Month: November 2014

Samson stars in an epic “tail”

samson_15_19Judges 15:3-5

3 Samson said to them, “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them.” 4 So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails, 5 lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines. He burned up the shocks and standing grain, together with the vineyards and olive groves.

Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and therefore that almost every account is a true historical record end up in a straitjacket of silliness. Recently I had an encounter with an inerrantist and decided to press the point of how silly taking mythology as historical record can be.

The discussion I had was over the story of Samson tying 300 foxes’ tails together with a torch between each pair of tails. I asked the inerrantist if he believed that this story was a true historical account and really happened. He said yes. I asked what would be the logistics of such a venture? How were the foxes caught? Where were they housed prior to the tail tying adventure? What’s involved in holding the foxes to hold still during the tying procedure? And then how long would it take to attach the 150 torches between the tails and light them? Was the first still burning with the 150th was lit? And then how did he direct them to the “standing grain of the Philistines?” The inerrantist said he didn’t know the details but had no doubt it happened.

For a modern person in today’s high-tech society to believe this story as literal history seems to me to be incomprehensible. The lengths that believers will go to to maintain their beliefs can be truly astounding. As Robert M Price likes to say on The Bible Geek podcast, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to believe.”

UPDATE: darkmatter2525 just happened to release a cartoon of this fox tail-tying episode on youtube.

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It is immoral for Christians to have children

hell_quote_3If hell is real, then avoiding it is all we should be concerned with in life. All other forms of human endeavor pale in comparison to everlasting torture. I don’t think Christians realize how long eternity is. I like to think of it by these two descriptions of big numbers. The first is Graham’s number which is said to be the largest number ever used in a calculation. The second is a quote from “Immortality” by Stephen Cave.

“Forever is not just a long time – it is much, much more than that. A million years is a long time. A million million even longer. But if I filled this book with a million zeroes, then wrote a million more books just like it, that number would not be halfway to the length of eternity. Or even a millionth of the way there. For no matter how long you lived, how many millions or trillions of years, that would still be a tiny fraction of the infinite life still ahead of you. An infinitely tiny fraction. That is an awesome prospect.”

One of the reasons that evolution is still controversial for Christians, I believe, is that it’s easier to believe that God poofed everything into existence exactly as we see it than to comprehend the enormity of what gradual change over a billion years looks like when we most of us barely reach 80. We throw around “eternal” reward or punishment without thinking of the length of time that represents.

I can’t comprehend these vast numbers any easier than a Christian can – we are both still human. But what I do know if that if it existed and eternal torture was a possibility, then as I say above, this should envelop all of our thinking. This is one reason atheists should be sympathetic to Christians trying to convert them. At least they are concerned about your pending eternal torture.

So let’s assume hell exists and disbelief sends you there and see where that leads logically. First, anyone who has children is risking them going to hell. In spite of your best indoctrination, if they look at the lack of evidence, they might just end up becoming an atheist which would doom them to hell. Even the most infinitesimal chance isn’t worth the risk of eternal damnation. And knowing this and still having children is immoral.

There is a branch of Christianity called “Calvinism” which includes a belief in predestination which states that God decides human eternal destination before they are born (or conceived). I think if you believe in an omniscient God (one who knows everything in the future) and who has planned everything in advance, that the only justifiable argument is predestination. So given that, it’s immoral not to use birth control or if birth control isn’t available, it’s immoral to have heterosexual sex. Don’t risk conception at all. Because even your miscarriage might result in that person being eternally damned. The only logical option is to go extinct as a species. Leave earth for those without souls. Mass extinction is the best case scenario for humanity under Calvinism. It’s the only apparent way to limit inhabitants of God’s torture chamber.

But let’s assume Calvinism isn’t true but that there is an “age of accountability” at which a child becomes responsible for their actions and thus subject to eternal reward or punishment. Apparently, Catholic’s believe the age of accountability is 7. Well here’s where you get into the really hideous implications of religious dogma. The best logical thing you can do is murder your own children before the age of accountability. Think about it, they have this short life by any measure here on earth and face eternal torture in the afterlife (and look at those large number links above to get a taste of how long that is).

So someone like Andrea Yates who drowned her five children was doing a good thing:

She told her jail psychiatrist: “It was the seventh deadly sin. My children weren’t righteous. They stumbled because I was evil. The way I was raising them, they could never be saved. They were doomed to perish in the fires of hell.” She also told her jail psychiatrist that Satan influenced her children and made them more disobedient.

