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I have spent years in personal study of Church history. I left the faith because of it. If Christianity got something wrong then I want to know about it. I will no longer defend it a priori. I will subject it to the same critical investigation I subject any other religion or truth claim to. But that also means I must be willing to accept it if something is proven true about its claims.

Similarly I will not tolerate it when lies are spread about it. Not because I must defend a dogma or am emotionally committed to it, but because I want the truth. Even if the truth of the particular issue does nothing to convince me of her central claims. I spent too many years digging into Church history to give into conspiracy theories and Fundamentalist agendas. I spent too many years agonizing over the sea of contradictions that engulf Christian claims. I want the truth and I will follow that truth wherever it leads. So far it has led me far from the gates of the Church and at this point I see nothing pointing me back there. But I remain open minded.

Brace Yourselves The 'Easter is Pagan' Posts Are Coming

As it is coming up to Easter I am beginning to see the usual anti-Christian “Easter is Pagan” memes. I used to see them promoted by rabid anti-Catholic Fundamentalist Evangelicals (I used to be one). Then I became more moderate and liberal and they died away. But as I left the faith and began making connections with atheists, skeptics and agnostics I began to see them bandied about again. And from the very highest authorities right down to the average skeptic who is just fed up of the bullshit.

it must be said right off the bat that all reliable sources point very strongly to the fact that Easter did originate as a Christian holiday. We have Melito in 150 speak of Pascha as something well established and practiced worldwide by the Catholic Church. This is a mere 50-70 years after it is thought the last Apostle died. One generation. It is therefore clear that it was the central holiday of Christendom since the very beginning. It was simply a continuation and “fulfillment” of the Jewish Passover. This is the most widely accepted theory. The one that fits all of the facts the best. Sure, that version may be wrong, but I generally try to listen to what the experts are saying, and in this case the jury seems to be in. Yes, there was evolution. Christianity has evolved since the beginning and continues to. Another reason I rejected it. The claims are that it is the faith once delivered to the saints. It is supposedly eternal and unchanging, but history tells us a very different story.

The reason I reject Christianity is because of the inherent uncertainty in its historic claims coupled with the absolute demands of the religion under threat of eternal hellfire. The threats do not match the level of certainty and the difficulty level at which its truth claims are discovered. Faith is a completely unreasonable demand upon which to base your eternal welfare on. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions on the history of Christianity or on the Bible. I rejected Christianity in major part to allow me to fully question and test it without fear of hell. If at some point I come back to believe it is true then well and good. If some god out there damns me to eternal flames for wanting actual evidence for the things I believe then screw that god. And I seriously doubt a being capable of creating this universe is so small minded and simply wicked as that.

Atheists and skeptics are usually the best when it comes to analyzing the claims of religion and demanding evidence in support of these claims. But to often they give into wild theories about the origins of Christianity. Sad to say but this is simply because they want it to be true. Some claim, for example, that the central figures from the New Testament are stolen from previous cultures, Mary/Isis, Jesus/Horus, Lazarus/El-Azarus,” It just shows me how unaware of the facts these people are and how willing they are to believe a lie when it suits their agenda. Perhaps this phenomena is not just a religious one. Confirmation bias can happen to anyone at anytime. The supposed Jesus/Horus connection, which Bill Maher regurgitates in his otherwise insightful documentary Religulous, is completely without evidence in the slightest. There is simply no evidence to suggest any of the things said about Horus are true. I haven’t looked into the other supposed connections, but I have a strong suspicion based on what I do know that they are also made up.

From the beginning the festival was called Pascha (which is derived from the Aramaic word for Passover) and still is in most non-English countries.. The name Easter is of somewhat uncertain origin, but is most likely Northern European and refers to the goddess Eostre, who was mentioened by Bede in the 8th century. Most scholars feel that Bede had no reason to make this up as it did not help the image of Christianity at all. The month that Pascha fell on was “Oestre-month”. Exactly like how Thursday is named after Thor’s Day. There really is not much more to how Pascha got called Easter than that. The connection to a pagan goddess is incidental and only because she had her name attached to a month. So these critics of Christianity have misunderstood where the true connection lies. It refers to the time of the year.

There may be some connection between Eostre and Ishtar. I have not found any evidence as of yet to suggest this. But even if there was it would only suggest that the worship of a pagan goddess made its way from the Middle East to Northern Europe at some point in the ancient past. No big deal there. Scholars since the 19th century have understood there may be a possible proto-indo-european link between the various “dawn” goddesses (Eostre is derived from the word dawn).

