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Dr Glenn Peoples has been discussing this too:


Thanks for the link, Geoff. There is this tiredness about Peoples' blog post though that concerns me.

Gary Simmons

John, we need to start a meme: examples of questions that actually do represent biblical literacy.


Hi John,

Yes, I do believe you're right. But I suspect that is because Glenn is facing a number of issues in the Church in NZ. One of which is that there is not much opportunity here for people with his qualifications, and another is that people are afraid of "being told what to believe" here (tall poppy syndrome to some extent).
I believe thats why - its more of a "resignation" than tiredness (ps, he's a friend).


Hi Gary,

A wonderful idea, a test in biblical literacy that cuts to the bone and also demands attention to detail.


The no-fault divorce that so great a part of church elites has stipulated between fides qua and fides quae has been extremely damaging to the dependents involved. Split custody is a bear.

G. Kyle Essary

The report that you link to at the end of the post is fascinating. I don't know how I've never come across that before. Very interesting.

G. Kyle Essary

As for your post itself, I would disagree that they are recovering religionists. We are all religionists, they are simply replacing one belief (or lack of belief) structure with another. It's impossible to recover from religion, because we will always move from religious faith to religious faith. Roy Clouser wrote a great book on this titled The Myth of Religious Neutrality.

Atheists are both inherently idolatrous and very faithful at the same time. On the one hand, they are idolatrous in their placement of the fallen person in the place of the Triune God, filling all of the gaps with the gods of consumerism often combined with a blind faith in progress. On the other hand, I think we should commend their faithfulness shown by the rejection of many of the false gods that Western Christians often let slip into their religious practices (I say Western Christians since atheism like we are talking about is a Western phenomenon).

Angela Erisman

This cuts both ways. I think it would also be fair to say that religionists frequently mischaracterize atheism. (Among them, for what it's worth, Mr. Essary above.)

My students often look at me in puzzlement when I tell them that I have atheist friends who are far and away among the most spiritual people I know. They actually get spirituality better than many people I know who participate in organized religion.

The mischaracterizations on both sides are tragic. They keep some religionists from being open to some very important critiques of organized religion (which, applied well, can lead to self-improvement), and they keep some atheists from realizing the spiritual facets of their humanity. Shame.

G. Kyle Essary

Could you clarify what I'm saying that is a mischaracterization of atheists? If anything, I actually agree with what you've said and am not sure what the difference is that you say I'm mischaracterizing.

You said, "I have atheist friends who are far and away among the most spiritual people I know," to which I completely agree as my first paragraph makes clear. We are all spiritual to varying degrees.

Then you said, "They keep some religionists from being open to some very important critiques of organized religion," to which I would wholeheartedly agree. Atheism (in its parasitic Western form) is a gift to religious faith in just the ways that you said, since it does critique the many false idols and superstitions that we have taken in (possible without even realizing it).

I guess you are disagreeing with my statement that they often fill gaps with consumerism and a blind faith in progress? This may be my personal experience, but my atheist friends who are more analytically/scientifically minded seem to fall prey to this trap. Those who are more philosophically (continental) minded do not though, which is why I said "often," since this latter type of atheist seems to be the minority.


I'm with you, Angela. It does cut both ways.

For that very reason, I'm impressed by the fact that it is Berlinerblau, whom I think it is fair to say falls into the "Jewish atheist" category (close to an oxymoron, I would say, if election in the biblical sense is a fact [Romans 11:29]: the Jewish atheist may not choose God but God still chooses him), who makes the case that atheists [Christian atheists in particular, a la Dawkins] do not get religion.

Assuming for a moment that I have not completely misunderstood Jacques, I would happily write an essay making the mirror image point with respect to his: that religionists (Christian religionists in particular) don't get [Jewish] atheists.


I see what you mean.

There is even a sense in which a believer is free to be less religious (in the sense of "bound" in faith and practice) than someone who has built a personal identity around the rejection of a religions to which she or he once adhered. To paraphrase a carpenter from Nazareth, the yoke faith in a transcendent God offers is lighter than the alternatives. Immanent gods are demanding slave-drivers by comparison.

On the other hand, atheists and agnostics are often iconoclastic in excellent ways. My take: Berlinerblau falls into this category.

G. Kyle Essary

Oh! I see that I didn't actually say "often" in the previous comment. Rereading it just now, I was surprised that I didn't, because I definitely do not believe that all atheists replace faith in God with faith in progress and consumerism.


