Archive for the ‘bible’ tag
This nonsense no doubt goes on in Christian private schools all over the nation, but I felt the need to write about this here because it involves my home state of South Carolina. The images below show an actual test given to fourth-graders at Blue Ridge Christian Academy in Greenville, S.C., which is about an hour drive north of where I grew up. Consequently, in college at Clemson University, I participated in a point-counterpoint debate in a student newspaper in which I defended public school education versus private schools. I was a Christian at the time, but even then, I recognized that private schools, unfortunately, provide a certain level of “shelter” from the real world, whereas public school students learn to interact with people of all backgrounds, and they get more of a well-rounded and less biased education.
These captures, from Blue Ridge Christian Academy, speak for themselves:
If this is not overt and immoral indoctrination of children, I don’t know what is. The “history book” of the universe is the Bible? Seriously? I could go point by point on each of these questions in this “quiz” and show how they are all terribly wrong in every single degree, but I think question 15 gets at the basic problem. Was the average size of a dinosaur a sheep? Nope. And far from it. But do believers teach their kids to be unquestioning and un-inquisitive sheep? Yep. And that is immoral, sad, pathetic and a pitiful record for the human species.
This post stems from a conversation over at Bunch about biblical contradictions, particularly related to the creation story and man’s fall from grace in Genesis.
For simplicity’s sake, I am mostly going to be speaking here of the Judeo-Christian conception of God, known as Yahweh in the Old Testament and God the Father in the New Testament, but a good portion of this will apply to the God of Islam or any other deity that man has created with certain transcendent, otherworldy characteristics, such as omniscience.
The following is the first definition of “god” from the Merriam Webster:
capitalized: the supreme or ultimate reality: as
the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe.
I would wager that because of our general acceptance of religion in society, “goodness” continues to be part of our working definition of what we mean when we say God. But does this necessarily have to be the case? The ancient Greeks completely understood that although humans might label a being as a god does not mean that this being is actually good just because he commands powers that might appear mystical to us. Indeed, the Greek gods were in some cases capricious, childish and downright vile in some of their dealings with humans and each other. Take the rape of Europa, for instance (see illustration).
Yahweh, likewise, is certainly capricious, jealous — by his own admission — and overbearing, and thus, not much different than his Greek counterparts in being wholly a human creation.
In any case, let’s briefly take the Bible’s word for it and assume for argument’s sake that the Judeo-Christian god is basically good. The Bible directly tells us in many places that God is good, not the least of which are Psalm 100:5, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” and Psalm 107:1, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His loving kindness is everlasting” and Matthew 19:17, “And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? (there is) none good but one, (that is), God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
But it seems these passages belie God’s actual actions if we look at the Jewish and Christian narratives in totality, which in turn, make the strong case, once again, that the Bible is wrought with inconsistencies. First, let’s take the Jewish tradition from the Old Testament. Since there doesn’t seem to be a coherent consensus in Judaism about the afterlife, and particularly, heaven and hell, we can just look at the behavior of Yahweh toward his “chosen” people. Although the argument that God is good may be up for debate, as I argue here, the notion that he is omniscient and all-powerful are not, otherwise, we must change what we mean when we utter this three-letter construction.
If God is omniscient, he would have known there in the black chaos before speaking anything into existence that man would be seduced by the serpent and ultimately fall from grace. He would also know, in his omniscience, the precise time and place that Satan would tempt Eve to eat the fruit. He knew there in the black chaos that man would be exiled from the Garden as a result of the fall (and his seeming lack of concern that Satan infiltrated Eden) and would be relegated to a life of toil and birth pains. He knew there in the black chaos that man would soon after the fall become wicked in his sight. He knew he would have to flood the entire earth, kill untold numbers and preserve only one pious man and his family. He knew there in the black chaos that his “chosen” people, Israel, would betray him time and time again by falling into idol worship. He knew his beloved Israel would become slaves in Egypt. He knew of the wandering, the despair and the bloodlust on display against rival tribes in his name. He knew there in the black chaos that someone claiming proprietary knowledge would advocate the burning of random women believed to be witches and of stoning gay people. He knew of the impending Inquisitions; he knew there in the black chaos that Hitler, wanting to purge the world of his own “chosen” people, would maim, starve and slaughter 6 million Jews.