Did pagan accretions add up over time? Most likely. The connections are mostly local customs that grew up slowly and quite apart from any official attempt by the Church to “paganize” Christianity.

Much of the confusion surrounding these issues was first brought upon us by Fundamentalist Evangelicals attempting to discredit the Roman Catholic Church and skeptics have simply fallen into it because they think it helps their cause. Many of the connections are simply not there or are misunderstood.

Constantine gets blamed for a lot of things he didn’t do. He didn’t change the Bible, he didn’t introduce the Trinity, he had very little to do with the Gnostics, he didn’t introduce Christmas and he didn’t change Easter from a pagan festival to a Christian one.

The issue Constantine dealt with regarding Easter was one of dates and times. The Quartodecimans celebrated it on the 14th of the month (quarto=4, deciman=10) in keeping with the Jewish Passover, which they believed was the Apostolic practice. Wikipedia says:

“Constantine enforced the prohibition of the First Council of Nicaea against celebrating the Lord’s Supper on the day before the Jewish Passover (14 Nisan) (see Quartodecimanism and Easter controversy). This marked a definite break of Christianity from the Judaic tradition. From then on the Roman Julian Calendar, a solar calendar, was given precedence over the lunisolar Hebrew Calendar among the Christian churches of the Roman Empire.”

If I’m not mistaken the East still celebrates on the Jewish day, while the West celebrates on the Sunday after it. The East says there way is the Apostolic way and is the very day Passover was celebrated, the West says Jesus rose on a Sunday (the change was also encouraged by strong anti-Semitic feeling).

After reading this I’d recommend you read another article called Easter Is Not Named After Ishtar, And Other Truths I Have To Tell You. It’s another critique of the modern skeptical enthusiasm to show the pagan origins of Christianity that simply do not exist.

One rule of thumb is that with any historic claim go to the sources. If someone is claiming to be relying on sources ask to see them and read them for yourself. This usually dismisses most outlandish claims.

As skeptics we must test all claims not just the ones we don’t like. We accuse the religious of confirmation bias and in most cases rightly so. We should therefore not be found guilty of it ourselves.

The Council of Nicea and the reign of Constantine are fascinating subjects, but not for the reasons that Evangelical Fundamentalists and ill-informed skeptics think so.

Constantine changed the face of Christianity and the world. But he did not introduce any religious holidays. He did not tamper with the Bible. He did not invent the Trinity. He did not give us the Roman Catholic Church. He did many things, but he didn’t do any of that.

There are a couple of resources I would recommend. On the top of my list would be A. H. M. Jones’ Constantine and the Conversion of Europe. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Period. A joy to read. I have it in paperback, eBook and audiobook. It’s one of the few book I’ve ever reread.

The next book I’d recommend might be Decoding Nicea by Paul Pavao. If you can pick out the religious leaning then I think that book might be interesting as it deals with he primary sources of the council and addresses the misconceptions and lies that have gone around about it.

I know the author personally though we have parted ways since I left the faith. He doesn’t like engaging with me anymore.

Once you read these two books you could then read the sources for yourself and they should make a lot more sense to you.

The website https://fourthcentury.com hosts all the primary sources for Nicea under it’s councils section.

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I’ve been criticized sharply by less Fundamentalist Christians both when I was a Christian and after I left the faith. They state the reason I left was because I was a Fundamentalist and that type of faith is untenable in the real world.
Of course this isn’t true. Therefore​ are probably hundreds of millions of Fundamentalists in the world who never leave the faith. And many liberals and moderates who do.

Jesus states that God reveals the faith to us. It is not man made.

Paul states heretics and schismatics will go to hell.

Jude states there is one faith delivered once to the saints.

Peter speaks about false teachers.

The Psalms say the fool has said in his heart there is no God.

Again James looks down on the doubter stating that he is tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. This charge was levelled at me any times as I went from denomination to denomination seeking sure answers to my questions.

My conviction after 15 years of personal study and reflection is that Christianty is no more miraculous or unusual than any other world religion. It’s claims are not sure or incontrovertible.

So my position has reverted to agnosticism. Though before I was uncertain. Now I am certain. In this way I disagree with Russell. I am certain but I remain open to real, testable and/or observable evidence that is not open to multiple valid interpretations. This is what separates dogma from true knowledge.

Christianity claims to be historic. It claims to have only one valid version of the faith. And it claims that heretics and schismatics will burn for eternity.