When this poll came out, I knew it right away it was going to cause trouble. The secular community has a real problem with ego and hubris at the moment, and this was just added fuel to the fire. I think all this poll showed is that there are more nominal Evangelicals, Catholics, and the like, than there are Atheists.

Bryant J. Williams III

Dear John,

ISTM that what we have is willful ignorance (The fool has said in his heart, There is no God). If I remember correcttly(?), the word for atheist is just a transliteration of AQEOS which is means "without God"; that is "without a visible form of God." It does not mean "no God." The early Christians, as well as Jews of the Diaspora, were called "AQEOI." Why? They did not have a visible, tangible form of God as the rest of the Gentiles (Nations) had. Thus, the today's atheist is actually exchanging one form of God for one of his own (violaation of the first commandment) making.

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III


John et al—

I’m puzzled why Pew would do this survey at all. Maybe I don’t understand their mission in American society, but I guess I thought it was to promote ‘right living.’ If I were involved in this sort of thing, I’d be affirming and challenging both sides (religionists and atheists). The study affirms atheists in their knowledge, but doesn’t challenge them (for instance, to see value in positions and relationships of tolerance and acceptance with religionists). The study challenges religionists (to learn more about their religion), but doesn’t affirm them (for instance, there’s a degree of social resilience in some faith communities, and in some beliefs in heaven after death). But like I say, I don’t get the purpose or motivation for the survey in the first place.



Hi Bryant,

I think there is truth to what you say. On the other hand, I think that some atheists and agnostics are able to see some or many truths better than some Jews and Christians.

Here is a controversial example. I grew up surrounded by highly educated, secular, atheist or agnostic peers. 60% of my high school classmates (I went to a lab school of the University of WI-Madison) were Unitarian by background and many of them found that too confining. In a curious way, I still feel more at home, intellectually speaking, with that crowd than I ever will with a Christian crowd.

When we talked sexuality, among gay and lesbian friends all of whom were agnostic or atheist, they would point out fundamental incompatibilities between the way they constructed sexuality and the way Judaism and/or Christianity traditionally has.

I think they are right about that. But I now have Jewish and Christian friends who do not see the incompatibilities (not only with GLBT identities as constructed in public today, but with a range of hetero identities that stand in similar contradiction with classical Jewish and Christian teaching).

With a significant part of these friends, I share a lot more common ground when it comes to Truth questions, whereas I am closer to my atheist and agnostic friends when it comes to incompatibilities with respect to the management of sexual identity.

Just an example. I can think of many more, to be honest.

Jacques Berlinerblau

Hello All:

John posted a very thoughtful blog about my piece and I wanted to thank him and then got to reading the comments which were very interesting and free of rancor and ridicule.

Just to add a little to the OP, I think the game here is about the public school system. I see the PEW test as a major weapon in an ongoing battle about what will be taught to children in public schools. I surmise they want religious studies curricula in public schools, but I am not sure that they are happy with the ones that are currently in place (which MAY be too conservative for them. I don't know).

I do think PEW sees religion in public life as a social good. Their work seeks to bring that good into the public sphere. My concerns in the WAPO piece were simply to get PEW to concede that point as opposed to insisting upon their neutrality and non-partisanship.



I frankly don't believe the Pew study. My guess is that the categorization of the respondents gave a false impression.

Interestingly, Mormons, who scored extremely well enjoyed a Mormon on the staff of the group that did the research. Of course, it is possible that she recused herself due to the obvious conflict of interest.

Here is a copy of an email sent to the Pew roup which conducted the survey. I received no reply.

"Dear Mr. [name deleted]

The classification of Mormons in your recent survey of religious knowledge in America is bogus. Mormons are not a distinct religious group but should be included in Protestants for the purpose of a survey such as the one to which I refer.

Mormons are singled out as consistently high scoring, most likely because they had their own unique classification. Mormonism, for practical purposes, is a Protestant denomination. Did the survey differentiate between members of every denomination? For instance, did Mormons consistently outscore Baptists, Adventists, members of the Watchtower Society, and Lutherans?

I seriously doubt that Mormons, more often than Lutherans, would correctly identify Martin Luther as the preeminent figure of the Reformation. I doubt that Jews, more often than Lutherans, would identify Luther correctly.

I'm of the opinion that you and your organization have been conned, most likely by Mormon interests. The result of the con is that Mormons receive good publicity identifying them as more informed about religious matters than members of other denominations.

