Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Aurora Borealis

Incredible footage from the recent aurora activity. This was filmed in Norway on Jan 24th. For the cherry on top, shooting star at 2:30. I would very much like to see this in person one day... Enjoy!

Star Wars: Crowd-Sourced

Pretty awesome weave of home made clips sent in by star wars fans replaying the whole movie of Episode IV: A New Hope. Each clip is roughly 15 seconds, but stitched together, recreates the movie as we the fans see it. Very well done and there are some really funny bits and references to other great cult films like the big lebowski, clerks and tron. This is an amazingly creative project that encroaches on copyrights, but has its own artistic spin and stands alone as an homage to George Lucas and his epic films that changed all of our lives. Full length movie:

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mother Earth

what a beautiful planet we live on! You know what else is great about this image? No boundary lines, no countries, just one planet, our planet. Home...

(via NASA)

and from the other side...

(via NASA)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Genographic Project

Very cool science happening over at National Geographic as they try to find answers to how we're all related as humans and how we have migrated over the millennia to come to populate and dominate the earth as a species. And you can be a participant by submitting your DNA information to help the study and to learn a little about when your ancient ancestors came from. Tests run about $100, but might be a great gift for that hard to shop for person in your family.

The Genographic Project Website

Monday, January 23, 2012

Active Skepticism w/ Phil Plait

Phil Plait discusses healthy skepticism, how to make it fun and how to get involved. Some of the groups he mentions are in the links list to the left, JREF and Center for Inquiry, are worth checking out, including his own blog, Bad Astronomy. You can also follow him on twitter @BadAstronomer

Don't Get Hung Up On Old Testament Details

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Had No Need of That Hypothesis

Folly Esther

The book of Esther highlights a snapshot of jewish history, roughly 400-500 BC, during the time of King Xerxes' reign of Persia. This is probably more of a legend than factual with some details exaggerated, but there are accounts of his reign in persian and greek histories, so something similar to what happened in Esther seems likely.

Anyways, the tale opens with a festival where Xerxes brings in all of his lords and nobles from around the empire to show off his vast wealth and splendor and glory of his reign. Drinking and eating and partying abounded for everyone, from the highest noble to the lowest peasant. Xerxes has been heralded by some christian scholars as a "good" king because he did not force his jewish citizens to follow his religion, possibly some form of zoroastrianism, and instead left them to continue their own belief structures. He seemed indifferent to the whole matter. During this party, he summons the queen, Vashti, to come before the gathered nobles and eunuchs (not sure why eunuchs are referred to so frequently in the bible, but sometimes it can refer to the physical type of eunuch as well as someone who has just given themselves to celibacy, not necessarily lopping off their member) to show off her incredible beauty, but she declines. This is a no-no. The story doesn't go into detail about why she declines, just that it gets Xerxes angry and he makes a decree that she is never to come before the king again. This also hints at a much more sinister underlying problem with family life that exists to today, the idea that men are the rulers of the household and that women should be subservient to them in all matters.

Esther 2:17-22 "For the queen's conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, 'King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come'. This very day the Persian and Median women of nobility who have heard about the queen's conduct will respond to all the king's nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord. Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king's edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memucan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, proclaiming in each people's tongue that every man should be ruler over his own household." NIV

Ah, there's nothing like a royal decree to force those damned, freethinking, independent, unruly women into submission.

Now, the king is on the lookout for his next wife, and sends commissioners to search the land for the most beautiful virgins so that they can "please" the king and "win his favor". He is basically setting up a concubine of women, a harem to take care of him. Esther happened to be one of those women chosen, however she concealed her Jewish nationality because Mordecai, her cousin who looked after her, had informed her to do so. She was a stunning woman and immediately won the favor of the king, eventually becoming his new queen.