Moving beyond the Old Testament into Christianity, God knew that he would one day send his son for the atonement of man. He knew of the intense suffering that Jesus would endure. He knew of the intense suffering and persecution that early Christians would endure. He knew that one day, he would have to watch as millions, exercising their “god-given” reasoning capabilities, would not be able to believe in the historicity of Jesus or accept his gift of salvation and thus be cast down to perdition to burn forever and ever.
Regardless of whether any of this is true in reality and if we take these stories at face value, God saw the misery, the suffering, the despair, the waste of life and loss that would ensue once he spoke creation into being. He saw it all in the beginning. His mind’s eye envisioned this vale of woe in the chaos, and with a poker player’s blank stare, he went about the business of creation anyway. This alone, notwithstanding any arguments we might make about unnecessary suffering and an all-loving deity, renders God evil at best and sadistic at worst.
Obviously, the historical evidence for Jesus passing down parables and performing the many miracles attributed to him is slim to nil, so much less is the possibility that Jesus suffered a physical death and then on the third day ascended to the heavens to take his place (again) at the right hand of the father, thus becoming one of numerous figures in the Bible to break the laws of nature. This is, nonetheless, what believers claim, and they rationalize that Jesus’ ascension is theoretically possible, as Bowen points out, because God, after all, is all-powerful and can break the laws of physics if he chooses since he, believers so confidently argue, stands outside of time and space.
Bowen essentially argues that if we make two generous concessions, that an all-loving and omnipotent God exists and that Jesus was an unethical figure who did not eschew slavery, taught prayer healing, advocated sexism, supported faith-based decision making over reason and logic, among other questionable moral stances, that God, being perfectly good, would be opposed to Jesus’ resurrection and thus, Jesus did not ascend on the third day.
This is his main argument, which was preceded by some other points about Jesus as an unethical character:
Jesus was a false prophet because he taught his followers to pray to and worship a false god (i.e. Jehovah).
This one reason, it seems to me, is sufficient to show that the existence of God would be a strong reason for believing that Jesus did NOT rise from the dead.
And he concludes:
… an omniscient and perfectly good being would be opposed to the resurrection of Jesus, because the resurrection of Jesus would provide a divine stamp of approval upon: the worship of a false god, mass murder, slavery, sexism, cruelty, injustice, irrationality, superstition, sociocenrism (sic), pacifism (i.e. tolerance of oppression) and other evils.
Christian believers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If there is no God, then the resurrection of Jesus would be unlikely because true resurrections are contrary to the laws of nature and thus require a supernatural intervention by God or a god-like being. If there is a God, then the resurrection of Jesus would be unlikely because God, an omniscient and perfectly good person, would be opposed to the resurrection of Jesus. Either way, the case for the resurrection fails.
This a peculiar argument, and one that is actually a novel one for me. Let me see if I can explain it more thoroughly and then supply some additional thoughts. First, Bowen seems to have made a correlation, implicitly or otherwise, between the hypothetical God to which he refers throughout the post and Jehovah, the Old Testament god and the father of Jesus. Yet, he uses Jehovah, or Yahweh, as an example of why his hypothetical God would not support Jesus’ resurrection. Because Jesus obviously teaches that believers should pray to Yahweh, this hypothetical God would conclude that Jesus was practicing idol worship.
But here’s the hang of it, and why this argument as a consequence seems to double back on itself. If this hypothetical God is not Yahweh but some other god, let’s call him Wutu the Almighty, it seems obvious that Wutu wouldn’t care two farthings about another supposed god named Jesus, just like Yahweh so readily dismissed Baal in the Old Testament. Gods tend to not like competition, after all. So, sure, Wutu would be opposed to the resurrected Christ on the grounds of worshiping a false god, Jehovah. But the entire notion of a resurrected Jesus relies on maintaining a link between Jesus and Jehovah, for without Jehovah’s story, we would have no resurrection story. This is why I said that Bowen must be referring to Jehovah when he mentions God. Otherwise, where is the point of reference?
Now, if Bowen actually is referring to the God of the Old Testament, the argument is dead on arrival since Jehovah would obviously not condemn Jesus as a false prophet for telling people to pray to himself, Jehovah. Having said all that, this does not take address the claims — for another day — that Jesus was a bad person or that God must necessarily fit into our idea of “good,” since Yahweh had no problem with slavery, stoning gay people and burning random women who might have been witches. For all the reasons not to believe in the resurrection — and there are many — this particular argument seems to suffer severely.