Am I wrong?"



Thanks for your WaPo piece. I trust it will generate plenty of discussion. In my view, you make several excellent points, not just the one that non-profits like Pew are stakeholders in various projects and ideologies, on account of which their claims to conduct their research in a neutral objective fashion deserve critical scrutiny.


From a sociological point of view, it is the case that Mormonisms (there are two main varieties) are Protestant sects. On the other hand, it is normal for Mormons to constitute a separate category in surveys of this kind.

My own experience with Mormons is similar to my experience with Catholics or the Orthodox. The average Catholic when asked is likely to mis-answer if queried about the Immaculate Conception. The average Orthodox will not be able to explain what it means to say that Mary is thrice virgin. The average Mormon struggles to explain in what sense a wife's relationship to the God is mediated by the husband. Finally, it is hard to find even Protestant theologians who can explain forensic justification in a non-convoluted back-of-a-napkin sort of way.

The core beliefs of a faith are one thing on paper. They are another on the tablets of the heart. Exploring the salient differences is a matter of great interest, it seems to me, to believers and non-believers alike.

Angela Erisman

Kyle, I wanted to respond to your queries of me even though, in the light of subsequent comments, my reponse is probably unnecessary. You caught part of my point when you caught your absent "often." I'm not even sure, though, that "often" is a viable qualifier. The notion that idolizing consumer culture is a function of atheism simply does not hold. There are plenty of Christians that idolize consumer culture and whole schools of thought within Christianity that are built on such ideas (e.g., prosperity gospel). So I appreciate your take on atheism and honor that it captures your personal experience, but, beyond that, I would argue that it is not a useful or accurate characterization, or that it gets at what the real difference is between theists and atheists.

G. Kyle Essary

Thank you for that response. You are correct that consumerism corrupts all sorts of people, and associating it with one particular worldview would be unfair.

David E. S. Stein

Hi, John!
The present post makes a few statements about the "agenda" of the Pew study. I'm concerned that in so doing, this post was not treating the study's designers or analysts fairly. Was it really necessary to publically impugn their motives, rather than take at face value their stated motivations?

Procedurally, it might been more fair if you had discussed, or at least mentioned, the study's posted FAQs:
And now you can also cite and consider Alan Cooperman's response to Berlinerblau:
It seems to me that Cooperman has considerably blunted Berlinerblau's critique.


Thanks, David, for alerting us to Cooperman's counter-critique, which appeared two days after my post at the top of this thread.

I don't find the study's posted FAQs particularly germane to Berlinerblau's critique. Perhaps I'm missing something.

But I read Cooperman's disclaimer of a connection between the Pew Forum's in-house analysis of the implications of the survey results and what NPR correspondent Ray Suarez calls the "forward-promoting" of one of the Pew Forum's chosen outside advisors, Stephen Prothero, as somewhat disingenuous.

As if Cooperman didn't know that Pew's advisors in this case and others are chosen because of shared cultural loyalties and priorities. But hey, the Pew folks can prove me wrong in the future by widening its advisor base to include people like Berlinerblau and Jon Levenson on the one hand and Mark Noll and Rodney Stark on the other.

Berlinerblau speaks of Smith, Cooperman, Prothero, and Haynes as members of "the Pew team." Cooperman prefers to disassociate Pew's in-house analysis from the analysis of Pew's hand-picked advisors. If one follows Cooperman's lead, it is true that talk of a Pew "agenda" becomes difficult. But I wonder.

For Suarez's legitimate comment in context, go here:

Jacques Berlinerblau

I just read Mr. Stein's remark and let me say the following:

To PEW's credit, at least they responded. I remember when I advanced a critique of the SBL a few years back in the Chronicle they simply ignored the piece. The exact same issues surfaced again a few months back when another professor made many of the same criticisms of the SBL which I did. So kudos to PEW. Dialogue is better.

As for the critique itself, I can't say I really feel it was "blunted" by Mr. Cooperman's riposte. Mr. Cooperman (incidentally, a superb journalist previously for the Washington Post whom I had the pleasure of working with on a few stories and reviews) seems far too quick to disassociate himself from the advisers to the project, one of whom has devoted substantial effort to religious literacy in his scholarly work and clearly played a major role in creating the survey.

Mr. Cooperman claims the survey was an attempt "to understand faith." I don't see how we can understand faith by questioning people about random facts about world religions (and SCOTUS). Faith is not factuality, correct?

