Agnosticism & Atheism Sitemap - Page 2 2016-09-26

Christians - We Aren't Perfect, We're Just Better than You! Christian Arrogance & Self-Righteousness Overshadows Humility
Have you ever seen Christian bumper stickers that says something like 'not perfect, just saved'? I suppose the owner imagines that this is an expression of humility for admitting that one isn't perfect, but the attempted humility fails because of the smug expression of superiority: 'even if I'm not perfect, I'm still going to spend eternity in paradise while the rest of you losers will suffer an eternity of torment. So there!' Yet, it's atheists who are accused of being arrogant. Page 16.

Cannibalism - I'd Like My God Medium Rare, Please. With a Nice Chianti. - Cannibalism, Human Sacrifice, and Christian Theology
Even suggesting a connection between cannibalism and Christian mass may sound extreme to some, but just as the crucifixion of Jesus has a lot in common with older religious practices of human sacrifice, so too does the idea of transubstantiation - wine and bread becoming the blood and body of Jesus - have a lot in common with older religious practices of cannibalism. Crucifixion and mass are easier to understand if one understands the religious background of human sacrifice and cannibalism. Page 7.

Chastity vs. Sexuality - Grant me Chastity and Continence, But Not Yet! Chastity is Better Later than Now, Better for Others than for Oneself
In a sense, chastity could be treated as an indicator of just how obsessed a religion is with sex. The more a religion emphasizes chastity, the more they are effectively talking about and referencing sexuality. It's not just the religion that's obsessed with sex, but the adherents as well. After all, if the people themselves weren't constantly going

Chosen People - God Liked My Ancient Illiterate Ancestors Better Than Yours, So There!
Which requires a bigger ego, believing that you personally have been singled out and chosen by God for some special purpose, or believing that your entire ethnic group (race, family, whatever) has been singled out by God for some special purpose? Believing your a chosen by God may be personally fulfilling, but believing you belong to an entire group that's chosen by God means you're part of a larger, divinely-ordained movement and group. Either way, you are raised up out of the masses. Page 5.

Commies, Hiding Under Our Beds and In Our Closets Since 1917 - Anti-Atheist Bigotry in America as Tired, Warmed-Over Anti-Communism
The extreme hostility towards atheists in America can be traced in part to two related factors: America's view of itself as a religious nation entrusted with a special mission from God and America's fight against communism in the Cold War. These two combined to portray atheists as a godless enemy, a fifth column either for Satan or for totalitarian communism. This remains true even today when there is no 'commie menace' pointing nuclear weapons at America. A good enemy is hard to give up. Page 14.

Crusades & Faith-Based Violence - Kill them all; for God knows His Own - How Much Violence is Committed by Peaceful Religions?
There seems to be an inverse relationship between how vociferous believers are in claiming that their religion is peaceful and how peaceful their religion actually is. Perhaps a truly peaceful religion is obviously peaceful and doesn't raise a lot of red flags, so adherents don't need to go out of their way to say how peaceful they are. Violent religions, though, have a PR problem with outsiders so adherents need to go out of their way to explain how peaceful their beliefs actually are. Page 9.

Social Darwinism - Darwinism is an Atheist Lie, Except in Politics - In Politics, Social Darwinism is Policy for American Conservatives
A common argument used by conservative Christians against evolutionary theory is the idea that it reduces humanity to mere physical beings and morality to

If Jesus Rises from His Tomb & Sees His Shadow, We Get Six More Weeks of Winter; Groundhog's Day vs. Easter: Pagan Celebrations in Modern Guises
There's an old joke about kids confusing the nature of Easter and Groundhog's Day, but these two holidays have far more in common than most probably realize. Easter may be Christianity's oldest holiday, but not much of the popular celebrations have anything to do with Christianity and most of the Christian aspects can be traced to more ancient pagan celebrations. Groundhog's Day, occurring a couple of months earlier, is related to some of the same pagan cycles of life, death, and rebirth. Page 12.

Omnipresence - God is Omnipresent & Everywhere, Even in the Bathroom When You're Well, Aren't You Embarrassed? An Omnipresent God Saw You Doing That
Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched? According to Christian theology, you are — Christians believe their god is omnipresent, which means that their god is in all places at all times. So wherever you are and whatever you are doing, God is right there, watching you. Yesterday, when you were picking your nose? God was watching you. Last week, when you were... well, God was watching you then, too. Why is God such a voyeur? Isn't such stalking behavior a little creepy?

Opiate of the Masses - First Taste is Free, Then You Have to Pay - Religion Can Mimic the Worst Aspects of Addictive Drugs, Narcotics
When Karl Marx described religion as the 'opiate of the masses,' he was being far more sympathetic to religion than most realize. Marx didn't object to using opiates to relieve the pain of injury, he objected to relying solely on opiates in place of fixing the injury. According to Marx, religion blinds us to problems in society by giving us something pleasing to focus on. More negative and less sympathetic interpretations of this idea can still offer legitimate insight on religion, though. Page 11.

Pascal's Wager - Because Reducing Eternity to a Crapshoot is So Inspiring - If Pascal's Wager Asks us to Bet, Why Only Bet on One of Two Choices?
Christian apologists who like to use Pascal's Wager will argue that we shouldn't gamble on our future, but if that's the case then why do they offer gambling as way of looking at what they are offering? Pascal's Wager is founded on the idea of betting — rather than an argument designed to show that one's religion or theism are true or even likely true, the argument is designed to convince you that you are better off betting one way rather than another. Even in this it fails. Page 3.

Patriarchy - Having a Penis Means a Male God Wants You in Charge of Women - Your Dangling Bits are a Sign that God Favors Patriarchy
Apologists for patriarchy and male privilege are among the most ridiculous and absurd defenders of any sort of unjust privilege that you can find. When you get right down to it, all their arguments ultimately reduce to waving around their genitalia and insisting that because their genitals hang down and outside their bodies, they have divinely-sanctioned authority to be leaders and deciders in the family, in politics, in business, and in all of society. So a penis is a badge of leadership. Page 6.

Teach the Controversy, Teach Kids All the Theories about Sex! Christians Promote Teaching Lies About Sex, Lies About Evolution
The complaints and arguments raised by conservative Christians about teaching evolution in public schools are uniformly false when applied to teaching evolution, but they are remarkably true when applied to sex education — or at lest the abstinence-only education programs championed by... you guessed it, conservative Christians. Is it a sign of projection that they are guilty of doing to sex education what they claim about science education, or just a sign of complete lack of self-awareness? Page 15.

Submission - The Husband is the Head of the Wife, and That's the Way it is, Period. Pat Robertson On the Role, Status of Women in Families, Society
Must good Christian women be submissive to their husbands' leadership? Many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians certainly seem to think so. Christianity has not been very supportive of women's equality, historically speaking. Much of the time women have been denigrated and forced into a second-class status. This was true right from the earliest years of Christianity and has continued down through today with it being enshrined as a principle for the Southern Baptist Convention. Page 17.

Territoriality, Peeing on It Doesn't Make it Yours - Staking Out Territory by Appropriating Cultural, Political Institutions
Christians have claimed that Christmas, marriage, morality, and more are theirs to define and control. What unites these issues is an effort by conservative Christians to claim ownership over cultural or political institutions which should be open equally to all citizens. They don't want to be mere contributors to a larger whole, they want to be owners with a right to exclude others. This is basically and expression of tribalism and attempt to exercise territoriality, not unlike what dogs do. Page 13.

