Monday, May 14, 2007

An Unlikely Mormon Apologist

I managed to watch “60 Minutes” last night and the lead segment covered Mitt Romney. For those unfamiliar with this candidate, Mitt is a Mormon running for president as a Republican. He is credited with being a very successful businessman, saving the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, and as a governor of Massachusetts balancing the budget every year without raising taxes. Those three points are often overshadowed by his faith.

The problem with his faith has more to do with running as a Republican considering how active the evangelical community is in the party. I am a member of a Christian email group where I work and I constantly see Christians of all denominations attack Mormons. They say that they are polytheists, Joseph Smith was a fraud, and the religion is founded on lies. I would have a hard time disagreeing with any of those points. Anyway, after weeks of Mormon bashing, someone posted an email to the group that basically said, “Hey, didn’t Jesus say doctrine should be judged by the fruits it produces? Mormons typically have great families, lead good lives, and their communities are great. Let’s leave them alone because the fruits are good.”

I’ll go a step further. I grew up in Arizona, attended USAFA, and worked in Utah for over six months. I have met and befriended plenty of Mormons in my lifetime. I believe that we shouldn’t propagate stereotypes or try to classify people and that most behavior fits into a bell curve. Some people of one classification are good. Others are bad, but there is a huge spectrum and most fall in the middle. I will go on record and say of the hundred or so Mormons I have met, the vast majority were great people. Working in Utah was one of the best experiences of my life, there is nothing quite like the Mormon work ethic. The Mormons I did work with worked extremely hard, were very focused, and went home at 5:00! They were able to accomplish so much during the day and didn’t care about face time that they were actually able to create work life balance. In my line of work, leaving at 5:00 usually resulted in snide remarks about working a “half-day”. In Utah, it was not only acceptable but encouraged! Sign me up for any other project there!

OK, back to the email chain. Some other Christian responds with (name removed to protect the stupid):

“I could not disagree more (respectfully of course). If the doctrine is not a Biblical, Christian doctrine then the culture surrounding the false doctrine does not justify that false doctrine. We can all agree that the Mormon culture and societies are good things, but so are many other religions around the world. Are their doctrines good too? Looking at the culture’s fruit is not the right thing to examine. We must look at the object of the religion’s faith and if it not Christ then, by definition, it is false and not good. This statement applies to any religion.”

This “Christian” is saying the Mormons are heretics and it doesn’t matter if their religion producing good results because they are not worshipping God correctly. Results don’t matter – dogma does! So let’s take a look at where Mormon beliefs and mainstream Christian beliefs differ…

Jews, Christians, and Mormons start with the common story of the Old Testament. God creates the world, gets pissed at his creation and floods it, changes His mind, chooses a group of people for the Promised Land, leads His Chosen People out of Egypt, gives them Mosaic Law and the 10 commandments, works a few miracles, watches a temple dedicated to Him built and sees it destroyed, watches Israel invaded a few times, sees the second temple built, and then Christianity enters the picture (you try summing up the OT in a paragraph!).

Christians then believe that God came to earth via an impregnated virgin. Jesus was both fully God and fully human at the same time. Jesus had earthly temptation and desires but was absolutely free from sin. He worked miracles including walking on water, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, and curing the sick. He never had sex. It’s also implied that He never masturbated, but it’s not outright claimed because no one could possibly believe this. That would be the greatest miracle of them all. Far more unbelievable than raising the dead – that a man could live for over thirty years without sex or jerking off even once! But alas, I digress…

So the most perfect man ever known, flawless in every way, is then brutally tortured and killed. Jesus knew that he was going to die, that it was part of God’s plan, had the power to stop it, and went along with it because he loved humanity so much he was willing to sacrifice His life for the greater good. Three days after His death, he came back from the dead and provided all of us a way to enter heaven by accepting Him into our hearts. By praying to Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him, we can all be saved now. Yeah!

So that’s Christianity – the Old Testament plus the New Testament. Mormons come in saying that during the three days between the death of Jesus and His resurrection, Jesus went off to North America and established a ministry to the native peoples there. His ministry in America was recorded on special golden discs which were translated by God’s prophet, Joseph Smith.

Mormons believe that every individual can have a direct communication with God and that God speaks to the prophets of the LDS Church. God apparently is not very decisive because he told Joe that polygamy was cool and then reversed himself with a “revelation” to the lead prophet right when Utah was applying for statehood. Go figure on the timing of that one…

However, if you can believe all the tall tales of the Old and New Testaments, how farfetched is the Book of Mormon? You’ve already swallowed miracle after miracle, life after death, and resurrection. Why couldn’t Jesus come over to America? You buy the premise and you buy the bit, it’s the fundamental rule of comedy.

So even if Joseph Smith was a complete fraud, the cult – I mean religion he founded really does produce good communities and good families. The basis of the belief system is no more crazy than Judaism, Christianity, or any other mainstream religion. No one is getting hurt by it, so why don’t we leave them alone? Better yet, since most skeptics will agree that it was all made up, why can’t we just make up an even better religion based on common sense and reason?

77 comments:

kitty said...

Yeah it's funny how unsympathetic christians tend to be to other people's delusions - to an outsider it seems that mormonism came about though one man's egocentricity requiring Jesus having been to America and an opportunistic desire for sex.

There are surely worse motivations.

We don't have a lot of mormons in the UK, but I think I sat next to one in English class when I was 15. She was a bit weird and downtrodden but harmless.

Anyway - I have a great quote for you:

'A Christian youth worker told me how he thought the cult was childish. "It's like a baby playing games," he insisted. "Those people are holding on to a dream that will never come true," he said.'
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6370991.stm

Yah. Pot. Kettle. Black. Anyone?

MasterJediDan said...

Hmmm...interesting. I see what you mean about them being harmless, and for the most part you are right. I didn't know that they though Jesus came to America after He died...kinda weird. I agree with you philosophy that if they aren't harming anyone, just let them be. Which brings up a good point... most Christian families I know are peaceful and could be left alone just like the Mormons. So why then do people go to such great lengths to disprove Christianity instead of focusing on destroying religions like the Muslims, who have actually done real harm to our nation?

MasterJediDan said...

Mormonism might be believable if the "golden discs" had actually been seen by anyone other than Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, there's no evidence for them, so Mormonism doesn't look too promising...

Glenn Kachmar said...

@MJD
It may have something to do with the number of christians trying to ram their faith down the throats of others. You may recall that evangelism is considered to be somewhat of a duty.

And uh, speaking of no evidence . . . Oh, never mind.

Bible student said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bible student said...

@MasterJD

I disagree, I live in a Muslim community and find them some of the most hospitable, family oriented, hard working folks I’ve ever met.

There are those that twist the teachings of the Koran, but these are despised by mosque going Muslims. Theirs is a religion based on love and obedience.


@Glenn Kachmar

The Bible is an invitation, come along.

Now you’ve been evangelized, tell your friends.

Atheistwager said...

@MJD,
No plates, no proof. Hillarious as well as hypocrital. Buy the premise, you buy the bit. You believe Christ rose from the dead with zero credible evidence. How is this any different from Joseph Smith's claims? You are missing the entire point of the post.

MasterJediDan said...