I am not sure what the FAQ's did to undermine my critique. I referred to the FAQs in my piece, noting one of the erroneous questions. (Also, Mr, Cooperman seems to blur together the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament in his response to me insinuating I that I neglected to discuss two of PEW's questions on the Bible. I was quite clear that I was looking at the questions about the Hebrew Bible, not the New Testament).

As for atheists, if PEW were so aware of the fact that so many atheists were raised as Christians (incidentally, I think PEW may need to look deeper into this question--my own sense is that there is an immense, or at least disproportional, Jewish presence among American atheists) then why the surprise over their high scores on the exam?

Impugning motives: if a few of the architects of the exam are on record as being in favor of bringing religious studies curricula into public schools, and their very test draws attention to the constitutionality of bringing religious studies curricula into public schools, and then the same test is trumpeted as one that many Americans "flunked," then I start to ask questions. Mr. Cooperman is a journalist--if he were in my position would he do otherwise?

Pierre Bourdieu, I think, once used the term "ideological tribe" ( I am away from my books but I recall it from Homo Academicus). He used it to describe the Parisian intellectual scene, pointing to networks that emerged among gaggles of scholars who published in each other's journals, hired one another's graduate students, blurbed each other's books, invited one another to each other's conferences, etc.

I would prefer to see PEW as an "ideological tribe." And I want to stress the Academy and para-Academy of think tanks and public interest law firms is full of such tribes. Religious studies, for whatever reasons, has a tendency to be overrun by such tribes. PEW is not alone.

I try to stay clear of them (i.e., ideological tribes)--surely I don't always succeed. But the scholars whom I most respect are the ones who do precisely that.



As soon as I hear, "tribe," I wander to "reservation," whence I go immediately "off the reservation." But that's just me.

Off-thread I have been encouraged to work on thinking through and creating alternative approaches to measuring religious literacy. Once I begin thinking that through, the practical need for an agenda of some kind rears its head. So does the question of etic and emic approaches to religious knowledge, and the difference, theoretical and practical, between the kind of knowledge a rabbi, pastor, priest, or imam needs to have, versus the kind of knowledge a practicing or semi-practicing Jew, Chirstian, or Muslim needs to have.

To carry the conversation further, I was struck by Jon Levenson's withering review of Stephen Prothero's "God is Not One" in the latest number of the Jewish Review of Books.

Simplifying greatly, one might suggest that the goal of Prothero's religious literacy project is to put people in a position to make a meta-critique of religions in general and their own religion of primary reference in particular. If things go well, one might suggest further, the number of "friendly atheists" (Prothero's terminology for recovering Christians like him) would increase.

As a believer on the one hand and as a biblical scholar and history of religions buff on the other, I have other and even opposing reasons for favoring projects designed to foster religious literacy. It's a topic worth taking up in greater detail.

Michael Johnson Jr.

I believe that PEW's motives were a genuine attempt to learn about about religion by examining the extent of popular factual knowledge. If one believes that is the premise and that there is no nefarious "agenda" behind asking the simple questions that they do, then it seems innocuous to me. If one truly understood the limited nature of PEW surveys then one wouldn't necessarily expect them to produce the type of intellectually exhuastive survey normally conducted that might meet Dr. Berlinerblau's requirements.

Ultimately this debate just seems to be a completely unecessary exercise in my mind. Dr. Berlinerblau's ideological position obviously informs his public policy views and that, more than anything is the true motivation behind why any discussion of Pew's survey became debatable to begin with...

Case in point - how does anyone know that the "Pew people are mostly agnostics" or aethists, much less what their "interests" are? The same question could be said about the religious...

Another example of highly prejudicial commentary -"The Pew survey wants to shame religious people into thinking that they are ignorant of their own faith and that of others compared to atheists." Are you kidding me? This conflates effects with intent. Even if PEW purposefully intended to produce this result, it doesn't necessarily follow that "shame" is what is going to predictably occur. And given the nature of the questions at hand, aren't those people who could NOT answer these very basic question exactly as you describe them - factually ignorant? Berlinerblau certainly asks a poingant rhetorical question. "Faith is not factuality, correct?" I do believe that "faith" at its most basic is the belief in things not seen, observable or fully understood. However organized religion is most certainly premised, quite fundamentally on dogmatic factuality. Religious belief systems consist of a set of discrete facts which form the basis of those systems; some of their names - The Bible, the Talmud, the Qur'an. IF those texts are not a set of faith based "facts" then I don't know what they are...