Word of God - Funny How Humans are Always Doing the Talking - God's Word and God's Will Always Match the Beliefs of the Humnan Speakers
The

Zombie Jesus - Only the Living Dead Can Give You Eternal Life - If Zombie Jesus Came to Your Door, Would You Let Him In?
If Jesus died and was buried, but rose from the grave after three days, does that mean Jesus was an Original Zombie (OZ)? New Testament accounts describe him as having wounds you could stick your hands in, something that you can't normally do to living people, but dead people also aren't walking around. There are no stories about Jesus eating people's brains, but we can hardly expect his followers to draw attention to such behavior. Communion is about eating Jesus, not the other way around. Page 2.

Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven - Let He Who Can Accept This, Accept It. If a Penis is a Sign of God's Favor, Why Does God Want Some Bits Cut Off?
If it's not bizarre enough that traditional, religious patriarchy reduces to little more than

Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion as a Popular Tourist Destination
The Temple of Poseidon in Sounion itself has remained very popular with tourists. The columns are covered with graffiti dating back centuries. Lord Byron is supposed to have left his name here, making the graffiti a sort of historical artifact itself. Page 7.

Temple of Athena at Sounion: Why Build a Temple of Athena at Cape Sounion?
About 500m from the Temple of Poseidon are the remains of another structure, a sanctuary dedicated to Athena. It was in an enclosed area which contained another altar, but it's not know to which god it was dedicated. The Temple of Athena itself is 16m x 11m and little remains aside from the foundation of a pedestal upon which the cult statue of Athena rested. Page 6.

Why Are There Temples to Athena and Poseidon at Cape Sounion? Why Was Cape Sounion Important?
According to Greek legend, Athena had to compete for the role of patron of the Attica region generally and Athens specifically. Poseidon wanted that authority as well so the gods decided that there should be a contest: the role of protector would go to whomever gave mortal men there the best gift. Poseidon struck the rocky ground on the Acropolis with his trident and a salty spring appeared. Page 5.

Allah Has Predestined some to Hell
Apparently, at least some of those who will go to hell will do so because Muhammad has predestined them to do so.

Muhammad Arrives Triumphantly (possibly at Mecca): Muslims Should Not Kill Muslims
There are a lot of instructions in the Quran about killing nonbelievers, but there is also a command not to kill other Muslims:

Muhammad Arrives in Medina: Muslims Fighting the Nonbelievers
The fate of nonbelievers is pretty awful. Allah will curse them and has prepared fire for them:

Muhammad Leads Muslims in a Massacre: Violence and War in Islam
There are numerous verses in the Quran which explains to Muslims how they must fight nonbelievers:

Muhammad Preaching Islam: Can Muslims be Friends with Non-Muslims?
There are a number of verses in the Quran which instruct Muslims not to befriend nonbelievers, including Jews and Christians:

Muhammad Rides al-Burak into Heaven: Even the Angels Will Smite Disbelievers


Punishments for Evildoers, Eternal and Temporal
The Quran has a number of verses describing how evildoers will be punished by Allah and by Muslims:

Muhammad Riding into Medina: Kill or Crucify Your Enemies
What will happen to Muhammad's enemies? They will be killed or crucified:

Muhammad Teaching About Islam: Woe Unto Those Who Disblieve Muhammad
If you hear the revelations of the Prophet Muhammad and don't believe, you're in a lot of trouble:

Muhammad in Hell; Dante's Inferno Canto 28, verses 30-31; Illustration by Gustave Dore
No barrel, even though it's lost a hoop; or end-piece, ever gapes as one whom I; saw ripped right from his chin to where we fart: his bowels hung between his legs, one saw; his vitals and the miserable sack; that makes of what we swallow excrement. While I was all intent on watching him,; he looked at me, and with his hands he spread his chest and said:

Muhammad Drawings, Pictures, Cartoons: Images of the Prophet Muhammad from History
Muslims have rioted over Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad. Why? One claim has been that Islam forbids visual depictions of Muhammad, which is strange given how often images of Muhammad appear in Muslim history. We can also find many visual images of Muhammad in European history, all without Muslims rioting and threatening to destroy civil liberties. Here you will find numerous images of Muhammad, some Muslim and some European, accompanied by verses of war and violence in the Quran.

Muhammad at the Kaaba in Mecca: Nonbelievers Aren't Allowed Near the Kaaba
Miniature of Mohammed re-dedicating the Black Stone at the Kaaba. From Jami' al-Tavarikh (

What is an Antipope? When is a Pope Not a Pope?
The term antipope refers to any person who claims to be pope, but whose claim is treated as invalid today by the Roman Catholic Church.

Chronological List of Catholic Popes (32 CE - 1003 CE)
This list of popes is arranged in chronological order. It starts with Peter, believed by Catholics to be the first pope, and ends with Benedict XVI, the most recent pope. Alternative names are given, years of reign are listed, and all names are linked to short biographies that describe major dates in their papacy, controversies, and important events at the time.

Chronological List of Catholic Popes (1003 CE - Today): History and People of the Roman Catholic Papacy
This list of popes is arranged in chronological order. It starts with Peter, believed by Catholics to be the first pope, and ends with John Paul II, the most recent pope. Alternative names are given, years of reign are listed, and all names are linked to short biographies that describe major dates in their papacy, controversies, and important events at the time. Page 2.

Bronze Bust of Constantine the Great, Located in the Musei Capitolini, Rome
After his victory over Licinius, Constantine became sole emperor of Rome and proceeded to further the interests of Christianity. In 324, for example, he exempted Christian clergy from all obligations otherwise imposed upon citizens (like taxation). At the same time, less and less tolerance was bestowed on pagan religious practices. Page 5.

Cross Banner Used by Constantine at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, as his Vision Instructed Him
Eusebius writes: At dawn of day he arose, and communicated the marvel to his friends: and then, calling together the workers in gold and precious stones, he sat in the midst of them, and described to them the figure of the sign he had seen, bidding them represent it in gold and precious stones. And this representation I myself have had an opportunity of seeing. Page 4.

Statue of Constantine on his Horse, Witnessing the Sign of the Cross Before the Battle at Milvian Bridge, Located in the Vatican
In his statue created by Bernini and located in the Vatican, Constantine is first witnessing the cross as the sign under which he would conquer. Pope Alexander VII placed it in a prominent locate: the entrance of the Vatican Palace, just next to the grand staircase (Scala Regia). In this single statue viewers can observe the merging of important themes of the Christian church: the use of temporal power in the name of the church and the sovereignty of spiritual doctrines over temporal power. Page 6.

Head from the Colossal Marble Statue of Constantine the Great, Located in the Musei Capitolini, Rome
After his victory over Licinius, Constantine became sole emperor of Rome and proceeded to further the interests of Christianity. In 324, for example, he exempted Christian clergy from all obligations otherwise imposed upon citizens (like taxation). At the same time, less and less tolerance was bestowed on pagan religious practices.

Statue of the Roman Emperor Constantine, erected in 1998 at York Minster, where Constantine was Named Emperor by his Troops in 306
Constantine ascended the throne of an empire that was fragmented and in disarray. Maxentius, son of Maximian, controlled Rome and Italy, proclaiming himself emperor in the West. Licinius, the legal emperor, was restricted to the province of Illyricum. Maxentius' father, Maximian, tried to overthrow him. Maximin Daia, Galerius' Caesar in the East, had his troops proclaim him emperor in the West. Page 2.

Constantine Sees a Vision of the Cross in the Sky Before the Battle at Milvian Bridge
What sort of omen Constantine received is a matter of dispute. Eusebius says that Constantine saw a vision in the sky; Lactantius says it was a dream. Both agree that the omen informed Constantine that he would conquer under the sign of Christ (Greek: en touto nika; Latin: in hoc signo vinces). Page 3.