@ bible student

Love and obedience...obedience, yes, perhaps to Allah, but love? Do you realize how much Muslims outside the US hate us because they think America is a Christian nation? I don't see love for others in all the suicide bombings and the constant war to destroy Israel and America.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Atheistwager & Glenn

Proof...yes, we all want proof. First of all, let's look at the Bible. All of its prophecies have come true. There hasn't been one that is wrong. Secondly, Christians were strongly persecuted by both the Jews and the Roman government. If the New Testament writings were false, these two groups would have produced a great deal of evidence to stop the growth of this “sect.” None exists. Further, the New Testament writings (before they were assembled into the “book” we call the New Testament) circulated during the lifetimes of thousands of people who had actually seen Jesus’ miracles and other historic events. No one ever refuted the New Testament writings as “fairy tales.” Thirdly, I think we can all agree that it was written by many different people. How then is it that it fits together so well? Everyone who wrote it didn't meet together, since they lived in different time periods. One last thing though, Glenn, I know what you mean by Christians trying to ram Christianity down your throat, some people are stupid like that, but don't the Mormons do even more than that since they all come to your house to convert you? Recall Atheistwager's post about the atheist who went to Salt Lake City. He didn't feel that it was Christians who tried to shove religion down his throat, but the Mormons. Just something to think about.

Bible student said...

@MasterJD

Haven’t we seen, too many times in history than when religion is crossed with politics, we get ethnic cleansing, holocaust, crusades, inquisition?

Man can’t serve two masters. Be a soldier or be a lover.

Careful, don’t be converted to AW’s religion of common sense and reason. You know how dependable people are.

Save it MJD, They don’t buy it.

You probably missed what I found digging the other day. I posted @kitty:

“The Bible is written in such a way that those who are not truly seeking God or who have no genuine faith in God, are induced to ‘show their true colors.’ It leaves those not wanting to serve God a ‘way out,’ an excuse to find fault, if this is their desire. The bible fulfills a purpose of God in causing persons, both proud ones and humble ones, to reveal what is in their hearts.”

You can lead a horse to drink but… you know.

Glenn Kachmar said...

@ Bible Student
I spent twenty years in the church and I am utterly convinced that the Bible isn't an invitation, it is a clever series of works of fiction. Here is an invitation. I invite you to read my post on Debunkingchristianity. Scroll down to Why I Left the Church. Here is the link:
http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/

@ MJD
In the classic tradition of the Princess Bride, I need to say (in an Inigo Montoya accent) "I don't think proof means what you think it means."

Over and out!

Bible student said...

@GK

I briefly skimmed Your post. Same complaints I have with religions. Jesus complained to the religious leaders of his day at Matthew 15:6: “you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.”


The last paragraph sounds like you have given up. I didn’t. It took me 15 years after I left my mother’s church. The scripture at Zephaniah 2:3 makes a lot more sense to me now.

Seek the Lord, all who are humble,
and follow his commands.
Seek to do what is right
and to live humbly.
Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you—
protect you from his anger on that day of destruction.

I hope you come around.

Hugh said...

@MJD

Your lack of knowledge of the classical civilizations and the formation of the early Catholic church are startling. The Romans were very accepting of different religious sects (Egyptian cults, Mithras, etc.) as long as the members of the religion would pledge an allegiance to Rome, but Christians, claimed their only ruler was God so they got persecuted as heretics. Done and Done, tough to feel sorry for Catholics when its their faith which got them into the mess in the first place.

And yes, the Gospels and such did circulate during the lifetimes of those who had known Jesus but chances aren't they weren't the ones reading them. I am unsure of the literacy rates of the Jews in the early 1st century but if based upon other literacy rates among the lower classes in Roman society then many of them couldn't read at all, and chances are if you are unable to read and are already a firm believer in the Old Testament then it should be no stretch that Jesus could do the things that are attributed to him. In addition, your claim that "No one ever refuted the New Testament writings as 'fairy tales.'" is as wrong as you can get, a good many people do thing that Jesus is bullshit, they are called Jews and practice Judaism, which was conincidentally, the same religion that Jesus practiced.

"Thirdly, I think we can all agree that it was written by many different people. How then is it that it fits together so well?"

Are you serious? The American Constitution fits together really well too. Its almost like THEY GOT TOGETHER AND DECIDED WHAT PARTS TO KEEP INCLUDE AND EXCLUDE. Dead Sea Scrolls? Nope. Gospel of Judas? Nope. Wait, Ecumenical Councils, wait, what are those?

It's no wonder that the Catholic Church is so screwed up when people will believe whatever is put before them.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Hugh

I'm not a Catholic. I don't worship Mary or stand in line so I can touch some "relic."

Glenn Kachmar said...

Bible Student
I did "come around". That's why I left the church. I hope you come around.

kitty said...

@BS

I Ignored that comment last time because I thought Ilja had it covered but since you bring it up again...

It is fine to think you're right - I think I'm right also, and no doubt most people do but I'm finding certain aspects of your stance somewhat insulting. It seems that you think anyone who doesn't buy into christianity either does not understand it or is incapable of having an open mind. This is patently untrue. What would your reaction be if I suggested that any religious person is either too egoistical to accept a view of the universe at which they are not the centre, or lacked the mental strength to cope with the perceived emptiness of a life without "god"? It's a similarly meaningless and insulting stance on the basis of no more evidence than that there are educated, intelligent people who disagree with you.

Now obviously it's a subjective understanding and my conclusions differ somewhat from yours, however I would do somewhat better in a bible studies 101 quiz than your average christian so if understanding isn't a pre-requisite for being a christian I fail to see why it should be a pre-requisite for atheism.

Which - as I've said before and will no doubt say again is not necessarily a religion, it just can be.


@MJD

I think there's a variety of reasons why you might perceive Islam to be less attacked than Christianity.

The first of which is the extremist reaction to it - have you heard of Salman Rushdie? He was forced into hiding due to Islamic extremists. Or the Dutch cartoons? (Note that the ones there was such a fuss about were fabricated and were never printed in the paper) Or that unfortunate remark made by the pope? There is also the risk that disparaging remarks regarding Islam be branded as racist (this has caused problems in the UK).

Secondly, in America as in the UK Christianity is the "main" religion. Here we still have Christianity served up at state schools, and even more so at public schools. Therefore many of todays prominent atheists will have been brought up in at least a semi-Christian environment - that is what they know and what they find easiest to pull apart. However the basic arguments of atheism apply to both Christianity and Islam (and any other religion) and so many of the arguments applied against Christianity will also apply to Islam, and the Qu'ran - like the bible - is flawed (in content and in morality).

Thirdly, whilst I am aware there are Muslims who see a time coming when it is convert or die I have never seen a Muslim street preacher. The Islamic movement is less bent on conversion, less well funded (or uses its funds somewhat differently!), and does not waste its time attacking scientific theories. (Incidentally if you still remain unconvinced by evolution you might find this worth reading: http://richarddawkins.net/article,1058,The-Case-Against-Intelligent-Design-The-Faith-That-Dare-Not-Speak-Its-Name,Jerry-Coyne-edgeorg - it's a response to ID propaganda and answers most of the "questions" they've raised w.r.t evolution).

I also think you're making the mistake of thinking that atrocities committed in the name of Islam would not be committed in the name of Christianity. If you read Sam Harris' "The End of Faith" he compares the mentality of Islamic extremists with early Christians (and no - they weren't very nice people either). The motivation is at least partly political - this hatred of the west, and they have a book which promises eternal life. Now the bible may have less glorification of death, but given the motivation someone could cite chapter and verse and behave the same way. Christians have and some still do (admittedly on a smaller scale) - look at those people who have bombed abortion clinics.

Bible student said...

@Hugh

Jews were known for their literacy rate. Mothers taught the children first with memorization of scriptural passages and then when they were old enough, reading the passages.

Not just the upper classes, Of the Bible writers David was a shepherd, Amos a farmer. John and Peter the fishermen and Jude the carpenter wrote in Greek, not in their Galilean dialect.
Matthew the taxman and Paul the Pharisee (lawyer) knew at least two languages.

