Is Richard Dawkins a closet Christian?

RICHARD Dawkins is known far and wide as an atheist. Now the popular scientist is admitting he’s actually not an atheist at all — he’s a secular Christian.

Dawkins made the statement while launching the first volume of his memoirs, An Appetite for Wonder, according to London’s Telegraph.

Dawkins, who has previously admitted he loves singing Christmas carols, isn’t ready to embrace the supernatural, charismatic aspects of Christianity but expressed his affinity for religious ceremony during his talk.

In response to an American Protestant minister in the audience who claimed that he no longer believed in miracles or that Jesus was resurrected, but still considered himself a Christian and preached the teachings of Christ, he made this reply: “I would describe myself as a secular Christian in the same sense as secular Jews have a feeling for nostalgia and ceremonies.”

He then made the perceptive comment to the minister who had questioned him: “But if you don’t have the supernatural, it’s not clear to me why you would call yourself a minister.” In other words, why you consider yourself a Christian at all.

“But I am a secular Christian, if you want to call me that.”

All this prompted Damian Thompson, columnist for London’s Telegraph, to reflect: “If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that Prof Dawkins secretly converted to Christianity decades ago, and then asked himself: “How can I best win souls? By straightforward argument, or by turning myself from a respected academic into a comic figure fulminating against religion like a fruitcake at Speakers’ Corner, thereby discrediting atheism?”

Another view on the Dawkins effect is in the article Reading Richard Dawkins Led To My Conversion http://www.deadphilosopherssociety.com/2014/03/30/reading-richard-dawkins-led-to-my-conversion/

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45 thoughts on “Is Richard Dawkins a closet Christian?

  1. Bryan :-Is Richard Dawkins a closet Christian?

    But Bryan what version of christianity ?
    And why would it be any version of christianity.
    It could be anyone of a thousand religions or variables so so many all put down by theologians.
    Aaah it has to be to your version of religion.
    The basis of all religious problems.
    Tell me the day when a Atheist can claim tax benefits on the basis that many claim Atheism is a religion.
    On that day would there be atheist fighting atheist over their varying views of what there is not

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    • “Tell me the day when a Atheist can claim tax benefits on the basis that many claim Atheism is a religion.”

      To claim tax benefits on the basis of being a religion, atheists themselves must call their own beliefs a religion. Not OTHERS (such as Christians).

      You as an atheist refuse to admit that your beliefs are a religion, therefore by your own admission you do not deserve to get the so called benefits derived from being a religion.

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      • I’m intrigued, davinci,
        But I’m not going to pounce on you here, but what you said does sound a bit suggestive. What am I referring to? This quote.—

        On the surface, that could appear to mean that in any and all religious practices, – prayer, sacrifice etc etc, – it is purely the feel-good boost to well-being that matters. That is really exactly what atheists would say. But I have to conscientiously allow it is not what you intended.
        Rian.

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    • Well davinci,
      At last I’ve got some space and time to look at the issue you and I started debating a few days back. I queried the claim that God the Father sacrificed his Son. You pointed out the obvious and correct verse from the Christian Testament that illustrates this statement. Fair enough. But I am left with a great deal of confusion about just how the claim is actually justified.

      My Etymological Dictionary, along with my Shorter Oxford, states that the word Sacrifice literally means ‘To Make Holy’. That seems a bit strange since within the Christian Doctrines of the Holy Trinity, it is made clear that God the Son is well and truly already Holy, and was never otherwise.

      So let’s look for a further possible meaning. My immediate expectation of the meaning would offer the suggestion that Sacrifice must surely indicate the ‘giving up’ or losing something when one makes a sacrifice, (and in the process, having no hope or guarantee of a good outcome) So I’m endeavouring to detect just where or when or how God the Father ‘lost’ something when He sent God the Son to earth for the great purpose. Since The God is always in total touch with anything on earth or in the Cosmos, it must indicate that He never lost touch with His Son in any way. There would never have been any of the slightest possibility or doubt that He could.

      When we are taught that The God sacrificed His Son, we understand as well that both Persons of the Holy Trinity knew very well that the episode of Passion represented no permanent loss, – in fact in the whole of the infinite and unimaginable stretch of Eternity both back and forward, the Passion period of – (what?) – 24 hours – was little other than a micro-nano-second of time.

      Since it is taught that during the brief period of time between the ‘death’ on the Cross and the Resurrection on Easter morning, Jesus was nevertheless actually well and truly alive (as the Creed clearly tells us, as well as one of the Apostolic Epistles) and duly engaged in going down to ‘Hell’ to preach or bring release to the souls in Purgatory/Sheol or where-ever. Neither Jesus Christ himself, or His Father was ever in any doubt that His own eternal life was continuous and true or un-interrupted. So different from any sacrifice that any of us would ever make.

