Why Christianity Is A Tough Sell (For A Few Of Us)

Atheist author Bart Ehrman’s new book is about how Christianity, the faith of a tiny few, became a major world religion. In early chapters he traces what, to him, was the path that started it.

I found it helpful to trace the apparent thinking of Paul and the writing that laid out the faith’s case. Ehrman’s version of Paul’s thinking was of a Paul “reverse engineering” events to make various conclusions. To me, the thinking process Paul used to reach his views were  one far fetched assumption built upon another. That culminated in believing he himself was the one God had chosen to convert gentiles.

Paul was reportedly a Jew. That God wrote the Bible was an assumption made there. We can add to that assumption the the Old Testament prophesies were something other than selective choices of random musings.

According to the story, Paul was first a believer in Jewish law and did not like it unorthodox versions, like skipping circumcision, until he eventually heard the tale of another Jew who was killed by the government and came back to life. First, he thought like other Jews this person could not be the messiah because God would not allow the messiah to be killed. But, because God brought Jesus back to life it had to be because God wanted the Gentiles to be Jews.

On top of that, Paul thought he was the one God had chosen to convert all those sinful Gentiles.

All of this is one tall tale.

30 Responses

  1. Jon: “All of this is one tall tale.” Nothing could be truer. I read your post and your last sentence summarized what preceded it perfectly.

    Christianity is a tough sell because the believer has to take up the same cross that Jesus Christ took up. One has to be willing to die for one’s brother; whether we like that person or despise that person. We have to say no to sex outside of marriage, contraception, abortion, stealing, lying and having other false gods.

    When we are persecuted we are supposed to turn the other cheek.

    The evil in the world tells us its OK to have sex as often as we want with whomever we want. It tells us money is to be valued more than friendship, morals or ethics. Power is to be seized and used to our content. One can lie to achieve wants and desires. Abortion is a way out of an unwanted child. Rich people have a problem with Christianity as Christ said, ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.’

    Christianity is a tough sell. Some are unwilling to accept the cross. Others embrace it.

    1. unregenerate

      Matt Noah 02.17.2018 @ 7:27 pm

      A tough sell indeed:

      “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter.” Thomas Paine, “The Age of Reason”

  2. Jinx II

    Oh that big bully worm is a frothing piece of work, why he posts on a Freethinkers blog we will never know. Does he even allow readers to post on his own blog???

  3. Juan Ruiz

    As Hyam Maccoby stated, “At the beginning of Christianity stand two figures: Jesus and Paul.” But the fact is, we know next to nothing about them, beyond the religious propaganda found in the New Testament. Saul of Tarsus tells us about himself, and then some 40 years later Luke adds to that. But Saul’s letter suffer from what all the NT works do: there are no original mss. Scholars have dismissed a number of them, based on theology and language. We have no idea what Saul actually wrote. And was he a Jew? Maccoby doubts it, given his poor knowledge of Judaism. He certainly wasn’t a Pharisee, nor a student of Gamaliel. His story about the road to Damascus, is full of holes. He was likely part of a long parade of con men, using religion to make a buck: Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Bill Wilson, Hubbard, Koresh…

    1. Juan 8:27 But Saul’s letters suffer from what all the NT works do

      So correct. There is so much debate about whether or not there was a Jesus. The biggest question of Christianity is all the stuff attributed to Paul. It is suspicious from beginning to end. He was the PT Barnum of religion.

    2. Catcher

      @ 8;27; See Hyam Maccoby. @ Hyam Maccoby; @ “Theories” of Jesus–and Paul. @reception of Maccoby’s view.. Following the long line of Jewish rejection of Jesus and Paul, starting with the claim that Jesus was the illigetimate son of a Roman soldier, following through to today Nothing new here.

      1. Catcher 10:12 Following the long line of Jewish rejection of Jesus and Paul…

        It seems like that rejection should alert Christians that something might be wrong here. The Jews were on the ground observers at the time and nearly all of them rejected, so far as we know, the whole Jesus-is-the-one theory. Some things never change. First, the Jews rejected the Jesus claims because “We know better.” Then Paul and company rejected the Jews claims because “We know better.” Today, every single branch of the faith rejects the others because “We know better.”

        I know you are certain “We know better.” But, the history of all of it tells me to be skeptical of your claim.

        1. Catcher

          210;32; “and nearly all of the rejected it” Nearly all the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews. (boots on the ground)

          1. Catcher 10:51 Nearly all of the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews

            And, according to the Bible, Jesus was a Jew. From what I have read, or, from what is know from independent sources, statistically very few Jews considered Jesus to be the returned one. Today the message of Jesus being the returned one falls on deaf ears among Jews. Maybe you have evidence of mass conversions outside of the propaganda channels, the Bible. I don’t.

          2. Catcher 11:27 Can you tell me where is Pumpkin Center MN?

            No I can’t. But I can tell you I know of no historical source or evidence of any kind there was widespread conversion of Jews to believe Jesus was the messiah.

          3. Catcher

            @ 127; well there you go. You can’ even find it in Google. You don’t know it all. As entech used to say, “If you are wrong on this, you could be wrong on it all”>

  4. The same people who don’t believe in Jesus, divinity and the Bible are now quite certain of a conspiracy among Paul and others to create a fictional character named Jesus and start an entire religion. You should sell the movie rights.