Now you might think I’m going out on a limb and being ridiculous with this line of thinking but listen to what a top Christian apologist William Lane Craig of ReasonableFaith.org says in defending God’s command to kill all who breathed in the Old Testament.

If Calvinism isn’t true but there is an age of accountability and God’s genocide sends children to heaven, then the absolute best thing you can do is get pregnant as many times as possible and abort all the pregnancies. This makes your uterus a launchpad to heaven. It’s the only sure-fire way to make sure that your offspring will get to heaven and avoid jail by murdering your less than 7 year old children.

To reiterate, I think this line of thinking is despicable but for me it’s the natural logical course given 2 supposed truths: (1) that hell exists and is eternal conscious torture and disbelief sends you there and (2) that God’s commands of genocide of children in the Old Testament were a beeline to heaven.

If this is God’s plan, what makes him good and Satan evil? What a monstrous concept this hell idea is. If there are god(s), thank them that Yahweh is myth and his torture chamber doesn’t exist.

Pharoah so-and-so

2000px-Pharaoh.svgAlthough we are told by Christians that the Bible is not only inerrant but it’s a perfect historical account, try looking for corroborating evidence. It’s almost impossible to find for most of the scriptures. After awhile you start to wonder if it’s intentionally fuzzy so it can’t be corroborated. Or maybe the writers were simply making up their own history. How could they possibly know that 3,000 years later, we would have the technology to look back over history and find the gaps in their stories.

Case in point, when you are reading about the Pharaoh’s of Egypt in the Bible, you almost never know who they are. They are simply called “Pharaoh.” It would be as if the Bible was written now and President Obama was holding Jewish slaves and Moses wrote about him as, “And then I told President that Yahweh demands you let his people go.” And President responded, “Never!”

When I was a child being told these stories of the Pharaohs, I just remember thinking they were exciting stories. The killings, the plagues, the escape from Egypt. It didn’t occur to me until I was an adult that they almost never use the Pharaoh’s actual names.

If you research the issue, apologists have tried to line up who would have been Pharaoh at the time with when they think the Bible was written. But then you might also find that there is really no archaeological evidence for the massive Egyptian enslavement of the Israelites. Which I suspect is part of the reason the details are sketchy.

It would make the Bible more believable if there were secular sources that corroborated the Biblical accounts. The fact that there almost never are is a clue.

Does God have a nose?

Leviticus 1:9 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

How does God smell a sacrifice? Does he have a nose? And if so, is his nose omnipresent?
stinky-smelly-moisture-wicking-underwear
On sixteen different occasions in the book of Leviticus, an “aroma” is mentioned as something pleasing to the Lord. Specifically, the aroma of a sacrifice is important to God. So apparently God can smell and presumably has a nose. But where is his nose? Is his nose everywhere in the universe? Is it just on earth? Is it just wherever sacrifices to him are being burnt? Is he there with his nose in a physical way?

We know through scientific research that smells are a reaction in our brain to chemical stimuli caused by particles being intercepted in the nose. So by what means are particles interacting with God’s nose? Also, the transport mechanism we use to smell things is through the air. Presumably then God’s nose is similar to ours and could only smell things on planets with atmospheres so that limits the omnipresence of his nose. And then you have to ask, does he have lungs with which to inhale through his nose? And then what does he do outside our atmosphere? Does he hold his breath?

Does he limit his smelling capability to only burnt offerings? Does he avoid wastewater treatment plants? Does he smell everything at once the way he hears all the prayers at once?

Smell is a biological mechanism primarily used for survival on earth. Why would God use this mechanism? One one hand we are told that God is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless. That he’s the creator of the universe and so powerful and immense that mere disbelief in him is grounds for eternal torture. But on the other hand, he’s here on earth sniffing our barbecues.

Genesis 8:21 The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

God is not omniscient

Christians ascribe attributes to God that aren’t based on the Bible. He’s omni-*. He’s omniscient. He’s omnipresent. He’s omnipotent. Let’s focus on omniscience.

One of the claims of God’s omniscience is that he can see events for all time. However, the Bible doesn’t seem to me to make this claim and in fact argues against it in quite a few Bible passages.

Adam & Eve

Christians proclaim everything bad we see in the world is a result of “the fall.” God is helpless to stop evil in the world because humans have “free will.” When God created Adam and Eve, he seemed surprised when they ate the fruit from the forbidden tree. Didn’t he know they would do this before he created them?

