Matthew Myth Making
Daniel Dennett & Alister McGrath
I have always thought of the historical Jesus as a homeland Jew within Judaism within the Roman Empire. I have always thought of the historical Paul as a diaspora Jew within Judaism within the Roman Empire. For me, then, within Judaism within the Roman Empire has always been the absolutely necessary matrix rather than the annoyingly unnecessary background for any discussion of earliest Christianity. You can see that three-layer matrix, for example, in the sub-titles to the first and last books above. For the historical Jesus, The Life of a Mediterranean Peasant, emphasizes Rome, Judaism, and Jew. For the historical Paul, How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, emphasizes Jew, Rome, and Judaism. Whether you start or end with the Roman Empire, the Roman Empire is always there.
-John Dominic Crossan
Sam Harris & Andrew Sullivan
Daniel Dennett - The Problem of Evil
Problem of evil and religion's double standard Q: Many have criticized Pat Robertson's suggestion that the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was the work of the devil or a form of divine punishment. But if one believes God is good and intervenes in the world, why does God allow innocents to suffer? What is the best scriptural text or explanation of that problem you've ever read?
One of the striking differences between modern, "organized" religion and tribal or folk religions--religions without seminaries and theologians and official books--is that in tribal religions they have no double standard! They thank their gods for the good stuff that happens and blame them for the bad. The idea that God is a worthy recipient of our gratitude for the blessings of life but should not be held accountable for the disasters is a transparently disingenuous innovation of the theologians. And of course it doesn't work all that well. The Problem of Evil, capital letters and all, is the central enigma confronting theists. There is no solution. Isn't that obvious? All the holy texts and interpretations that contrive ways of getting around the problem read like the fine print in a fraudulent contract--and for the same reason: they are desperate attempts to conceal the implications of the double standard they have invented.