Where is the Cape Sounion Temple of Poseidon? Why is there a Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece?
Located on the southeastern tip of Attica, Cape Sounion is 65 km south-east of Athens, Sounion juts out in a manner that would have assured Athenian sailors a grand view of the Temple of Poseidon as the last evidence of their civilization when sailing off and the first sight that greeted them when they returned. It certainly would have been a magnificent thing to see in the dawn light.

Cape Sounion in Greek Mythology: Appearances of Cape Sounion in Greek Myths and Religious Legend
As with other religious sites in ancient Greece, Cape Sounion was associated with a particular mythical event. In this case, Aegeus is said to have waited at the top of cape Sounion when waiting for Theseus to return from Crete. Theseus, if you remember from your Greek mythology, went to Crete to slay the Minotaur. When the Greek ship returned, they were supposed to show white sails to signal that Theseus had been victorious and lived. Page 3.

Architecture of the Kaaba: Diagram of the Kaaba: Interior and Exterior of the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Grand Mosque in Mecca
The name Kaaba means 'cube,' but the structure isn't a cube: it measures 12m long, 10m wide, and 15m high (33 feet x 50 feet x 45 feet). The Kaaba is built from grey granite and each corner points to one of the four points of the compass. The single Entrance is on the northeast, side, 2.3m above the ground. The interior of the Kaaba is bare except for three supporting wooden pillars and gold hanging lamps. Affixed to the eastern corner of the Kaaba, about 1.5m up, is the Black Stone of Mecca. Page 2.

Muhammad at the Kaaba in Mecca: Nonbelievers Aren't Allowed Near the Kaaba
When Muhammad received his revelation, the Kaaba was under the control of one of the most important tribes of Mecca, the Quraysh. It was used as a shrine for pagan idols, especially al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat, known together as al-Gharaniq (Daughters of God), and Hubal, a marriage god. When Muhammad took control of Mecca he cleaned out the idols and dedicated the Kaaba to God. Page 5.

The Kaaba, the Multazam, and Nearby Structures: Photograph of the Kaaba, Surrounded by Pilgrims in the Grand Mosque of Mecca
Close to the northwestern side of the Kaaba is a raised and curved exterior wall, about 1.5m high and 17.5m long, called the multazam. At the conclusion of the tawaf, the circumambulation around the Kaaba, Muslims press themselves up against the multazam in order to receive power and blessings associated with the structure. Opposite the Black Stone is the sacred well of Zamzam where pilgrims drink and where Hagar is supposed to have found water for herself and Ismail in the desert. Page 8.

The Kaaba and the Black Stone of Mecca: Photoraph of the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, with the Kaaba to the Right
Measuring about 12 inches in diameter, this sacred stone if probably a meteorite, though no scientific tests have ever been done on it. When they walk around the Kaaba, Muslim pilgrims often try to reach out and touch or kiss the Black Stone. Today it is worn and cracked from centuries of pilgrimages and is only held together by a wide silver band. Muslims insist that the Black Stone is not an idol: prayers are directed to God alone. Page 7.

The Kaaba and the Kiswah: The Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca is Covered by a Black Robe, called a Kiswah
The exterior of the Kaaba is usually covered with a large black cloth called the kiswah (

The Kaaba in Muslim Mythology: Drawing of Throngs of Pilgrims around the Kaaba in Mecca
According to Muslim traditions, Adam built the original Kaaba as a copy of and directly below God's throne in heaven. This structure was destroyed during the great Flood, leaving behind nothing but the foundation. The current structure was rebuilt by Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ishmael (Ismail). A gilded cage near the Kaaba contains a stone preserving a footprint of Abraham. Establishing this ancient pedigree for the Kaaba helped Muhammad connect his new faith with the Judaism. Page 4.

The Quran and the Kaaba: Kaaba and the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Photograph in 1917
We have rendered the shrine (the Kaaba) a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham's shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ishmael: 'You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate.' ... And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower. (2:125-127). Page 9.

What is the Kaaba? The Kaaba sits in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia
The Kaaba (Ka'aba, Ka'bah, 'Cube,' 'House of God') is a shrine located in a square adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest city. The Kaaba itself is Islam's holiest site. The surrounding square has been enlarged to over 16,000 square meters and can accommodate over 300,000 Muslim pilgrims. When Muslims pray the required five times each day, they face not simply Mecca, but the Kaaba in Mecca; Muslims praying in Mecca turn towards the Kaaba instead of facing just any direction.

Kaaba in Mecca: Image Gallery with Photos, Drawings, Illustrations, and Diagrams of the Kaaba, Islam's Holiest Shrine for Muslims
The Kaaba (Ka'aba, Ka'bah, 'Cube,' 'House of God') is a shrine located in a square adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam's holiest city. The Kaaba itself is Islam's holiest site. The surrounding square has been enlarged to over 16,000 square meters and can accommodate over 300,000 Muslim pilgrims. When Muslims pray the required five times each day, they face not simply Mecca, but the Kaaba in Mecca; Muslims praying in Mecca turn towards the Kaaba instead of facing just any direction.

Roman Emperor Constantine Fights Maxentius in the Battle of Milvian Bridge
Constantine's defeat of Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge put him in a powerful position, but not one of supreme power. He controlled Italy, North Africa, and the Western provinces but there were two others who claimed legitimate authority over the Roman empire: Licinius in Illyricum and Eastern Europe, Maximin Daia in the East. Page 7.

What is the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion? What is the Sounion Temple of Poseidon Like?
The Temple of Poseidon at Sounion is a Doric-style peripteral temple with 6 columns on the front and 13 columns along the side, measuring 31.12m x 13.47m with 6.12m high columns. The temple ruins visible today have been restored by archaeologists. Also known as Sounion Hiron (Sactuary of Sounion), references to the site can be found as early as Homer's Odyssey: 'holy Sunium, the headland of Athens.'. Page 2.

The Kaaba and the Hajj: Pilgrims Surround the Kaaba in the Courtyard of the Great Mosque in Mecca
At least once in their lives, every Muslim is supposed to make a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca. The central event of the hajj is a visit to the Kaaba: Muslims walk en masse counterclockwise around the Kaaba seven times (tawaf). This ritual is supposed to represent the angels walking around the throne of God and allows Muslims to symbolically enter the presence of God. Fifteen days before the Hajj and fifteen days before Ramadan are the only times the Kaaba is opened, and then just to clean it. Page 6.

Book Review - How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age, by Theodore Schick, Jr. and Lewis Vaughn
Belief in paranormal, supernatural and mysterious claims have always been very popular, so how can skeptics best approach such claims to evaluate their credibility and offer a critical perspective? What tools and principles should we employ in dealing with obviously weird things that come up in life? What are the methods of thinking which people should be employing more often, but aren't? So long as separating truth from falsehood is important, these are vital questions for everyone.

Lee v. Weisman (1992) - Prayers at School Graduation
Many schools have prayers at important events like graduations, but critics argue that such prayers violate the separation of church and state.

Why C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien Argued Over Christian Theology
CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were close friends who also had serious disagreements over theology, apologetics, and the quality of Lewis' Narnia books.

Who has the Burden of Proof? Atheism vs. Theism
Whoever has a burden of proof is obligated to prove their claims; if someone doesn't have a burden of proof, then their job is much easier.

Book Review - God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, by Victor J Stenger
Does God exist or not? That tends to be the central disagreement between atheists and theists, though the actual arguments themselves have typically been focused on logic, philosophy, and theology. Many atheists, and even more theists, seem to believe that science itself can offer little or nothing substantive on the matter because science is only about the natural, material world while the existence of God is a supernatural, metaphysical question. Yet it's unlikely that this is valid.

