Dr. Karl Gilberson's Open Letter to The New President of Northwest Nazarene University

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Dear President Pearsall:

The time has come to fight back against the fundamentalists who are destroying the mind--not to mention the heart and soul--of American evangelical Christianity, including your university.

You have just assumed the presidency of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) under a dark cloud. Your predecessor, David Alexander, resigned in disgrace amidst a scandal that seems to be growing, and you unexpectedly found yourself in an office that you did not seek, confronted with problems that you did not create. The greatest of these problems was your predecessor's termination of Tom Oord, a popular professor and your school's leading scholar.

In terminating Oord, Alexander caved in to pressure from Christian fundamentalists who wanted Oord's ideas--like evolution--removed from the classrooms of NNU. And this happened despite longstanding commitments to intellectual diversity and openness in colleges and universities. As you begin your presidency, you will find yourself surrounded by these same fundamentalists. Oord may leave but they will remain. And they will pressure you to remove other scholars who promote ideas they don't like. Please don't listen to them.

On Atheist Irrelevancy and Myopia: "I have found only two blogs that focus on debunking Christianity"

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Robert Miller wrote me saying,
The Internet has more Christian apologists than a horse has hairs and many blogs by atheists or skeptics, but I have found only two blogs that focus on debunking Christianity or Christian apologetics. Yours and Cross-Examined. Do you know of any other blogs or websites that look at New Testament issues from a skeptical point of view?
I'm assuming Miller is speaking of sites that focus exclusively on debunking Christian apologetics. I am happy Miller found this site, that's always good to know. However, I find his question both interesting and provocative. I ask my readers to comment on other blogs that seek to do this exact same thing. I'm sure there are others. But I'm not sure there are others more popular than the two blogs he mentioned. And between us, only one has multiple authors with advanced degrees writing for it.

But, if Miller's observation is largely true, we have a serious problem. It means atheists are largely talking to themselves about atheistic concerns.

Two More Blurbs For My Book, "How to Defend the Christian Faith"

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My next book, to be published by Pitchstone Publishing in November, is provocatively titled: How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.Here are two more blurbs for it:

Why Atheists Laugh at Religion

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Just think of the Outsider Test for Faith here! Funny stuff!

Evidence Without Reason is Lame, Reason Without Evidence is Blind

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Earlier I issued a challenge to creationists right here. It has generated quite a storm of controversy. For some reason whenever we argue against creationism or faith itself, this happens. At issue this time is whether philosophy is considered to be evidence, or even helpful at all. Creationists are arguing that it is. Others disagree vehemently. To help answer this issue let's consider for comparison the well-known aphorism, "Science without philosophy is lame, philosophy without science is blind." [Most people substitute the word "religion" for "philosophy" as quoted originally by Einstein]. If we take this aphorism and correctly unpack it, the point being made is this:
Evidence without reason is lame, reason without evidence is blind.
For if by philosophy we mean the use of good critical thinking skills, then evidence can be "hamstrung" by people with poor critical thinking skills. Creationists fit the first part of this aphorism perfectly. They don't really know what constitutes as evidence, even while dealing with the evidence. For the lack of evidence is not evidence for creation. The lack of evidence is merely the lack of evidence, get it?! Moreover, just as the tools for digging up treasures in the ground are not themselves the treasures found, so also the rules of logic that help us reason correctly are not themselves the evidence found either. So creationists also fit the second half of this aphorism perfectly. They are using reason to skirt or ignore the evidence because they are blind to it. Have you ever heard of the phrase "He's too smart for his own good"? That describes a person who can justify almost anything. Christians have had some really smart pseudo-intellectuals down through the centuries who can fool anyone who wants to be fooled. Faith causes people to want to be fooled, while faith causes the brain of the pseudo-intellectual to lie to its host. Blind is a perfect metaphor for creationists.

