Author: Limbs Flailing

Did the species of “fish” that swallowed Jonah go extinct?

FRA 112711 Jonah and the Whale (oil on board) Aris, Fred (b.1934) (Contemporary Artist) FRED ARIS (CONTEMPORARY ARTIST), ,

FRA 112711
Jonah and the Whale (oil on board)
Aris, Fred (b.1934) (Contemporary Artist)
FRED ARIS (CONTEMPORARY ARTIST), ,

Anyone who’s ever been to Sunday School or read a Children’s Bible knows the story of Jonah (and the whale). If you’ve ever discussed this in church, you probably also know that Christians make a big deal about calling the whale a “fish” because that’s the terminology used in the King James version of the Bible.

Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17

So just to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt, what is the scientific consensus on the ability of a man to survive even 1 day in a fish or a whale?

Research reveals that there are no “fish” in our current classifications that could swallow men. But that a whale shark could fit you in it’s mouth but not into the esophagus. Sperm whales are the second category of “fish” large enough to capture a person but they have no air in their stomachs and have 4 chambers like a cow.

So I did find one apologetics site that found a sea creature that they claim could have swallowed a person but it existed 300 million years ago – before humans – but of course the Christians don’t accept evolutionary theory so if it’s in the fossil record, it existed with humans. When I started writing this, I actually thought that most of the apologetics arguments would be that a fish/whale existed at the time that could store a person in their stomach for 3 days but it had gone extinct. But their arguments are even worse than that. They range from basically God can do anything – he’s God! to a fish specifically created by God to swallow Jonah for this story.

The Christians are in a bind with this story because Jesus himself talked about it as having happened historically (Matthew 12:39-41, Luke 11:29-32) so if Jesus is to be believed, it has to be historical. It can’t be allegorical.

So interestingly, there is a lot of information to be gleaned from this great fish story. First, it’s clear that this is complete mythology in the character of any mythological story you might read about gods, goddesses, dragons, etc. And not only did it never happen historically but if Jesus thought it did, he wasn’t the omniscient God Christians think he is. Maybe he’s mythological too.

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Did any of the writers of the Bible own a calendar?

stunning-art-of-ancient-calendars-L-dFCA9MMany Christians today look to the Bible not only as a theological book but as a history book revealing God’s intrusion into our world. They quote the historical events involving Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt and Jesus and his many miracles around Galilee.

For believers, it’s easy enough to just take the Bible at face value and believe. The Bible is their history book and if no other history books corroborate the stories, that’s probably because the secular historians didn’t believe in miracles or God and thus suppressed the narratives. I actually don’t know the apologetic arguments for the non-existence of outsider corroboration but I know they have them.

For believers who decide to research the Bible as I finally did (with a skeptical eye this time), it would be a validation of some kind to find corroborating historical evidence backing up the Biblical “history,” at least in terms of who was where and when. Even without the miracle working, it would at least provide some backing to the stories and make them appear less purely mythological.

When I looked, I started to notice first that there are almost no names for the Pharaohs of Egypt. Their names are usually ‘Pharaoh’ in the Bible. It would be similar to writing an account of Obama now and just calling him ‘President.’

I started to look at the dates for Jesus and found their weren’t any. All the dates were inferences. The birth dates are estimated based on the only 2 gospels that discuss the birth of Jesus (Matthew and Luke and even they end up 10 years apart – 4 BC and 6 AD). None of the gospels give any dates for the crucifixion either. The dates there are estimated based on when Pontius Pilate was in power.

I also started looking more at the Old Testament and the Moses and Exodus stories. And there are no dates there either.

After awhile i started to ask myself the question: Why are there absolutely no hard dates in the Bible? Did the writers have and use calendars? I did a little research and of course they didn’t use the calendar we use today but they did have calendars at the time of the writing of the Bible. And historians today are able to determine ancient dates by a formula converting their calendar dates to our current calendar dates. That’s how they can determine close dates even for people like Aristotle (born circa 384 BC).