      I suppose it might be argued that in the period of Incarnation, the Second Person of the Trinity lost or relinquished His (comfortable?) life in ‘Heaven’ for that brief time. But that didn’t happen to the Father.

      So did The God or His Son ever actually lose or sacrifice anything in the event? Just struck me too, that in all the reams of Apologetic produced in the last 2000 years, I assume that at no time was there ever any suggestion at all, that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, – the Holy Spirit also suffered any loss either.

      Over to you, Rian

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      • Why don’t you comment on the subject at hand Rian?

        We are not currently discussing Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross are we?

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      • sure davinci, – there is another topic today.
        but dont you recall that I promised that i would get back to you with the topic we were debating a few days back, as soon as I had some space. We didnt finish what we were talking about. presumably you are incapable of dealing with the matter.
        Cheers, Rian.

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      • Bryan,
        The question about a ‘minister’ who is not a believer in the supernatural, doesnt trouble me at all. The word minister as I recall it, means a person who ‘ministers’ unto other people. He can be just as truthfully a Christian minister as it can be said that England and Australia are Christian countries. I understand from one of my 25 ex-wives who happened to be American born, that the Unitarian/Universalist denominations over there have very successful ministers at work, who do all they can to help and minister to their congregations.

        Also, there are ample ethical teachings in Christianity, as well as those implied within the Jewish Scripture, to pass on and interpret to any congregation. Jesus can well be seen as a great teacher and role model for many, – and that regardless of that famous statement that CS Lewis proclaims, when he condemns any such description of Jesus. It was a typical Lewis argument – offering two or three only alternatives in a debate.

        cheers, Rian.

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      • I can deal with the matter Rian, but I don’t want to make you look like a complete idiot given that you said that you studied the Bible for 70 odd years. Do you want me to respond?

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      • Argument 1 Playing Fast and Loose with the Facts

        Rian says

        My Etymological Dictionary, along with my Shorter Oxford, states that the word Sacrifice literally means ‘To Make Holy’.

        Here is what dictionary.com has to say on the matter:
        sac•ri•fice
        ˈsæk rəˌfaɪsShow Spelled [sak-ruh-fahys]
        noun
        1.
        the offering of animal, plant, or human life or of some material possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.
        2.
        the person, animal, or thing so offered.
        3.
        the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.
        4.
        the thing so surrendered or devoted.
        5.
        a loss incurred in selling something below its value.

        It is obvious that in order for Rian to support his argument, he had to resort to omitting certain facts which would have destroyed his whole argument. Incidentally both Rian’s dictionary and the definition given by Dictionary.com are Biblically correct. But what Rian has done is:
        – Narrowed the meaning of the word to one meaning and one meaning alone
        – Omitted the fact that the word might have different meanings depending on context.
        – Totally ignored the context of the word’s meaning.

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      • Argument No 2 – Applying the Meaning of a word out of context

        After narrowing the meaning of the word sacrifice, Rian writes:

        “That seems a bit strange since within the Christian Doctrines of the Holy Trinity, it is made clear that God the Son is well and truly already Holy, and was never otherwise.”

        The assumption is that the dictionary definition given by Rian above applies to Jesus Christ. The Bible however teaches that whilst it applies to us it does not apply to Jesus.

        In Hebrews 10:10 we are told that:
        “And by that will we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Christ once and for all” So it us that are made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus.

        Let us now consider a few verses which tell us that Rian’s definition does not apply to Jesus:
        – 1 Peter 3:18 – Jesus dies for our sins, the just for the unjust.
        – Isaiah 53:5 – He was wounded for our transgressions (Note the word “our” not “his”, then adds that with “His stripes we are healed”.
        – Daniel 9:26 – Messiah to be cut off, but not for Himself (why not if Rian’s definition is correct?)
        – John 1:29 – Behold the lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world (so it is not Christ’s personal sins?)
        – 1 Peter 1:19 – talks about the blood of Jesus, the sinless, spotless Son of God (wait a minute! Sinless? Spotless? Does this mean holy, perhaps?)
        – John 8:46 – Which one of you convicts me of sin? (If Rian’s definition is correct; can Jesus say this?)

        All these verses and others make it quite clear that the definition that Rian has limited the word sacrifice to, does not apply to Jesus, but it applies to us.