Some time in the future there was a plot by some of the guardsmen to assassinate the king. Mordecai hears about this plot, informs Esther who, in turn, informs the king. The plotters were hanged on the gallows. Later, King Xerxes gave a noble named Haman honorary status, higher than any of the other nobles in the land. Haman used his newfound position of power to elevate himself and required all to kneel before him (except the king of course). Mordecai refuses to kneel before him and Haman became enraged. But not just at Mordecai, but also the whole jewish people in the land. (There must have been some previous bad blood here, otherwise it seems absolutely ridiculous to slaughter an entire race of people because one man wouldn't kneel before him - but we are given no more details here, so we must assume the worst. That Haman is evil and dead-set on extermination.)

Haman convinces the king to issue another decree to destroy the Jews, because they are different from everyone else in the kingdom and do not obey the customs and laws of the land.

Esther 3:8 "It is not in the king's best interest to tolerate them."

The king made the decree and Haman put together the details for the military exercise. Haman put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury to employ soldiers for the task. He was told by Xerxes to "keep the money" and "do with the people as you please". Couriers were sent to the various provinces with the message that the order was to "destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews - young and old, women and little children". The Jews were obviously stunned by this, as they had been living in the land previously with no issues from the king, they were allowed to practice their religion without persecution until Haman comes into the picture. Mordecai hears this news and is distraught and pleads with Esther to speak with her husband, the king, to change his mind. Esther, now being older, hasn't spoken with the king in 30 days (he probably had some younger, hotter concubines "serving" him at this point). Apparently, the queen can't even approach the king without being summoned by him (nice relationship), so she put together a plan. In a few days she approaches the king at her own peril and luckily he is pleased to see her. She invites him and Haman to come for a feast that day.

Later that night the king couldn't sleep so he had his attendants read him the book of chronicles, the records of his reign, to help him sleep. It was then that he discovered it was actually Mordecai who uncovered the plot to assassinate him. The next day he made Haman honor Mordecai with a robe and a horse for his valor and service to the king, this really got Haman's goat. Esther had a second day of feasting and this is when she reveals her ancestry. She pleads with the king to save her life and spare her people from the coming destruction by Haman's army. The king seems surprised to hear that Haman is behind this, when it was his decree that gave him the power to destroy the Jews. This is where this story starts to go haywire and fall apart for me. How can the king not remember his own decree? He gave Haman his ring to seal the orders and said "do with the people as you please". What did he think was going to happen? Haman told him he would pay for soldiers to carry out the decree. Frustrating.

Anyways, Haman gets hanged on the gallows, and his estate gets willed to Esther. Esther pleads with the king to put an end to the evil plan by Haman against the Jews. Xerxes responds by telling Mordecai to write another decree to override that of Haman, and he would seal it again with his ring, making it permanent. This is where Mordecai and Esther could have taken the high ground and put an end to the situation for good. Instead of repealing the initial decree, thus allowing the Jews to continue to live in peace in the kingdom as they had before, able to observe their own customs and follow their own deity, they decide to go for war themselves. They could have dissolved the fund that would have paid any advancing armies (as it seems that was the only reason the enemy militia soldiers were there once Haman is killed). Instead, they write a wholly new decree, sealed by King Xerxes, that "granted the Jews the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies".

Why? Why go to this length? What purpose can this serve, if only to continue with a war that seems, from any reasonable perspective, as one that could have been easily avoided? Why not issue a decree deploring violence and plundering of any kind especially to the Jews, but allowing for mutual respect of cultures and for civil coexistence? We are left wondering these profound questions of intent on Mordecai's part. The war begins. The Jews defeated their enemies.

Esther 9:5 "The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them, and they did what they pleased to those who hated them."

All-told, they killed over 75,000 people! They avoided their own extermination, which is certainly something to celebrate, but they were also given an incredible opportunity to find a way to coexist with other people. Using the kings decree for something good, something positive for humanity, and they squandered it by choosing instead to war and kill. They did not plunder, but that seems moot at this point. Esther goes even further, and gets the king to hang all ten of Haman's sons on the gallows as well (we are never told that they had anything to do with the war).