The gospel of Luke is especially noted for his historical acumen (mostly because Luke claims he’s a historian) and Bible scholars have since determined some of his sources including Josephus. But why no dates at all?

I believe there are no dates because many of these writings occurred after the fact and in almost all the cases of historical narrative in the Bible, the writers are simply mythologizing and inserting their heroes into history and have no hard dates because they aren’t contemporary to the events at all. And this is revealed in the many anachronisms in the Bible.

But let’s assume the Christian world view is correct. God himself planned this out so as to hide any external proof of himself or his revelation. It’s almost as if he wants most of us to burn in hell. God revealed himself (on threat of eternal torture for disbelief) in such a way that not a single contemporary writing exists about Moses and his exploits and Jesus and his exploits. And even if such a writing did exist, God made it almost impossible to find because the writers never wrote down a single date.

After a thorough review, it’s clear that almost every historical story in the Bible is pure mythology intended to look as though it’s historical. It’s a complete historical fiction or just pure fiction from cover to cover.

Why does God need angels?

hologramToday I was listening to the audio book by Dr. Richard Carrier called “On the historicity of Jesus” and he was discussing definitions and that he would be calling angels and demons “gods” (lower case g). This reminded me. Many times, I think about the gods concept regarding Satan. He’s a god whether people call him that or not. He’s in all of our heads tempting us. He’s intruding on nature. He’s creating cancer and viruses, etc. And to round out our list of Gods, we have the Trinity (the three in one God-head).

So the first logical progression is that although people call themselves monotheists, it seems semantic pretzel twisting to see their spiritual beliefs as anything other than polytheism with 1 highest God, otherwise known as monolatry.

And finally that leads to a question. Why don’t we simply have monotheism in the strictest sense? Why does an all powerful God need an army of minions? After all, the created angels who turned on him became the devil and his demons.

And even if the angels didn’t turn evil, what’s the point of the good angels? Is there work to be done in heaven? “Gabriel, do you mind taking out the trash please?”

The cultural religious beliefs relegate many tasks to the angels. Everyone has a guardian angel. Whenever we hear a bell an angel gets his wings and so on. But why would God make these created angels immortal? And where do the guardian angels’ tasks end and the Holy Spirit’s tasks begin? The Holy Spirit (one member of the Trinity) is omnipresent. For the times in the Bible that humans needed angels to tell them things (the story of Sodom and Gomorrah where they visited Lot and when they had to warn Joseph that Mary, although pregnant, was still a virgin) could have been done via holograms like we see in Star Wars movies. He could just create a temporary “angel” and have it disappear after the angel’s task is done.

It seems to me that an all powerful God who can create a vast universe with magical incantations shouldn’t need millions or billions of helpers on one tiny planet in the corner of one galaxy of in a sea of billions of galaxies. In fact, take note of the consequences. Because God needed someone to help him with his chores, we got Satan and Hell as a result.

God’s “suggestions” of physics

handsAnyone with any scientific knowledge at all has heard the term “the laws of physics.” These are foundational laws governing the interaction of matter and energy in the universe. They are determinant and static as far as anyone has ever seen or measured. Many theists argue the existence of God using the “argument from fine tuning.” It is stated that it is impossible for these physical constants to exist in the way they do and in the quantities they do without supreme guidance. In fact, Richard Dawkins has stated that although he isn’t convinced by this argument, he finds it the best argument for God.

But this puts theists in a bind. On one hand they propose a god who created these “laws” while on the other hand violating them constantly. Miracles by definition are a violation of the laws that God created. A theist might posit that the creator of the laws also has the capacity and intention to violate those laws. However, imagine a world where those laws are routinely violated such as in the times of the Bible writing. In a world where God constantly violates physical laws, no experiment could be reliable. Any measurement would have to take into account God’s finger on the scale.