Observation and Evidence for Evolution
Creationists argue that evolution can't be science because we can't directly observe evolution in action, but they misrepresent both science and evolution.

Divorce as Sin and Crime for Conservative Christians
Conservative Christian opposition to gay marriage isn't disturbingly similar to their past opposition to liberalized divorce laws.

Can Gay Rights and Gay Marriage Be Stopped?
What do conservative religious critics hope to accomplish in their opposition to gay rights and gay marriage? William F. Buckley has described the basic principle of conservatism as 'To stand athwart history yelling 'Stop!'' Do they, though, really expect to succeed in this when it comes to homosexuality?

Jesus Explains the Signs of the End Times: Persecution & Betrayal (Mark 13:9-13) - Analysis and Commentary
After warning four of his disciples about the coming troubles that would afflict the world, Jesus now turns to the troubles that would soon afflict them personally. Although the narrative portrays Jesus warning just these four followers, Mark intended his audience to regard themselves as also being addressed by Jesus and for his warnings to resonate with their own experiences.

Biography of Elijah, Old Testament Prophet & Biblical Figure
Elijah was an important Israelite prophet whose name in Hebrew means 'my Lord is Jehovah.' Accounts of Elijah’s life and actions are recorded through 1 and 2 Kings. Aside from coming from the village of Tosabe in Gilead (about which nothing is known), nothing is recorded about his background before he appears suddenly to promote traditional, orthodox Jewish beliefs.

Elisha: An Old Testament Figure, Prophet, Biblical Hero
Elisha, whose name in Hebrew means 'God is Salvation,' was an Israelite prophet and disciple of Elijah. Accounts of Elishas life and activities are found in 1 and 2 Kings, but these biblical texts are the only records we have of such a person.

Jerusalem: Profile of the City of Jerusalem in Palestine - History, Geography, Religion
Jerusalem is a key religious city for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The earliest habitation that has been identified is a walled settlement on the eastern hill that had a populace of around 2,000 people during the 2nd millennium BCE in an area known today as the 'City of David.' Some evidence of settlement can be traced back to 3200 BCE, but the earliest literary references appear in Egyptian texts from the 19th and 20th centuries BCE as 'Rushalimum.'

Saint Bartholomew the Apostle: Who was St. Bartholomew? Was He St. Nathanael, Apostle in the Gospel of John?
Some Christian legends say that after seeing the risen Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias, Bartholomew travelled to India and brought Christianity to the people there. Other legends say that he travelled with St. Jude Thaddeus, another of the twelve apostles, to Armenia to bring Christianity to the people there. These same legends say that Bartholomew was martyred in Armenia by being flayed alive and then crucified upside down. Page 9.

Saint Jude Thaddeus the Apostle: Who was St. Jude Thaddeus, the Twelfth Apostle with the Disputed Name?
Also sometimes known as Jude Lebbeus or just Thaddeus, Jude Thaddeus was the brother of another apostle, St. James the Less and he is the 'mystery' apostle because he's the one the synoptic gospels disagree on. Mark and some versions of Matthew list him as Thaddeus; some versions of Matthew list him as Lebbeus; some versions of Matthew list him as Judas the Zealot; Luke lists him as Judas, son of James. Page 11.

Saint Matthew the Apostle: Who Was St. Matthew the Apostle? Did Matthew the Apostle Write the Gospel of Matthew?
Christian tradition has generally taught that the Gospel According to Matthew was written by Matthew the apostle, but modern scholarship had discredited this. The gospel text displays enough sophistication in terms of theology and Greek that it is most likely the product of a second-generation Christian, probably a convert from Judaism. Page 8.

Saint Matthias, the Second Twelfth Apostle: Who Was St. Matthias, the Apostle Who Replaced the Apostle Judas?
Not nearly as well known as any of the others, Matthias was the apostle chosen to replace Judas after he betrayed Jesus and committed suicide. Matthias wasn't chosen by Jesus and isn't even mentioned in the synoptic gospels. Instead, he was chosen by casting lots after Jesus reportedly ascended to heaven. After being chosen, Matthias disappears completely from the New Tesament canon and isn't mentioned in any other reliable historical records. Page 12.

Saint Simon the Zealot, the Apostle: Why Was St. Simon a Zealot? Was Simon a Canaanite? What Happened to Simon?
Sometimes Simon the Zealot is referred to as Simon the Canaanite because the Hebrew root for zealot is qana and church father Jerome thought this mean Cana or Canaan. Thus he described Simon as coming from the town of Cana (the site of Jesus first miracle, when he transformed water into wine) or just more generally from the Canaan region. Page 10.

Punishing Anger and the Angry: Why Should Anger be Punished in Hell by being Dismembered Alive?
Angry people, those guilty of committing the deadly sin of anger, will be punished in hell by being dismembered of alive. I don't see any connection between the sin of anger and the punishment of dismemberment, unless it's that dismembering a person is something an angry person would do. It also seems rather strange that people will be dismembered 'alive' when they must necessarily be dead when they get to hell. Don't you still have to be alive in order to be dismembered alive? Page 5.

Punishing Greed and the Greedy: Why Should Greed by Punished in Hell by being Boiled Alive in Oil?
Religious authorities today seem to rarely condemn how the rich in the capitalist (and Christian) West possess much while the poor (in both the West and elsewhere) possess little. This may be because greed in various forms is as basis for modern capitalist economics upon which Western society is based and Christian churches today are thoroughly integrated into that system. Serious, sustained criticism of greed would ultimately lead to sustained criticism of capitalism. Page 6.

Punishing Sloth and the Slothful: Why Should Sloth be Punished in Hell by being Thrown into a Snake Pit?
Condemning sloth as a sin functions as a way to keep people active in the church in case they start to realize how useless religion and theism really are. Religious organizations need people to keep active to support the cause, usually described as

Constantine Presides Over the Council of Nicaea
For Constantine, one of the greatest threats to Roman domination and peace was disunity. Christianity filled Constantine's need for a basis of religious unity quite well. Christians may have been a minority in the empire, but they were a well-organized minority. In addition, no one had yet tried to claim their political allegiance, leaving Constantine no competitors and giving him a group of people who would be supremely grateful and loyal for finally finding a political patron. Page 9.

Roman Emperor Constantine Fights in the Battle of Milvian Bridge
When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Mediolanurn (Milan), and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred... Page 8.

Constantine and his Mother, Helena. Painting by Cima da Conegliano
Almost as important to the history of Christianity as Constantine was his mother, Helena (Flavia Iulia Helena: Saint Helena, Saint Helen, Helena Augusta, Helena of Constantinople). Both the Catholic and the Orthodox churches consider her a saint - partially because of her piety and partially because of her work on behalf of Christian interests during those earlier years. Page 11.

Mosaic of Emperor Constantine from the Hagia Sophia, c 1000, Scene: Virgin Mary as Patroness of Constantinople; Constantine with a Model of the City
Mosaic of Emperor Constantine from the Hagia Sophia, c. 1000, Scene: Virgin Mary as Patroness of Constantinople; Constantine with a Model of the City: Just as significant as Constantine's conversion to and official toleration of Christianity was his decision to move the capital of the Roman empire from Rome itself to Constantinople. Constantine seemed to want to start over and have a capitol which avoided all the traditional family rivalries and reflected the breadth of the empire. Page 10.

Unapologetics: Countering Apologetics with Sarcasm, Laughter, and Humor - Silly Ideas Should be Laughed At, Not Refuted with More Arguments
Unapologetics are sarcastic, critical posters that take popular theological beliefs and turn them on their heads to point out how absurd they are. Maybe it feels more intellectual to counter them with sophisticated arguments, but sometimes an image and short phrase are sufficient to unmask the pretensions behind them. Sometimes, it's more productive to point and laugh at silly arguments than to take them seriously and offer detailed refutations or counter-arguments.