This destruction is celebrated by the Jews today, as the holiday of Purim. They celebrate the fact that they overcame an attempt to exterminate them and Mordecai's heroics, but we must not forget that they also killed a lot of people themselves, something that could have been avoided. Is there any moral here? It seems the king is easily fooled into allowing his closest confidants to usurp his power to kill people. He seems to have no notion of how to treat women (although this was a cultural norm back then - and still seems that way to some extent today in persia). He seems to have no notion of how to create and maintain a civil society. If he had that much power over his nobles and their provinces, he could have made sure that Haman's army never coalesced to make any attacks. He could have also stopped the Jews from doing their own slaughtering. Haman is the villain in this and he certainly seems to have gotten what he had coming to him. Esther and Mordecai don't seem to be much better though. They could have taken the high moral ground and ended it, but pushed the envelope and made the Jews go to war anyways, hanging Haman's sons and slaughtering thousands of their own accord.

I see no silver lining here. I only see what could have been done to suppress a volatile situation, that instead is made worse and is then celebrated with a two-day festival. I see no true "heroes" in this story.

Purim - Wikipedia

Artaxerxes I of Persia - Wikipedia

The Triumph of Mordecai

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Science is Corrosive to Religious Belief

Great clips from some of the brightest minds in science and academia on god:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge

Be sure you are educated on the Senate and House bills PIPA and SOPA that have the potential to threaten the very flow of information on the internet so vital for free thought and inquiry... Contact your local congressmen or representatives to complain about this threatening legislation. Freedom of information is imperative. Many websites are standing in unison today to protest...

SOPA and PIPA: Learn More

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sodom and Gomorrah

What lesson can we possibly learn from this twisted tale? Genesis 18-19 tells a tale of a vengeful, capricious god, bent on destroying cities he deemed grievously sinful. God speaks with Abraham about the city, saying that if all he has heard about them is true he will destroy it. Abraham pleads with god, asking if there were yet a handful of righteous within the city, would god kill them all, righteous and sinner alike? how many righteous would he be willing to kill to destroy the cities? 50? 45? 40? 30? 20? 10? Abraham bargains for 10, and god sends his angels to go scout the cities.

Now, if we consider two cities they must have a reasonably sized population. Men, women and children. Visitors from out of town, trades people, animals, the whole bit. How can there not be 10 children worth saving? In two cities? Yet god doesn't seem to count them. Or care.

His angels arrive in sodom and are met by Lot, Abraham's nephew. He takes them into his home, but they are immediately confronted by a large group of men and boys from the city. They demand the two men go outside so they can have sex with them (hence the term sodomy). Lot runs outside to speak with the group offering up his two virgin daughters, "let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them". Wow, their own father offering them up to be gang-raped to save the two strangers he had only met earlier that day. These are the people god wishes to save from destruction?

Lot was warned of the coming destruction and told to leave the city immediately and not look back. He takes his wife and daughters with him, but his wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt as fire and brimstone rain down on the two cities.

Lot and his two daughters made it out alive and found a cave to settle in, and this is where it gets creepy. The two daughters on successive nights get their father drunk and each has sex with him to continue the family line. Isn't that rape? and incest? Each daughter gets pregnant and bears a son. One called Moab, whose linage became the moabites, the other called Ben-Ammi, whose lineage became the Ammonites.

I honestly fail to see the moral of this story. By any measure, Lot and his daughters are just as bad as the group of men in Sodom. Lot offers his daughters up for rape, and his daughters end up raping him, just as the group of men wanted to rape the two strangers. The whole story is awful. I just can't help but think of all the innocent people that probably died that day. It is obvious that the two men never got a chance to check out the whole of both cities before god delivered his verdict and sent punishment from heaven. I can't believe there weren't ten people to save. And Lot and his daughters should have been part of the destruction, if we are basing who gets saved on their righteousness. They don't seem very righteous to me.

The account of the hellfire that god brings on the city is very reminiscent of what happened when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in Italy in CE79 and destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in a similar fashion. I get a feeling this was ancient man trying to cope with a similar event further back in time, trying understand why such a catastrophe could have happened. They did not understand natural phenomenon as we do today. Something this major could have only been caused by a god because the cities were evil. It couldn't have been hot magma pressurized for thousands of years under a mountain that exploded. You even see human remains in the volcanic ash that look like they could be the "pillars of salt" that described Lot's wife when she didn't make it.

Mount Vesuvius - Wikipedia

Pompeii - Wikipedia

Herculaneum - Wikipedia


Tree of Life

Pretty cool chart of the tree of life and how we're all related (Mammals are 5th from the right):

Discover Life - Tree of Life

Christmas Shoes

Patton Oswalt rips this awful song a new one and shows how ridiculous some people's faith actually is. The point of the song is this guy gets a little christmas cheer, but he actually fails to see the worst part of it, how god (if he was behind the whole thing) decided to kill this little child's mother on christmas just to show someone else what christmas is all about. lovely (NSFW!)


Jimmy Fallon nails this.. hilarious

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Universe From Nothing

Terrific lecture by Lawrence Krauss, who gives you the science behind what we now know best about the universe and throws a few zingers in along the way to keep it light. One of the major arguments for the existence of god is why do we have something rather than nothing? If we have something, that should imply a cause and creator. They then take this creator argument to further plug their particular doctrines and dogmas. Through science and equations and testable predictions we now know that the very universe we live in couldn't have had a creator, that we did actually come from "nothing" and here's how:

This talk led him to write his new book, "A Universe From Nothing" which just came out, I believe, and should go more into detail at how we arrived at such an amazing conclusion.

Krauss is such a great speaker too, it's almost like he's not even using a slideshow, that he could just go on and on about this stuff and keep you entertained. These are my favorite living scientists, with respect to the contributions to their fields and how they make science approachable to everyone... my current favorite science ambassadors:

1. Neil Degrasse Tyson
2. Lawrence Krauss
3. Brian Cox
4. Jerry Coyne
5. Brian Greene
6. Michio Kaku
7. Phil Plait

If only they had scientist action figures! Who are your favorite scientists and why???

The Garden of the Church and the Wilderness of the World

It's quite an amazing story how we came to have religious freedom here in this country. I came across this incredible article the other day about the founding of the colony of Rhode Island and the impact theologian Roger Williams had on our current understanding of the separation of church and state.

God, Government and Roger Williams' Big Idea - Smithsonian, Jan 2012
(It's a bit long but well worth the read)

When the colonies were started, the first people who came here were the puritans who escaped from religious persecution in Europe and wanted to start the colonies with their own version of religious doctrine, but enforced through colonial government. Roger Williams had a different and more radical idea. He saw that religion mixed with government tended to poison and corrupt religion (whereas now we almost see it more as the other way around). Williams saw how the other colonies were starting to shape up and started to speak up with his idea, he was persecuted for it. He founded the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation as almost a trial of sorts to see how his idea would play out. He wrote an exhaustive book detailing his vision of the separation of church and state, which later heavily influenced the founding fathers like Jefferson and Madison as they drew up the Constitution.

Some great quotes from Williams' book, The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, For Cause of Conscience, Discussed in a Conference Between Truth and Peace - 1644:

"When they [the Church] have opened a gap in the hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world, God hath ever broke down the wall itself, removed the Candlestick, etc., and made His Garden a wilderness as it is this day. And that therefore if He will ever please to restore His garden and Paradise again, it must of necessity be walled in peculiarly unto Himself from the world, and all that be saved out of the world are to be transplanted out of the wilderness of the World."

“It is the will and command of God that, since the coming of his Sonne the Lord Jesus, a permission of the most Paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or Antichristian consciences and worships, bee granted to all men in all Nations and Countries.”

“I infer that the sovereign, original, and foundation of civil power lies in the people.” The governments they establish, he wrote, “have no more power, nor for no longer time, than the civil power or people consenting and agreeing shall betrust them with.”