The Genesis 3 passage in which God discovers Adam and Eve have eaten from the tree shows God to be on the same physical level as humans. He’s walking around the garden looking for them. He calls out, “Where are you?” He then seems not to know who told them they were naked. He then questions Eve, “What is this you have done?” Why did he have to ask?

Noah

nvub7The first question you have to ask yourself in the Noah’s ark story is when God created man, didn’t he know they would “fall?” As you see above with Adam and Eve, he didn’t know ahead of time they would eat the fruit and in Noah’s day, he was apparently surprised by the evil in the world. He had to put a stop to it and start again. But if Noah and his family were perfect in his eyes, why didn’t he create them first instead of Adam and Eve? After all, in this genocide of humanity, he’s starting fresh anyway.

After the flood, God creates rainbows to remind himself never to kill all of humanity again. He needs a reminder?

What was the point of the genocide if we are still sinning now anyway? Did he think it was going to solve something?

Sodom/Gomorrah

When God decided to kill Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pleads with him to spare the cities if he can find just 50 or 45 or 40 or 30 or 20 or 10 righteous individuals. Wouldn’t God know exactly how many there were at any moment in time?

Job

In the story of Job, Satan comes to God to chat apparently. During the conversation God asks Satan if he has taken note of Job and what a wonderful servant he is to God. Satan bets God that if Job loses everything he has, he will curse God. So God gives Satan permission to do anything he wants to his family and possessions but not to lay a finger on Job himself. In the end after Satan kills his family and servants and livestock, Job still worships God so God blesses him afterward. But didn’t God know what would happen before he made the bet? And furthermore, Satan should know all of God’s powers. Why would Satan make bets with an omniscient being?

On a side note, in the Bible God kills or orders killings of millions and millions of people. This is Satan’s only documented killing in the Bible and he did it in accordance to God’s wishes.

Abraham

In the story of Abraham and Isaac, God orders Abraham to sacrifice is son Isaac. Abraham goes through the motions ready to kill his son when an angel of the Lord appears and tells him to stop. God says to Abraham, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Didn’t he know this before?

Jesus

Whenever I hear Christians warning that Jesus is coming back (and warning is the right term if you aren’t a believer), I think about the fact that he’s been threatening to return since he was here the first time. So for 2,000 years, we’ve been waiting. 38% of Americans today think he’s coming back in the next 40 years. But here’s the rub. Jesus himself admits he doesn’t even know when he’s coming back. He says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

Not only doesn’t he know when he’s coming back, he thought he would come back before people standing with him were all dead. He said, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

There are many many more passages like these that show God and Jesus are not omniscient. And it’s logical to dismiss omniscience out of hand just by thinking about the size of the universe and how many particles there are. God would have to know everything about every particle for all eternity. Everything about the number of protons, neutrons, spin, quantum electrodynamics, etc. It’s just too much data. If you are going to believe in a god, the only thing that makes any sense to me is a first cause type of god who put rules into place and those rules play themselves out. It would be like a computer programmer who made a program with some rules and a mechanism for variation. He doesn’t know what will spin out of those rules. All he knows is the rules themselves. I’m not proposing such a being but at least it would match the evidence we see in the universe.

Omniscience is an impossible myth and even the Bible doesn’t propose it.

What year was Jesus born?

Christian Christmas Nativity SceneOne of the most fascinating things I’ve discovered about Jesus is that although he is arguably the most famous man who ever lived, there is nothing we know of him historically contemporaneously. Even most Christian apologists admit that Paul didn’t write his letters until the first century 50’s and the gospels are supposed to have been written in the late 60’s onward. There are no known contemporary writings of Jesus in historical documents or even Biblical documents. And the Biblical documents don’t assign dates to any events in Jesus’ life. Sure, they point to Matthew’s story of Herod and his massacre of the innocents. But Herod died in 4 BC and the massacre of the innocents is not documented in any historical writing and is only documented in 1 of the 4 canonized gospels. In Luke, they point to the historical episode of the census of Quirinius which points to a date of 6-7 AD. Of course, apologists twist themselves into knots to reconcile these accounts. But those apologetic knots never reconcile to an exact date and that’s my point. The death date is just as hard to nail down. You have to look for passover dates and earthquakes and sky darkening events. And the date of the crucifixion in relation to the passover is in question between the 3 synoptic gospels and the gospel of John.

So given this most famous man who ever lived, why do we know the birth dates and death dates of many less distinguished individuals but not Jesus? And in terms of current Christian theology, Christians believe Jesus came to earth as God incarnate to save us and Paul tells us that the way we become saved is fundamentally to “believe” in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection. They believe hellfire awaits those who don’t believe. But think closely about the system that God set up for us here. He forces us to believe in Jesus to be saved so he divinely conceived a system where he would come to earth as man at a time when we were still writing on parchment. He also setup the system so that not a single historian noticed all the miracles and crowds surrounding his human self. And if anyone did notice, no contemporary writings survived.

You might argue with me that God’s system has worked well and billions believe the story and that the Bible became one the most popular books in history. And that apparently God wants most people to burn in hell so this system aids in that goal. So kudos go to God for this system.

But my belief is that most Christians are unaware of the gap in historical evidence for Jesus at the time of their conversion and if they were it would raise an eyebrow about the validity of the story. I was raised Christian in a fundamentalist family and only came to understand the historical gap in the last couple of years. It is not well known in the Christian community or not publicized to the pew potatoes. Of course, for most believers, it really doesn’t matter to their faith. Many state very plainly that there is no evidence that could ever change their mind about their faith but that notion simply drives home the point that they didn’t come to their faith by evidence which is good because when it comes to Jesus’ historicity, there is no evidence.

The 100 Most Significant Figures in History

Born

Died

1 Jesus

?

?

2 Napoleon

Aug 15, 1769

May 5, 1821

3 Muhammad

570 AD

June 8, 632 AD

4 William Shakespeare

Apr 26, 1564

Apr 23, 1616

5 Abraham Lincoln

Feb 12, 1809

Apr 15, 1865

6 George Washington

Feb 22, 1732

Dec 14, 1799

7 Adolf Hitler

Apr 20, 1889

Apr 30, 1945

8 Aristotle

384 BC

322 BC

9 Alexander the Great

July 356 BC

June 323 BC

10 Thomas Jefferson

Apr 13, 1743

Jul 4, 1826

11 Henry VIII of England

Jun 28, 1491

Jan 28, 1547

12 Charles Darwin

Feb 12, 1809

Apr 19, 1882

13 Elizabeth I of England

Sep 7, 1533

Mar 24, 1603

14 Karl Marx

May 5, 1818

Mar 14, 1883

15 Julius Caesar

July 12, 100 BC

March 15, 44 BC

Evolution vs Christianity

evolutionFundamentalists don’t accept evolutionary theory. They believe that God created all the animals on earth. I think they are wrong because of the mountains of evidence supporting evolutionary theory but I have to give them credit for sticking to their guns. The Catholics accept evolutionary theory but I think it makes it really hard to believe the Bible or even be a theist once you accept evolutionary theory.

For one thing, the young earth fundamentalists avoid the questions that an old universe poses. After all, if a Christian accepts evolution and an old universe, they have to contend with God creating the mechanisms whose sole purpose is to produce humans who can worship Him and go to heaven or hell. But think about how long it takes. Assuming scientists are right, our visible universe is 13,700 million years old and the earth is 4,500 million years old. So you have to assume he kicked it into motion and then waited all that time. Furthermore, the estimate for the first simplest life on earth is 1,000 million years after formation. Then it is estimated the Cambrian period with first vertebrates was 525 million years ago. So that means that for almost 3,000 million years, there was only the simplest life on earth. And the first homo sapiens are estimated to have appeared only 200,000 years ago. That’s an awful lot of time to pass just to get to us. I know what you are thinking: For God, a day is like 1,000 years. But that’s because you’re a believer. It doesn’t strike me as logical. It strains credulity. After all, we are told that we are the most important thing in the universe to God and yet he setup this incredibly slow process to get to us. And it’s certainly not a straight line from the beginning of the universe to homo sapiens. A lot of twists and turns happened along the way.

But I think it gets worse for the evolution accepting Christians. Homo sapiens is just the latest great ape. When was the soul inserted? Did Neanderthal have a soul? Did Homo erectus have a soul? Homo habilis?  But the worst of it is you lose Adam and Eve as historical figures. I have heard some Christians say that Adam and Eve were inserted into the process or that some Homo sapiens couple represented Adam and Eve but it just doesn’t fit the evidence of our origin from earlier primates.

I believe that evolutionary theory is the best explanation for the progression of life. I can’t understand how Christians see the fossil record without a single fossil out of place chronologically and think Noah’s flood sorted them perfectly. But I also can’t see how one can accept evolution and theism at the same time so I understand why they reject evolution.