Unapologetics: Countering Apologetics with Sarcasm, Laughter, and Humor - Silly Ideas Should be Laughed At, Not Refuted with More Arguments
Unapologetics are sarcastic, critical posters that take popular theological beliefs and turn them on their heads to point out how absurd they are. Maybe it feels more intellectual to counter them with sophisticated arguments, but sometimes an image and short phrase are sufficient to unmask the pretensions behind them. Sometimes, it's more productive to point and laugh at silly arguments than to take them seriously and offer detailed refutations or counter-arguments.

Constantine the Great: Roman "Apostle" who Fused Christian Religion with Roman Imperial Power, Authority
Constantine's chief goal was always creating and maintaining unity, be it political, economic or, eventually, religious. For Constantine, one of the greatest threats to Roman domination and peace was disunity. Christianity filled Constantine's need for a basis of religious unity quite well. Just as significant as Constantine's conversion to and official toleration of Christianity was his unprecedented decision to move the capital of the Roman empire from Rome itself to Constantinople. Page 14.

Saint James (the Great) the Apostle: Who Was St. James the Great and What Was so Great About Him?
James, the son of Zebedee, was called along with this brother John to be one of Jesus' twelve apostles who would accompany him on his ministry. James appears in the lists of apostles in the synoptic gospels as well as Acts. James and his brother John were given the nickname

Judas Iscariot the Apostle: Who Was Judas Iscariot? Why Did Judas Betray Jesus? Should Judas be a Saint?
Judas Iscariot is known as the companion of Jesus who betrayed him - but what and how did he betray? That isn't clear. He points out Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. This is hardly an action worthy of payment because Jesus wasn't exactly in hiding. In John, he doesn't even do that much. Judas doesn't actually do anything except fulfill the narrative and eschatological need for the Messiah to be betrayed by someone. Page 4.

Saint Andrew the Apostle: Who Was St. Andrew the Apostle? What is the Saint Andrew's Cross?
Andrew appears to have been part of an inner circle among the disciples -- only he and three others (Peter, James, and John) were on the Mount of Olives with Jesus when he foretold the destruction of the Temple and then received a lengthy discourse on the End Times and coming apocalypse. Andrew's name is also among the first on apostolic lists, possibly an indication of his importance in early traditions. Page 6.

Saint John the Apostle: Did St. John Write Revelations, the Gospel of John, and Three Epistles? Did John Really Die?
John has been an important figure for Christianity because he is believed to have been the author of the fourth (non-synoptic) gospel, three canonical letters, and the book of Revelations. Most scholars no longer attribute all (or any) of this to an original companion of Jesus, but that doesn't change John's stature for historical Christianity.

Saint Paul, the Thirteenth Apostle: Why Did Paul Call Himself an Apostle When He Never Met Jesus?
Paul insisted on using the title apostle despite never having met Jesus and never being called personally by Jesus. Paul claimed that the resurrected Jesus spoke to him and called him at that time. Taking the title apostle has clear political implications because the original apostles would have had the greatest authority within the growing Christian movement. They were, after all, the ones who had personally known and personally been called by Jesus. Page 13.

Saint Peter the Apostle: Who Was St. Peter the Apostle? What is Peter's Connection to the Roman Catholic Papacy?
The years of Peter's birth and death are unknown. Christian tradition has it that Peter died in Rome during the persecution of Christians around 64 CE under emperor Nero. Archaeological digs have uncovered what might be a shrine to Peter under St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, a shrine that could conceivably have been built over his grave. Traditions about Peter's martyrdom in Rome were instrumental in the development of the idea of the primacy of Rome's Christian church. Page 5.

Saint Philip the Apostle: Who was St. Philip the Apostle? What is Philip's Connection with Gnostics and Gnosticism?
Philip the Apostle is described in the Gospel According to John as being skeptical at first about following Jesus, only agreeing to do so after Nathanael tells him the Jesus is the Messiah. Philip is depicted as pragmatic other times as well and he is the one approached by Greeks seeking to speak with Jesus. It is possible that Philip was originally a follower or disciple of John the Baptist because John depicts Jesus calling Philip out of a crowd attending John's baptisms. Page 3.

Saint Thomas the Apostle: Who Was St. Thomas the Apostle? Why Was He Called Didymus and Why Did He Doubt?
Thomas the Apostle is most famous for how he is depicted in the Gospel According to John. He first appears as a symbol of strength, encouraging the others to follow Jesus to Judea where death awaits. Later he expresses doubts about following Jesus. Finally, after Jesus' resurrection, he is the 'doubting Thomas' who refused to believe that Jesus really returned until he saw the scars and placed his fingers in Jesus' side. Page 2.

Punishing Envy and the Envious: Why Should Envy be Punished in Hell by Being Immersed in Freezing Water?
Making envy a sin has the drawback of encouraging Christians to be satisfied with what they have rather than objecting to others' unjust power or seeking to gain what others have. It is possible for at least some states of envy to be due to how some possess or lack things unjustly. Envy could, therefore, become the basis for fighting injustice. Although there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about resentment, there is probably more unjust inequality than unjust resentment in the world. Page 2.

Punishing Gluttony and the Gluttonous: Why Should Gluttony be Punished by Hell by Being Force-Fed Rats, Toads, Snakes?
Gluttony could be construed as the sin of excessive materialism and focus on this sin could encourage a more just and equitable society. Why hasn't this occurred? The theory might be appealing, but in practice Christian teaching that gluttony is a sin has been a way to encourage those with little to not want more and be content with how little they have. At the same time, those who over-consume have not been encouraged to do with less so that the poor and hungry could have enough. Page 3.

Punishing Pride and the Prideful: Why Should Pride be Punished in Hell by Being Broken on the Wheel?
Christian teaching against pride encourages people to be submissive to religious authorities in order to submit to God, thus enhancing church power. There need not be anything necessarily wrong with pride because pride in what one does can often be justified. There is certainly no need to credit any gods for the skills and experience that one has to spend a lifetime developing and perfecting; Christian arguments to the contrary serve the purpose of denigrating human life and human abilities.

Sounion Temple of Poseidon (Neptune), Greece: What is the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Greece?
Cape Sounion (Sounio, Sunium) in Greece is a promontory which was used to spot approaching ships before they reached Athens. Located 65 km south-east of Athens, it is also the site of two famous temples: the Temple of Poseidon and the Temple of Athena. Constructed in the 5th century BCE, the Temple of Poseidon is the best preserved of the two.

Origin of the Pantheon in Rome: Model of the Pantheon in Rome, as it Appeared during the Roman Empire
The original Pantheon of Rome was built between 27 & 25 BCE, under the consulship of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was dedicated to 12 gods of heaven and focused on Augustus' cult and Romans believed that Romulus ascended to heaven from this spot. Agrippa's structure, which was rectangular, was destroyed in 80 CE and what we see today is a reconstruction done in 118 CE under the leadership of emperor Hadrian, who even restored the original inscription on the facade. Page 2.

Hadrian on the Pantheon in Rome: Illustration of the Inside of the Pantheon in Rome, as a Christian Church
Hadrian: My intentions had been that this sanctuary of All Gods should reproduce the likeness of the terrestrial globe and of the stellar sphere...The cupola...revealed the sky through a great hole at the center, showing alternately dark and blue. This temple, both open and mysteriously enclosed, was conceived as a solar quadrant. The hours would make their round on that caissoned ceiling so carefully polished by Greek artisans... Page 6.