I find it terribly fascinating that the religious christians in this country are now the ones arguing for more public expression of religion, declaring that there is "no such thing as separation of church and state" (but what they really want is their religion in government and in public policy and in our schools), when it was a baptist theologian who first came up with the idea now held so precious by the secular portion of American society, as well as religious minorities. What the religious (christians) are really fighting for is their continued religious (christian) privilege over other religions and non-religions in this country.

Even though Williams' motive was entirely religious, his writings laid the groundwork for people during the enlightenment like John Locke and Thomas Jefferson, who later wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802 (referring the the establishment clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution):

"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." (To read this entire letter, see the Intellects section above)

And the fight continues to this day, FFRF and other groups continue their efforts to pry the death grips of (christian) religion off of government affairs to keep it secular, to keep it separate from church influence. Williams was right, politics does soil religion. We are seeing it now with the new republicans, especially during this primary. But the other side of the coin is also true, religion soils government. In the words of the great Christopher Hitchens, "religion poisons everything". If we learn a little about our past, and the history of christianity especially, you see that religion had its chance in government affairs and ruined it for everyone. It set us back hundreds if not thousands of years of intellectual growth and prevented or delayed the recognition of universal human truths and liberties. Providence... it was named so because one could live there without fear of persecution of religious or non-religious beliefs, especially from their own government.

Roger Williams - Wikipedia

The Bloody Tenet of Persecution, For Cause of Conscience... - Wikipedia

Separation of Church and State in the U.S. - Wikipedia

Rhode Island - Wikipedia

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Isn't This Enough?

Some people think that once someone comes to the realization that their long-held religious beliefs are unfounded, the next phase becomes depression with respect to the afterlife, that there is some sort of downgrade in the thinking that you won't actually get to live forever. I say, check your ego at the door and be thankful for the life that you do have. Take a look around, this place is pretty freaking amazing and we have the faculties to appreciate it and understand how it all works! We are the lucky ones who get to experience it at all, so enjoy it and make the most of it while you're here.

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?" - Richard Dawkins

GOP Almighty

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2012 - GOP Almighty
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Matt Dillahunty vs. Mark Allison Debate 11/17/11

Kinda long and the audio could be better, but great debate nontheless.

Dillahunty is the outspoken non-believer from the infamous Atheist Experience tv shows from Austin, TX, and a former Southern Baptist seminarian who decided to see if what he believed was actually true. He ended up an atheist, and an outspoken one to be sure. He is currently nominated for atheist of the year (The Hitchie) and is dialing up his public debates, taking it from his all-access show to higher profile debates like this. Allison is a teacher at Covenant Connections Church in Flowery Branch, GA. He is a good sport and seems like a well-spoken, stand-up, pleasant kind of guy, but Dillahunty takes it to him in my humble opinion.

Matt Dillahunty vs. Mark Allison - Good Without God? - Examiner 11/18/11

Christianity, Its Nature and Influence on Civilisation | Charles Watts

Fantastic essay by Charles Watts, written around 1868, but many of the words and themes still ring true today. Loved this quote from the end:

"If Christianity contained any real remedy for existing evils, it would have displayed itself ere now. It has had every advantage in its favour; the influence of the priests, the patronage of kings, the alliance of the great and powerful, the use of untold wealth, the command of the armies, first place among the councillors of nations, the willing subjection of the populace, the command of their affections, and the dominancy of their fears. Science, art, education have humbled and enlisted themselves in its train. The ties of domestic affection, the bonds of the social compact, the political relations of ruler and ruled, all have surrendered themselves to its influence. It has been absolute monarch of the world. Yet with all these advantages it has proved unable to keep pace with a progressive civilisation."

