Whenever anybody tries to tell me that they believe it took place in seven days, I reach for a fossil and go, ‘Fossil.’ And if they keep talking I throw it just over their head.
I’m constantly amazed at Christians’ attempts to validate extra-New Testament sources which they say support their claims about Christ by using every rhetorical trick in the book. Take this guy:
Yes, you saw that correctly. He is actually making a case that an obscure passage from Josephus’ “War of the Jews” actually supports the case for the historicity of Christ, without actually mentioning the name Jesus. He builds his case on certain buzz words and phrases in the Josephus text, including “husbandman,” “three woes,” the “bride and groom” and “stone rolled away,” which oddly never appears in the passage from Josephus.
How many husbandmen does he suppose there were in ancient Palestine at the time of Jesus? Pretty much everyone, except priests, women, government officials and vagabonds. Further, the word “husbandman” doesn’t imply that the person was good, just that he was a farmer. Try tying Revelation to any work of literature that vaguely references something in the Bible. I bet it’s not that hard. Here I’ll try: Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” is really just one big allegory for the bride and bridegroom in Revelation.
He is willing to concede that Josephus’ famous passage about Jesus is an extrapolation, but points to another more obscure passage that doesn’t even mention a name and the only concrete identifying characteristic was that he was a sorrowful husbandman, although Jesus was supposedly a carpenter and only figuratively a shepherd, a reverential analogy within Christian circles for which Josephus, as a Jewish historian, would surely not have cared to advertise.
Glad he could clear that up for us.
Twitter was all a-bluster this week with a hoax — what a surprise? — about Ray Comfort and the story of Abraham sacrificing his son for God. A person named Martin Roberts supposedly asked Comfort whether he would be willing, like Abraham in the Bible, to kill his son to show his devotion.
Here is Comfort’s fictitious reply:
Of course I would do as The Lord commanded, it isn’t murder if it’s in God’s name, nothing he commands could ever possibly be considered evil as morality comes from God. Even cancer is a gift from God.
I would kill a thousand children if God asked me to, that’s because I have faith. As an Atheist you can’t possibly know the joy of faith. If The Lord commanded me to rape and kill my own children tonight it would be done by morning, you can’t shake my faith!
Comfort refuted this on his Facebook page:
I noticed an excessive amount of anger towards me today from indignant atheists, who were accusing me of saying “If the Lord commanded me to kill my own children tonight, it would be done by morning.” I never said such a horrible thing, nor would I. Please join me in prayer for the person who wrote this fake post.
Of course, that begs a question: Doesn’t a believer’s response to what I will call the Abrahamic dilemma really cut to the core of a person’s faith? If, for instance, a believer says he would, in fact, sacrifice his child, or otherwise commit some violent act against another human being, for God, this indicts him as a hideous person, at least based on our set of moral principles. If a Christian says he would not raise the knife and sacrifice his child for God, then the person is not a true believer.
Even if the words were falsely put into Comfort’s mouth, I think the first quote above is telling, for if a person has truly given their life over to God, then no act, however immoral it may seem to us, is off the table, so long as God commands it and so long as God is the progenitor of goodness itself. The person can simply make the plea, “God commanded me to do it,” and while we may lock him up and throw away the key, he may not face the death penalty on reason of insanity. Thus, so long as God “commands” it, rape can be good. Molesting young boys can be good, and it must be especially so among priestly circles in the Catholic Church. The same sort of “goodness” can apply to homicide and genocide, and since the Old Testament sets such a fine example for us, let’s throw in genital mutilation, the killing of the first born, pillaging, thievery, stoning and the rest of it.
This is why monotheistic religion itself, regardless of denomination, is dangerous when taken at face value and to its conclusive ends. It can be used as an excuse for any behavior, however mildly offensive or however vile. And in the Christian tradition, specifically, a person can make a career out of raping, killing and slashing his way through life, but as long as he comes back to the loving arms of the flock, repents and turns to Christ, he too can find absolution. And then, when his taste for bloodlust or sexual depravity returns, he can go back out into the world, cut a new path and return to the fold, time and again, rinse and repeat. This is known as the especially noxious notion of “once saved, always saved.” Or in other words, to quote the immortal words of the band Cake, “Jesus wrote a blank check:”
Note: Martin Roberts, the person referenced above, has contacted me and said Comfort’s response to the question about sacrificing his child to God was not a hoax and that his screenshot of the response was genuine. Given what I know about Comfort’s propensity to bend the truth and skew arguments to suit his own ends, I’ll take Martin’s word for it. But as I told Martin myself, the Facebook post, hoax or not, was almost beside the point, and I just used it as a way to lead into the main part of what I was going to say about Abraham’s decision and whether Christians today would be willing to take the same gambit to prove their faith.