Interior Space of the Pantheon: Illustration of the Interior of the Pantheon in Rome, c. 1911
The Pantheon has been called a

Pantheon in Rome and Western Religion: Photograph of the Pantheon in Rome Today, Interior
It's possible that the Pantheon has had an impact on Western religion: the Pantheon appears to be the first temple built with general public access in mind. Temples of the ancient world were generally limited only to specific priests; the public may have taken part in religious rituals in some fashion, but mostly as observers and outside the temple. The Pantheon, however, existed for all the people a feature which is now standard for houses of worship in all religions of the West. Page 13.

Construction of the Pantheon: Photograph of the Ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome, Showing Light Coming Through the Oculus
How the dome has been able to bear its own weight has been a matter of great debate if such a structure were built today with unreinforced concrete, it would quickly collapse. The Pantheon, though, has stood for centuries. No agreed-upon answers to this mystery exist, but speculation includes both an unknown formulation for the concrete as well as spending a lot of time tamping the wet concrete to eliminate air bubbles. Page 8.

Oculus of the Pantheon: Photograph of the Ceiling of the Pantheon in Rome, Showing Light from the Oculus
The central point of the Pantheon is far above visitors' heads: the great eye, or oculus, in the room. It looks small, but it's 27ft across and the source of all light in the building symbolic of how the sun is the source of all light on earth. Rain that comes through collects in a drain in the center of the floor; the stone and moisture keep the interior cool through the summer. Every year, on June 21st, the rays of the sun at the summer equinox shines from the oculus through the front door. Page 7.

What is the Pantheon in Rome? Illustration of the Pantheon in Rome, During the Roman Empire
Today a Christian church, the Pantheon is the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings and has been in near-continuous use since Hadrian's reconstruction. From a distance the Pantheon is not as awe-inspiring as other ancient monuments the dome appears low, not much higher than surrounding buildings. Inside, the Pantheon is among the most impressive in existence. Its inscription, MAGRIPPALFCOSTERTIUMFECIT, means: Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, consul for the third time, built this.

The Pantheon and Roman Religion: Illustration of the Pantheon in Rome, as the Interior Would have Looked Like during the Roman Empire
Hadrian seems to have intended his rebuilt Pantheon to be a sort of ecumenical temple where people could worship any and all gods they wished, not just local Roman gods. This would have been keeping with Hadrian's character a widely travelled emperor, Hadrain admired Greek culture and respected other religions. During his reign an increasing number of Roman subjects either didn't worship Roman gods or worshipped them under other names, so this move made good political sense, too. Page 4.

Architecture of the Pantheon: Diagram of the Pantheon in Rome, Showing the Interior Architecture
The identity of the architect behind the Pantheon is unknown, but most scholars attribute it to Apollodorus of Damascus. The parts of Hadrian's Pantheon are a columned porch (8 massive granite Corinthian columns in front, two groups of four behind), an intermediate area of brick, and finally the monumental dome. The Pantheon's dome is the largest surviving dome from antiquity; it was also the largest dome in the world until Brunelleschi's dome on the Duomo of Florence was completed in 1436. Page 3.

The Pantheon in Rome as a Christian Church: Illustration of the Pantheon in Rome, c. 1911, Exterior
One reason why the Pantheon has survived in such remarkable shape while other structures are gone may be the fact that Pope Boniface IVI consecrated it as a church dedicated to Mary and the Martyr Saints in 609. This is the official name which it continues to bear today and masses are still celebrated here. The Pantheon has also been used as a tomb: among those buried here are the painter Raphael, the first two kings, and first queen of Italy. Monarchists maintain a vigil at these latter tombs. Page 11.

Photograph of the Pantheon in Rome, with the Bell Towers Removed
According to Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code, round churches became forbidden and cruciform churches the imposed standard. This was never true and the existence of the Pantheon as a round church is hard evidence of Brown's error. The idea that round churches were forbidden seems to have been developed because several Templar churches were round but only because they got the idea from the domed structure built by Constantine over the Tome of Christ in Jerusalem. Page 10.

Influence of the Pantheon in Rome on Western Architecture: Photograph of the Pantheon in Rome Today, Exterior
As one of the best surviving structures from ancient Rome, the influence of the Pantheon on modern architecture almost cannot be underestimated. Architects from all over Europe and America from the Renaissance through the 19th century studied it and incorporated what they learned into their own work. Echoes of the Pantheon can be found in numerous public structures: libraries, universities, Thomas Jefferson's Rotunda, and more. Page 12.

Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome: Photographs, Illustrations, and Pictures from the Life of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome: Photographs, Illustrations, and Pictures from the Life of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great:

Apostles of Jesus: Images of Jesus' 12 Apostles, Paul, and Constantine - Who Were Jesus' Apostles? What Did they Do? How Did they Die?
Apostle is an English transliteration of the Greek apostolos, which means 'one who is sent out.' In ancient Greek, an apostle might be any person 'sent out' to deliver news -- messengers and envoys, for example -- and perhaps carry out other instructions. Via the New Testament, apostle has acquired a more specific usage and now refers to one of the elect original disciples of Jesus. Apostolic lists in the New Testament all have 12 names, but not all the same names.

Apostles of Jesus: Images of Jesus' 12 Apostles, Paul, and Constantine - Who Were Jesus' Apostles? What Did they Do? How Did they Die?
Apostle is an English transliteration of the Greek apostolos, which means 'one who is sent out.' In ancient Greek, an apostle might be any person 'sent out' to deliver news -- messengers and envoys, for example -- and perhaps carry out other instructions. Via the New Testament, apostle has acquired a more specific usage and now refers to one of the elect original disciples of Jesus. Apostolic lists in the New Testament all have 12 names, but not all the same names.

Hiram, King of Tyre: King Hiram of Tyre Helped King David and King Solomon Build the Temple
King Hiram (Ahiram) of Tyre (971-939 BCE) was made famous in the Bible for sending his own stonecutters and carpenters to David (1000-961) to help in the construction of his palace (2 Samuel 5:11). It's possible that Hiram's father, Abibaal, initiated contact with David - after all, his control of Israel and Judah meant that he also controlled Tyre's rear and indeed most of the inland region behind the Phoenician cities right up to Sidon. Page 3.

Solomon Building the Temple: The Jewish Temple Was Built with Help from King Hiram of Tyre
King Hiram of Tyre not only helped David build his palace, but also sent to Solomon (961-922 BCE) famous Lebanon cedars and cypress wood for the construction of his famous temple (1 Kings 9:11, 2 Chronicles 2:3). Both the chief architect and the master workers for the First Temple, constructed under Solomon's rule, were in fact Tyrians. Lebanon's cedar trees were highly prized throughout the Middle East - so much so, in fact, that today only small tracts survive high in the Lebanese mountains. Page 4.

Tomb of Hiram, King of Tyre: King Hiram Led Phoenician City of Tyre to its Golden Age
During the 1st millennium BCE Tyre experienced its golden age, especially during the reign of Hiram (Ahiram), King of Tyre (971-939 BCE). Hiram was the first to join the off-shore city by filling in the ocean, something he also did along to coast to expand the area of the city itself. Hiram is responsible for other improvements to the city, including cisterns for collecting rain water, enclosing part of the sea to create a stable port and shipyard, as well as a large palace and temples. Page 2.

Tyre, Lebanon: Mainland and Artificial Isthmus of Tyre, Lebanon. Late 19th Century Illustration
Founded some time during the 3rd millennium BCE, Tyre was originally just a small settlement on the coast and an island city just off shore. The Roman historian Justin claimed that Tyre was founded the year after Troy fell to the Greeks by refugees fleeing Sidon after that city was conquered by an unnamed king. This date might be consistent with the repopulating of Tyre after centuries of abandonment, though Justin is clearly talking about the original founding of Tyre.

