the Jewish leaders of the Captivity home, was named as a Messiah (so you don't even have to be Jewish). Jesus was not a military leader. The Messiah as Savior of the Human Race is not a Jewish belief but a clever mix of the two dominant Monotheisms of the day - Judaism and Zoroastrianism. (The Bible even has an assassin being called a Messiah / see Judges 3:15-31)
Pretty erroneous stuff here. The Messiah is not ONLY a "military leader" -- see here; the comment about the Messiah not being a Savior is quite contrary to scholarship on the issue. It IS true that any person could be "anointed" (and so be a "Messiah") but that does not preclude the point that a specific figure is in mind which Jesus was aiming to fulfill.
Number 4: Zoroastrianism -- Most of the beliefs Christians hold so dear today come from Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was a priest of the barbarian Indo-Europeans who were invading Southern Asia around 1500 BC. He had a vision of the one true God of Good, Ahura Mazda, who fights the Evil One; all humans are free to choose between Good and Evil; we will all be judged by our actions; and there will come a Savior at the End of Times to bring harmony back to Earth and a Final Judgment. Sound familiar? The Christians really only invented the Death-Raised-Coming Again scenario (after their Savior died) and the Antichrist (adversary of the Savior). The rest of Christianity is borrowed from Judaism, Zoroastrianism and some of the various indigenous European religions.
Not hardly. The records of Zoroaster are way too late and way too different to claim that there was this kind of influence. Someone else who received Lynch's material added:
I note your comments re "3 wisemen, or kings or magi," etc....I'm sure you must be aware that the origin of the magi is by no means settled (see recent discussion and footnotes in Tony Maalouf. 'Were the magi from Persia or Arabia?' Bibliotheca Sacra 156 (Oct-Dec 1999): 423-42. Maalouf is professor of Biblical stuidies in Amman, Jordan). The term 'magi' does not prove their origin is in Zoroastrianism - it could be (and was) a term used generically to describe a possessor and user of supernatural knowledge and ability.
Number 3: Creator God -- The Universe which we can see contains 100 billion galaxies which each contain 100 billion stars like our Sun. That is a lot of mass. To create all of that so we here on this insignificant planet can determine the fate of the Cosmos seems too much of an over-kill. Is it possible that we really don't have a clue about the Universe and we are just clinging on to the delusions of the past to keep us sane?
So how many galaxies would there have to be to make God plausible? 50 billion only? 25? 10? 4? 3,768,546? Where's the line drawn? This is a remarkably vague objection which also seems to presume that the rest of what is out there is wasted space. Who gave Lynch the idea that all the stars out there have empty planets for rent? The argument is also based on a tacit assumption that creating galaxies, etc. requires effort, and why should God expend the effort unnecessarily? But to God, 100 billion galaxies is no more effort than one, so the argument fails.
I don't need God for sanity in this, by the way. Life is not that hard to me.
Number 2: Revelation -- The Creator God must work through prophets, he even sent his own son, but all of these messengers don't convince me that he is real and deserves our worship. Why must he hide behind the veil of belief?
Hide? We have 1500+ articles showing that the truth is obvious and hidden to no one. One vague generalization deserves another. Finally:
Number 1: Heaven and Hell -- This hidden Creator God must coerce his followers to worship him by threatening punishment in the eternal damnation of Hell. We are told we have free will, but if we choose against him, we are punished forever. That is not a choice!!! The God of the Bible is only a vicious bully who gets mad at his toys and takes vengeance on them. I just can't stop thinking about all of the torment we have had to suffer through (how many generations?) until God totally forgives us for the Fall of Adam & Eve and ends it?
"Threatening" is a rather loaded word. The word is more like "warning" in the sense of "this will happen if you do X" -- as, "If you fall off a cliff, you will splat at the bottom." How dare we "threaten" people with the natural results of their actions?