Some folks within the nonbelieving community have suggested that the History Channel’s series, “The Bible,” may produce an adverse effect than what its creators may have anticipated, as “casual” believers or fence-sitters see depictions of the mass murders and other atrocities that Yahweh in the Old Testament either caused directly or ordered through his followers. It just occurred to me that today we call the deaths of thousands of people, like on Sept. 11, 2001, a tragedy. Yet, God orders the mass slaughter of nonbelievers in the OT, and no one raises an eyebrow. Some of the people murdered on Sept. 11 were believers; some were not. Their deaths were, by all accounts that I have heard the last 10 years, tragic. Yet, a deity can order the slaughter of thousands of nonbelievers and somehow that’s OK. Today, we would call that terrorism. I’m amazed at religion’s power to desensitize so-called “morally upright believers” to violence, rape, incest and genocide.
But in any case, a question over at Bunch has been raised whether “The Bible” will turn off believers because of the many deaths the series depicts that are directly attributable to Yahweh. Matt O. wrote:
I suspect, and I might be wrong, that History’s The Bible mini-series might be one of the best things for atheism to happen in a long time. As the Bible is actively read by some 16% of Christians this is giving millions an opportunity to see parts of the cannon that are morally objectionable attributed to their god.
And he then listed numerous scenes in “The Bible” in which Yahweh wipes out mass amounts of people from Earth in the OT, to which I replied:
It may turn off some “casual” believers, but it won’t make much difference to the “church every Sunday” crowd. They know full well what Yahweh did and commanded that his followers do in the OT, and they believe anyway because any amount of wickedness or depravity can be justified in their eyes since we supposedly live in a fallen world and God’s law is supreme no matter how morally bankrupt it appears to us.
A 28-year-old Upper Darby man has been charged with murder after telling police that he stoned a 70-year-old man to death when the man made sexual advances toward him, authorities say.
John Joe Thomas, 28, of Sunshine Road in Upper Darby, spent almost every day with 70-year-old Murray Seidman at Seidman’sLansdowne home, police say. Days before Seidman’s body was found on Jan. 12, Thomas allegedly beat Seidman to death with a sock full of rocks.
Thomas told authorities that he read in the Old Testament that gays should be stoned to death. When Seidman allegedly made sexual advances toward him over a period of time, Thomas said he received a message in his prayers that he must end Seidman’s life, according to court documents.
Read more: Man, 70, Stoned to Death for Being Gay.
So, I listened to a little bit of Dave Ramsey today on talk radio because, well, conservative talk is about the only option in East Tennessee, and I usually prefer talk with which I disagree compared with bad pop and worse rock. If you don’t know who Dave Ramsey is, he’s basically a right wing pro-investment guy who, while mostly giving callers advice on money matters, periodically ventures into politics and religion. As you might imagine, Ramsey fits right in with a local radio station that gets most of its content from FOX News Radio.
Ramsey veered a bit off topic today during a segment in which he took some online comments from listeners. One person said that they did not see anything in the Bible about investing, saving money and amassing wealth, as Ramsey is well known to support. Ramsey then pointed to one of at least three passages in Proverbs that mentions storing up wealth. Some of the verses that at least implicitly reference this are Proverbs 13:11, 16:8 and 28:20.
Ramsey’s basic argument was that God actually wants believers to prosper financially and that all the arguments about the Bible contradicting itself (For instance, Jesus telling the disciples to sell everything they own and follow him) are bogus because of people take the passages out of context. Ramsey said God supports people investing and accumulating wealth because by doing so, believers are then better equipped to help others, and further, believers would be ill-equipped to serve and give back to the community if they were broke.
At least his spiel is consistent. Here’s what he had to say as quoted in an article from 2007:
Ramsey gets irritated when he gets emails and letters directing him to the scripture, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Ramsey believes in the inerrancy of the Bible but says such calls for poverty are “doctrinal nitpicking.” Ramsey contends that the Bible says the love of money (as opposed to money itself) is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and that God asked rich men (Moses, Solomon) to work on his behalf. “The Bible does not say that you’re supposed to be poor,” he says. “Most of the patriarchs in the Bible were wealthy. You’re managing money for God.”