I find the evidence lacking regarding the claims and the certain threats of hellfire to be far beyond what is actually warranted based on the evidence.

Christianity claims to be a simple faith, yet digging deeper reveals huge cracks and gaping holes that need expertise in multiple fields and years of research that is far outside the remit or capability of most of humanity to engage in.

Saying that we should rely on experts doesn’t cut it for me. My own study has shown me just how much uncertainty resides in the very fabric of these issues and the almost endless diversity on all of the central issues also tells me that the experts are also guessing many times.

Theology is no different than mythology in my view. Ask about the nature of the Trinity and you might as well be asking what colour a fairy king’s wings are. It’s for this reason that I say theology is a thing that says it’s​ a thing but is not a thing!

There is much disagreement about many aspects of the history of Christianty just as there is about many aspects of every historical episode. But in most historical studies our eternal fate is not tied to getting the correct answers. Get the historical aspects of Christianty wrong and you may go to hell (or not if your theology interprets the many verses differently).

You see I believed certain things about the Bible. I was a fairly “orthodox” Evangelical. I believed if the Apostle John had walked into our little fellowship he would have been well pleased with what he saw. I knew Jesus was…

Then I started reading Polycarp and Ignatius. Disciples​ of John. Chosen leaders of that inspired Apostle to lead Christ’s Church into the next generation. Both died valiantly​ for the faith once delivered to the saints.

I was shocked at how different their theology was. This made me question everything I had been taught. My whole system crumbled and never recovered.

I became sure Evangelicalism simply had it flat wrong on many “fundamental” issues. This caused me to eventually question the whole thing. If Evangelicalism which seems so certain and complete has it wrong in spite of such clear contradictory evidence, then how can I be certain of such intrinsically uncertain information as is provided in the NT.

God is always invoked at this point, but again, Evangelicalism which claims to be of God is so wrong on historic theology and practice. Christianity clearly evolved and continues to evolve in spite of the claims that it is eternal and unchanging. Invoking God to say that he gives the certainty of your conviction is a non-argument and is evidence for nothing. It is a fallacy to claim your version of your religion is true because God told you it was. That could be used as an argument  by anyone to justify anything. At best it is ignorant of the historical facts. At worst it is simply delusional.

Evangelicals should be the last ones to moan about pagan and unbiblical traditions. They’re very far away from Apostolic tradition and practice as understood by the disciples of the Apostles. 

They can clamour all they like about only obeying the Bible and being led into the truth by the holy Spirit, but when these same major denominations disagree sharply over fundamental doctrines and come to polar opposite interpretations of the same verses then they should shut up about what is or isn’t Biblical. It’s clear none of them actually has a clue. 

This image an example of the kind of “research” many Fundamentalists engage in. This image from the book The Two Bablyons by Alexander Hislop and it been thoroughly refuted and rejected by modern scientific scholarship.

One of the issues that got me thinking about how ridiculous religion is, was theology. Here we have thousands of denominations representing about a billion people getting all dogmatic on various topics, never agreeing with each other, but basing it all on the exact same texts. Men have burned other men at the stake over interpretations of a verse of the Bible. We can’t do that anymore, but they kill and maim them with their words now.
Theology is Not a Thing
I was talking to an old friend the other day that agreed that under a theocracy burning at the stake for heresy would still be morally acceptable. He defended Calvin’s Geneva for burning Servetus at the stake for not believing in the Trinity. Which is a ridiculous thing to believe anyway. That poor man was burned alive for following his conscience and refusing to believe in absurdity. My friend also said that slavery, again under Biblical rules and regulations, was still permissible.
During my own journey when I confronted all of these people about why they disagree the invariable answer I got was they were led by the Holy Spirit but the others were led astray by Satan. But they all said this. Every group I was part of (and I was part of many diverse Christian groups in my search for the One True Church) believed they had been properly instructed by the Holy Spirit while the others were led astray by error and worldly lust and disobedience. When I would go to my brothers with this problem the response I got always went a little like this: “Our church is the true one church and it’s obvious. Just look at this Bible verse here and here.” If I continued to press this problem and show the crack in their theology some of them got silent. Some got angry. One even told me that if I was not careful that my inquisitive spirit would lead me into unbelief. I guess he was right. But at the time I was still convinced Christianity was true, I just hadn’t found the original version yet, since man had corrupted and changed it so much over 2000 years.
If Christianity is the Truth above all truths then why isn’t it clear which of the competing Christianities is the true one. As one who was sincerely seeking for the truth I found this confusing. I physically suffered from the cognitive dissonance this created for years. I got brief moments of reprieve as I found another new sect that I thought was the Truth I sought. But then my mind began questioning again. I began, almost against my own will, to look for the cracks in the system. This was not because I wanted to destroy it, it’s because I had been told Christianity was perfect. Literally perfect. I accepted this and believed that the One True Church would have no cracks in its theology. I never found the One True Church…
It slowly began to dawn on me as I searched most of the major Protestant denominations, Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Early Church that there was no definitive edition. That they all used the same circular arguments. That all of them were just based on what this guy said that this guy said that this guy wrote in a book 2000 years ago. It truly was faith alone. But not faith in a verifiable truth. It was faith in a subjective interpretation of the past. One that was prone to human error and misunderstanding. Yet the promise was that the faith was perfect, that the Church was being led by the Holy Spirit. Yet everything I had searched into showed me otherwise. I became convinced and still am that the Church and the Bible are just two more examples of human ingenuity and the mystery of human existence. I see nothing supernatural in either anymore. They’re human, oh so human.

“Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!” He believed in witches with magical powers controlled by demons with a masterplan to take over the world, but for many he was the personification of that witch. His version of reality was one filled with demons, satanists, world leaders controlled by Lucifer bent on world domination. Musicians performing mind control through subliminal messaging and so on.

this_was_your_life

Can’t say I’m upset about this. Jack Chick lived in a fantasy world. Anecdotal stories in comic books do not prove that Jack Chick’s frightening world of demons and satanists ruling the world through symbols and mind control actually exists.

Believing in his version of reality is a horrible bondage that I know only too well. I’m glad I got out of it and I’m glad he won’t be making anymore of those horrible comics.
He promoted more than a few people who have been shown to be fakes. He also promoted a false version of Church history that supported his crazy doctrines of Baptist Successionism and KJV Onlyism.
His comic book (I wouldn’t honour it by calling it a history book) called “Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?” was so full of lies and distortions. It was actually one of the books that helped move me away from Evangelical Fundamentalism. So I guess I have to thank him for that. But he deceived many and continues to do so. And David W. Daniels will make sure his legacy continues to confuse and radicalize a small subsection of the Evangelical community for generations to come. Thankfully that subsection is slowly dying away.
I have a full box of his tracts I bought about 10 years ago. I hardly knew what he believed and I was naive enough to believe we were all in the same boat on all the major issues. Jack Chick probably helped radicalize me… for a time… but thank God I eventually saw the light of sanity.
One of my old landlords was a big Chick supporter. He bought into the whole system. NWO. KJV Onlyism. Catholicism as the Whore of Babylon etc. etc. etc. Turns out though he was a pathological liar. He had hoarded millions of Euro in a secret bank account. He kept it a secret from his second wife. His first left him years ago and now we all know why. He was abusive and controlling. And this has been a steady characteristic of almost all extreme Fundamentalists I’ve known. He was keeping the money for his son. He told her he was giving it all to missions. Now an old man he was found out and admitted he has never given a penny to missions. He plans on leaving his wife penniless and giving it all to his worthless son who hardly does anything to help him, while she treats him like a king and acts like a servant. Terribly sad. Fundamentalism forces some human beings to lie about themselves, pretending they are saints. I’d rather be an honest sinner than a lying saint.

…keeping the outer cup all nice and clean, but inside is filthy. Maybe if They’d Taken Me Under Their Wing…

I was young in the Lord and willing to learn. They didn’t know one thing about me. And didn’t want to know. I was a brand new babe in Christ. Hungry for knowledge and in love with Jesus. But I wore sports clothes, didn’t have the right accent, born on the wrong side of the city, and I went to a “heretical” Charismatic fellowship. All they seemed interested in was my wife who was “one of us”. Very sad. But ultimately I’m glad. That experience as well as others caused me to not humbly submit to any man’s or group’s opinion but to search out matters for myself. Something I’m sure they agreed was a good idea in theory, as long as the person ultimately came to believe what they did!

woman-caught-in-adultery

You’ll be sad to know they split a family up later because of a member’s sin (I won’t get into the details) and just like the woman caught in adultery they blamed the woman. Except in this case she was blameless. Yet in their misogynistic way, that only Fundamentalist religionists can do, they sided with the man and excommunicated her. What’s interesting is that back then I always had my doubts about their salvation and sincerity, and this woman was the only one in the whole church I didn’t doubt. Such a lovely woman. The only one who took me in and treated me like a human being. Her husband was nice enough I suppose, but I always thought there was something not quite right about him. And I felt he was nice to me because she was. It never felt like she was either shunning me or trying to convert me. She was just treating me with equal respect.