Punishing Lust and the Lustful: Why Should Lust be Punished in Hell by being Smothered in Fire, Brimstone?
Condemning lust and physical pleasure is part of Christianity's general effort to promote the afterlife over this life and what it has to offer. It helps lock people into the view that sex and sexuality exist only for procreation, not for love or even just the pleasure of the acts themselves. Christian denigration of physical pleasures generally, and sexuality in particular, have been among some of the most serious problems with Christianity throughout its history. Page 4.

Punishing the Seven Deadly Sins: How are the Sins Flawed? Why Should these Sins be Punished?
Gregory the Great created the definitive list of seven deadly sins: pride, envy, anger, dejection, avarice, gluttony and lust. Each can inspire troubling behavior, but not always. Anger, for example, can be justified as a response to injustice and as a motivation to achieve justice. Christianity's seven deadly sins fail to address behaviors which harm others and instead focus on motivations: torturing and killing isn't a deadly sin if one is motivated by love rather than anger.

Jehovah's Witnesses - Denomination Belief Summary
Some atheists enjoy debating religion with theists and have a lot of experience with traditional Christian doctrines, but they may find themselves unprepared for that Jehovah's Witness who comes knocking at their door. This is because the views of The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society are different from those of most Protestants. If you are going to discusses Watchtower Society doctrines and Jehovah's Witnesses' beliefs, you need to understand what those differences are and what they mean.

Jesus Christ: Who was Jesus Christ? Did Jesus Christ Exist?
Without the figure of Jesus, Christianity doesn't make much sense - but who was he and what did he really have to say? Here you can find material on questions of Jesus' historicity, ethics, alleged resurrection and more.

People & Groups of the Old Testament: Profiles of People and Groups in the Old Testament of Bible
For many, the Old Testament of the Bible is a historically accurate record and a reliable guide to people, places, and events in the past. For most scholars, the Bible records events from the past but through the filters of religious, political, and social agendas - filters thick enough to make it difficult to disentangle fact from fiction. Many people and groups described in the Old Testament existed, but not always in the way that the Bible suggests.

Historical Jesus: Did Jesus Christ really live?
Was there a historical Jesus? Did Jesus really live, or is he more of a mythical figure? Read more about current research and the skeptical position here.

Humanism Types: Humanist Philosophy Comes in Various Forms
Although humanists share many fundamental principles, there is a great deal of variety among them - not simply in their conclusions about specific issues, but also in their more philosophic attitudes. This has led to a number of different labels which include the term 'humanism' and confusion about how they are similar and how they differ. They include cultural humanism, literary humanism, Christian humanism, religious humanism, and secular humanism.

Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar Famous (or infamous, depending upon your point of view) academic group which has studied what Jesus might really have said and done. Was there a historical Jesus? Did Jesus really live, or is he more of a mythical figure? Read more about current research and the skeptical position here.

Noah Sends a Dove from the Ark: Genesis 8:6-12
Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, ... And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. Page 10.

God Sends a Rainbow, Makes a Covenant with Noah: Genesis 9:11-17
And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. ... And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. Page 14.

Mount Ararat in Turkey, Alleged Site of Noah's Ark: Genesis 8:13-17
And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. Page 11.

Noah Curses Canaan, Son of Ham: Genesis 9:24-29
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died. Page 17.

Noah Gets Drunk, Ham Sees His Father: Genesis 9:20-23
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. Page 16.

Noah Makes a Sacrifice to God: Genesis 8:18-22
And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. Page 12.

God Takes Pity on Noah: Genesis 6:8-13
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. Page 2.

God Tells Noah to Build an Ark: Genesis 6:14-18
Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. Page 3.

The Flood Raged for Forty Days and Forty Nights: Genesis 7:17-20
And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth. And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. Page 7.

God Sends a Flood, Kills All Life on Earth: Genesis 7:21-24
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground ... and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark. Page 8.

Babylonian Assault on Tyre, Lebanon: Phoenician City of Tyre was a Tempting Target for Foreign Armies
Named Sur today (rock), Tyre was home of a massive fortress that was attacked by every invader who came long - often without success. In 585 BCE, two years after besieging and destroying Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Tyre. His siege would last thirteen years and would prove unsuccessful - although it was probably around this time that residents of Tyre began to abandon the mainland part of the city in favor of the island city where the walls were said to be 150 feet high. Page 7.

Lebanon & Israel Map: Relative Locations of Jerusalem, Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, Other Cities in Modern Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon
Today Tyre is the fourth largest city in Lebanon and one of the nation's largest ports. It is also a very popular destination for tourists who are eager to see what the city has to offer in terms of history and archaeology. In 1979 the city was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Page 10.

Triumphal Arch of Tyre, Lebanon: Reconstructed Arch from the Ancient Phoenician City
The Triumphal Arch of Tyre is one of the city's most impressive archaeological relics. The arch stands over a long avenue which has a necropolis on either side and sarcophagi dating as early as the 2nd century BCE. The Triumphal Arch had fallen apart but was reconstructed in modern times and today is fairly close to what it probably looked like for the ancient world. Page 8.

Tyre, Lebanon: Ruins of the Ancient Phoenician Tyre Aqueduct, late 19th Century Illustration
Phoenician cities like Tyre worked closely with David and Solomon, but closer political and commercial ties led to greater cultural influence on Israel. This sort of development is common, but for defenders of tradition in the Israelite court the influence on religion was intolerable. Page 6.

Tyre, Lebanon: Late 19th Century Illustration of the Ruins of the Old Sea Wall of Ancient Tyre
Tyre's principle temples were dedicates to Melqart and Astarte. King Hiram instituted a yearly celebration every spring of the death and rebirth of Melqart. Hiram called this Melqart's

Tyre, Lebanon: Illustration of the Artificial Isthmus of Tyre, Lebanon, c. 1911
Crusaders starved Tyre into submission in 1124 and thereafter made it one of the most important cities in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Tyre had, in fact, long been a center of commerce and wealth, something which successful conquerors always left untouched. Tyre became a rallying point for Crusaders after Saladin captured most of their cities in 1187. Tyre was finally recaptured from the Crusaders by the Mameluks in 1291. Page 9.

Pantheon in Rome: Illustrations, Diagrams, and Photographs of the Pantheon in Rome - Once a Roman Temple, Now a Christian Church
The original Pantheon of Rome was built between 27 & 25 BCE, under Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was dedicated to 12 gods of heaven and focused on Augustus' cult. Romans believed that Romulus ascended to heaven from this spot. Agrippa's structure was destroyed in 80 and what we see is a reconstruction from 118 under emperor Hadrian. Today a Christian church, the Pantheon is the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. The focus of the Pantheon in Rome is above: the great eye, or oculus.

Pantheon in Rome: Illustrations, Diagrams, and Photographs of the Pantheon in Rome - Once a Roman Temple, Now a Christian Church
The original Pantheon of Rome was built between 27 & 25 BCE, under Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. It was dedicated to 12 gods of heaven and focused on Augustus' cult. Romans believed that Romulus ascended to heaven from this spot. Agrippa's structure was destroyed in 80 and what we see is a reconstruction from 118 under emperor Hadrian. Today a Christian church, the Pantheon is the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. The focus of the Pantheon in Rome is above: the great eye, or oculus.

God Sends a Flood to Destroy the Earth: Genesis 7:10-16
And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights. In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. Page 6.

Map of Noah's Descendents (large): Genesis 9:1-10
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Page 13.

God Tells Noah to Fill the Ark. Again. Genesis 7:1-9
Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. Page 5.

Noah's Ark Lands: Genesis 8:1-5
And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters asswaged... And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat. And the waters decreased continually until the tenth month: in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, were the tops of the mountains seen. Page 9.

Noah's Sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth; Genesis 9:18-19
And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. Page 15.

God Tells Noah to Fill the Ark: Genesis 6:19-22
And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Page 4.

Riots: God Sees the Wickedness of Man: Genesis 6:1-7
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Tyre, Lebanon: Photos & Images; Religion, Culture, History of Tyre, Ancient Phoenician City of Modern Lebanon
Located in Lebanon north of Acre but south of Sidon and Beirut, Tyre was one of the most important of the ancient Phoenician cities. Today Tyre contains excavations of ruins dating to Crusader, Byzantine, Arab, Greco-Roman, and earlier eras. Tyre is also referenced quite a few times in the Bible, sometimes as an ally of the Israelites and sometimes in the context of condemning the religious or cultural influences which the Phoenicians were exercising over the Israelites.

Homer & the Gospel of Mark: Is Mark's Gospel Based on Homer's Odyssey?
Most scholars treat the gospels as their own independent literary genre which ultimately derives from the work of the author of Mark - a combination of biography, aretology, and hagiography among other things. Some, though, argue there is much more going on than is initially understood, and one recent line of research has involved tracing much in Mark to the influence of the Greek epics of Homer.

Jesus Heals Palsy in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-5) - Analysis and Commentary
Once again Jesus is back in Capernaum - possibly in the house of Peter's mother-in-law, although the actual identity of 'the house

Faith in Jesus and the Forgiveness of Sins (Mark 2:1-5) - Analysis and Commentary
Why would faith in Jesus' ability to heal illness result in forgiveness of sins? And what about the man's friends - they are all included in 'Jesus saw their faith,' but apparently only one was forgiven. If the faith is so important, shouldn't they all have had their sins forgiven? Finally, note that this man's sins weren't forgiven by Jesus dying on the cross - obviously Jesus' death was not, at least at this point in time, a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins. Page 2.

Huehueteotl, God of Life in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Huehueteotl was the Aztec god of the hearth and the fire of life and was in charge of making sure that the covenant with the Aztecs was renewed every 52 years.

Macuilxochitl: Macuilxochitl, God of Gambling in Aztec Religion, Mythology
Macuilxochitl, also known as Xochipilli, was the Aztec god of gambling, dancing, music, and hemorrhoids. This means that in addition to encouraging fun and dancing, Macuilxochitl might also send boils, hemorrhoids, and venereal diseases to people who get out of line. Aztecs worshipped Xochipilli at the festival of Tecuilhuitontli, which occurred during the growing season. An impersonator of Xochipilli would be sacrificed during this festival then his flayed skin worn by a priest.

Jesus' Authority Questioned (Mark 11:27-33) - Analysis
After Jesus explains to his disciples the meaning behind his cursing of the fig tree and cleansing of the Temple, the entire group returns yet again to Jerusalem (this is his third entry now) where they are met at the Temple by the highest authorities there. By this point they have gotten tired of his shenanigans and have decided to confront him and challenge the basis on which he has been saying and doing so many subversive things.

Jesus' Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Mark 12:1-12) - Analysis and Commentary
Jesus' parable of the wicked husbandmen is one of his most important, and for good reason it occupies the central position of Jesus' Jerusalem ministry. This parable is brimming with allegorical elements to a large number of Old Testament passages, all of which would have been meaningful to early Christian-Jewish audiences but probably meaningless to Gentiles who read or listened.

Interpreting Jesus' Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Mark 12:1-12) - Analysis and Commentary
This parable is a sign to Mark's audience that they are meant by God to take control of the vineyard - the inheritance of Jesus as being the chosen of God. This is yet another gospel passage that has seen a lot of use by Christians who have attacked Jews and Judaism because it depicts Jesus as asserting that God has judged Israel and found it guilty. Page 2.

Noah's Ark: Image Gallery of Genesis, Chapters 7-9: The Flood, The Ark, and the Curse of Canaan, son of Ham
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground ... and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Noah's Ark: Image Gallery of Genesis, Chapters 7-9: The Flood, The Ark, and the Curse of Canaan, son of Ham
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground ... and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

You Might Be a Militant Atheist If... How to Tell Someone is a Militant Atheist
It's common to hear religious theists complain about

What is Christianity? What is a Christian?
It's hard to defend or critique Christianity unless you can define what you mean; unfortunately, even Christians have trouble agreeing on a definition.

What is Secular Humanism?
Secular humanism combines humanists' concerns with the needs of humanity with secularists' desire for a secular culture and church/state separation.

Holy Foreskin! Whatever Happened to Jesus' Foreskin?
The most bizarre and disturbing 'relic' to come out of the middle ages was Jesus' foreskin... especially since several churches claimed to have it!

Tyre, Lebanon & Solomon's Temple: King Hiram of Tyre Sent Cedars and Carpenters to Help Solomon Build the First Temple
The Triumphal Arch of Tyre is one of the city's most impressive archaeological relics. The arch stands over a long avenue which has a necropolis on either side and sarcophagi dating as early as the 2nd century BCE. The Triumphal Arch had fallen apart but was reconstructed in modern times and today is fairly close to what it probably looked like for the ancient world. Page 15.

Sidon, Lebanon: Ancient Phoenician Trading Port and Modern Lebanese City
Sidon's famous Sea Castle is one of the most prominent archaeological cites in the city. Built by the Crusaders in the 13th century, the Sea Castle was an impressive fortress on a small island connected to the shore by a narrow causeway. The current causeway is of later construction; the original was heavily fortified to help protect the fortress itself. Crusaders used Sidon's Sea Castle to protect the city's harbor and ensure that troops from Europe could land safely. Page 16.

Adonis, Dying and Resurrecting Semitic God: Etruscan Statue of Adonis, Semitic God that Dies and Resurrects Every Year
The god Adonis is normally associated with Greek religion, but in fact Adonis is originally Lebanese: his worship is first found among the Phoenicians and Canaanites then only later imported into the Greek pantheon. Even after becoming Greek, though, Adonis always retained his basic Semitic characteristics - in particular, his role as a god who annually dies and is resurrected alongside the vegetation which comes back to life each spring. Page 12.

Astarte: Phoenician, Canaanite, and Semitic Goddess
Astarte appears to have been the most popular and prominent of all Phoenician deities. Although the names of the head god often varied from city to city, Astarte as the name of his consort appears quite frequently. Astarte also appears under other names in other religious systems of the region: Ishtar in Mesopotamia, Ashtart in Egypt, Aphrodite in Greece, and Astartu among the Akkadians, to name just a few. Page 11.

Baalbek, Lebanon: Roman Heliopolis and Temple Site at Baalbek in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley
The Baalbek complex of Roman temples is founded upon an older site dedicated to Semitic gods worshipped by the Phoenicians who were part of the Canaanite religious and cultural tradition. Baal, which can be translated as 'lord' or 'god,' was the name given to the high god at nearly every Phoenician city-state. It's likely then that Baal was the high god at Baalbek and it it's not at all implausible that the Romans chose to build their temple to Jupiter on the site of a temple to Baal. Page 19.

Sacred Prostitution in Ancient Phoenicia: Did Phoenician Temples Employ Prostitutes to Fulfill a Religious Function?
Sacred prostitutes were probably an established Phoenician institution for millennia. Sacred prostitution is most closely associated with the cult of Astarte, which is probably one of the most important reasons why worship of Astarte was opposed so vehemently by the Israelites. Moreover, sacred prostitution was not an exclusively female occupation: Phoenician inscriptions on Cyprus from the 5th century BCE lists the names of both male and female prostitutes employed in Astarte's temple there. Page 17.