Most towns of any size had a synagogue with a copy of the O.T.. Long before the monks, Jews were copying. (Check Ezra)

No need to feel sorry for those who died for their faith, they knew their reward was in heaven.

@kitty

It’s not about who’s right it’s about survival.

What kind of a fool do you take me for? Despite little indication, I hope I’m typing to those with open minds.

What in the paragraph, (that I found) do you take issue with. I thought it would appeal to a non-believer. It draws a clear divide.

No offense intended.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Kitty

Ah, yes, abortion. Many people are divided about this issue. Supporters of this controversial issue claim that it is necessary for women who are raped. However, if you look at the actual statistics, (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/dd/AGIAbortionReasonsBarChart.png), less than five percent are because it could be dangerous to the mother and also less than five percent is because of rape. So where does that leave us? The rest of them apparently don't "think they are ready" to have a child. I'm going to go on a limb here and say that no mother probably does think that they are prepared to have a child. It's something you learn as time goes on. "Not being ready" and "choice" are both pathetic excuses for an act that has caused the death of over 1,202,000 babies MONTHLY. (http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/wrjp338sd.html)

That's about 30 million people killed so far. I find it pathetic that people cry for "choice" when it comes to abortion. The kid has no choice in the matter. How would you feel if your parents had chosen to abort you? I'd be furious. Just let the kid live. I mean, there are plenty of alternatives, like adoption, just leaving the kid at a church (if you don't want to be noticed), etc. Now, for a moment, I will set religion and morals aside. How many of these 30 million could have become people who would have changed the world for the better? How many of them would have become scientists, who could have PROVED evolution once and for all and settled our nice little debate? But no, we must give "choice" to the parent and allow them to kill their child. And the aftereffects of abortion aren't pretty either. Women are left feeling empty, lonely, and depressed. In conclusion, even without looking at morals and religion, I'd say that abortion is just a bunch of sh*t that needs to be banned.

Wil said...

@BS:

"What in the paragraph, (that I found) do you take issue with."

that he'll be angry and destructive if you don't follow 'his commands'? Aside from that, I agree with this bit: "Seek to do what is right and to live humbly." And i think that was the main point of Wager's post.


Somewhere in the bible Jesus (a role model of mine) states something to the effect of "those who believe in me will enter heaven". Some will interpret this to mean "those who do not believe will not enter heaven" when that is in fact not stated. People can still live well without following God's vocation. On that basis, good people may have entry into heaven despite believing differently or not believing at all. After all, all Asians are people, but all people are not Asian.

kitty said...

@BS

I think that when you fail to convert people you insult them by saying it's because they don't understand, or because there is something wrong with them. I think this is utter rubbish - it is a subjective test since by "understand" you basically mean agree with you, and I find it somewhat insulting.

I understand that you would prefer to think there's something wrong with the people who don't buy into these ideas as opposed to the ideas and the book itself - but you have no evidence on which to base that - other than the book itself, and round we go in circles again.

Incidentally - the English meaning of the word "perfect" I posted before basically means it contains everything necessary and nothing extra (like, my perfect study plus 3 penguins would then be imperfect). So If about half this book is obsolete then the entirety is imperfect.


@MGD

Am I to understand by this ill-informed rant that you support the bombing of abortion clinics? You realize you can be against abortion and still think it's wrong to blow up the clinics and the doctors inside?

Yes people say it's necessary for women who have been raped. So what if it's only 5%? Do you know what proportion of rapes are reported (I'll give you a clue - it's not all of them). What alternative would you have? If a woman wants an abortion because she'd been raped she should have to prove it? Have another look - what proportion of reported rapes result in a conviction? (Then do some math - it takes time to get a case to court).


"I'm going to go on a limb here and say that no mother probably does think that they are prepared to have a child."

Are you trying to suggest there are no planned pregnancies? Or are you trying to equate a natural nervousness with an actual "I cannot do this"?

A baby is a small human that lives outside the womb and is not dependent on another human being (obviously it needs fed, but anyone can do that). A fetus lives inside a womb, feeding off the mother and is in violation of her bodily domain.

And - just for interest - if you banned abortion and had these 1,202,000 extra babies a month what would you do with them? Are the care homes empty? Are no children in foster care? Does every human being have enough to eat?

Er - no, no, and no.

So what? How many of them would have got into drugs, or joined gangs, or starved?

How many of them would have had a happy and fulfilled life?

If my parents had chosen to abort me I wouldn't know anything about it. But even if I did I wouldn't hold it against them - it's nice being alive, but you don't miss what you don't know about. And growing up I had everything - music lessons, french lessons, private school. I've never even seen either of my parents drunk - let alone stoned! They wanted to give their kids everything - and they did. If they had aborted me because they couldn't, I would understand.


Really there are three possibilities when it comes to abortion:

1. Ban it.
2. Pro-Choice.
3. Pro-Abortion.

Now if you choose 1, then you make abortion no longer an option.

3, And abortion is mandatory for anyone who cannot demonstrate themselves able to care for a child.

So really 2 is the neutral position - every child can be wanted, and you don't submit unwilling women to the trauma of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term and the hours of excruciating agony at the end of it.


"Women are left feeling empty, lonely, and depressed"

Do your research - that's a very small minority of cases. Most women never regret it.

Would you ban alcohol because it makes a minority of people empty, lonely and depressed?

Bible student said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bible student said...

@ Wil

Sorry to confuse!

About 50 years before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, Zephaniah 2:3 was written. (Seek God before destruction) I found it appropriate to those living close to Armageddon.

Jesus warned at Matthew 24:14: “And these glad tidings of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole habitable earth, for a witness to all the nations, and then shall come the end.”

Once God is satisfied that the gospel has been spread, even in Asia, He will eliminate the troublemakers from the earth.


In the post before, I repeated a paragraph posted @Kitty, that can be found near the bottom of http://atheistwager.blogspot.com/2007/05/who-needs-god.html.

“The Bible is written in such a way that those who are not truly seeking God or who have no genuine faith in God, are induced to ‘show their true colors.’ It leaves those not wanting to serve God a ‘way out,’ an excuse to find fault, if this is their desire. The bible fulfills a purpose of God in causing persons, both proud ones and humble ones, to reveal what is in their hearts.”

Again, sorry to confuse.

Bible student said...

@kitty

Half of this book is not obsolete, look at the post to Wil. Mosaic Law is no longer enforced or practiced anywhere on earth. Even Orthodox Jews will not kill the rapist.

The Law was an agreement between God and his people (Exodus 24:7). When the terms of that contract were filled, God began with another people. A new contract works perfectly when leasing automobiles.


I did not write the book, and you do not have to believe it. You have no scientific evidence.
The evidence I rely on is spiritual. (1Co 3:18, 19)

Unfortunately, to get a panicked person out of a burning building you might need to slap them. This world in falling fast. Can’t you see?
I don’t convert you, you convert you. I would be guilty, if I did not warn you.

Warren said...

@BS

You do realize that what you're doing is preaching to us your interpretation of a book. Such a thing is always subjective and no matter the book, fiction, non-fiction or otherwise no two people will come to the same conclusion after having read it. Different passages mean different things to different people. I actually think it's rather arrogant of you to profess that yours is the one and only correct viewpoint in this matter, and hiding your arrogance behind a veil of fair warning is asinine.

@MJD

Kitty said most everything that I wanted to say in relation to the abortion thing, however there is one point that people in favor of banning it always seem to gloss over. That is the fact that before abortion was legal people performed abortions in horribly unsanitary conditions, if abortion were made illegal again this practice would simply resume. By taking abortion from a safe legal practice to an illegal and dirty practice you are putting lives at risk. People will counter this argument by saying that even though murder is illegal people still murder so should we just make murder legal? Of course not, murder is a crime because there is a victim and you would be hard pressed to convince me that a fetus is the same thing as a baby.