    1. Juan Ruiz

      I rarely go to the movies, but did Friday tp see “The 15:17 to Paris.” really excellent. Anyway, one of the long series of trailers included “Paul.”

  5. Another important question is whether or not everyone has been given the gift of faith? I believe the answer is yes as I believe God desires everyone to be with him in Heaven. God does love everyone which implies the invitation for eternal happiness has been given.

    Do you feel like you’ve been given the opportunity to believe in God? If so, can you recall when you accepted or declined that invitation?

    My answer to the first question is yes. My parents accepted it for me at first. I accepted it as a young person through my profession at First Confession, First Eucharist and Confirmation. As an adult, I have never rejected the Faith. It can be very mysterious at times. People of Faith can struggle with issues like, (1) did God answer my prayers?, (2) why is suffering allowed?, (3) can a person be “saved” but lose eternal happiness?, (4) what is Heaven like?, and (5) how long is Purgatory?

  6. Randall Wehler

    Regarding “Christianity as a tough sell,” we must look scholarly at how and why the Bible was written or came to be. Actual history must be separated from metaphorical story telling that relies on midrashic exaggeration and other styles of Jewish story telling. Literalistic and figurative meanings again come to the fore. In this contemporary era of “fake news,” it’s no wonder Bible readers become confused!

    1. Randall 8:56 it’s no wonder Bible readers become confused

      Good post. If everyone could have the same degree of skepticism for religious dogma as they have of advertising, political or otherwise, we could agree on many more things.

    2. Catcher

      @ 8;56; re. “It’s no wonder (some, many) Bible readers become confused”. There is an element of truth in that. No one can just pick up the Bible up without some background knowledge, and demand “Yup, that thar’s what is writ, and wat it meens. (spelling intended). A reliable set of Bible commentaries is recommended at least.

        1. Catcher 9:28 That in itself would pull most of Ehrman’s teeth.

          Love or hate Ehrman, I think he is an important figure in molding (or reflecting) contemporary public opinion. Outside of TV preachers, I can’t think of anyone as prominent. He has had 5 books on the New York Times Bestseller list of nonfiction and often is in the news. His website says his books (probably not all of them) have been translated into 27 languages.

          1. Catcher

            @ 10;32; Most of his “revelations” are known, and have been known for many may years. I suppose he is a challenge to the KJV only crowd, and your TV preachers, but his has been considered for a long time. Some of it could easily be considered pop-exegetics , could be, or might have been. He has gone through many blades of Ocam’s razor.
            I have, and have read several of his books. Interesting reads. A lot of it does not change the narrative a whit, but adds a few twists.
            I’m sure he has made a lot of money on his books, and his students including you Jon hold him in awe. Me? Not so much.
            I get he impression he is trying to convince himself as much as anyone else.

          2. Catcher 1:44 and his students including you Jon hold him in awe.

            I hope I don’t “hold him in awe.” Though I don’t agree with him that a literal single person, the Jesus of the Bible, absolutely for certain existed, his observations on how the Jesus story came to be so important make sense to me. It was the Jesus was a relatively unknown local person. He might have had a following outside of his little area but if he appealed to Pagans, he was a lower level god figure. They had gods of all kinds, local and bigger. It was the story Jesus had been killed and came back to life that made him a celebrity religious figure. If we assume, which you do not, Jesus really did not come back to life, how could such a story get started?

            In one of his books he goes through a plausible scenario, someone has a vision, someone sees someone else and thinks it is him, someone makes it up, etc. and it started being treated as fact. We might recall “weapons of mass destruction”. He recalls stories about himself that are not true. There are stories about me of when I was a Mayor that are not true–some of them very complimentary. Ehrman points out what I have experienced, false stories often cannot be corrected–the false story goes on. There are posters on this board who insist there were “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq even though President Bush himself has said they turned out not to exist.

            So, Ehrman raises questions on what might be the most important tale in history, the resurrection. In the book that just came out he is challenging the conventional wisdom of non Christians, that the conversion of Constantine was the single reason Christianity grew so much. He makes the case it would have grown huge without Constantine.

          3. Catcher

            @ 9;40; OK, maybe “awe” was a little off. Since you bring him up so often, perhaps obsession would be more accurate.

          4. Juan Ruiz

            ” the conversion of Constantine ”

            There is next to no evidence that Constantine converted; that he continued to be a Sun worshiper.

          5. Juan that he continued to be a Sun worshipper

            Yes, Ehrman points to Constantine’s selection of the ONE god he decided to worship. Some were disappointed he selected the Sun God of that time. Ehrman and apparently others have decided he simply designated the Sun God to be the Christian God.

            Dictators are allowed to do that. 🙂

          6. Catcher

            @ 11;28; There is evidence that Constantine was baptized near his death bed by priest or pope that had leanings towards Arius.

            Beyond that, Too many “ifs, could bees , would have beens, Makes no difference to me. Whatever happened with Constantine is in the past.
            Same as with Ehrman , Jon, or other speculators.

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