Christianity, its Nature and Influence on Civilisation - Charles Watts 1868

Interesting take on the argument against organized religion. You usually hear about (and I usually discuss) the main objections that 1) it most likely isn't true, 2) would still be morally questionable/morally reprehensible if true, and 3) even if it were true and morally sound, it still would be no reason to force others to believe it. Watts takes a different approach; while lamenting the utter stagnation of society, he notices that the majority of the last 2000 years has been controlled in nearly every aspect at some point by members of the clergy and what has it gotten us? The only advances to society seem to come against the grain of religious belief, through much argument and trial, overcoming fear of torture or death in some cases to further prove a particular field or theory that may go against the current theology of the day. Its a powerful argument that religion, and christianity in this particular case, has had its chance to prove it is the true way that it claims and has utterly failed in almost every aspect. It's high time we realized this as a society and attempt another route, one based on reason and free inquiry, on science and education, on humanity and the general good of all society, regardless of supernatural beliefs and traditions.

Charles Watts - Wikipedia

A Brief History of the Rationalist Association - New Humanist - Watts Literary Guide

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

God is Intelligently Designed

Great chat between dprjones and Dr. Andrew Thomson... fascinating look into human cognition and how it relates to religious beliefs and morals.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Apocrypha and Other Non-Canonical Scriptures

Watched an interesting show on History2 the other night, about banned books of the bible. Usually, I don't watch history channel much because most of their programming is ridiculous and honestly I don't feel confident they get all the facts straight. So if I take interest in a show they do, I always try to follow up with my own research to get as full an understanding as I can. Anyways, the program went into some detail about some of the banned books of the bible, ancient texts that had meaning to the early christians but did not make in into the official canon of the church for various reasons. Sometimes the texts were written too late to be considered, other times they dealt with topics and characters that would skew the overall narrative, from Mary Magdalene to Mary, mother of Jesus, to Jesus himself, to heaven and hell. Other texts take some of the bible stories and go into more depth, like adam and eve, and the apocalypse.
This website has a fantastic collection of these ancient "banned" texts and are really worth a read for a much more complete picture of the early christian church. Also it gets you thinking, why weren't these texts included with the others? What were the excluding criteria? Who decided these texts weren't for everyone's eyes???

Sacred Text Archive - The Apocrypha

Some of the more interesting books are:

First and Second books of Adam and Eve - Very in depth tale of the first two humans after the fall from the garden of eden. Temptations from satan, and the gamut of emotions from two people starting life in an alien world. The stories of Cain and Abel and the history of the founding fathers until Moses.

Book of Jubilees - Another account of Genesis from the beginning to Moses but with some different twists and a heavy push from the author to switch from a lunar to a solar calendar.

Book of the Secrets of Enoch - Apocalytpic, legendary, stories of giants and fallen angels, influenced the writers of the New Testament.

Gospel of Thomas - Various sayings of Jesus

Infancy Gospel of Thomas - Jesus growing up, coming into his own as a god-man. Various miracles are performed, but depicts young jesus as malevolent and a trickster, a spoiled divine angry brat. Jesus actually kills some children and adults and shows attitude to his teachers, makes people blind and fearful of his power.

Gospel of James (The  Protevangelion) - Infancy stories and nativity of Jesus. Interesting take on Joseph being a widower with children before Mary, thus allowing Mary to be a perpetual virgin. Also describes Mary's life in more detail.

Gospel of Philip - Eludes to a more special relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, goes into more gnostic views on various sacraments like marriage and baptism.

Gospel of the Egyptians - A discussion between Salome and and Jesus on topics from celibacy to children to death.

Gospel of Mary - very radical thoughts in this text, from the role of women in the church to the reality of Jesus' life and teachings, that his teachings are a way toward inner peace, not necessarily believing in his death and resurrection as the path to eternal life.

Gospel of Nicodemus - A book written in the 2nd or 3rd century AD purporting to be the Acts of Pontius Pilate, and details the events around the crucifixion to garner favor for the new religion.

Apocalypse of Peter - Visions of heaven and hell, punishment for specific crimes...

Here is another great resource for reading more of these early christian texts. Helps put A LOT of things into perspective... Makes it easy to see how man-made this literature is, how it has been manipulated over the years by the early church and how and why some texts made it into the canon and some did not. Please enjoy these resources. I will post them to the left for reference.

Early Christian Writings