Bible student said...

@ Warren

I’m passing along something that I learned.

If as your neighbor, I smelled smoke while you were sleeping, should I think myself asinine, and run away, or pound your door and save your life.

A wise man asked, how do you read it?
What have you learned, that might save my life?

kitty said...

@BS

Before you said it was obsolete, now you say it's not. So there's only one penguin in the metaphorical study - it's still imperfect.

The lack of scientific evidence is itself suggestive - Richard Dawkins puts it pretty well, when he talks about how if there were a "god" in the sense that christianity speaks of we might expect the world to be somewhat different.

The analogy of the fire is a good one. But if, having been warned I said "it's OK I'm just cooking" and you continued to try and convince me my house was on fire I might be justifiably annoyed. If you're right I - and every other person who disagrees with you - is gonna go to hell - why is that not enough for you?

And yes I do worry about the state of the world but I don't think more religion is the answer. I've not heard anything about reducing your carbon footprint through prayer for one.


@Warren

Good point, I forgot that one. Thanks!

Warren said...

@BS

Your example is pointless, fire is not subject to interpretation. Just because you have determined that this ancient text holds the key to saving everyone's life doesn't mean that your opinion holds water, it's still just an opinion which is colored by the entirety of your existence. So while I would never say that you shouldn't be able to share your opinion on what anything means you should think twice before stating it as fact.

A wiser man understood that he would never learn anything about himself by asking what others have learned.

zilch said...

Hi all- I'm Scott, an atheist living in Vienna. While I like debating with believers, I too find it far more important how one gets along with one's neighbors and world, than what god one worships- or not. Didn't someone once say "By their fruits shall ye know them"?

Anyway, I'm enjoying the discussion here. Bible student, I have a question. You posted a quote:
“The Bible is written in such a way that those who are not truly seeking God or who have no genuine faith in God, are induced to ‘show their true colors.’ It leaves those not wanting to serve God a ‘way out,’ an excuse to find fault, if this is their desire. The bible fulfills a purpose of God in causing persons, both proud ones and humble ones, to reveal what is in their hearts.”

Perhaps I just don't understand this correctly, but it seems to me to be merely saying: "the Bible is written in such a way that people either agree with it, or disagree, and they then express that agreement or disagreement". I could say the same thing about any putative work of non-fiction: the Origin of Species, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or the Book of Mormon for that matter. What's the big deal about the Bible?

Cheers from Vienna, and if any of you come over this way, I'll treat you to a beverage of your choice.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

Warren nailed it in his last post, “this ancient text holds the key to saving everyone's life”.

The quotation mentions heart condition. Since God is able to judge hearts, ones attitude toward obeying the counsel provided, determines ones life span.

Warren said...

@BS

Quoting a detractor out of context is hardly a way to strengthen your argument.

Bible student said...

@ Warren

When you are right you are right, and you described me correctly.

Help comes from strangest places.

Thank You!

Ilja said...

@ MJD

“Do you realize how much Muslims outside the US hate us because they think America is a Christian nation? I don't see love for others in all the suicide bombings and the constant war to destroy Israel and America.”

And do you realize, that the suicide bombings are not directed towards your christian nation, but mostly kill people of other nations (Iraqi, Palestinians, etc.). Have you ever thought that their might be a political reason for the terror? That some people want the US (and not Christians, there’s a difference) to stop playing global police? And that if they are Muslims and most US citizens are Christians, there is still no war going on between Islam and Christianity, but between the current US government + the soldiers it sent to die in Iraq and Iraqis who don’t want a military occupation of their country? And to how many Muslims did you already talk to in person in the first place?

Sorry for getting off-topic, so back to religion. Here’s a couple of quotes i find fitting:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

I’ll let you figure out for yourself where they are from…


@ Bible student

It is of course noble to worry about the lives of others, but there is a possibility, that the threat you are trying to save them from is also fictional. We’ve already discussed this, and you know my views on proof, photographs and eye witness reports.

As kitty said, maybe it’s okay if you don’t try to save people against their will? I am strongly convinced that in the modern society, especially among those capable to read and even use the Internet, everybody has at least once heard about fire, brimstone, etc. And, if they were scared of those things, they would have already figured out, what to do. The others are probably old enough to think for themselves and take the risk of devoting the time they would have spent reading ancient legends and listening to religious propaganda to other activities they have more substantial benefits from. And maybe they have carefully made up their own minds about the whole situation, so what makes you think your opinion is worth more than theirs (this is a serious question, please provide reasons)?

Bible student said...

@Ilja

Our opinions are equally valid.

MasterJediDan said...

@ Ilja

Have you been to Iraq and asked the people there if they want the U.S. soldiers there? I seriously doubt it. All we get is the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) from the media here in the US. It's a bunch of crap. Go to Iraq and find out the real story.

I know where the quotes are from, I wasn't born last night. The Bible and the Star Wars (Yoda).

The U.S. isn't fighting against its soldiers. They all volunteered to fight for us. It's not like we have a draft, they aren't force against their will to join the army. It's their choice, so get with it. Quit giving Bush all the crap, every president who has gone to war is made fun of, criticized, told he is the worst president ever, etc. He's not president for much longer and then we can all see who we want for another four years. Besides, he's not having sex with other people and then lying about it in court.

zilch said...

Now I'm more confused than ever. Bible student, you said:

"The quotation mentions heart condition. Since God is able to judge hearts, ones attitude toward obeying the counsel provided, determines ones life span."

Are you saying that if one rejects the Bible, God offs you? I knew about throwing you into Hell, but this is a new twist to me.

Ilja, you say:

"And do you realize, that the suicide bombings are not directed towards your christian nation, but mostly kill people of other nations (Iraqi, Palestinians, etc.). Have you ever thought that their might be a political reason for the terror?"

I would say that it's impossible to disentangle religion and politics here. Of course there are political reasons for terrorism, and I agree that the United States has done, and continues to do, an abysmal job trying to be policeman for the world. But religion certainly plays a part as well, as an ultimate justification for many people, on all sides, to demonize the enemy.

Masterjedidan, you say (of Bush):

"Besides, he's not having sex with other people and then lying about it in court."

At the risk of getting involved in a conservative-liberal mudslinging, I would only repeat: Clinton lied- Nobody died. How can Clinton's fling with Monica rate on any scale of human value compared to starting a war on false premises which has killed more than half a million people?

Ilja said...

@ zilch

Sure, although i see more political reasons for the “war on terror” than religious ones. But, on the other hand, we are talking about a country that has “In god we trust” on its currency. And the US seems not to have a general problem with Muslims, since they are doing business with the Saudis just fine.

@ MJD

The quotes were not to test your knowledge, but to remind you, what your religion is all about, which ever you prefer…

So you recognize that what the television shows us about what’s happening in the world today is FUD, but take a book with stories from millennia ago for a fact? Interesting. The people in the olden days had no reason to make up stories, they were all honest and nice to each other, no?

And how many prophecies that have so convincingly come true are mentioned in any other source? If i’d write a book and put a prophecy into chapter 1, and two chapters later would write: “the prophecy was fulfilled just as predicted, every single detail of it”, would you believe me right away? Or first try to find a confirmation in an independent source (newspaper, book by another author not affiliated with me)? So what are those prophecies and what makes you think they are true other than the bible tells you so?

kitty said...

The way religion interacts with suicide bombings - as I see it - is that the people who organise it may be politically motivated but the religion enables them to find other people to blow themselves up, convince them that the motive is serving god, and promise that their destination is paradise (along with 72 virgins, or white grapes - whatever).

So people who are politically motivated can use religion and the religious in particular to add fuel to their cause.