And, if "Agnostics and atheists tend to traffic in caricatures of the religions they have rejected" how then is any of THIS discussion not exactly the same thing in reverse?



Thanks for your comments. You ask:

"[H]ow does anyone know that the "Pew people are mostly agnostics" or aethists, much less what their "interests" are?"

Answer: by paying attention to what they say, the self-identifications and interests they articulate. As you point out, religious people are no less difficult to figure out in that sense. Everyone self-identifies in certain ways and articulate specific interests.

You say:

"Another example of highly prejudicial commentary -'The Pew survey wants to shame religious people into thinking that they are ignorant of their own faith and that of others compared to atheists.' This conflates effects with intent."

You are right thus far: I endowed the Pew survey with personality, in accordance with Umberto Eco's thesis that a work has intention of its own apart from and sometimes in contradiction with the stated intent of a work's author(s). And I inferred the intent of the work from observed effects. But that is not prejudicial commentary. It is commentary that highlights the effects of a work by describing them as the legitimate children of the rhetorical inner will of the work itself - Eco's "intentio operis."

I think you tie yourself in knots. You insist on describing the people behind the Pew survey and the survey itself as if they are the products of an ideology-free zone, whereas you are quick to point out that Berlinerblau has an identifiable agenda. You are upholding a false dichotomy.

You misread the results of the survey. For example, evangelical Christians scored reasonably well on questions relating to their own tradition, and scored poorly otherwise. This does not make them factually ignorant of their preferred system - precisely the opposite is the case.

If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you read Berlinerblau's followup:

B makes a sharp distinction between pop vs. academic atheism. I would enlarge that distinction to embrace pop vs. protest atheism - though that would require considerable effort to work out in a compelling way. B also notes that a particular atheism is a function of what specific variety of theism an atheist rejects.

If you nonetheless feel that distinctions of this kind fall into the realm of caricature, please explain why.

Ludwik Kowalski

Can science and religion coexist peacefully?

This is a good question to start an interesting discussion. See how this question was answered by many smart people at my website:

Ludwik Kowalski
Professor Emeritus
Montclair State University, NJ




That goes for Catholic versus Protestant views.

And for conservative versus moderate versus liberal Christian views.

But honestly, some views do NOT make sense to other people. Some views simply do not fit into the world view of other people. You can't shoe horn them into that world view. You can't slide them in with kindness either.


Christianity has a built-in defense system; anything that questions a belief, no matter how logical the argument, is the work of Satan by the very fact that it makes you question a belief.

Bill Hicks (comedian)

Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature--is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.

Friedrich Nietzsche, “Doubt as Sin,” Daybreak, s. 89.

A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back, he’s gonna wanna see a cross? Maybe that’s why he hasn’t shown up yet.

“They’re still wearing crosses? When they start wearing fishes I’ll go back, this is ridiculous. They’ve entirely missed the meaning of this thing.”

It’s like going up to one of the Kennedy clan with a rifle pendant on. “Just thinking of your tragically assassinated relative, president John F. Kennedy, I really loved him.”

Bill Hicks (comedian), Rant in E-minor, CD

We Christians neither want nor worship crosses as the pagans do.

Minucius Felix (Christian author, circa 200 A.D.)

It was only in the third century (after 400 A.D.) that Christian communities increasingly used “covert” crosses, which have survived in the murals of the catacombs and on tombstones. They might be an anchor with a crosspiece, a ship with a mast and yard, a human figure with outstretched arms, or a juxtaposition of the initials of the name Jesus or Christ (in Greek or Latin) to produce a cross-like shape. It was in the fourth century that the cross became an openly Christian symbol. By that time crucifixion as a method of state execution had been abolished and the cross ceased to have its former cruel and negative associations. Several hundred years later it was deemed a terrific symbol to use to ward off vampires, demons, etc.


If Christ was executed today I bet Christians would wear little electric chairs round their necks.

Dick Gregory

After the missionary explained the Bible’s superior civilized plan of salvation to several natives, one of them replied, “Like you, we love our gods and seek to love one another. What we do not understand is why your god tried to pin down sin by using His son as a voodoo doll.”


Christianity is merely paganism with a more successful advertising campaign.


To paraphrase John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he temporarily died to save it from himself. But none of that really matters because most people will be tortured for eternity anyways.”