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      • Argument 3 – Twisting the meaning of words

        After narrowing the definition of the word “sacrifice” to a singular definition, and applying this definition out of context, Rian writes:

        “So let’s look for a further possible meaning. My immediate expectation of the meaning would offer the suggestion that Sacrifice must surely indicate the ‘giving up’ or losing something when one makes a sacrifice, (and in the process, having no hope or guarantee of a good outcome)”

        Even he admits that his narrowing definition of the word “sacrifice” does not make sense. Now he starts using one of the dictionary.com definitions of “sacrifice” but he twists it.

        Definition 3 of dictionary.com states that:

        “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”

        In other words, it is hope that by sacrificing something, you hope or have the guarantee of obtaining a higher or more pressing claim. Rian believes that there is no hope or guarantee of a good outcome. And there is the twist!

        Let’s have a look at what Scripture says on the matter:
        – Isa. 53:11 – He will see the fruits of his sorrows and shall be satisfied. So the outcome is assured.
        – Matthew 13:45-46 – The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price – indicates sacrificing everything with the guarantee of obtaining the desired outcome. No uncertainty there.

        So once again, the definition of the words that Rian is playing with is erroneous. Members of the Unitarian Church often bring up these sort of word definitions to confuse people, and to make the claim that we don’t know what the Bible really means, hence it is unreliable. If it is unreliable, then so must other doctrines such as the sacrifice of Jesus.

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      • Well davinci, I’m struggling to see just where you are causing me to appear like any sort of an idiot in this discussion.

        Obvious the hard work you’ve put into your commentary there; but let’s see just what we can say about it. Whenever I’m debating a specific word, first thing I do is to look up my Etymological Dictionary where I can determine the literal meaning of the word, and what language(s) it is derived from, and then I go on to check the others volumes that I have in my library, English, American and Australian if necessary. So I really am familiar with the other meanings and contexts that you quoted, as I found in the Shorter Oxford.

        Looking back in my posting, I gave two meanings, and that second one concerning loss or surrendering or giving up is related to and virtually no different from the theme and context behind those definitions that you quoted there. — Let’s check them again.- ——–
        >>>1.
        the offering of animal, plant, or human life or of some material possession to a deity, as in propitiation or homage.
        2.
        the person, animal, or thing so offered.
        3.
        the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.
        4.
        the thing so surrendered or devoted.
        5.
        a loss incurred in selling something below its value.>>>>
        ————————————-
        All of the foregoing are summed up in my comment which said (and note exactly what I said, when I made no attempt to suggest it was the only definition!) – “My immediate expectation of the meaning — the giving up or losing something —“ Each one of the definitions you offer is dealing with just precisely that.

        Now if The God SACRIFICED his Son, just which of those definitions covers it? If none of them do, then please detail exactly what you are intending, with a paraphrase of the sentence. What exactly did The God offer (surrender/destruction), and just what exactly was the loss incurred? In YOUR OWN words please.

        If by any chance no secular dictionary definitions are capable of defining the Sacrifice of His Son by The God, then just say so. It means then however, that you are actually unable to debate (or explain) the matter in common English terminology, with any non Biblical believer.

        Finally davinci, when I spoke of sacrificing with ‘no hope or guarantee of a good outcome’, I was speaking again within the framework of the secular and material world, where attempts to sacrifice to a deity or to supernatural forces bear no hope or guarantee. (well sure, there may well be some hope only.) And as I remind you, on the other hand, if a supreme deity himself makes a sacrifice, then of course the outcome has to be well-known in advance and guaranteed. There is none of the hope involved, is there? The Deity is not waiting anxiously to see if the hoped for result comes about.

        The ‘pearl of great price’ doesn’t really depict a sacrifice. It just describes what appears like a very profitable swap. Actually it might strictly speaking be a darn silly negotiation, if having nothing left after the transaction (except the jewel), our merchant cant feed or shelter himself or his family. But there again, one shouldn’t press an Allegory or a Parable too far, should one?. It becomes ridiculous.

        Cheers Rian (still not feeling particularly idiotic)

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      • Rian,
        Why are you using a secular definition of a word, when you comment on what is essentially a religious topic?

        I have encountered this argument that you have used, on the web by an author who does not believe that Jesus was God, and who tried to prove that the whole idea of Jesus’ sacrifice was ridiculous from a scriptural point of view.
        Besides, whether the guarantee of obtaining the desired result from a sacrifice or not is immaterial. It is the hope inherent in the belief of those who actually conduct the sacrifice that actually matters.

