The most incredulous person in the world is a fundamentalist who is reading someone else’s holy book. Suddenly, they can smell subterfuge a mile away.
But point out something ridiculous about their holy book—and watch the fur fly. Obvious discrepancies are “apparent” discrepancies. Any “apparent discrepancy” a True Believer can’t resolve is an “unsolved mystery.” We’ll just have to ask God about that when we get to heaven.
Everybody seems to have a personal bullshit detector, which they’re eager to use on all holy texts except their own.
I discovered this truth when I was researching my first novel, which is about a Mormon missionary who goes insane on his mission. I read more books about Mormonism than you can shake a stick at it. How can people believe this crap? Then I read the Book of Mormon itself.
Here’s the Book of Mormon in 79 words: It was Jews who populated North America, coming over first in wooden submarines. The good Jews were “white and delightsome.” The evil Jews were given a black skin so God could tell them apart. They built a vast steel-smelting, chariot-driving civilization and engaged in battles that left millions rotting on the field of battle. After his resurrection, Jesus showed up and quoted the New Testament, King James Version. Meanwhile, elephants roamed the heartland in a vain search for peanuts.
The Book of Mormon’s an obvious fraud—obvious to non-Mormons, that is—the whole thing written in a wooden King James English. In fact, large swaths of the Book of Mormon were lifted whole hog from the 1611 edition of the King James Version, including all of that version’s errors. Joseph Smith obviously had a King James Bible at his elbow when he “translated” the golden plates.
What he needed was a National Geographic. He was woefully ill informed about the nature of Pre-Columbia America. There was no steel, silk, bumblebees, or wheels in the land before the Spanish arrived. No elephants either.
What’s more, no archeologist—that is, no non-Mormon archeologist—has ever found a scintilla of evidence for these civilizations. And they’ve looked. A lot. No roads or temples. No Hebrew writing. No kosher delis. And never has anyone ever found Arrowhead One from these hyperbolic bloodbaths in upstate New York.
And the Mormon apologists’ justifications of these “problems” are so tortured as to be hilarious. For example, the Book of Mormon claims Pre-Columbia America was lousy with horses. The Book of Mormon has the ancient Americans riding them into battle all the time. Non-Mormon scientists point out that there is absolutely no evidence that horses existed on the American continent during the 3,000-year history of the Book of Mormon. None. Horses evolved in North America but grew extinct at the end of the Pleistocene. Horses did not reappear in the Americas until the Spaniards brought them from Europe.
What was the response from Mormon apologists? When the Book of Mormon said “horses,” it really meant—ready for it?—tapirs.
Tapirs. Can’t you just see the ancient Americans riding out to battle on their tapir-drawn chariots?
And Mormons wonder why people make fun of them.
But when I stopped chuckling, I was struck by an inconvenient truth, as Al Gore says. I couldn’t help but compare the Mormon apologists’ apologies to those proffered by evangelical apologists.
One example out of many: Just exactly how many angels did the women encounter when they came upon Jesus’ empty tomb? The gospels vary. Some say two; some say one.
Well, to solve this conundrum, I went to—where else?—the internet. I found the website for J. Warner Wallace, a cold-case homicide detective and adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. He calls his ministry Cold-Case Christianity.
Using his hard-won detective skills, Wallace concludes that there were two angels at the tomb. One rolled away the stone. Both helped Jesus from the tomb. His conclusion: Matthew does not say there was only one angel. John and Luke say there were two—and wherever there are two, there is always at least one!
Where do I start?
The gospels weren’t written by eyewitnesses. The gospels were put to paper 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. Thirty. During those 30 years, the stories of Jesus were told and retold and amended and exaggerated across the Roman Empire. Over in this geography, Jesus did/said X. Over there, he did/said Y.
The gospels say different things because they were written for different faith communities hundreds of miles apart from each other. They couldn’t fact check one another. To say they even saw the need to fact check belies a modern worldview. The church then wasn’t even remotely what it is now. It wasn’t even the church.
When True Believers like Wallace defend the Bible, they’re not doing so based on thorough examination of the data. Rather, they start by assuming their point of view is correct and then sift through the data to find that which confirms their assumptions.
It’s not that I think they’re stupid. Wallace is probably smarter than me, which isn’t that difficult. It’s not a matter of intelligence. It’s a matter of motive.
Apologists have an agenda.
Apologists don’t seek the truth. If they did, they’d be willing to go where the data takes them. They defend the truth as they see it. Which means they dismiss and deflect. They engage in rhetorical prestidigitation. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!
True Believers use apologists like castor oil. They don’t read their stuff on a regular basis. It’s as dry as dirt. But if a nonbeliever presses them with a question they can’t answer, they run to the apologists, read their baloney, and heave a sigh of relief—comforted that “smart people have dealt with these issues.”
Ask yourself this question: If your religion were false, would you want to know it? Most folks say no, which means job security for apologists.
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