I was listening to a sermon recently in which the pastor made an implicit point that all things happening in the world were the work of God/Satan. Basically, supernatural forces are all around us mucking with our reality. Any trials you have in your life are related to God’s work. A child who gets hurt and requires stitches was an intentional act by God to elicit prayers and worship and adoration in times of struggle. God puts trials in your life to bring you closer to him or make you a better person, etc.

Americans think that God interferes in sporting events. I assume he does so by manipulating the path of the football or baseball. Maybe he causes the pitcher to throw a ball or a strike based on some devine plan. Sean Carroll makes some interesting points asking about the physicality of God interfering in our world. What particles specifically interfere with our brains or the car or the football or baseball?

This concept of God’s intrusion is nonsensical on it’s face. By positing this intrusive God, theists are simultaneously undercutting their argument about his fine tuning of the universe and creation of the laws of nature.

The logical implication is that a theistic intrusion by God would make the universe less understandable and discoverable and implicitly states that God has to continue his intrusion because he didn’t get it right initially. And the logical implication of this, which also seems to correspond to what we see in nature, points to Deism (a creator without daily intrusion) as the most likely theological model assuming we find a theological definition necessary. And this conclusion completely disputes the gods of men and their holy books.

Making excuses for God

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 7.53.24 PMAs a Christian, you have to constantly reconcile the good God you’re proposing with the terrible misery that is sometimes wrought on people. The apologists answer with platitudes such as, “We live in a broken world – a consequence of original sin brought on by Adam and Eve.” But they find themselves on a slippery slope when they start having to forgive the genocides of the Old Testament. This causes them to say things like, “The Amalekites were so wicked, they all had to be destroyed. But fear not, those murdered babies went to Heaven.”

Furthermore, there are a lot of logical contradictions when you posit an all-knowing God along with an intrusive God who is constantly tinkering in our world.

Case in point, Pat Robertson positing the reason that God took a 3 year old child away from his grief stricken mother. For those of you who don’t know, Pat Robertson is one of the most famous and popular televangelists out there. He’s been around for a looong time. And he’s a constant source of entertainment for non-believers because of the seemingly crazy things he says.

But in this case, Pat is probably parroting the thinking of many theists and that is that God is a puppet-master who is in control of everything.

A woman sent in a letter to Pat’s show asking why she should believe in a God who let her baby of 3 years old die – suffering a long battle in and out of hospitals – while he heals other children (her words). She asked, “Why did God allow my baby to die?”

Pat answers with the following possibilities:

  • Human beings have responsibilities and sometimes people die in hospitals for malpractice. Or nurses. Don’t blame God for people’s mistakes.
  • God knows the end from the beginning and he knows that baby could grow up to be Adolph Hitler, or Joseph Stalin, or some serial killer (maybe like God himself — sorry, low blow), or he could grow up to die of a hideous disease. God sees all that.
  • For that life to be terminated while he’s a baby means he’s going to be with God forever in Heaven so that isn’t a bad thing.
  • So how could a good God do that? The good God is going to take that baby to Heaven right now and that isn’t a bad thing.

Here’s the problem with that ridiculous illogic:

  • Hitler actually lived
  • Stalin actually lived
  • Serial killers have lived
  • People have hideous diseases every day

So what was God doing with those babies? Pat is telling this poor woman that her 3 year old was destined for mass-murder or a hideous disease. So he pre-empted it with a hideous disease for the first 3 years? Not to mention the parents’ misery for their remaining days on earth.

And another rub, these attributes granted to God make perfect sense to believers like Pat Robertson but make no sense to the parents of this 3 year old (or anyone with any sense). So even if Pat is right in his theology and that baby goes to Heaven, the parents are destined for Hell when they stop believing that Pat’s God is good.

Yes, God works in mysterious ways. No doubt about it. All the answers will be revealed when we get to Heaven. Or maybe the answers are lying right in front of us now, if we just pay attention and use logic to decipher the answers.