This deconversion account almost precisely aligns with my own climb from the dangerous subversion of belief into the truth:
As the speaker in the video says, I didn’t initially set out to crucify my beliefs at the altar of atheism; I genuinely sought truth wherever it took me, even if it meant eviscerating my entire worldview. I attempted what I believed to be the noble and courageous path, and I find it disturbing that some believers attempt to denigrate people like me for simply thirsting after truth.
Simply put: They thirst after truth through the conduit of God and the Bible, I thirst after truth on its own merits.
So, I was browsing Facebook today and found this odd meme:
OK first, I guess it goes without saying that Jesus the man (assuming he didn’t summon any godly powers at the time) would have, if he existed, fallen a time or two as he made his way up to Calvary, but this meme asks users to affirm that they would, indeed, help Jesus get back on his feet. So, from the Christian standpoint, if you answer “No,” you are an asshole, or worse, an atheist, and if you answer, “Yes,” you are admitting that the master of the universe, who in previous episodes fed 5,000 or more people, walked on water and claimed to be the direct conduit to God Almighty, can’t manage the physical weight of a cross, even though in his “human” form, he was still, technically speaking, a god. Makes perfect sense.
I’ve been writing about the Tea Party’s lunacies on here since the spring of 2009 (Here is my first substantive post about it). As I’ve tracked the trajectory of this experiment in political unrest, I think it’s safe to say the party is all but toast at this point, and here’s why.
Tea Party members have essentially corroded the GOP from the inside out, and in a sign that more moderate, “establishment” Republicans are pulling back the reins on these folks, House Speaker John Boehner and GOP leaders announced recently that they were going to support a “clean,” no-attachments increase to the debt-ceiling, despite some leaders in the party insisting on a list of demands. Attaching demands to the legislation did not have enough support, it died and the actual “clean” bill passed the House on Tuesday.
The Atlantic’s Molly Ball has an excellent article up about the Tea Party’s evolution these last few years, and its eventual acceptance of typical machinations in Washington. As she traces the changes in the party, which as we know is the ultra-conservative, borderline libertarian fringe of the Republican Party, members swept into Washington riding Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber’s popularity and were ready to pounce on and destroy every single one of Barack Obama’s goals, with some conservatives talking heads even wishing that Obama fails at everything he tries to accomplish in the White House. In short, Ball said, the Tea Party came into Congress in 2011 on a ”wave of denial and anger.”
The nation came close to disaster in 2011 when Tea Partiers nearly destroyed the concessions Boehner was planning to make with Obama to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its loans. This would be one of the first in a series of numerous showdowns between more moderate House Republicans, like Boehner, who at their core understand that in some cases, compromise is a necessity and tough decisions have to be made for the betterment of the nation — even if they won’t say this publicly — and the lunatic wing of the GOP.
As Ball put it:
The 2011 showdown was revealing. Previously, the idea of default was so unthinkable that observers and markets didn’t consider it a possibility. But the confrontation showed how far the new House majority was willing to go. They weren’t looking for compromise; they wanted the whole loaf. They weren’t just mad. They were convinced—erroneously—that they had the power to undo Obama’s agenda entirely from their perch controlling one-half of one-third of the federal government. They were in denial.
And in late 2013, the conservative camp forced the nation into a government shutdown, causing undue hardship on the Americans they claimed to care about back in election season. They then proceeded to eat a shit sandwich by subsequently accepting a deal to reopen the government, as Ball points out, that was actually worse than the one they were going to get previously. Now, as the GOP bullheadedly forced the government’s hand, took a sizable ideological step against the grain and managed to somehow make the public even less trustworthy of government with their asinine denials of reality, the only thing left for the Tea Party is acceptance, and well, dissolution.
This is how Washington works: Certain things have to get done, and you try to get the best deal you can, and then move on to the next thing. This is basically what Boehner has been trying to tell his caucus for the last three years, but they had to figure it out for themselves. Now that they’ve achieved acceptance, will Boehner’s job get easier? Or will a new wave of mad-as-hell representatives rise up in protest?
If Tea Partiers would have had the brains to realize all this from the start, they could have saved us all, and the nation, a lot of heartburn. They played a dangerous game that took the nation to the brink, and now, with absolutely nothing to gain from it except more angry constituents and some dusty lapel pins, they will more than likely be forced henceforth to ride the bench.