Anyway ALL of his kids have run off into the world. Like really worldly. She is not allowed back in the assembly. But that was a really liberating experience for her I believe. She was forced to go to another fellowship where she was exposed to Christians other than herself and suddenly realised women who wore trousers were definitely “saved” and many times more devoted than the women she knew, even herself. It was a good experience. And him? Still faithfully attending his Gospel Hall with all his Brethren… No wife, no kids. but oh, so theologically correct and upstanding before his brethren and his god.

 

Read history. Christians have been declaring the end of the world since the beginning of the Church. And every generation was sure that their time had all the signs that “this is it!” “Things couldn’t possibly get any worse.” Scholars tell us that the first Christians, even Paul himself, believed they wouldn’t make it out of their century before Christ returned in judgement. The Anabaptists during the time of the Reformation were sure their days were the last, and that infant baptism was the mark of the beast, since the practice was tied up with citizenship. And non-citizens had no rights. They could neither buy nor sell. They were non-entities. If I had lived then I may have been persuaded by such reasoning as it seemed very plausible.

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And now all the faithful will throw 2 Peter 3:3-7 at me. The pseudonymous author of 2 Peter (most scholars agree Peter did not write this epistle) wrote this section because people (perhaps both Christian and non-Christian) had already realized that Christianity had claimed a quick return of Christ that never happened. So they needed a reinterpretation. And that has been the sad history of Christianity ever since. One long reinterpretation.

First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!” They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water,through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless. (NRSV)

This passage also creates fear in the faithful as the author makes it clear that doubting the literal and bodily Second Coming of Christ makes you a wicked reprobate worthy of fire that is coming to burn the world up!

Going back to the idea of Christianity being one long reinterpretation: Why, even today we have people who claim to have re-discovered a so-called Super Gospel where they smash all existing Gospels together. Doesn’t matter if they are Gnostic or proto-Orthodox. We have others who are now attempting to return to “Pristine Christianity”. A return to the Ante Nicene faith. Others are trying to develop their own form of what they see as “Pure” Christianity by obeying and considering Jesus’ Words Only as Scripture. All of these groups are admittedly small, but it goes to show that the re-imagining of Christianity continues unabated. And at the same time these re-imaginings are imagined to somehow be a return to orthodoxy and all competing forms of the religion are denounced in the strongest terms as hellish counterfeits. But is this not just the same old, same old that has been going on for the last 2000 years?

Here are some links to the movement I mention in the article:

The Super-Gospel: http://scriptural-truth.com/

Ante Nicene Restorationism: www.scrollpublishing.com

The man who is almost single-handedly behind the whole modern movement is David Bercot. He wrote a book in the 1980’s called Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? Where he make a convincing case that all of modern Christianity has strayed very far from Ante Nicene Christianity. Here’s his personal website: www.davidbercot.com/

The movement I got involved in after reading Bercot’s book seems to have vanished. They had quite an interesting website (EarlyChristianFellowship.org) with articles mainly written by William Leary. The articles covered various topics written from an Ante Nicene point of view, defending or explaining it. I parted with them after I found anomilies with their own reinterpretation of Ante Nicene Ecclesiology. I basically discovered that no church on earth today, including theirs was able to satisfy the requirements for being the true Church. At least not according to the standards of men like Tertulliand and Cyprian (who had different standards by the way… Just to confuse things a little more).

Here’s another seemingly defunct Ante Nicene Fellowship: http://www.ante-nicenechurch.org/

And here’s one that seems to still be going. I may have had interaction with these guys years ago. If I remember they are bit more “Catholic” than the group I was with who had a distinctively Protestant feel about them.

So it seems this “mighty move of God” has died before it has really taken off. A blip in the footnotes of Church history.

Jesus’ Words Only: www.jesuswordsonly.com

Paul fought the Judaizers in his day and they are back. And guess what? The modern Judaizers hate Paul too! This group claims that Paul is false prophet! Intriguing to say the least. If you have an inquisitive mind and don’t mind being influenced by a bit of heresy then this will interest you. The founder is busy building Christian fellowships that only accept Jesus’ words and the OT as inspired and who also believe it is necessary to follow the Law. They seem to be doing better than the Ante Nicene fellowships did…