Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is the New Testament reliable?

Bart Ehrman gets pretty worked up here, but I understand it. Keep in mind that Ehrman does believe in a historical Jesus. That's not universal among scholars, although it's the majority position.

Who or what that Jesus was,... well, there's certainly no agreement about that, even among the people who think he actually existed.

And keep in mind that Ehrman was an evangelical Christian who became an expert in the New Testament for his faith. He lost that faith when he discovered too much about his own holy book, but he certainly didn't want to lose it. Just the reverse, in fact.

Finally, note that he talks about "scribal errors" in the Bible. But many of the most important of these weren't errors at all. They were deliberate changes.

For example: "Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." That entire story was added later. It can hardly be an "error."

And the entire ending of the Gospel of Mark - the first gospel to be written - was added later, apparently because the original ending seemed appropriate only for fiction. (The women who supposedly witnessed the resurrection never told anyone about it, because they were afraid. The end.)

Ehrman gives other examples, including the justification for the whole idea of the Trinity. That's certainly not a minor issue, but it's clearly not an accidental "error," either. It was added to the original text deliberately, by some unknown person, for his own reasons.


Jim Harris said...

Boy, Bart is worked up. He sounds like a Fire and Brimstone preacher.

Bill Garthright said...

Yeah, Jim. But I've never watched Bart Ehrman debate before. This might just be his usual mannerism.

I'm that way when I comment, too - not because I'm worked up, necessarily, but just because I'm only concentrating on getting my point across.

Becky, SF group said...

Bill, have you read Why I am Not a Christian, by Bertrand Russell?

Bill Garthright said...

No, I haven't, Becky. I don't think I've read any atheist books (books by atheists specifically about religion, I mean). Would you recommend it?

I've been an atheist as long as I can remember, so books like that haven't seemed to offer me anything I didn't already know. (I do, however, watch debates and such. And I'm a big fan of the Atheist Experience TV show, especially when Matt Dillahunty is hosting it.)

PS. Blogger decided that your comments were spam, for some weird reason. Sorry about that. I get all comments emailed to me, though, and it's easy enough to fix that when I discover it.

Becky said...

I read it some years ago, and it made the cut when I downsized my "library", but I'm due to reread it, and will let you know if I recommend it. It's actually a collection of his speeches & articles. I just recall, generally, that I found his logic very good. I haven't read any other atheistic writings either. I started out Methodist, but the more I learned, ended up atheist for some years now. In fact I've been considering looking into Humanism more - any thoughts on that? Becky

Bill Garthright said...

Blogger's spam filter really doesn't like you, Becky. :)

Anyway, I do like what I've read of Bertram Russell, but that's only been bits and pieces. So yes, please let me know what you think when you reread it.

Re. secular humanism, I support it, in general, but I don't usually call myself a humanist.

Atheism is basically negative, not positive. It's disbelief, rather than a belief. I'm an atheist because I'm a skeptic, and I think that implies certain things. But it's not a belief system.

"Atheism Plus" is one of the ways atheists have tried to extend it in a positive direction, but secular humanism is more popular. Secular humanism is a positive belief system, not just the rejection of an unsupported claim. That can certainly be valuable.

However, I've known 'secular humanists' who equate it with Communism - literally, from self-described Communists who say that's "secular humanism" - and others who equate it with libertarianism (in other words, nearly the exact opposite philosophy).

Neither of those are mainstream opinions of secular humanism, but it does seem to be rather ill-defined. And, inevitably, I'm never going to agree with every political solution from anyone. So I just don't use the "secular humanist" label myself, even though I recognize that it probably applies to me in most cases.

"Atheist" is a label that's a lot narrower. So is "skeptic" and "feminist" (although both of those terms are sometimes used in ways I vehemently disagree with). I'm a Democrat because I belong to a particular political party, and everyone knows - or should know - that I don't necessarily agree with everything in a party platform.

I don't know. Labels are rather personal things. I've met atheists who really shy away from the "atheist" label. They're atheists by almost any definition, but they don't want to label themselves that way. Well, that's their business. I certainly don't reject the "secular humanist" label, but I don't normally use it to describe myself, either.

Does that make any sense?

Becky said...

Sure, that makes sense. I'm not big on labels but you kinda gotta start somewhere. I particularly agree that the definition of feminist, which seemed so focused in the '70s, has become so broad as to be almost meaningless.

I thought that parts of church were a good thing when I was growing up - a group of people "doing good" in the community, whose values we all shared & agreed with. I have missed that aspect. When I became an atheist I wondered, "Why don't humans just take responsibility?", and discovered, as with all things now that we're all connected by the internet, it has already been thought of & put in place, I.E., Humanism. But I never went further, investigating it more, possibly joining a group. It would be interesting to compare different groups with the same identity (Humanists), just as churches of the same denomination differ.

Yes, so many gas stations, so little time (non-robot proving). LOL

Bill Garthright said...

"It would be interesting to compare different groups with the same identity (Humanists), just as churches of the same denomination differ."

That's a very good point, Becky, though it might even be like the different sects of Christianity. Supposedly, they're all about the same thing, and most of them even use the same book, but they differ immensely.

However, I think I misunderstood your comment earlier. At least, I got to talking about humanism as a label, rather than about finding a compatible group. Those are very different things, and I do have a couple of thoughts about the latter.

First, there are many local atheist groups who "do good" in the community and otherwise take atheism in a positive direction. The Atheist Community of Austin, for example (they sponsor the Atheist Experience TV show, among other things) promotes "positive atheist culture and the separation of church and state." They seem to be quite active in their local area doing volunteer work.

There are many local groups of atheists (often, you can find one at Meetup) which offer social activities and various types of active involvement in the community. Even though "atheist" might be a very narrow label, that doesn't mean that atheists themselves are narrow (and certainly not that we aren't human beings who need a social outlet).

And there are different local groups of humanists, too. A quick Google search shows me local groups of the American Humanist Association and the Council for Secular Humanism, for example. I don't know how much or in what ways they vary.

But unless you live in a major metropolitan area, you might not find a lot of different options. So, if you're looking for a local group, your main criteria might simply be that there is a local group. (Although, if there isn't, you might consider starting one. Meetup makes it pretty easy, I think.)

I'm not that social these days. I belong to the Lincoln Atheists, which is my local Meetup group, but I've never even met any of the other members, since I don't attend their meetings and events.

But there are a lot of groups around, both local and national organizations. I'm afraid I ignored all that when I was talking about labels earlier. Well, as I said, I'm not especially social these days. :)

Good luck!

Becky said...

Those are some great pointers, Bill, thanks! I AM in a large metro area. Just need to put exploring this at the top of a list... of lists, LOL. TTYL Becky

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill, I finally got around to re-reading Why I am Not a Christian, by Bertrand Russell. At first I was finding no new thoughts, but as I went on I realized he was quite good at saying things concisely, and pointing out attitudes and speech we take for granted (and shouldn't). In fact I found many sentences to be complete thoughts worthy of contemplation on their own. Although some of the science used in inevitable comparisons to beliefs is now dated, at nearly 100 years old, I still recommend it. Becky

Bill Garthright said...

Thanks, Becky. I'll put it on my list, though... there's just never enough time for everything, is there? I don't know where the time goes! :)