Yes, Ramsey read a Tweet from a listener that again mentioned the “eye of the needle” passage in the New Testament. I’m not sure where Ramsey gets the logic that people are taking Jesus’ words out of context. Jesus tells his followers to take no thought for tomorrow (i.e. don’t plan or the future) at least twice, once in Matthew 6 and again in Luke 12. Jesus tells people to sell all of their possession and explicitly says not to store up treasures on earth. He tells them without compunction to give up everything they have and follow him (Matthew 19:21).
Here is Matthew 6:19-21
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Here is Luke 12:27-34
27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alivetoday and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith!29 And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For [n]all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.
33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Here is the entire “rich young ruler” passage from 19:16-30:
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Ramsey in his rant mentioned this passage directly and told people they should read all the way through rather than stopping at the “sell what you possess” part and read until the end. Well, OK, there it is. Jesus tells them that after they have given up everything, only then will they receive a “hundredfold” and will get to live forever. Ramsey is being intellectually dishonest, and as nearly all believers do, cherry picking parts of the Bible to assert his claim, while ignoring the totality of the book.
Also during this particular show (I don’t know how much of it was original and how much was just a piped in rant from years ago), but Ramsey also made this bizarre claim that since the Old Testament was supposedly written by Yahweh, that is, God the Father, and since the Old Testament predominantly mentions saving money and storing up treasure, then we should follow the OT on this particular issue and not what Jesus had to say. This is peculiar indeed because Jesus, of course, was claiming to be God himself and even said I and my father are one. So, presumably on this logic, anything that Jesus says in the New Testament gets the stamp of approval from the father.
But here is the crux of it and where it gets weirder: Jesus also said that he did not come to the destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them. And this is why when people like myself say that the Bible contradicts itself, we mean that it is a serious and irreparable fallacy that simply cannot be reconciled. Yahweh presumably said one thing in the Old Testament, Jesus said something quite different in the New Testament, and Jesus, by claiming that he is fulfilling the law, leads us to believe that he is suffering from some kind of personality crisis because he, also as God, was present when the father said those things in Proverbs, and as God, he knew that he was going to utter something that directly contradicts it thousands of years later when he gets incarnated on earth. Such are problems that surface when one adds a dose of logic to a paradoxical and fallacious concoction like the Trinity.
Beck goes and makes a comparison between what appears to me to be an ill-cast Satan character in the History Channel series, “The Bible” and Barack Obama. Here’s a side-by-side:
From Beck’s perspective, this was just another opportunity — he doesn’t really pass up any — to take a jab at Obama and vilify the president by any means necessary. In fact, this is a good summation of the general program of conservative right wing radio in general.
As for the Satan character, I always pictured Satan, were he to take human form, as a young and attractive alpha male kind of figure. Does the History Channel really want to go on record as casting the most evil being of all time as an old black man? The History Channel? Oh well. Looks like that die has been cast.
Critics of the above video might say something like this: Well, Ehrman, a former believer, is asking us to take his word for it on the credibility of the gospels, just as the gospel writers ask us, implicitly, to make a decision about whether they are telling the truth or not. The difference is that Ehrman’s statements are based on mounds of research (“Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth” and “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why,” whereas the gospel writers were relying on memory and oral tradition. As John Dominic Crossan shows, much of the content of the gospels were later additions or embellishments to all-but-lost earlier works like the Q Gospel.
But even if, as Ehrman points out, some of the gospel content is indeed genuinely from eyewitness testimony, it still suffers from the human problem. That is, modern day testimony about events can’t always be trusted. How much less are we to trust testimony from someone living 2,000 years ago in a backward part of the Middle East? This problem is compounded by the fact that the gospels were written in Greek, not Aramaic. If we had stories about Jesus in Aramaic, they would be more believable, but only scantly so. And why couldn’t the Son of Man simply write the things he wanted us to know himself, rather than leaving that duty in the hands of fallen man?
I mean, the logical incongruities are so immense that each day that I contemplate Christianity (or any other religion for that matter), the more stunning it is to me that adults, who use logic in every other area of their lives, essentially shut off their brains once they open the Bible or enter the church.
In any case, here is a lengthier and more detailed lecture from Ehrman on the subject: