Thursday, April 26, 2007

Allow Me to Retort

There are a couple of possibilities regarding the study of the Bible.

Possibility 1: It’s all a bunch of rubbish. Put me in this camp. Speaking for myself, I sincerely believe that it was written by a bunch of primitive people in an attempt to explain the world around them. It fails miserably at doing that as well as providing an absolutely horrible set of morals.

Possibility 2: It’s 100% the real deal. Every dreadful act in here actually happened as designed by God Himself. In my humble opinion, this is absolutely improbable.

Possibility 3: It’s allegorical. Some of it happened the way it is described in the Bible. Some of it’s been exaggerated a little bit. You know, the Israelites went through the Reed Sea (approximately 3 feet deep) rather than the Red Sea. The allegorical camp will tell you it’s the symbolism and the message that matters not the EXACT details.

I’m sure that the only thing Bible Student (you honestly disgust me) and I will agree on is that those in the allegorical camp are wimps. If it’s allegorical, which parts are to be taken literally versus symbolically? Help me understand, if it’s allegorical, what am I supposed to learn from Sodom and Gomorra? If angel rapists appear at my door, I should offer up my virgin daughters??? What the fuck?

Bible Student’s explanation as to why God allowed the virgins to live is repulsive. To quote: “An exception from prohibition concerning foreign wives, since there would be no religious or social connection with the pagan nation. There were no heathen in-laws for the Jew to mix with, after the battle.”

It seems like the Jews were always pissed at the notion of the shicksa (a derogatory word for non-Jewish woman). It goes down to the root issue of an entire group of people believing they were singled out by God Himself to inhabit a certain strip of land. Here’s a hint to all Jews. God doesn’t like you. See the destruction of the second temple. See the Middle Ages. See the Spanish Inquisition. See the Holocaust. You are not special! Get over yourselves and start intermarrying.

Bible Student’s defense of the slaughter of the non-virgins is meaningless as well as failing to address the senseless slaughter of the male children. Why? Because they weren’t circumcised?

MJD says: “God never endorsed those wars anywhere in the Bible, neither did He personally tell anyone to start those wars. Yes, they were done in His name, but it doesn't mean that He told people to start them.”

Interesting. God doesn’t endorse these wars… Let’s see what our current president has said speaking to a group of top Palestinian officials:
“I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq…” And I did. And now I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go and get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis the security in the Middle East.’ And by God, I’m gonna do it.”
(Source: American Theocracy, Kevin Phillips, Introduction page xxxviii)

God apparently told President Bush to go to war with Iraq. There are some possibilities here:

1. President Bush doesn’t believe he has a personal relationship with God, but wanted to invade Iraq and wanted to provide a good story to his fundamentalist fan base.
2. God actually told him to do it.
3. President Bush thought about it, came to a decision, and then determined the decision to be of divine influence.

MJD, as long as the God I don’t believe in allows the President to live, He is allowing His questionable name to be dragged into this war. I’ll make you a deal, if God smites the President Old Testament style, I’ll shut down this blog. I’ll be specific too, no heart attacks, airplane crashes, cancer, or other natural causes will be accepted. I will accept a lightning strike or turning into a pillar of salt. Unless God smites the President, then he is guilty of ordering us into the Iraq war.

Here’s the thing, everyone makes a bunch of decisions daily. The President had to make a decision after he rhetorically blasted Iraq pre-invasion. It was either back down or attack. He might have struggled with this decision (he might have flipped a coin or he might have spent less than a second deciding). The voices guiding him, were in his head. However, being so steeped in Christian mythology, he might very well have believed his little internal discussion to be the voice of God. This is the exact reason religion scares me. When every psychopath starts believing their every desire is the voice of God (can’t prove that it’s not) what kind of society will we have?

32 comments:

Kilgore Trout said...

Why not tell us how you really feel? I mean why always hold back like you do?

Nice post. I'll bite on that too, if George Bush, or really anyone, is suddenly turned into a pillar of salt, I will recant my beliefs.

I have a feeling you'll like my old christian challenge. Ok supposedly the only unforgivable crime in the bible is to deny gods existence. (I don't know for sure I never read the whole thing, too depressing) So the atheist's wager (wink wink) is to say there is no god and if they are wrong they spend eternity in hell, so a pretty serious consequence. The theist side of the challenge is to say that god does exist then do something that would normally kill them, stand in front of a train is my personal fav. If they are right they die and go on to heaven as the proved their faith and should have no trouble getting past st. pete.

Also if people really believed in their religions, wouldn't funerals be celebrations of a person going to a better place? Some are, most aren't.

MasterJediDan said...

It's interesting what you've said about George Bush. From a Christian perspective, I'd say that he probably prayed about the situation in Iraq and made a decision about it based on where he thought God was leading him. I'm not going to support or bash the war in Iraq, I think it was partly necessary because we needed to get Hussein out of there, but now it's getting old and I don't think that we can really win. Back to the main point though, I'd like to address what you've said about the Jews. Don't you think it's strange that after about 2000 years of not being a nation they become one again? This could have something to do with the prophecies in Revelation about the nation of Israel during the end times. Also, Israel has been attacked from the day it began. Israel was attacked the day after it was founded as a nation. Despite being only two miles wide in some places, Israel has managed to survive countless modern-day wars. You can disagree with me, but I think that the nation of Israel has survived up to this point solely because God has intervened on their behalf in the countless modern-day wars in which most other small countries would have been destroyed in.

Molly said...

@ MGD

I figured the 2+ billion dollars in aid and numerous weapons we send them every year had something to do with it. Just my guess...

zestycrustacean said...

That and the relatively brilliant military leaders they've had in most of their wars. A good bit of luck too, especially in the last one. I suppose you could chalk that up to divine intervention, but it's something of an unecessary assumption. They also have the advantage of a highly trained and motivated army equipped with modern US equipment (and some of their own, most of which is quite excellent like the Merkerva tank) facing (in most of the wars) large bodies of ill trained and ill equipped conscripts using obsolete soviet equipment.

zestycrustacean said...

oops, make that Merkava tank. Still a great MBT by any standard.

Molly said...

And it doesn't hurt that they are one of the only (if you can even count the UAE, Quater, and Yemen) pro-Western nations in the Mid East. A lot of people have a lot riding on Israel staying in place.

Bible student said...

I hope it’s my message, and not me, that offends you. If not, c'est la vie. I’m a fun guy, using a comedian’s (Cosby) child rearing advice.

Bush is deluded! God backs only his own government, and (one more time) unjust wars, authorized by man, are not God’s fault.

Four verses from the end of the bible, God lets us know, that he has said all that he needs to. If God isn’t directing W, who is? Get a load of the name of the demon who delays God’s messenger to Daniel (Daniel 10:13). He is mentioned seven verses later with his buddy (Daniel 10:20). If those little countries had at least one, how many are assigned to a country of 300 million people?

Excuse me, if atheists don’t have God, do they have demons?

The explanation as to why God allowed the virgins to live may be repulsive to you, but consider how many girls’ lives were saved by this provision of the Law. Male children were killed because God said so. He explained his reasons (Amos 3:7).

zestycrustacean said...

I don't have a bible with me in my dorm, could you post the general argument in that passage (Amos 3:7)?

Bible student said...

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets. (Amplified Bible)

Online Bibles = http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/

MasterJediDan said...

@ molly

Yes, but when did we begin sending them 2 billion dollars? Certainly not the day after they started. Which, by the way, is when they were first attacked. Any other nation would have crumbled against the combined forces of all the nations around them. This is what's so funny about the middle east. Every so often (5 or 10 years) someone comes around chanting "Kill Israel!" Countless leaders have done it in the past, and now the president of Iran is doing it. They have all failed. Watch Iran lose this war...just watch. They have all the nuclear weapons, all the manpower needed, but they will fail. Israel is next to invincible, not because of the U.S., but because God isn't going to let them be destroyed. BTW, what's up with MGD? Pardon me, but it's MJD.

robustyoungsoul said...

Best blog ever. Seriously.

Miracle said...