Look at Hitler - (disputably) a catholic himself, he certainly used the catholic faith and the catholicism of the german people to further his cause.

Ilja said...

@ kitty

I have to disagree with you on the last paragraph, Hitler used Norse mythology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germanic_neopaganism). It’s still a religion in my books though (gods, afterlife), so your point is valid regardless.

But we have just fulfilled Godwin’s Law :)

Bible student said...

@zilch

“The one who sins is the one who will die.”--Ezekiel 18:4 (Today's New International Version)

Adam (and so his offspring) lost the gift of everlasting life, through disobedience. In Today's New International Version of the Bible Genesis 2:17 quotes God: "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die."

The immortal soul doctrine has it’s origin in Genesis 3:4: "You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman.”

Tell a lie often enough, and you could confuse even a great thinker, in Vienna.

Plato also pushed the idea that the body dies, yet the soul is lives on.

Hell is just bad-mouthing God. Who could love someone, who forever tortures imperfectly born people, for their imperfection?

The ruse has worked for years. Choose life!



@MasterJD

I always liked:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

and

“O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!”
So when he spoke to me I was strengthened, and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.”

and

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Ilja said...

@ Bible student

Nice, how you mention serpents as the manifestation of evil and the role model of the wise christian in the same posting. Irony at its best.

Warren said...

@MJD

While I'll agree that the soldiers we have volunteered to be a member of our armed forces, don't you think the greater percentage of them volunteered to protect this country? If that is the case how exactly are they doing that by attempting to foster democracy in Iraq? It seems to me that the governmental system of a foreign nation has little to do with the safety of this country. Not that that was the reason we started this war in the first place.

If you want the shiny happy view of the war watch Fox News, if you want the sad abysmal view of the war watch CNN. The reality lies somewhere in between, agenda setting is a reality of our conglomerated media, but if everyone in Iraq was happy we were there we wouldn't still be fighting would we?

kitty said...

@Ilja

That's an interesting one - apparently it's not just "slanderous websites" that mistranslate things...

On the Trail of Bogus Quotes

And here's a diary of a good little catholic girl

It's understandable that christian's wish to disown him, but there is at least some basis for thinking he was a catholic. But true - either way, it's a religion.

And yeah - oops ;-) sadly it's the only bit of history I know anything much about.

Molly said...

@ MGD

Have you been to Iraq and talked to the people there? No? Then your opinion is equally as invalid.

Also, did you miss that whole "stop loss" program where soliders may not be allowed to leave the military when their time is up? Sounds like we're forcing them to stay there to me.

Thirdly, Bush lied about WMDs. He lied about NSA wiretapping. He can't even figure out what "victory" in Iraq means. Does GITMO ring any bells? All presidents, not just the ones at war, are made fun of. It comes with the territory, sure. Bush just happens to be doing an exceptionally bad job.

Ilja said...

@ kitty

I take back my words about Norse mythology and Hitler. It’s popular among todays’s neo-nazis, and original Nazi organizations used Norse runes, but that’s about it. There are known cases of neopagans being persecuted in Nazi Germany, and Hitler’s party has endorsed “positive Christianity.” So what you’ve said is correct, and also the sites you’ve quoted.

Sorry for the confusion :)

zilch said...

Hmmm... Bible student, I must admit I'm still confused. You say:

"Hell is just bad-mouthing God. Who could love someone, who forever tortures imperfectly born people, for their imperfection?

The ruse has worked for years. Choose life!"

So you're saying that there is no eternal damnation for us sinners? That's a load off my chest- but lots of Christians would beg to differ with you. How is a poor atheist to know which of you is right?

And by the way- I do choose life.

About Hitler- while I'm no expert, I do live in his homeland, and I've listened to several of his speeches and read a fair amount of his writings. The question of his religious belief, or lack of it, is of course contentious. The feeling I have is that Hitler utilized Christianity, and Pagan beliefs, in much the same way that he used military pomp and Wagner: as tools for achieving power. This is not to say that he didn't believe in them too- the most successful demagogues, religious and otherwise, often believe what they say.

Wil said...

@BS

“The Bible is written in such a way that those who are not truly seeking God or who have no genuine faith in God, are induced to ‘show their true colors.’ It leaves those not wanting to serve God a ‘way out,’ an excuse to find fault, if this is their desire. The bible fulfills a purpose of God in causing persons, both proud ones and humble ones, to reveal what is in their hearts.”


Consider:
"The Bible is written in such a way that those who are truly seeking a quick answer or who have no genuine faith in themselves, are induced to ‘show their true colors.’ It leaves those not wanting to serve themselves a ‘way out,’ an excuse to avoid fault, if this is their desire. The bible fulfills the creation of a false deity in causing persons, both proud ones and humble ones, to reveal the desperate need for meaning in their hearts."


It's all opinion. The two are a paradox, each proving the other.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

In your first post you listed other distinguished works. Each no doubt, studied for their value. You might approach the Bible in the same way. It worked for me.

I’ve described myself as a sceptic. Cautiously, find someone in your neighborhood, who will look at the Bible from the viewpoint of common sense and reason.

Anyone can follow blindly, that you make up your mind along with your heart, is quite satisfying.

Keep up the good attitude.

@ Wil

You lost me. I’ve never taken a psychology class and this is probably why. I say, “whatever floats your boat.”

Ilja said...

@ Bible student:

A quote from a posting of yours above:
“The evidence I rely on is spiritual.” (1Co 3:18, 19)

That’s the point, bible and common sense/reason are mutually exclusive. Bible requires you to believe without giving proof, and proof is the basis of common-sense thinking. Otherwise anyone can state whatever they want and require people to believe just because. As bible/religions/churches do from the day one.

Sorry for you, that you have to live in these times where more people rely on science than on blind faith, but maybe science has the better explanations to offer for those who are really wanting to understand, instead of being satisfied with the shortest answer possible. I’ll give you a parable on that:

---
Imagine, a man finds a cookie on his diner table, and he is amazed by its beauty and taste, but he has no idea, what it is, how it came to be and how it ended up there. So he goes around and asks other people, and one of them says:

“It is the work of the almighty god. After he was done creating life, the universe and everything, he decided to create a cookie. And he saw that it was good, and so he shared it with humans. Praise the Lord for his eternal goodness, so we can now can enjoy cookies!”

Then a baker comes along and says:

“Ah, that’s a cookie, I can teach you to bake them. You’ll need some flour, and water, sugar, some spices, then you make the dough and do this, and that, then put it into the oven, but be careful not to leave it there for too long, because it’ll get burnt otherwise. But with some practice you’ll eventually get it, and then you can make cookies whenever you wish.”

But our hero thinks to himself:

“Man, that just can’t be it, that’s too complicated to be true, and how can this manifestation of beauty and deliciousness be made of such simple things as flour and water? What the first guy has said got to be the truth, because it’s so short and simple, yet it explains everything. And from now on I’ll praise the lord for his eternal goodness that i see here before my eyes in this very cookie.”
---

To make it clear, the “praise the lord”-guy is a typical “praise the lord”-guy, and the baker is a metaphor for a scientist, or anybody, who relies on common sense. And though i may be wrong, but i’d rather say, you are more the “praise the lord”-guy in this parable than the baker-guy. Although the latter, as most of us know, did in fact give the correct answer.

zilch said...

@Bible student- I've read the "Origin of Species", the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and the "Book of Mormon" (well- maybe I skipped around a bit here). While I would certainly characterize the "Origin" as "distinguished", seeing as it set into motion a revolution in science, I wouldn't say the same of the other two: the "Protocols" is an antisemitic hoax which is still widely believed in the Arab world and even by some in the West, and the Book of Mormon is a work of fantasy, not nearly as interesting or well written as the Bible (sort of like "The Sword of Shannara" compared to "The Lord of the Rings").