Did the Devil create earthquakes?

nepalOne of the things evangelical Christians do that completely baffles me is ignore the earth under their feet and instead live in a never-never land of theology. They want to imagine science and religion coexisting but they do it by completely discounting the laws of physics.

If there are god(s), it seems to me they would create the mechanisms of the universe (gravity, mass, energy) and let it run. Whatever you think the starting point of the universe is, it’s pretty clear to anyone looking that it’s still creating stars and planets. The universe is a star and planet making machine even now.

Except according to Christians, the earth and sun and moon were created completely separately from this universal process.

So to imagine that the earth was some kind of heavenly place before Adam and Eve “ate the apple” seems utterly ridiculous – beyond the normal ridiculousness of talking snakes and Adam and Eve playing hide-and-go-seek with God. Even if you think Adam and Eve were actual people in the Garden of Eden, why would the earth be made of something then other than what it’s made of now?

Case in point, creationist Ken Ham. He made the case after the recent Nepal earthquake that natural disasters are a result of “The Fall.”

“You see, God’s original creation did not contain earthquakes or any other natural disasters.”

You might accuse me of using Ken Ham as a straw man but I’ve heard other seemingly intelligent Christians like Justin Brierly of the “Unbelievable” podcast talk about a “fallen world” when discussing the problem of evil and death in the world.

As we have seen in the past, Christians think natural disasters have a cause and it’s not tidal forces, or weather patterns, or plate tectonics. No, it’s either homosexuality or in this case “Original Sin“.

The argument against this nutty thinking is to just look at the rest of the universe. Stars are exploding, there are storms on Jupiter, there are ice volcanoes on Titan. I want to ask if Adam hadn’t sinned, would Jupiter still have the red spot (storm)?

When someone steps off a building and falls to the ground and dies, the cause of the fall is gravity, not sin. Same thing with earthquakes. We are on a cooling planet with a hot center and a cool crust of tectonic plates banging into each other causing earthquakes and mountain ranges. It has nothing at all to do with original sin, even if you think original sin is real.

My God, you believers are so greedy!

greedSometimes I feel like I have a special gift. The best articulation of my way of thinking is contained in the paragraph in “Unweaving the Rainbow” by Richard Dawkins. Here is the clip on Youtube beautifully read by the author. It starts out, “We are going to die and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they’re never going to be born.” And it continues from there in one of the most eloquent descriptions of how lucky we are to exist at all.

Each one of us is the result of an unbroken chain of reproduction. For billions of years not one of our ancestors was unable to procreate. The chances of you being alive and being you are absolutely staggering.

Those numbers don’t even show the chances of you being born now in the age of wonder and technology – with modern medicine and a high standard of living. Where your meals are purchased in a grocery store instead of hunted down.

I can’t help but feel deeply offended when I hear a believer talk about all their worth being tied up in living for eternity. That a short life is worthless. It is a greedy jerk who can’t feel the wonder of existing now and being given knowledge and wonder and food and modernity (I realize not all in the world have this). I feel so privileged to be able to understand the wonders of the universe (not all of them of course). But I know that Thor didn’t throw a thunderbolt, I know how big the visible universe is, and I know where we came from. These are things previous people never dreamed of knowing.

When I hear about a child dying an early death of cancer, I think about how horrible that must be for them and their families to have their life shortened and how lucky I am to have lived as long as I have. And yet for most of the planet that’s not enough. I want to live a long time too! But eternity? To me the fact that believers even posit an eternity for themselves shows me the limit of man’s greed. And of course it shows there is no limit. To wish for eternity when you’ve already won the greatest prize we know of in our slice of the universe is the ultimate selfishness.

There are so many signs that religions are completely man-made. The holy books although eloquent have all the signs of humanity in their barbarism, anachronisms, and absurdities clearly show their gods to be all too human. But what distinguishes man from beast is his ultimate greed. And there is nothing greedier than thinking we are entitled to and destined for immortality. It’s the ultimate sign of humanity’s greatest invention – unmitigated gall.