My Challenge to Intelligent Design Creationists

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I received a message that essentially said: "As a scientist I believe God used evolution to bring life forms into existence." My response is short but sweet:

Where is the evidence that evolution is being guided by a god? Asking for this evidence is a reasonable request. But it doesn't exist. No one ever observes a god doing anything. Since this evidence doesn't exist, the god hypothesis is an unnecessary one. An unnecessary hypothesis is one we can do without. To accept some other reason apart from science to believe that a god guides evolution, is accepting that which lies outside the parameters of science. Since science is the only way to know the nature of nature and its workings, a god probably isn't guiding evolution.

John Schneider On the Accreditation of Bethel College and Calvin College

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Previously I've argued that College Accreditation Should Be Denied To All Evangelical Institutions That Require Professors To Sign Doctrinal Statements. Recently in response to professor Jim Stump's forced resignation from Bethel College over the issue of evolution, John Schneider, a professor who was forced to resign from Calvin College, wrote on Facebook:
Bethel is apparently circling the wagons and eliminating a hundred questions that create intellectual ambiguity of a sort that would sink their financial ship. I understand why they are doing so, but I also wish that the accrediting agencies would sink the accreditation ship for such schools. IMO they do not offer bona fide academic educations in key areas.
I never thought I'd hear a Christian professor say that. Kudos!

DR. ROBERT MYLES AND THE BAD JESUS: AN ANDROCENTRIC DEFENSE OF FAMILY/HOUSEHOLD ABANDONMENT?

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Dr. Robert Myles of the University of Auckland (New Zealand) has reviewed The Bad Jesus in two parts available here and here
Dr. Robert Myles
He is the first biblical scholar to perform such a review of The Bad Jesus on the blogosphere. I was especially interested in his comments because he specializes in New Testament and Christian origins, as well as in Marxism and critical theory. 
Myles is also the author of The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2014), which treats a few of the subjects I do.
That book offers many provocative observations, and I recommend it to anyone interested in issues of poverty and homelessness in the Bible. His book came to my attention too far into the editing process of my book, and I did not include it in my discussions. I did read it by the time I wrote this post.
Although Myles’ review raises some interesting questions, it ultimately does not represent my arguments very accurately or address them very effectively.  I will demonstrate that his review actually is, in part, an androcentric defense of the abandonment of families by Jesus’ disciples. I will address the objections he raises against my methodology and my discussion of Jesus’ view of abandoning families, especially in the case of the men he called to be his disciples in Mark 1:16-20 because that is one main example Myles chose from my book.

Richard Carrier Announces A Special Auction of Elegant Bound Hardcover Editions of His Most Popular Books

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Dr. Carrier is auctioning off three of his books. Making a living as an independent scholar cannot be easy. So if you're interested in helping him by supporting his work and activism then bid on these books, and spread the word. LINK.

Why Academic Biblical Scholars MUST Fight Creationism

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I have written an essay discussing why debates between academic biblical scholars and creationists can be effective in combating creationism. In fact, academic biblical scholars are the best persons to debate creationists. The reason is simple. The Achilles’ Heel of creationism is its biblical illiteracy, and not just its scientific illiteracy. I address many of the common objections to public debating, including the objection that it legitimizes creationists and does not change any minds. The essay appears in Bible & Interpretation, an on-line magazine devoted to biblical studies.  Photo credit: Iowa State Daily, which took the photo at the debate between myself and Rev. Juan Valdes, a young earth creationist, in Indianola, Iowa on February 16, 2014.

Is Faith To Be Defined As Trust?

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Some Christians claim faith is something like 'trusting, holding to and acting on what one has good reason to believe is true in the face of difficulties', or 'trust or confidence in something or someone.'

This is not correct. From the New Testament down through centuries of church theology and even today, Christians have produced a multiple number of mutually discordant definitions of faith. David Eller says: “the concept of belief in Western civilization and Christianity has evolved, from a kind of “trust” in god(s) to specific propositions about God and Christ to the notion of “grace” based on the personal experience of and commitment to God…The evolutionary trajectory of belief in Christianity is, then…culturally and religiously relative.” (Quoted in Loftus, The Outsider Test for Faith, p. 33)]

The Bad Jesus Podcast

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The first first podcast (apx. 30 minutes) of two I recorded in Montreal is now available. Among other things, I discuss my journey from Pentecostal preacher to atheist biblical scholar, and why Jesus cannot be viewed as a peaceful, gender egalitarian, and eco-friendly paragon of virtue. My thanks to Dr. André Gagné, Costa Babalis, and Calogero Miceli of Concordia University in Montreal for their work on this.

"The Evolution Wars Are Here to Stay and Heads Will Continue to Roll."

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Jim Stump, a professor at Bethel College in Indiana, resigned over the issue of evolution. As reported by Karl W. Gilberson (who is quoted in the headline),
"the Bethel Board of Trustees on June 9 of this year approved a new policy specifying that college faculty must affirm the same position on Adam and Eve as the Missionary Church, namely that Adam “was created by an immediate act of God and not by a process of evolution.” The new policy further specifies that Bethel faculty should advocate this as the “official, meritorious, and theologically responsible position of the College, without disparagement" LINK.
This reminds me once again of John Schneider's comment on my post titled, "Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing!" Schneider said, "I agree with John W. Loftus to that extent. There is no such thing. Like Islam, evangelical Christianity cannot survive intellectual honesty and freedom." LINK. This is taking place along with the debate evangelicals are presently having over homosexuality. Must be fun being an evangelical these days. Not!

Nonetheless, evolutionary science and the acceptance of gays and of gay marriages will be the wave of the future. Evangelicals will learn to embrace those views while still claiming to be evangelicals. It will become the new evangelical orthodoxy in the future, as I have predicted. Then amnesia will set in, and future evangelicals will claim that true evangelicals always stood for these things! Their amnesia will provide quite the laugh to the rest of us, because we have already seen it with regard to other views of theirs, such as believing in an eternal conscious torment in hell and an exclusivistic salvation, and standing against both higher biblical criticism and women in leadership roles.

John Loftus Takes On Christian Apologists Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, William Lane Craig, Paul Copan, Gary Habermas, Dave Hunt, Ben Witherington III, Victor Reppert, Gregory Ganssel, Craig Evans, Stewart Goetz, Daniel Wallace, Plus Others for the Win, and Guess Who Won?

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I did! Here's the story.

A former Christian named ToonForever described why he no longer believes:
I decided that in order to avoid prejudicing myself toward my doubts, something I always accused T of doing when she left the faith, I would find a well-recommended apologetics book and give God the first and best chance of answering my questions and calming my fears.

For the Pro side of the argument, I downloaded to my Kindle Norman Geisler’s [and Frank Turek's] I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.

I already knew what book I would choose for the Con side of the conversation. I wanted to read the book that made me the most afraid, because that would be the greatest challenge. If I could get through that with my faith intact, I could set aside my doubts and at least approach the meditation question with the confidence that would come from overcoming what to me was the sternest challenge I could find. So I downloaded Loftus’ Why I Became an Atheist (Revised & Expanded).

I got a blank steno pad and started reading Geisler.

Aren't Abusive Relationships Basically Cut From the Same Cloth?

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Chapter Titles for My Next Proposed Anthology

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Below you can see the chapter titles and subjects I have so far. The anthology centers around science and Christianity. I've lined up 15 chapters. Some important topics have already been covered in my previous anthologies, so I don't need to duplicate them. I just want to know if I'm missing something important. What is missing? Who should write it?

Jim West and White Privilege in the Society of Biblical Literature

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"Doctor" Jim West
Jim West, who is known to many readers here, is causing a heated discussion among some members of the Society of Biblical Literature, the largest professional organization of biblical scholars in the world.
The latest uproar was precipitated by a blog post where West complains about academia today. In particular, West claims that:
 “Minorities and women have a better chance of getting an academic position than white males. It’s reverse discrimination, but they don’t mind. The gay asian woman can write her own ticket.”
West does not supply any data for this or his other claims, and a simple visit to the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature shows that it is overwhelmingly composed of Euroamerican biblical scholars. I am one of the very few Mexican Americans in the Society of Biblical Literature.
But more importantly, West fails to see how it is he who has benefited from privileges that minorities might not receive.

As Christianity Dies, Church and Clergy Should be Replaced with Rent-A-Friend

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Christianity is losing members and churches are closing their doors forever, so I propose that parish clergy be replaced with what I coined as  Rent-A-Friend or simply a striped down version of Pastoral Care without the dogmatic supernatural mythology.

Divine Hate - He Who Does Not Believe Will Be Condemned

This is an Ad for a book I've recommended. Click on the link below to buy it on Amazon.

We Are All Atheists! Some Of Us Are More Consistent Than Others

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Christian, you are already an atheist, a narrow atheist, who rejects all of the same religions I do for the same reasons I do, except for yours. I simply reject them all, as a wide atheist, for the same reasons you reject all of them but yours.

Follow-ups:

Why is it so difficult for you to show me and billions of others your faith is correct?

Why is it people who were raised in a particular faith end up defending it as the true one later in life?

Why is it you never seriously considered Hinduism or Judaism or Buddhism or Islam or Polytheism?

What best explains why religions are geographically located into specific regions on the earth?

Do you realize that Muslims have the same exact excuses you use to excuse your God's inaction? Allah is hidden. Infidels don't believe because Allah predestined this, or because they are rebellious, or because devil's have deceived them.

Blair Mullins (On Facebook): Imagine if belief in the cause of dinosaur extinction worked the way religion does.

-Scientists who were born and raised in the south believe asteroids killed them off.
-Scientists born in the north believe it was a gigantic volcano eruption.
-Scientists born in Asia believe it was a plague.
-Scientists born in Europe believe it was an ice age that wiped them out.

We would all immediately recognize the absurdness of this… But for some reason change the topic from dinosaur extinction to religion and somehow people deem it reasonable… Go figure!

Dr. Brandon Withrow Abandons His Faith and His Faculty Position

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Brandon G. Withrow was an assistant professor of the history of Christianity and religious studies at Winebrenner Theological Seminary. He recently wrote a coming out essay, titled Losing Faith in Religious Higher Education, for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I find what he wrote very insightful.
Like many of the unaffiliated in America, my problems with religion included biblical, social, personal, and scientific issues, the fine details of which are beyond this short article.

Dr. John Schneider Comments On Evangelical Scholarship

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I have made the argument, in a post I keep updating, that Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing! John Schneider, former professor emeritus of theology at Calvin College, said of it on Facebook: "I agree with John W. Loftus to that extent. There is no such thing. Like Islam, evangelical Christianity cannot survive intellectual honesty and freedom." Schneider, just like several other professors in various evangelical colleges before him, was forced to quit teaching at Calvin College due to his honest admission that the Adam and Eve story is myth. See also this story, this one, and this one. The Adam and Eve controversy is presently wreaking havoc within evangelical colleges like Bryan College, which lost nearly 25% of its faculty.

Karl Gilberson, in his newly released book Saving the Original Sinner: How Christians Have Used the Bible's First Man to Oppress, Inspire, and Make Sense of the World, makes the case against Adam and Eve and shows why evangelicalism isn't the direction of the future.You can look inside the book on Amazon where Gilberson highlights Schneider's story in the Introduction. Evangelical scholarship is indeed a ruse. There is no such thing! It is pseudo-scholarship. Period.