AtheistWager I love reading your blog, but you are starting to reach in your attacks on faith. Really, is your attack on all faiths or just fundamental christianity? Nearly every post seems to be very poignant towards the very fundamental section of Christianity. Then you take your conclusions and generalize against faiths. Yeh the Israelites and God (from the Jewish perspective of him) did some pretty fucked up shit in the Old Testament. Jews, Christians and Muslims alike can come up with lame excuses to stomach the harshness of the OT, but it comes across as you have this theory that if God were to be true then He must be the God of fundamentalists. To me, as a Christian, I really have to sort through it all. But you don't, you could say, "That can't be right" and go search for faith elsewhere.

Honestly, with the interpretation thing, the majority of Christians and Jews (Don't know enough about Muslims) do take it allegorically. I personally, also take it as primitive writings which had evolved over centuries (but that is not a popular opinion). Sticking with the allegorical idea though, the way to figure out which ones are literal and not is to study, have faith and accept unknowns. This option is the most real because life isn't logical in all things. Have you ever known a woman who was easy to understand with logic?

Finally, I was extremely surprised (or not so much :) ) with your attitude about morality in the Bible. As you use the term Bible, I assume you mean the Christian Bible which includes both the Old and New Testament. So far, you have only included controversial texts of the Old Testament. But that is an unfair judgment on the morality of the entire Bible. I have a hard time believing that someone would say that the ideas that Jesus shared are bad. Maybe hard, idealistic, wimpy, but not bad. How about his followers John, Peter or Paul. Also, the ancient Israelite law and faith shown in Exodus, Leviticus in most cases is one of hospitality and Shalom notion of peace.

Anyway, keep on stirring up the pot. It sure is giving my faith a workout

Molly said...

@ MGD

1) The UN babysat Israel for the first 30 years of it's existence. The UK and France have both Israel helped tremendously.

2) Who, exactly, is Iran involved in a war with at the moment?

3) MGD is a beer.

Molly said...

@ bible student

No one is repulsed by the virgins, people are repulsed by killing innocent male children.

darren said...

Nevertheless, truth is:
1)Bible writes of genocides on God's command.
2)Religious people accept bible as undisputed word of God.
3)Godly genocide OK.
4)God's instruction delivered inside head of leaders.
6)Leaders often believe in bible.
5)Human mind incapable to verify god's words inside head of leaders.
7) goto 1

1+2+3+4+5+6+7=geoncide by man in name of God Ad infinitum.

Bible read, believed, and practised by powerful leader is a potential catalyst for justified evil.

Bible student said...

In promising the land to Abraham, God knew (being God) that “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.” (Genesis 15:16) --New Living Translation

At Deuteronomy 18:9-12 & Leviticus 18:2-25 God explains why. He lists incest, sodomy, bestiality, idolatry, practicing magic, spellbinding, spiritism, divination, and sacrificing their children by fire among their sins. Some of these are still repulsive.

Religion is based on God having the right and ability to be sovereign. He does not forced it on adults, it’s a choice. Believe it or not God knows what is best for us.

Miracle said...

darren, yes, religion is a potentially powerful catalyst or I would say manipulation tactic for horrible evils. Theres no denying the modern and ancient atrocities made in the name of God by all religions. One could look at the other side of the coin also though and see the great love and compassion that believers have brought into the world. I.E. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.

David said...

What does circumcision have to do with religion, I mean, seriously! God made us in his image, but somehow he messed up our peepee's and now we've got to fix it to be more like god?

MasterJediDan said...

@ molly

We're all here to have a logical debate about the existence of God and whether or not the Bible is true. If you want to act like a preschooler and call names, that's fine, but the rest of us are here to use solid arguments, not get frustrated and use petty arguments and call names. You can either get on the boat with the rest of us, or you can leave. Iran is involved in a war with Israel at the moment. They've already gotten Hezbolla to launch some attacks against Israel, and I'm betting that they send suicide bombers there weekly. Just wait, they will fail to destroy Israel.

MasterJediDan said...