Beyond that: Yes, it is a choice, obviously; it is a bad vs good one, but it is still a choice. On original sin see here, and we'd like to know if Lynch has been perfect in behavior before we answer any further.
Now an addendum about a discussion I had with Lynch on a particular above. I recognized that most of the material was either covered by links or out of my scope, but to see what sort of person I was dealing with, I commented in reply to a point in 9 above:
[Your list is] also at least a little out of date. Evidence for David, in the form of a couple of inscriptions referring to the "House of David," were discovered some years ago.
To which Lynch replied:
The House of David is a reference, but not the real thing. I am aware of the inscription, but it is not from the David time frame (c.1000 BC). I believe David was a real historical person, but there are no contemporary references to him, which I find odd as he was supposedly such a great king, and no other kingdom even mentions him or did business with him, furthermore Solomon supposedly married an Egyptian wife and there is no mention of this union in Egyptian archaeology. If these guys were as great as the Bible says they were, then it should be really easy to show they existed. Not just some later reference by someone claiming to be from the House of David.
The kings of England claim direct lineage to Arthur but that does not make Arthur real.
I wrote back:
In terms of your response about David, I wonder whether you are not attacking strawmen. You say David "was supposedly such a great king" but who "supposes" this and in what way do we mean "great"? No one I know thinks the Biblical records shows David as "great" in international affairs, or in any other way that would cause him to be mentioned by others. Indeed why don't you tell me some other places where kings of Moab and Ammon are mentioned years after they lived, so that I can make some comparisons? As far as Assyria and the other powers were concerned, a king like David was a schlep. I see no reason why anyone else should have noted his existence, certainly not in records left to us. Perhaps you can name some ancient records for me that should have named him but don't, and explain why they should have mentioned him.
Lynch gave this back:
I agree he was a schlep at first. He was a bandit turned hero, turned king. My strawmen (Christians love to use that term) are that he was supposedly king over a large and strategic area of the Middle East (trade routes), and that alone made him an economic player in the region. He also had an army and attcked nations with it, that made him a political player. He was also the king of a fledgling religion (monotheism), and that made him a curiosity and a player on the religious scene. He kingdom was large and held several cities (Gezer, Shechem and Megiddo were quite important). There is good reason to suspect we should have found his name in archaeology by now.
When Lynch said, "furthermore Solomon supposedly married an Egyptian wife and there is no mention of this union in Egyptian archaeology," I asked:
I'm puzzled as to why there should be. Is there some list of Egyptian princesses married off to foreign powers that excludes this marriage? How many other such princesses get this kind of mention?
He said in turn:
The Egyptians wrote most state business down, they should have written this transaction down. Yes, just because we haven't found one doesn't mean there wasn't one, but my point still stands about there being no archaeological evidence to prove their existence.
Remember, I believe they were real (same with Joseph), and incorporated into the biblical legend (history + myth = legend). I actually find it strange that there is no evidence of their existence. The "House of David" is good but would not be accepted in a court of law to prove David's existed. You would think something should have been found in Jerusalem (the "City of David" as he himself called it), but no.
He said, "The kings of England claim direct lineage to Arthur" and to my doubts he said:
My English history is a bit rusty but the early kings of England did claim this, and I mean William the Conquerer and such, no one takes this claim serious now or in the recent past.
I asked, "They do? Where?" Then here is our correspondence, mine in bold, his in italics only:
>>>>>I agree he was a schlep at first. He was a bandit turned hero, turned king. My strawmen (Christians love to use that term) are that he was supposedly king over a large and strategic area of the Middle East (trade routes), and that alone made him an economic player in the region
Large, no. Strategic, somewhat. He was on the trade routes, after all. But if indeed certain Egyptologists are correct, the lack of attention might be explained by his being a contemporary of Akhenaten, who didn't give a crap about anything beyond Egypt (per the Amarna letters). Otherwise you named no ancient records that should have mentioned him but don't, so what more can I say?
>>>. He also had an army and attcked nations with it, that made him a political player. He was also the king of a fledgling religion (monotheism), and that made him a curiosity and a player on the religious scene.
Hmmm yet again. I'm struggling to recall which nations other than the Philistines and the puny guys (Ammon, Moab) he went after and again, what records should show this that we have...as for "monotheism" hmm, well, scholarship these days is questioning whether Israel's religion WAS "monotheistic" in any real sense...."monolatrous" would be better, and then not quite as radical or as much a curiosity. BTW do you know if Akhenaten is mentioned anywhere but in Egyptian records for his radical religious reforms?
>>>He kingdom was large and held several cities (Gezer, Shechem and Megiddo were quite important).
Important to whom other than Israel?
>>>The Egyptians wrote most state business down, they should have written this transaction down. Yes, just because we haven't found one doesn't mean there wasn't one, but my point still stands about there being no archaeological evidence to prove their existence.
It doesn't "stand" at all, really. If you acknowledge nothing is left to tell us or that would tell us, then you have no grounds at all for objecting. Good grief -- Rome handed out millions of army pay slips in its history and we have only about 8 left in our possession today. Would that lead you to conclude that Rome never paid almost all of its soldiers?
>>> The "House of David" is good but would not be accepted in a court of law to prove David's existed.
It wouldn't? I'll ask my lawyer friend about that. (see more on this below)
>>>You would think something should have been found in Jerusalem (the "City of David" as he himself called it), but no.
What should be found that wasn't? 99% of the people of the day were illiterate and could not write their own names, much less "house of David". I think some of your demands for evidence are rather overstated. You might make an impression if you can show that comparable figures like kings of Moab were mentioned more, but....
If you expected Lynch to answer any of this directly, you would be disappointed. He then wrote back:
I think you are arguing with me for the sake of arguing. Do you have a point from all this infomation. I don't want to "attack any straw dogs"
I say there is no evidence to support the Bible's claimed "history" until around 675 BC. You seem to agree with me.
You have put yourself in a very good epistemologically position: If there is no evidence to support David and Solomon, you say there shouldn't be. If they someday find evidence, you will be the first to scream about it. It's a win-win situation. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Of course none of this is an answer to the point made in the first place, that Lynch's demands are epistemically unreasonable.
He closed by accusing me of focusing on a minor point because I had to answer to the major ones. Well, now he can follow the links and do what he thinks he can do. In closing, I asked a lawyer contact of ours, "Chuck D" (who wrote our article on hearsay) to comment on Lynch's "court of law" statement. Here's what he said:
My first thought is "huh?"
You should ask WHY he thinks it'd be inadmissible. My guess would be that he thinks some combination of the following (in descending order of sophistication) 1) It's impossible to authenticate 2) It's hearsay or 3) it's "just" circumstantial.
As to #1, Ancient documents are automatically authenticated if they meet the criteria I listed in the hearsay article. Plus, government records are self authenticating if they contain some certification that they are legit, or if the court decides reasonable efforts have been taken to ensure authenticity. In the ancient world, some type of seal would probably do the trick. I don't remember where the HoD inscription came from, but if it's from some ancient government scribe, it's all good.)
My recollection is that it is actually from a "hostile witness" -- made up by an enemy of Israel.)
#2 Again, if it's a government thing, while technically it is hearsay, it's admissible because hearsay statements contained in regularly kept government records are admissible.
#3 No distinction is made between circumstantial evidence and direct evidence (contrary to what Law & Order would have you believe). Either one can be used to prove any fact in issue. If I were arguing this case, I'd say that there had to be a "David" to have a "House of." Plus, you could infer that the house of David was no joke because whoever commissioned the inscription thought it was a great feat to subjugate his "House."
Those are my initial impressions, but get him to pony up as to why he thinks it's inadmissible, and we'll go from there.
Lynch has declined to answer.
For those interested there is more on the "House of David" reference here.