Jewish Professor Uri Yosef's Counter-Christian Essays

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Previously I highly recommended Michael Alter's encyclopedic book on the resurrection. I noted Alter didn't discuss the Suffering Servant in his book, so he sent me a link to someone who did, Professor Uri Yosef.
Professor Uri Yosef was born, raised, and educated in Israel, and completed his higher education (Ph.D. and M.B.A.) in the US. A researcher, scholar, and former tenured professor, Uri speaks at various Jewish venues about the efforts to counter Christian missionary groups. Uri's background in languages includes: Hebrew (native tongue), English, German, and Yiddish on a fluent level.
Scroll down this page to the Suffering Servant link and see for yourselves:

My Forthcoming Book Is Now Available For Pre-Order On Amazon

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My book is provocatively titled How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist.You love it, don't you? Go ahead, say you do! It's introduced by my publisher (not me) as follows:
The first book on Christian apologetics written by a leading atheist figure that teaches Christians the best and worst arguments for defending their faith against attack.

The Christian faith has been vigorously defended with a variety of philosophical, historical, and theological arguments, but many of the arguments that worked in an earlier age no longer resonate in today’s educated West. Where has apologetics gone wrong? What is the best response to the growing challenge presented by scientific discovery and naturalistic thought? Unlike every work on Christian apologetics that has come before, How to Defend the Christian Faith is the first one written by an atheist for Christians. As a former Christian defender who is now a leading atheist thinker, John Loftus answers these questions and more. He shows readers why Christian apologists have failed to reach the intelligent nonbeliever and offers practical advice for Christians, whether they want to better defend their faith against atheist arguments, or actively convert more individuals to Christianity.
To see a few blurbs (so far) and the Contents click here.

Marriage in 2040

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I and my wife, Cindy Avalos, look forward to 2040
I have written a newspaper column about what marriage will look like in 2040. I speculate that marriage will be defined as  a committed consensual relationship of two or more adults who love each other irrespective of gender.

Dr. Hector Avalos On Giving Christianity Credit for Charity

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A Catholic Christian named kenneth asked a question:
What would the documentary "a day without a christian" be like? Or "a day without religion". Certainly the bombings and violence in the middle east would come to a halt. But who would feed the world's poor, care for the sick, educate the children, and care for the orphans? People would like to say "the state", but the state does an overall aweful job at accomplishing these goals. The lionshare of the world's charitable contributions are made by christians. The Roman Catholic Church feeds more hungry, cares for more sick, educates more children, and cares for more orphans than any other institution on the planet. The secular world simply doesn't carry it's own weight. Where are the great infidel soup kitchens? Why aren't the debunkers caring for the sick in africa? Simply put, the violence may come to end but far more lives would be lost the moment the religious left the planet.
The following is Dr. Avalos's most excellent and unique reply.

A Response to Professor Paul Allen: The Supposed Myth of Religious Violence and Religionism in Secular Academia

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Prof. Paul Allen of Concordia University
Religionists are those who see religion as beneficial or necessary for human existence and, therefore, something that should be preserved and protected. I recently visited Montreal, Canada, where the divide between secularists and religionists in academia is very much alive, at least in some institutions.  
                   
Some of these religionists are theologians or professors trained in theology who occupy positions in secular universities. When some of them feel religion is threatened, they respond more as part of an ecclesial-academic complex than as secular analysts of religion. One example is Professor Paul Allen, an associate professor in the Department of Theological Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. His response to religious violence offers an excellent case study of how Christian and religionist apologetics represents itself as scholarship.

Dr. J. R. Daniel Kirk at Fuller Theological Seminary Forced to Resign Over Integrity and Homosexuality

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Today Dr. Kirk wrote:
As a New Testament scholar, I see my job as always listening first and foremost to the text in its historical context, and allowing its theology to be the first voice to which we respond. In the end, I will affirm creeds or confessions, if I do, because I believe they contain the right things to say at a given moment in time in which they were written, in light of what scriptures says. In this, I thought I was just being a normal biblical scholar. And Protestant. And Evangelical.

However, a couple of my senior Bible colleagues found this disturbing. It was not enough to affirm that some confessions were correct. One had to start with the confessions and use them as hermeneutical guides in the strong sense. One had to like the idea that we define Christianity by what we believe.

Integrity is crucial for both of us. I define integrity as being true to the historical critical scholarship and bringing that into theological dialogue with the church. They define integrity as being true to the “Grand Tradition of the Church” and allowing that to guide what we see in and say about history.