        You have based your whole theory on dictionary definitions. I actually spoke to voodoo priests and other religious persons who conduct chicken sacrifices to their deities. I also spoke to military commanders (who often sacrifice people in battle). They all confirmed the fact that for a sacrifice to be a sacrifice it has to either lead to something better, or provide the hope that by conducting the sacrifice, a higher or more pressing claim can be achieved.

        Even my nephew (who is a child) understands this, when he says “nothing ventured nothing gained” or “no pain no gain”.

        Both these groups had also mentioned that only a fool would “sacrifice” something if there was no hope of obtaining a higher or more pressing outcome.

        The difference between your definition and that of those who are involved in some sort of sacrifice is that their definition is based in hope. Yours is not. Yours is the definition of politicians who often play with words and concept they have no idea about.

        Perhaps you need to come down from your ivory tower, because you are commenting on issues without having any idea what you are talking about.

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      • My ‘ivory tower’, davinci?
        Never had that tossed at me before.

        I’m actually not pontificating in any way here. I’m still essentially waiting for you to give me in your own words, just what is meant by ‘God sacrificed his Son’. AND of course, any extra elaboration on what is meant by that same word ‘sacrifice’ in the line.

        I am not aware of having criticized ANY official doctrine of Christianity in my postings. I like investigating evidence and any logic attempted in the exposition. I’m legitimately requesting here, simply an elaboration of a common phrase or sentence that I would remind you, actually doesnt appear in any of the great Church Creeds. Sure, there are hints of it in certain Scriptural verses, but they are every bit as confusing.

        This morning I went back and looked over the post you submitted that I endeavoured to answer last night. Quite frankly, I found it the most confusing piece of polemic I’ve seen for some time. At best, one might say it was bluff; and at worst rather twisted. You are once again ‘playing the man, and not the ball’. I’m getting to the point of concluding that you are just unable to answer simple questions. If you’re unable to put into other or plain words just what you mean in the description of a spiritual principle, then say so. I’ll bet that our friend St Paul would have had a suitable go at it.

        Still odd to me just how much reverence is paid to ‘hope’. Let’s see. Now I am hoping that I dont come down with Flu this winter. My mate is hoping he doesnt get sacked from his job in the current restructure. The Government is hoping that the Opposition doesnt win the next election. The….; Oh, you get the point. Hope is just so wishy washy. When, for heavens sake are Christians going to come up with a more convincing and appropriate word than Hope? However controversial Faith may be, at least it is a bit clearer than Hope; AND I think the word is commonly used more understandably.

        This is a bit like the campaign that dear old Scott Peck put out in his books (Road less Travelled etc.) when he wanted to redefign the common word ‘Love’ – (to mean something like absolute dedication). You cant just change a whole culture’s usage and understanding of a word just because you claim to have a more legitimate meaning for it. When I check on and quote some obscure original meaning and origin for a word, I’m not expecting others to use it like that. I’m merely say how I used it in the context I expressed. Hope has too weak a meaning. I’ll have to settle for the idea that it has to be Christian jargon otherwise.

        Cheers, Rian.

        Like

  2. From the link (highlighted, no less)

    “…..pretending to be argument, bald assertion pretending to be evidence, an incredibly arrogant attitude, and a stance of moral equivalence incapable of distinguishing between the possible strengths and weaknesses of different religions, including the militant atheism Dawkins advocates.
    This is not academic analysis, it is bad journalism.”

    aka The root of all ‘Theology’.

    I copped about 2 minutes of a creature named Joyce Meyer on the box this morning before I had to race out to vomit. For arrogance, ignorance or garish sleaze she fits the bill.

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      • Bryan :-who you ‘jokingly’ wish dead because of her beliefs or occupation?

        We all know the religions DON,T jokingly wish because of beliefs.
        They are bloody serious about putting someone to death.because of belief or thought outside their own.
        Even one of their own is no hindrance to killing them .
        I was never very worried about a nuclear war I was more concerned about what people would revert to after .
        Straight back to the dark ages with the benignity of modern weapons.

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      • Wot?? You’re into violent solutions now?
        But did you notice the extra ‘verbal’ she inserted into the banner ~ improving on Moses in Exodus?
        It’s both revealing and condemnatory.
        Pretty-much par for the course though.

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    • That’s nasty ~ and more so because it’s false.
      But it’s my own fault; I should’ve known better than to expect a godbotherer to have anything resembling a sense of humour.
      Could explain the joke to you….but since it’d be an exercise in logic you’d probably not ‘comprehend’ the explanation either. Or choose not to.

      As for Meyer: I can’t help it if ignorant, poncing-and-prancing and sleazily-pretentious people make me want to vomit. (Quite unlike their audiences who seem to delight in being talked down to and treated like fools.)

      Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that these self-styled (since there’s no qualification or test of competence, let alone intelligence!) ‘ministers of the gods of the universe’ choose their ‘careers’ because they can’t achieve anything of much value in the real world.

      Where DO all these wanna-be’s get the idea that they have the authority to decipher and explain the moods, dictates, interpretations, determinations and requirements of The One True God (or ALL of them for that matter! 😉 ) ?

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      • As stated:- offence can’t be given; it can only be taken.
        If you choose to take it it’s your problem.
        And just for the record, the comment was never intended to be ‘funny’, or even a ‘joke’. If an appellation is necessary, try ‘wry’.
        …in response to Monica’s ‘Hey you!’

        And I maintain that the basic premise is accurate: a preponderance of coppers will cheerfully tell you there’s no such thing as an ‘ex-copper’ ~ any more than there is an ex-catholic, ex-mafia man or ex-alcoholic
        If I could get half a dozen coppers to sign a letter that says so, would you accept the validity of the claim.

        And given recent performance, I also still think you’d benefit from treatment for your hot flushes. 🙂

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      • No No. it still doesn’t mean that offense cannot be given. People say things to offend, very blatantly and boldly. Choice of response is always there, yes, but saying or doing with intent to offend is still giving offense. It’s about being caring of others. It’s not all about you Dabs. No offence intended.

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      • No email arrived.
        Perhaps god is censoring YOUR comments?

        …and that might account for my ‘What would Jesus do?’ post not appearing here.
        ie. What COULD you say or do to which Jesus would TAKE offence? (particularly to the point of censorship ~ which, of course, makes a nonsense of the Free Will thing.)
        …..keeping in mind he wasn’t even offended at being crucified, or called the ‘King of the Jews’.
        ( Either of which would’ve pissed-off even me no end!)

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      • Are you then saying that some special or superior knowledge is required to ‘know’ the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist?
        …and no, this ISN’T a joke (in case you were confused). 🙂

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    • Imagination is ~ and always was ~ the way ahead for our species. And from following the pathways laid out by imagination we learn –> what is and what isn’t; what can be and what can’t be.
      We’ve learnt there is no task for Tooth Fairy and no room for a god.
      …..that life is possible without a ‘soul’, but not without a sandwich.

      All that!…..and we’ve only been here for a mere 500,000 years!

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    • Carl Sagan? He died in 1996 Kathleen but I too hope he connected with God., He once said: : “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

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    • I just realised that you were probably referring to Richard Dawkins Kathleen… Well, Paul the apostle was once a killer of Christians so Dawkins finding God is certainly not impossible. Atheism is a dead religion and most inquisitive and creative minds eventually realise that.

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      • Ah but just think! If Dawkins really became a Christian, he would be a powerful weapon against Atheism as Paul was against Rabbinical Judaism in his day!

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      • Really, Kate?:- ” I hope he lets the heart take the driver seat.”
        Do you realise (and I speak from vast experience!) that’s the surest way to a life of immeasurable suffering and very little gain? (Though the ‘highs’ are incomparable. Rather like what junkies describe they experience: even on a ‘bad’ trip.)
        There are those who’d say that our brains are the source of all achievement and satisfaction. That we make so little use of them should be (and is, from a certain perspective!) the First Deadly Sin.

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      • Obviously the heart ~ a muscular pump ~ can’t “know” anything.
        But (and I’ve asked the question many times of many people) can you describe what YOU mean by ‘the’ heart knows’?

        I’m assuming you (and generally) ‘the knowledge of the heart’ refers to what Ardrey calls our deeply-buried animal instincts…..ie, built-in senses of which we have no understanding nor control.

        His books ~ which I STILL recommend y’all read! ~ tries (fairly successfully I think) to track that ‘heart-knowledge’ back down the evolutionary trail.

        eg. “Dawin’s ‘horrid doubt’ was unjustified…….. It is the mighty paradox of human thought that incapable of imprisoning an instinct, it is imprisoned by none. And that is mentality’s most massive power, and humanity’s second best hope.”

        ….and as a driver wouldn’t even get L-plates! (Doesn’t understand the meaning of red lights! 😉 )

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      • Hey davinci,
        I can see no evidence that Paul represented any sort of ‘weapon’ against Rabbinical Judaism, well, that ‘worked’ at all, anyway. In fact he was martyred well before Second Temple Judaism was replaced by Rabbinical Judaism. That latter actually has never been defeated or destroyed, even by Christianity. Paul himself didnt really defeat anything. It was the developed Christian church under Constantine centuries later, that managed to start the defeat of Paganism.
        Rian.

        Like

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