Matt Miller

Christianity teaches that Jesus had to die, or God couldn’t forgive the world.

So why isn’t Judas a “Saint?”

Whenever I forgive someone I’m relatively straightforward and direct about it. But for God it takes a bloody miracle.


Though I admire Jesus for deploring the temptations of wealth, organized religion and its powerful sway, as well as hypocrisy, I no longer find the doctrines of either “original sin,” or “imputed righteousness” believable. I don’t think the cosmos is the way it is simply because one human couple failed a test with some fruit, nor do I believe that a man being executed 2000 years ago “paid the price” for the “world’s sins,” and we ought to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” for the forgiveness of sins, not even metaphorically. Sounds rather paganish, echoing both vampirism and cannibalism.



A: Have you heard the latest?

B: No, what’s happened?

A: The world has been redeemed!

B: You don’t say!

A: Yes, the Dear Lord took on human form and had himself executed in Jerusalem; and with that the world has been redeemed and the devil hoodwinked.

B: Gosh, that’s simply lovely.

Arthur Shopenhauer


No chipmunk had to be crucified

on a tiny cross of twigs

To save all the other chippies,

Had to have nails pounded

through his little paws,

Had to take upon himself

all the sins of all the chippies

that ever were or would be

and die in agony

So that after they died

all the chippies

could live again forever,

But only if they believed

in all the sayings and doings

of the chipmunk crucified

on the tiny cross of twigs.

Antler, Last Words

Christians believe that God has established a bizarre system through which our sins are forgiven by the commission of the greatest sin of all [i.e., if murder is the greatest sin, then murdering God’s own son must be the “greatest sin of all.”--E.T.B.] This is a deicide to haunt the mind. That such a thing could arise from an eternal, all-loving, omnipotent God is beyond belief.

What are we to make of the juxtaposition of God’s requirement of this barbarous act with his directive that we should “love one another?”

The saving death of Jesus represents a primitive concept, the principle of blood sacrifice both of animals and of humans that was regarded by ancient and prehistoric man as the fundamental way to placate and intercede with the gods. It was part of the natural order. In fact it was so taken for granted that no one anywhere in the Bible, Old or New Testaments, offers a justification for it, or an explanation of how it works. Christians today are just as much in the dark about why the death of Jesus should have atoning power with God. Ironically, those same modern Christians would universally regard the ritual killing of humans or animals as outdated and repugnant in any other area of society’s life. And yet they continue to endorse it by their adherence to the idea of Jesus as a blood sacrifice on their behalf.

Earl Doherty, a review of “Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ” [The Jesus Puzzle webpage]

A Rochester filmgoer (after seeing the bloody religious epic, The Passion) was quoted as saying, “It was heartbreaking to know that I had put Jesus there on the cross, it wasn’t the Jews and it wasn’t the Romans, it was me and what I did…It was all of us, and that is why he had to die; for us.”

It is distressing to consider that there are lots of people who think their misbehavior drove the nails into the Savior’s wrists, that their sins punctured his side, just as surely as when they were fifteen their marijuana habit meant stealing twenties from their long-suffering father’s wallet and finally caused his coronary. And these people can vote.

R. Joseph Hoffman (for The Institute for Humanist Studies), “A review of The Passion of the Christ--A Mel Gibson Film,” first published February 2004

It seems to me that the most spurious of all the great religions is Christianity. Its Biblical miracles are childish, pre-scientific myths. Its theology has been taken right out of the caldrons of blood sacrifice and appeasement. For God so loved the world that he allowed the crucifixion of his only son to appease his own wrath, and then he denied eternal life to billions of human souls who refused to accept the gory myth.

Paul Blanshard (former minister), Personal and Confidential

Let me see if I have this straight…God sent His boy to His people, so that His people could kill His boy to save them from God?

NoGodHere (in “God is a Myth” AOL chatroom)

I am impaled on a big giant stick with Christ: nevertheless I somehow magically live; yet not I, but Christ magically lives in me through the Power of the Holy Spook who is also somehow magically Him: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by thinking magically about the Son of God, who loves me from the Sky Kingdom, and magically gave himself for me to appease the murderous anger of the pissed off version of Himself in the Sky Kingdom.