So when I say, “The Synoptic Gospels show Jesus as an idealized human figure,” I have not said enough. If I cannot say, “And it also shows the divine Jesus, as we learn in the creeds,” I have articulated a theology that “is on a trajectory” away from our shared statement of faith. My senior colleagues and I give different answers to the question, How do we relate the Bible to the theology of the church? And this is one major reason why next year will be my last at Fuller. LINK.
This is typical of a conservative creedal requiring institution, which leads me to say once again that Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing!

Conservative Witch Hunt Buttressed by Lies at Northwest Nazarene University Claims a Scalp

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Dr. Tom Oord, tenured professor of theology, was recently from fired from Northwest Nazarene University. NNU President David Alexander lied by saying "he was being terminated for economic reasons having to do with enrollment declines in the graduate division where Oord taught some of his classes." However, this last year NNU was "enjoying record enrollment and had been issuing press releases celebrating the overall financial health of the institution." Karl Giberson tells us the real reason he was fired:
Oord was the university’s leading scholar, with 20 books on his CV; by most measures he was also the denomination’s leading scholar and one of a tiny number of Nazarene theologians whose reputations reached beyond evangelicalism. Oord had won multiple teaching awards and was wildly popular with students and respected by his colleagues. He had brought over a million dollars of grant money to the university—a remarkable accomplishment for a professor at a small, unsung liberal arts college. Oord, however, was controversial. He strongly supported evolution and had long been a target of creationists in the denomination. He embraced “open theism,” the view that God does not know the future but responds in love—rather than coercive control—to events as they occur, rather than foreordaining everything. Fundamentalist critics called him a heretic and had been vying for his termination for years.
This is typical of a conservative creedal requiring institution, which leads me to say once again that Honest Evangelical Scholarship is a Ruse. There is No Such Thing!

Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions, by Mark Oppenheimer

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LINK. I agree.

Quote of the Day, By Kel

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"The sooner we realise that 'I don't know' is an acceptable answer in the face of a lack of definitive information, the better." True dat!

Homosexual Marriages Declared by Supreme Court to Be Legal in Every State of the Nation, Spelling the Death of Evangelicalism

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Friday that it is legal for all Americans, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, to marry the people they love.

The decision is a historic victory for gay rights activists who have fought for years in the lower courts. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia already recognize marriage equality. The remaining 13 states ban these unions, even as public support has reached record levels nationwide.

The justices found that under the 14th Amendment, states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex unions that were legally performed in other states. LINK.
Robert Price in his essay, Changing Morals and the Fate of Evangelicalism, predicted that the issue of sexuality, all by itself, could be the death of evangelicalism. If so, with this Supreme Court decision the death of evangelicalism has arrived. It's been long overdue

Bart Ehrman Agrees to Debate Robert Price On Whether Jesus Existed

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Ehrman will debate this issue to raise funds for his pet charities. It looks like $13,000 is required for the debate to take place. You can donate to make it happen right here, where you'll see a video from the two participants describing their views, along with an itemized list of the money required. Although agreeing to this debate, Ehrman says:
The question is not really a matter of dispute among experts, even though mythicists as a rule would like it to be and sometimes even insist it is. But the reality is this: if you were to look at the program of the annual meeting of (the many thousands of English-speaking) professors of Biblical Studies, the Society of Biblical Literature meeting (this year in Atlanta), you will not find a session (out of thousands) devoted to arguing both sides of this issue. That’s because there is no debate. LINK.
There are some signs this is not as rock solid of a consensus as Ehrman makes it out to be. For Richard Carrier has defended Jesus mythicism in a book published by Sheffield Phoenix Press, the most prestigious Christian scholarly publisher around, On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. His massive book is a magisterial treasure trove of research and information. There is a minor difficulty in using Bayesian math to establish something in the past, which seems quite fashionable right now in some circles. For my part I don't have a stake in who wins this debate, so long as both sides agree that the Jesus depicted in the Gospels never existed.