And the Bible? I've read through the whole thing once, and several parts of it many times (my favorite book is "Ecclesiastes"). It's a fascinating document, with lots of hard-won wisdom which is still useful today. It's also, unsurprisingly given its provenance, brutal, simpleminded, and full of misconceptions.

The Bible is certainly worthy of study. It is an integral part of Western culture, and was a heartfelt attempt by our predecessors to make sense of a complex world and to devise a set of rules to build societies. A large part of the success of our civilization, for good and ill, is because of belief in the Bible.

This doesn't mean that it's true, however. And now that we don't see gods behind every thundercloud throwing bolts of lightning, we might also realize that there's no Big Guy in the Sky either: we have to decide for ourselves what we want.

zilch said...

Oh, and ilja- my son Adam bakes a mean cookie. Does that mean that he's God? :lol:

Wil said...

@BS

"You lost me. I’ve never taken a psychology class and this is probably why. I say, “whatever floats your boat.”"

Nor have I. It's not psychology though, it's a matter of understanding.

@Ilja

your post made me go get a cookie =P

Bible student said...

@ zilch

I was curious, what you call a misconception in the Bible. Something that you disagree with or that Bible writer misunderstood.

Are you arguing that every reference to God, in a book about God, makes it “full of misconceptions.” Please explain.


@ Wil

Spoken like a true believer.

I wouldn’t have stayed in that church either, if I had no genuine faith in myself. I’ve found the internet much more satisfying when I need a quick answer.

Where I did attend, most did not want to serve themselves, so they daydreamed or slept in view of the creation of a false deity which was in desperate need for meaning.

Understand?


@ Ilja

We believe in bakers, and we have been shown that man makes a mess of governing himself.

Direction from a higher source, seems to be working better, at least from my standpoint.

Considering these reasons, common sense dictates that I continue my present course.

Blind faith isn’t the worship that my God deserves. How do I know? It‘s in there. (Romans 12:1)

Wil said...

@BS

I'm not sure you're even on the same topic as me anymore...

I understand what you're saying, but on terms of relevance even the term 'tangent' is a massive understatement.

And I'm far from a 'believer' ;)

zilch said...

@ Bible student- of course, as an atheist, I believe that all the references to God do make the Bible a work of fiction.

But you don't have to be an atheist to see that there are lots ofmistakes in the Bible. I'm sure you've heard all these before, and they are explained better than I can do elsewhere. I'll just mention that the account of the Creation in Genesis doesn't jibe with our modern scientific understanding of astronomy, geology, and biology. Even if we grant millions of years for each "day" as the OEC's do, the order is still wrong. Starting right at the beginning (I hope the KJV is okay with you- it's still my favorite translation):

1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Here we clearly have the Earth, and water, created before there was light. This is simply wrong. There has been light for nearly the entire age of the Universe, around 14 billion years. The Earth is "only" about 4.5 billion years old.

And the chronological mistakes go on- grasses before the Sun and Moon, birds before any other land animal, fruit trees before life in the water, and so forth. All wrong.

Of course, many Christians say that Genesis is allegorical and not to be taken literally. But if this is so, how can we know what to take literally, and what is myth? How can we trust a book said to be the Word of God that is riddled with mistakes?

Bible student said...

@ Wil

Just an experiment.

I used the phrases, that you inserted into “the paragraph” to form another, to see if it was confusing.

I wouldn’t have stayed in that church either, if I had “no genuine faith in myself.” I’ve found the internet much more satisfying when I “need a quick answer“.

Where I did attend, most “did not want to serve themselves“, so they daydreamed or slept in view of “the creation of a false deity” which was in “desperate need for meaning.”

It worked. Or is this a paradox?

Bible student said...

@ zilch

Though the Bible is not a science book, creation is presented in the proper order.

Stop me if you disagree.

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Stars, our sun and moon and the earth can all be included in that statement.

You said, “Here we clearly have the Earth, and water, created before there was light.” about:
Genesis 1:2,3 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Most science models of the early earth include overcast, whether from volcanic ash or greenhouse gasses, that surely would have obscured the sun and moon.

I found a description of the current conditions on the surface of Venus at www.answers.com/topic/venus

Because its cloud layer reflects to space about 75% of the incident sunlight, Venus actually absorbs less solar energy than does the Earth. Rather, the high temperature is the result of a very efficient greenhouse effect that allows a small but significant fraction of the incident sunlight to penetrate to the surface (about 2.5%), but prevents all except a negligible fraction of the heat generated by the surface from escaping directly to space.

Warm and dark, to this day the only way to “see” the terrain of that planet is with radar.

Anyway, as the overcast lessened over the millenniums, photosynthesis would be possible, even before the luminaries were visible in the sky. So “grasses before the Sun and Moon” is quite possible. (Genesis 1:11,14)

The Hebrew words are different too. Ohr for light in Genesis 1:3 and maohr for source of light at Genesis 1:14.

As to, “fruit trees before life in the water”
I wonder, if vegetation is necessary to feed the animals, how does it reproduce except by fruit.

If the Bible is incorrect, it can’t be trusted.
If the student is incorrect, he can learn.

Feel free to list more misconceptions, I enjoy the research.

Ilja said...

@ Bible student

“If the Bible is incorrect, it can’t be trusted.”

If the bible gets some basic facts right, that doesn’t mean the whole load of mystical pseudo-truths is necessarily correct. Give me some quotes about continental drift, the basic structure of the solar system (its solar centric nature would suffice), electricity, cells as the building blocks of living tissue and any other method of dealing with diseases, other than prayer, first.

And, contrary to what bible says, the male sex is much less probable to have been created first, because females contribute to each new living being to about 99%. Compare the size of an egg cell to a sperm cell, and the time each of the parents is actively investing into the development of the embryo? 5 minutes vs. 9 months, maybe? Males are just a tool to make sexual reproduction with all of its benefits (which i’ve already laid out earlier) possible. There are examples of species where females are capable to reproduce without the need for males. And Virgin Mary is the best known example of the same phenomenon occurring among humans as well. ;)

Bible student said...

@ Ilja

The Bible describes itself at 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” (American Standard Version)

I’ll repeat, the Bible is not a science book, but it is scientifically accurate.

Job 26:7 & Isaiah 40:22 talk about the earth's place in the solar system.

Infection and quarantine are discussed at Leviticus 13:52 & Leviticus 13:46, respectively.

Disease prevention at Deuteronomy 23:12, 13.

I think Psalm 104:6, 8 are speaking of plate tectonics.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/

If the Bible doesn’t cover your topic, stick around. Since we use such a small percentage of our brain, the answers may be obvious once we are returned to the perfection Adam was given. Until then there is no prohibition of science found in the Bible.

An observation that zilch made, was that the Bible was simpleminded, considering these subjects, that view may be unfounded.

Oh, maybe Mary had Japanese doctors. ;-)

Ilja said...

@ BS

That Psalm quote doesn’t say anything about continental drift, as far as i can tell. Otherwise, if this fact was already stated in the bible, would we have to wait until it was discovered in 1913 by a man (Alfred Wegener), who simply went there and did the physical job of collecting evidence?

Where’s that quote about planets, or Earth rotating around the sun?

Deuteronomy 23:12-13: come on, to “relieve yourself” “outside the camp”, “dig a hole and cover up your excrement” is not exactly the type of knowledge you need a god to pass to you, do you?

Btw, you are using the same passages as those “slanderous websites” (your own words) i've already quoted as poor examples of so-called scientific proof of the bible. Changed your mind already?