Atheistwager, I'd like to say that the third option you list for the Bible isn't really an option. You either believe the Bible to be 100% true or you don't. There is no middle ground. Looking at the Bible's authenticity though, why is this year 2007? Because we have set the birth of Jesus as the centerpoint in history. Also, why have the Jews survived as a people without a country for over 2000 years only to come back as one very recently? Because, of course, God needed the nation of Israel for the end times. Finally, why do people who call for "religious tolerance" tolerate every religion except for Christianity? Why has Christianity been the most persecuted religion of all times? Because the Bible is true, and people don't want to believe that they are sinners in need of a Savior.

zestycrustacean said...

@ MJD

I'm not sure I'd call Christianity the "most persecuted religion of all time." Take a look at its success: it has more than a billion followers worldwide, it is the predominant religion in the first world, and it has been for more than a thousand years. As to why the Jews survived, despite being a rather small minority that has been persecuted pretty badly over time, I'd chalk it up to their high social cohesiveness and to the fact that they were allowed to be usurers (bankers) during the middle ages, unlike the christians (e.g. they were necessary to the smooth functioning of society). Calling the fact that out calendar is based around the birth of Jesus is proof of christianity is circular, seeing as it is a calendar created by christians. Rather like saying that because we have the month of July, Julius Ceasar must have been a god incarnate (as Roman emperors were nominally believed to be). Isreal was created after the catalyst of WWII because Britain had promised the world's Jews a homeland, and they figured that palestine would be a good spot. Most people who call for religious tolerance are tolerant of Christianity existing as a religion that is just as respected as any other faith, but are definitely against it being a de-facto state religion (it's amazing how many people forget that separation of church and state exists as much to protect the church as to protect the state...). There is no more proof for the tenets of Christianity as there is for those of Hinduism or Islam, so it doesn't make much sense to have one religion be accepted as "the Truth" when its axioms are just as shaky as those of other faiths.

zestycrustacean said...

Also, I would point to the fact that people have been confidently predicting that the "End Times" were at hand since a few decades after Jesus' crucifixion. Indeed in the bible Jesus specifically states that they would arrive before the deaths of the people who were alive at the same time as him.

Molly said...

@ MGD

So Iran might be supporting a terrorist organization that operates in Lebanon and therefore is invading Israel?

If you even want to consider that an invasion (and I don't) it still has absolutely nothing to do with god. Of course Israel is going to win. As I've already explained, they are fully supported by a number of wealthy western nations.

I'm not frustrated, I'm rather amused at your lack of world knowledge.

Molly said...

@ MGD

The birth of jesus was set on a pagan holiday. He wasn't born on December 25. It wasn't until 350 AD that December 25 was "declared" the day of his birth and that was to pacify the Roman pagans.

Miracle said...

@ Moly & MJD

Molly is right about Jesus' brith being on pagan holiday. I think its either Celtic or some Germanic Barbarian tribe.

Also, your proof of the existence of God through Jewish nation, end times and our calendar is impossible to substantiate. Really though, you bashed molly for not being logical in her arguments, but then you make the statement, "This happened because of God... want proof? Because God said so" Hmm... what type of logic is that?
Finally, on what grounds do you get to say that the only two options is either the bible is 100% true or completely innacurate? You can't say a statement like that without evidence to back your claim. Define true.. you mean all things are factual and completely accurate? All things are true in what they say? Even further, why can't I believe some parts to be true and others to be false? Now I don't expect you to answer this here, because we're getting into a debate that is hotly conversed in differing theological camps. My point is simply saying that I can and do believe some parts are true and others are allegorical, legend and even false. I am not alone as I've had many professors, friends and Biblical Critics/Theologians agree with the stance.

MasterJediDan said...

@ zestycrustacean

Just curious, but where did Jesus say that the end times would occur before the deaths of those around Him?

Miracle said...

Jesus left it kind of Vague MJD. He didn't say one way or another. If your friend told you that hes coming to visit again and thats it, when would you start looking for him? Paul honestly believed that Jesus was coming back every week. Read 1 Corinthians when he talks about not getting married. He is saying this because he believes Jesus is going to return the next day.

Paul said...

@ everyone

Although my wife has told me I should just back off this, I have found a new hobby. It seems I am a day behind the debate and AW seems to ignore my comments (why, AW, why? Is it because I said I don't believe in you?)

It seems like there are a number of camps here: dogmatic atheists, fundamentalists and me. Did I miss any?

I am sorry to see mostly bashing here, as I liked the first post and expected to see something of an examination of what God is and what folks think of it.

The post here gives me a 3 choice question with respect to what the Bible is. I think that you missed choice number 4: the most widely distributed piece of literature in the world and quite possibly the most influential piece of literature ever conceived of.

Calling it all rubbish is throwing the baby out with the bathwater and if that's really what you think then you should just quit what you're doing here, because it's pointless.

Number 2: Well, I would not go as far as to say it's all real. I'd say that there is a big chunk of reality behind what's there, but we know for a fact that God did not actually write any of it. And divinely inspired or not, people still change the story as time goes on. All for the sake of a good read. No?

Number 3: Allegory. Much of what's there is. Take, for instance, the belly of the whale story. The veracity of that bit is a little in question. However, we do know that many of the people referred to throughout the book are real historical figures. Biblical archaeology is a thriving field of study for believers and non. It's really for anybody who wants a bit of perspective on how we got to where we are.

@ AW - Jewbashing is ugly. please stop. It does not make you a better person. In fact belittleing any culture that you obviously don't understand only reflects bad upon yourself. Sit with a rabbi someday and ask him some of your questions. I think you'll be very suprised to know what he will respond.

Iraq war and President Bush: You know, hand-wringing over this is pointless also. It's beyond debate that Bush is a liar and quite possibly the worst. president. ever. And this war was a terrible thing from the start. I'm sure you can find a BBS (oops - blog) debating that old topic still.

Taking aim at fundamentalists (I'm not the only one who's noticing that you are doing this) is lazy. Just plain lazy. That horse died a long time ago. You're not going to get anywhere with someone who has their head that deep in that hole.

Psychopath...voice of God...explore that one a bit more. It leads somewhere. Somewhere very interesting. Did you know that Saul (Paul of the New Testament, author of the Epistles, road to Damascus guy) was an epileptic?

And since this is a long reply that no one is going to see this far down anyway, I'll give you something else as an answer to the question of what the Bible is.

Looking at the Tanakh, there are three distinct sections Torah, Nev'vehim and Ketuvim (sorry for the spelling, my Hebrew is halla bad). They have very different purposes and were assembled much later than you might think. It is only the Christians who call it the Old Testament. stop. The New Testament, or the Christian Bible also has three distinct sections (hmmm...three. Now why does that sound familiar? Makes mme want a three egg omlette.) The Gospels, The Epistels (dmmt - why can't Blogger have a spell checker - I'm not caring anymore) and then there's everyone's favorite - Revelations! (guitar intro...roar of the crowd...Steve Harris pounding the bass strings...Bruce Dickinson howling...now guess my age)

TTFN

Bible student said...

In the New International Reader's Version of the Bible, just after Jesus let them know that he foresaw Jerusalem’s destruction, Matthew 24:3 says: Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives. There the disciples came to him in private. "Tell us," they said.

(1) "When will this happen?

(2) And what will be the sign of your coming?

(3) What will be the sign of the end?"

During a detailed explanation of the signs to watch for he said, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” Matthew 24:34 (New King James Version)

Since Bible prophecy often have multiple fulfillments and not all of the signs occurred before the Romans leveled Jerusalem in the year 70, the generation who sees all the signs would also see the end.

University of California professor, Robert Wohl, in his book The Generation of 1914 wrote “A historical generation is not defined by its chronological limits or its borders. It is not a zone of dates . . . It is more like a magnetic field at the center of which lies an experience or a series of experiences. . . . What is essential to the formation of a generational consciousness is some common frame of reference that provides a sense of rupture with the past . . . This frame of reference is always derived from great historical events like wars, revolutions, plagues, famines, and economic crises.”

Less than 100 years later, we are the generation that will see the end. Christ, installed as King in Heaven, got that all started in that year.

Definitely #2, 100% real. Prove it to yourself.

Small Fish in a Big Pond said...

Going back to an earlier comment on this post, I have to agree with robustyoungsoul. This is truly the best blog ever. I am reading it with relish as I have a unique perspective on the issues being discussed. Unlike many of you, I can truly see the issues from the inside and the outside. I spent half my life (20 years) actively involved in the church (Sunday School Teacher, Youth Leader, teacher in a christian school, overseas Christian development worker and more). I have also fully renounced my former beliefs and consider myself to be an atheist. Interestingly, I was not raised in the church and came to faith fully on my own (I fit into that 20% mentioned earlier). So after twenty years of turning my brain off and ignoring the epic inconsistencies of the Bible, the absolute hypocrisy of the church and nearly ALL of it's leaders, the volumes of evidence that humans and other animals are the product of evolution and many more reasons, I am back on track with being able to use a highly evolved human brain to discover the truth by reason instead of blind faith*. Having explained my background to these issues, I want to affirm wager's approach to life and to his blog. I will continue to read with interest.

@ paul, If there is one thing Christians don't do, it is follow that highly influential piece of literature that you mentioned. In fact, I find Christians to be less moral than the general public. I speak from vast experience in the Christian world. I am not just blowing hot air or basing this on my personal experience. Studies show that the divorce rate is higher in the church than the general public, especially among evangelicals. Oh and your age is about 40, I would guess.

* The Bible teaches Christians to have the faith of a small child. In other don't ask questions, don't think and above all don't analyze the faith because it falls apart like a house of cards.

Miracle said...

@Small Fish

It is really sad to hear stories like yours. I apologize for those whom claim to be followers and don't really live up to the message of Jesus. I have some questions though, did you try any other faith after Christianity or did you give up all on God? Was it mainly inconcistencies with God, The Bible or the Church which led you to your current decision?

Also, the faith of a child is not one whom sits and does as he or she is told. My kid is always testing my limits and asking many, many questions. Its quite the opposite of don't ask, don't think. What is unique about my son's faith though is the optimism he possesses. He questions, searches and tests but faithfully knows that I'll hold him again.

Small Fish in a Big Pond said...

@ miracle Don't be sad. My decision to leave the Christian faith was the best decision I ever made. I see the world with more clarity than I could have imagined and I am free from the guilt of trying to live a perfect life.

No, I did not try any other faith. And at this point that outcome seems highly improbable. The disconnect between the central messages of Christianity and the way people actually behave is what led to my analysis of the tenets of the Christian faith. Although I had one or two difficult experiences in the church (and witnessed a myriad of others), my decision was ultimately an intellectual one. The fact that MJD can justify killing of children and other innocents without apparently being able to grasp how horrific such a slaughter is, confirms how bizarre it is to follow the teachings of the Bible. If I had a week to type this response I couldn't list all the problems raised by the Bible. People such as MJD and biblestudent (or should I write BS) are like the captives in Plato's cave who are afraid of the shadows not knowing they are not the real entities. The Christian life often shelters people from a broader understanding of the world because such an understanding might (quite likely would) lead them away from the faith.

Oh yeah. Twenty years of prayers that went unanswered didn't help either. Like many Christians I thought there were times when my prayers were answered. Looking back on those times, I realize they were the prayers where I got what I wanted. Like many Christians still do, I assumed these were answered prayers. With a retrospective of twenty years of prayer, I can clearly see that the 'response' to my prayers was completely random. I can hardly believe that it took me so long to wake up, but it did.

I am glad that you have such a progressive relationship with your son and I think you probably are an excellent father. In my experience (except when I taught), children in Sunday School, youth groups and the church in general are discouraged from expressing doubt or asking challenging questions. When I was leading youth groups and wanting to hold debates or discussions about evolution, I was told things like "You can't bring up such issues or this family would leave the church." Every time I tried to give an opportunity to ask challenging questions or have meaningful, intelligent discussions, I was discouraged from doing so by other leaders. One of the Christian schools I worked in forbade us to even mention Halloween as some families were horrified by the concept of it. Many topics were forbidden. My brain atrophied in this setting, but I never realized it until I left the church.