I (R.e. Glenn a.k.a. The Philosopher Monk) was elated to find myself in a discussion today. I love them. Civil, open-minded ones, anyway. And I decided to post it, and to create a new category in this project that will be called “The Dialogues”. And, it would seem, this is the first one Continue reading
The Gospel of Thomas, and the other gnostic gospels that we now have, was discovered in Egypt in 1945, near a town called Nag Hammadi (hence the name Nag Hammadi Library). Of all the Gospels in that collection, Thomas is considered to be the most important one, and some have suggested that it is a candidate for the theoretical Q gospel that Matthew and Luke, using a copy of Mark and this Q gospel, wrote their gospels with. It’s importance is derived from the fact that a lot of the sayings are found in the canonical (accepted) gospels in the bible, although there is a lot that isnt. Another reason why it is so important, or relevant, is because it’s not a narrative gospel like those found in the Bible, it is a collection of sayings. So, if authentic, (and it has been dated back to the early Christian centuries (the copy they found in Nag Hammadi is written in a language called Coptic, and they know that the copy we have was a copy and translation from greek, which most accept was the language that the gospel was originally written in, just like the New Testament Gospels were written in Greek. Continue reading
While non-religious people tend to reject religion because they find the evidence for a supernatural deity unconvincing, a new study shows that rejecting religion can be good not just logically, but emotionally.
While previous studies had suggested some emotional and social value to being religious, a new study that examined a huge number of people from around the world discovered that being religious is a risk factor for depression. As explained by the Huffington Post,  over 8,000 people from different countries from the UK to Chile, had their levels of religiosity measured. The study covered various economic and social groups and looked at the relationship between religiosity and depression. Continue reading
The following article first appeared in the American Prospect. 
In the two years leading up to his death this past February, the legal and political philosopher Ronald Dworkin was completing a slim volume with a weighty title. Religion without God, which began as a series of lectures in 2011, set a lofty goal: to propose a “religious attitude” in the absence of belief. Dworkin’s objective was not just theological. The book, he hoped, would help lower the temperature in the past decade’s battle between a group of scientists and philosophers dubbed the New Atheists and an array of critics who have accused them of everything from Islamophobia to fundamentalism to heresy. Continue reading
Written by R.e. Glenn, The Philosopher Monk
A friend and I ended up finding ourselves in a heated discussion regarding, among other diverse topics, Jesus and the concept of the messiah in history. When I had mentioned that Jesus wasn't the only one claiming, whether he said it himself or others said it about him, to be the promised/prophesied messiah. The one with the capital “M”. He seemed amazed when I had mentioned that there were several others around the time (1st century CE) who were performing miracles, leading and teaching followers, having the mantle of 'messiah' attatched to them, and who, in many such cases, ended their lives under the execution of crucifixion.
His response felt like an indignant attack on what he seemed to see as a completely ridiculous, idiotic, how-could-you-be-even-remotely-serious thought and how dare I even bring up such an unfounded conspiracy theory. He said, “NAMES! Tell me their names! If they existed, tell me their names!”
At the time, I didn't have the time to go through my library to provide him some names, but that's what I'll attempt to do here. Keep in mind that this isn't an exhaustive, or even remotely complete listing, just a few examples of Jesus-like persons around the time that Jesus and the Jewish state were in apocalyptic “end times” tumult.
It is a miracle that we know anything at all about the man called Jesus of Nazareth. The itinerant preacher wandering from village to village clamoring about the end of the world, a band of ragged followers trailing behind, was a common sight in Jesus's time–so common, in fact, that it had become a kind of charicature among the Roman elite. In a farcical passage about just such a figure, the Greek philosopher Celsus imagines a Jewish holy man roaming the Galilean countryside, shouting to no one in particular: “I am God, or the servant of God, or a divine spirit. But I am coming, for the world is already in the throes of destruction. And you will soon see me coming with the power of heaven.”
The first century was an era of apocalyptic expectation among the Jews of Palestine, the Roman designation for the vast tract of land encompassing modern-day Israel/Palestine as well as large parts of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Countless prophets, preachers and messiahs trampted through the Holy Land delivering messages of God's imminent judgment. Many of these so-called false messiahs we know by name. A few are even mentioned in the New Testament. The prophet Theudas, according to the book of Acts, had four hundred disciples before Rome captured him and cut off his head. A mysterious charismatic figure known only as “the Egyptian” raised an army of followers in the desert, nearly all of whom were massacred by Roman troops. In 4 B.C.E., the year in which most scholars believe Jesus of Nazareth was born, a poor shepherd named Athronges put a diadem on his head and crowned himself “King of the Jews”; he and his followers were brutally cut down by a legion of soldiers. Another messianic aspirant, called simply “the Samaritan,” was crucified by Pontius Pilate even though he raised no army and in no way challenged Rome–an indication that the authorities, sensing the apocalyptic fever in the air, had become extremely sensitive to any hint of sedition. There was Hezekiah the bandit chief, Simon of Peraea, Judas the Galilean, his grandson Menahem, Simon son of Giora, and Simon son of Kochba–all of whom declared messianic ambitions and all of whom were executed by Rome for doing so.
Excerpted from: “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” by Reza Aslan [Text above can be found in the Introduction.]
The genealogy of Jesus is listed twice in the New Testament, once in Matthew and again in Luke. It’s important to list because the descent along the bloodline from King David was a vital qualification for the messiah, just like it was important that the messiah be born, or come from, Bethlehem. The list in Matthew goes back all the way to Abraham (as founder of Israel). However, the one in Luke lists the descent all the way back to the first man, Adam. It’s revealing as to the intent of the authors for how they presented their lists: Matthew was reinforcing and focusing on the aspect of Jesus’ descent from King David, while Luke was presenting and attempting to justify Jesus as a “New Adam”. Continue reading
Even though that title probably grabbed your attention, and immediate bias, I promise that it wasn’t chosen just for “shock value”, but is the best general way to sum up my thought, and, by the end, whether you agree or not, you’ll understand why it’s the title.
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A few people have contacted me to question why I wrote a Tweet a day or so ago, chastising those who might be antagonistic towards me for bringing a bit of information to their attention that they subsequently claim is just intended to “cut down their faith”.
If your faith is such that it cannot withstand exposure to truth and fact, then it wasn’t that strong to begin with. Do not get mad at me because you think I ruined something that really didn’t ever exist.