And what makes you think that “we use such a small percentage of our brain”? Where’s the quote to support that? Or do you have practical evidence? 90% of the brain tissue removed, subject shows no signs of change in behaviour? Utter nonsense. Take a fMRI scan and look at the results.

Bible student said...

@ Ilja

Oops, science changed, again. I was relying on old information about the brain.

Despite it’s ever evolving state, science is not proving the Bible wrong. As a matter of fact, as man finds out more through science, he keeps on proving what some have taken on faith, for centuries.

If your reason for disregarding the Bible is a scripture not found, I will continue searching and e-mail you, if you allow.

Ilja said...

@ BS

Thanks, but no, thanks. As i already said, i’ve actually been reading the bible for quite a long time and know enough of it to make the conscious decision not to take it for divine truth, but stories of old times when people knew little about the world and were superstitious. I've been there, believed in god and Christ, but the bible could never give my satisfying answers. Science did. Dealing with real people living here today did. Actively searching for answers in the outside world did. Looking inside myself did. And not a trace of god anywhere to be seen.

So no, save you the work of trying to convince me to give up my world view, i’ve tried religion before and my own experience led me to abandon it. There’s nothing it can offer me i don’t already have.

Bible student said...

@ Ilja

Your arrogance is showing, you’ve just called our ancestor’s society, more backward and superstitious than ours. They might find us crass, in the distance we keep, from each other. I did a little unscientific research, with yahoo yellow pages, and found 19 fortune tellers, within a 10 mile radius of my home. Between the religious and those that trust fate, that’s a lot of superstition.

There have been and will always be, at least a few with a deep love of the truth. You may find that in science and self, but reject the Bible. I find it in the Bible and science, only to shun organized religion.

I found another bit of philosophy, this time on truth.

“Truth, like a modest little flower in the wilderness of life, is surrounded and almost choked by the luxuriant growth of the weeds of error. If you would find it you must be ever on the lookout. If you would see its beauty you must brush aside the weeds of error and the brambles of bigotry. If you would possess it you must stoop to get it. Be not content with one flower of truth. Had one been sufficient there would have been no more. Gather ever, seek for more.”

zilch said...

Doesn't wash, bible student. You say:

"Anyway, as the overcast lessened over the millenniums, photosynthesis would be possible, even before the luminaries were visible in the sky. So “grasses before the Sun and Moon” is quite possible."

Hmmm. Leaving aside the fact that the atmosphere of Venus is 97% CO2, not comparable to Earth's atmosphere at any stage, Genesis doesn't say that "God allowed the Sun and Moon to be seen through the haze, by all the animals He hadn't created yet, on Day Four", but that He created the two great lights (or luminaries) and set them in the firmament (or vault of heaven) on Day Four. It would take a very great stretch of poetic license to say that "creation" means "making visible to creatures not yet created" if you ask me.

By the way- an interesting fact perhaps not know to fundamentalists: Early in the Earth's history it was struck by a Mars-sized object, breaking off a large chunk which went into orbit around the Earth. It's still there, and it's called the Moon. Of course, this happened long after the Sun was "created", and long before there was any liquid water on the Earth to make seas, not to mention life, so it's another chronological error in Genesis.

Moving along- the fruit trees and grasses created on Day Three, before any life in the water was created, were on land, according to Genesis 1:11 (Hebrew 'erets, also translated as earth, country, ground, field...). But there were no trees or grasses on land before there was life in the water, by a few billion years. No room for wiggling here. Wrong.

And so on, as I said. I'll stick with my characterization of the Bible as being "simpleminded". Let's just look at your Psalm verse (104:6-8) supposedly referring to plate tectonics:

6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.

Huh? How can this by any stretch of the imagination be construed to be about plate tectonics? It's just talking about God sending the waters this way and that, presumably a recapitulation of the Creation story in Genesis where He parts the waters and allows the land to appear on the third day. This has nothing to do with the motion of tectonic plates. In fact, if we go back one verse in this Psalm we have:

5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

"Earth" in Hebrew ('erets, which we have had already in Genesis) can mean the whole earth, or "land", "piece of ground", etc. And "removed" (mowt) is variously translated as "move", "shake", "slip", and "dislodge".

So while I presume (not that I'm a Bible scholar) that the most probable meaning of Psalm 104:5 is something like the usual geocentric affirmation that the Earth does not move (another mistake occurring over and over in the Bible), a good case could be made claiming that it means something like "the pieces of ground (i.e. continents) shall never be dislodged". In other words, that plate tectonics is impossible. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all if I learned that Alfred Wegener had this verse quoted at him as disproof of his theory of plate tectonics.

If you are allowed to pick and choose and interpret as you will, looking for meanings you already know, you can find just about anything you want in the Bible, or in any long poetical text for that matter. That doesn't say anything about science, however.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

You and I have the advantage of living after Galileo used his telescope to help explain the moon and planets. To early man, if it wasn’t on the earth it was in the heavens. (Even “birds of the heavens.”)

Again:

“1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Stars, our sun and moon and the earth can all be included in that statement.”

From the viewpoint of person on earth, these lights would not have been invisible through overcast. I guess it would be like trying to see the sun standing on Venus’ surface.

I would figure that photosynthesis wouldn’t stop at the waters edge, and long before any thing as large as a sea monster (whale, squid etc.) could live, plants would grow offshore.

Psalms 104:5 Natural law seems to have kept “the whole earth” in place. (no switching with Venus and Mars)

Evidence of Psalm 104:6 & 8 are in the fossils of sea creatures at high elevations.

Chinese: http://english.people.com.cn/english/200101/19/eng20010119_60887.html

USDA Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/gwj/resource_management/geology/fossils.shtml

I don’t thing that’s from osmosis.

A simpleminded attitude is recommended at Matthew 18:4. Compared with many adults, children are more teachable and not as prone to pride.

zilch said...

@ bible student: you say

"You and I have the advantage of living after Galileo used his telescope to help explain the moon and planets. To early man, if it wasn’t on the earth it was in the heavens."

Indeed, and it's exactly this advantage that shows us where the Bible is wrong. We can't blame early man for not knowing about the moon and the planets, or about the development of life on Earth. But we might expect God to know something about these things. If the Bible is the Word of God, although we can grant leeway to Him to use words and concepts familiar to the people He's talking to, we should also expect that there are no glaring errors in His Book. But there are lots of them, as I have pointed out.

You haven't really addressed my points at all. How can you interpret "creation" to mean "clearing the haze"? This is of course ignoring the fact that there's no evidence that the atmosphere of the Earth was so obscured until after the appearance of grasses and trees that the Sun and Moon would not have been visible. Venus is not comparable, as I said.

And what about trees and grasses appearing before life in the water? As I said, this is way off, and there's no way I can see to twist a different meaning out of this. By the way, since I'm not fluent in Hebrew, I've been relying on the the Linked Word Project, a great resource for understanding the Bible better.

About Psalms 104:5- as I said, I'm no Bible scholar, but I don't see why your interpretation, that the Earth shall not change places with Venus or Mars, is any better than mine, that the continents shall not drift. Who can say what is meant here, if anything?

And that's the problem with trying to find science in the Bible. While the meaning of many Bible statements is clear enough to say whether they are right or wrong- say, the order of creation in Genesis- many others are so poetically or vaguely formulated that they will support just about any interpretation. As the physicist Wolfgang Pauli once said of a paper on physics, "It's not even wrong". Trying to find Biblical descriptions of continental drift is like finding coded messages predicting 9/11: if you know what you want to find, the text is big and flexible enough so that you will find what you want. In fact, Jesus agrees with me:

"Ask, and it shall be be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"

Bible student, you are right in saying that we are still superstitious, and I would agree that we have no right to feel superior to our predecessors. We're no smarter than they were, so there's no reason to be proud. I shouldn't have said that the Bible, or its authors, were "simpleminded". What I meant was what you already said: we have the benefit of thousands of years of learning about the world.

And as I've said, there's lots of hard-won wisdom in the Bible too. It's just not the Word of God.

zilch said...

Oh, and another thing. Bible student, you say

"Evidence of Psalm 104:6 & 8 are in the fossils of sea creatures at high elevations."

But in your previous post, you said that the same Psalm verses were a description of plate tectonics. Which is it? It can't be both the subsiding waters of the Deluge and continental drift.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

I think you’re getting lost in the old English. The New Life Version renders it,

6 You covered it with the sea as with a coat. The waters stood above the mountains.

7 The waters left at Your strong words. They went away in a hurry at the sound of Your thunder.

8 The mountains went up and the valleys went down to the place that You made for them.

Plate tectonics.

See also, http://www.visionlearning.com/library/module_viewer.php?mid=65

Deluge is after man’s creation. Mountain building started much earlier.

zilch said...

Bible student- sorry, it's still not plate tectonics, unless you exercise a great deal of wishful thinking. Mountains go up and valleys go down without plate tectonics as well- volcanoes build up and rivers dig down whether there's continental drift or not. Now, if verse 8 had said something like:

"The great lands, riding on fiery rocks, slid into one another, pushing up mountains where they met"

that would have been more impressive.

As it is, however, the New Life Version is a minority view of the meaning of these verses. Most other translations I found say that the waters already mentioned go up the mountains and down the valleys, not that the mountains and valleys go up and down. That's the way it seems to read to me too. But who knows? The Hebrew is pretty ambiguous- check it out for yourself.

There's also debate about whether these waters are part of the Creation story, or perhaps part of the Flood story. If they are part of the Creation story, then they would seem to be describing the third day, when God gathered the waters under Heaven in one place and made the dry land appear. If this is so, there weren't any fish yet to leave fossils on the mountaintops. But perhaps the Psalm means something else.

In any case, even if we accept the New Life Version translation and accept that continental drift does indeed make mountains go up and valleys go down, all that means is that we've got one Bible verse that does not conflict with science. But it is not by any stretch of the imagination a description of plate tectonics- as ilja said, why did we have to wait for Wegener if Psalm 104 already gave us a scientific description of plate tectonics?

The problem is as I said: claims about modern scientific discoveries being foreshadowed in the Bible rest upon very biased readings of very vague texts with very little information content. If your standards for a match between a cherry-picked Bible verse and some truth of modern science are low enough, you can prove anything.

Indeed, Jack Chick once posed the question in one of his evangelizing comic books (and I've found this notion here as well): how is it that protons stay together in atomic nuclei, when they should repel one another, being all positive? The answer is not residual nuclear force, oh no, but rather Jesus (who must be a very busy fellow):

"By Him are all things held together" - Collosians 1:17

Bible student said...

@ zilch

So with all that said, the Bible does not seem to be "full of misconceptions." It can be debated, have consensus formed on certain verses, read like poetry rather than be "impressive." Even be badly translated.

My Bible speaks of Christ at Colossians 1:17, "Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist,"

With that much know-how, it’s no wonder that science is not disproving the Bible.

zilch said...

@ bible student. You say

"My Bible speaks of Christ at Colossians 1:17, "Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist,"

With that much know-how, it’s no wonder that science is not disproving the Bible."

At the risk of beating a dead horse: what know-how? Although science cannot "disprove" the whole Bible, and in fact parts of it are likely to be more or less true, there are also lots of errors, as I have pointed out.

If, by "know-how", you mean the claim that Christ is "before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist", all I can say is: prove it.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

If the “errors” you have pointed out had validity, I would change my tune. There is no bad science in the Bible. “More or less true” is like “a little bit pregnant.” We have gone from “full of misconceptions” to what, not sure?

Bible student said...

@ zilch

It’s an odd old saying, but I’ll use it. "The proof of the pudding is the eating."

The science books of our day need correction. This old book holds up under scrutiny.

Long before Bible study, I was taught, "consider the source." You may have helped me prove that scripture at Colossians 1:17.

zilch said...

@ bible student:

You say:

" “More or less true” is like “a little bit pregnant.” We have gone from “full of misconceptions” to what, not sure?"

There's no conflict here: a book can be full of misconceptions and still have parts that are true. For instance: many of the peoples and places mentioned in the Bible are real, and many of the battles mentioned probably did take place. But as I said, lots of things are not true. One example you haven't addressed is the creation of grasses and trees on land before any life in the water, which is in clear conflict with science.

Another example of a work with a mixture of truth and falsehood: while most of the Origin of Species is true, there are some errors. For example: Darwin knew nothing about genes, and his speculations about how inheritance works were wildly off. But his basic ideas were sound, and are the basis for the modern understanding of evolution. Darwin, not being a god but rather a humble and curious scientist, would have been the first to rejoice at the clearing up of his mistakes.

There are cases where the truth or falsity of something is comparable to being pregnant: that is, either one or the other, not in between. One case is simple statements in circumscribed systems of formal logic, such as mathematics: 2+2=4 is either true or false.

Another case is sacred texts. For many Christians, and other religious fundamentalists as well, their Word of God is either wholly true or not. However, as I've said, to ascertain the truth of a text such as the Bible, which is largely poetic, vague, and subject to myriad translations, is a dubious enterprise at best.

Going on- you say:

"It’s an odd old saying, but I’ll use it. "The proof of the pudding is the eating."

The science books of our day need correction. This old book holds up under scrutiny."

Nothing odd about the old saying. Jesus said it too: by their fruits shall ye know them. You do know that "proof" here is the older meaning of "test".

Science books need correction all the time, by definition: science is always under scrutiny; nothing in science is sacred. Our picture of the world is always improving, but never perfect. The "old book" is not perfect either; it does not hold up under scrutiny, or there would be far fewer atheists. The difference is, the Bible is never corrected- unless you count newer religions based on it, such as Islam and Mormonism, to be "corrections", as many do.

Bible student said...

@ zilch

Maybe you missed my post:

“I would figure that photosynthesis wouldn’t stop at the waters edge, and long before any thing as large as a sea monster (whale, squid etc.) could live, plants would grow offshore.”

“Life in the water” needs food, so plants before animals. I looked again, and can’t find the verse prohibiting plant life in the water. I doubt that the first sea creatures got out for lunch.


You say that because your kind doesn’t understand, the information is flawed?

You sound bashful or like you have given up. It’s not a “dubious enterprise” to those who make the effort.

I’m not looking for consensus. Jesus also taught at Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction, and many are they who enter in through it. For narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life, and they are few who find it.” Lots of people have been mistaken about many things over the centuries. I’ll stick with truth, rather than popular opinion.

zilch said...

@ bible student- if you need to find a verse "prohibiting" the creation of something not mentioned in Genesis, you might as well quit looking and go fishing, because then anything goes.

For instance, if I asked you how kangaroos got to Australia from the Ark, which is a real stumper because they couldn't have swum the hundreds of miles of open ocean, you could reply:

"Well, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that Noah didn't put them on a raft with the koalas and goannas, and they paddled to Australia with their powerful tails".

Do you see the problem here?

DHeaps said...

@MJD

There were various people who were selected as "witnesses" to the golden plates. Even though a few left the church due to many reasons, they never denied their testimonies of the plates or of Joseph Smith.

Monty said...

As a Mormon, there's not much I disagree with. There is one point I want to clarify: Jesus came to the Americas after the resurrection and the 40 day sojourn with the Apostles in Jerusalem. Just wanted to point that out.