Galatians 2:20 (Jeff Reid Version, composed by “Brother Jeff” or “Jeffrey L. Reid” Website:

Don’t Christians ever wonder why killing God’s son was not the greatest sin of all? Or wonder how we could be forgiven for that sin, except by killing another savior whose blood must be shed to “atone” for the sin of killing the first one? And so forth and so on? At some point direct forgiveness, not based on a bloody sacrifice, has to intervene to break the endless loop. Maybe that’s why Jesus himself did not believe that God’s forgiveness depended on a bloody sacrifice, but instead taught everyone to pray “in this way…Our Father…Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” Direct forgiveness.


Let’s not forget that Jesus (after a few hours of pain) rose from the dead and ascended to a throne in heaven. So in essence, nobody really “killed” Jesus; it was more like a fraternity hazing, or an early version of the TV show, “Fear Factor,” where you endure all kinds of shit to win a valuable prize.

T-Shirt Hell Newsletter, 2/25/04

Jesus Christ--who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death and rose bodily into the heavens--can now be eaten in the form of a cracker. A few Latin words spoken over your favorite Burgundy, and you can drink his blood as well.

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

The Old Testament taught, “The life is in the blood.” But science teaches today that if the “life” of an intelligent organism can be said to reside in a particular organ, that organ is the brain and nervous system, not the blood. The blood merely carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain. The brain guides the body, and is far more intimately connected to each person’s “life or soul” than the “blood” is.

Even people with less than a high school education today recognize the priority of the brain over the blood, so much so in fact, that in the movie, Hannibal (about a cannibalistic serial killer), the thought of slicing out tiny parts of a person’s brain, cooking them in a pan, and serving the pieces to that person to eat has become in the public’s mind a more disturbing image than, say, serving a person a glass of their own blood to drink, which appears relatively tame in comparison. Because we know that a person’s brain doesn’t grow back like their blood, and we know that each person’s “life/consciousness,” resides in the most valuable organ of all, the brain. Some people even opt to freeze their heads in liquid nitrogen after they die in hopes of one day being revived (with the help of nano-bots).

There also seems to have been a reduction in the number of sermons that focus on being “covered by the blood,” or “saved by the blood.” Today the phrase, “saved by blood” means receiving a blood transfusion, which does not change a person’s brain/soul. Even the phrase, “Jesus shed his blood for you,” simply brings to mind the image of someone’s blood dripping onto the ground, not doing much for anyone at all.

I prefer a more “brain intensive” religion today, not one soaked in bloody metaphors mixed with magic.


Conservative religious broadcasters tickle me whenever they exclaim, “Christianity is under attack! The Christian religion deserves to be respected, not attacked!”

Let me see if I have this straight. Here is a religion that teaches that anyone who doesn’t accept it will fry forever in hell--what am I supposed to respect about that? Hasn’t such a religion “raised the ante” of disrespect to infinite levels before anyone else has even drawn their cards (let alone their swords)?

Anonymous at [edited by E.T.B.]

“Civilization will fail without Christianity,” at least that’s what Christians have emailed me on their computers that were designed ironically by atheists, agnostics and Buddhists (in America & Japan). Chinese Communists have also begun producing computers and will soon have hundreds of millions of them.

“Civilizations fail even with Christianity” would be more to the point, as the decline of the Christianized Roman Empire illustrates. Also, the Southern U.S. fell to the troops of the North during the Civil War, even though the South believed it was God’s new chosen nation and had added an invocation to “God” in their Southern Constitution. Today, America is the most church-filled nation on earth and also spends more money on weapons of mass destruction than perhaps all other nations combined. America also has more obesity and more of its citizens in prison than any other nation on earth. Neither do Americans live the longest (even Canadians live longer than your average American), nor do we have the highest average school test scores, nor do we have the lowest rates of teen pregnancy--not when compared with nations with far fewer churches.


Jesus didn’t die on the cross for your sins, he died on the cross because he was a crazy ass cult leader, and the Romans knew it.


Christians are generally creepy people as a direct result of the dysfunctional dynamic of worshiping a dead naked hippie.

Die Warzau, Engine Tour Shirt, 1995



You and those you like to quote fetishize inanimate objects of a religion you have chosen to reject, either because they share your rejection, or for comic effect. That you mix the two indiscriminately suggests that you have given up on truth and prefer a stream of "happy" feelings.

Your interpretation of key Christian doctrines is about as nuanced as that of two bit soap box preacher.

The exercise says a whole lot about you and very little about the religion you seek to exorcize.

I wonder if you have noticed these things. Am I the first to point them out to you? The narcissism the exercise expresses has, I'm afraid, no easy cure.

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