Posts Tagged ‘ Science ’

The Preacher’s Kid’s Story, A Loss Of Faith


PK, you need to get one of these.

A week or so back I got to chatting with a commenter on the site, a preacher’s kid and former born-again bible thumper.  Since I went through a similar experience, I’m always fascinated by people’s loss of faith.  So here in his own word’s is the Preacher’s Kid’s Tale.  It’s a great story.

The human mind is such an incredible thing…

“But Mrs. Steinly, how did every kind of animal get to the ark?”
This is my first memory of questioning what I was told was the truth for the duration of my young life. I believe I was around eight years old and it was just another Sunday morning in Sunday school.
“Well, Timmy, god magically made every animal want to get to the ark. So they all made the trip.”
Mrs. Steinly’s answer succeeded to quell not only my curiosity that morning but millions of eight year olds around the world to this very day.
I remember thinking of her answer later on in the day. I guess I couldn’t quite understand how powerful god really was. I needed to ask my Dad.

My father was the pastor of a conservative evangelical Lutheran church in the Arizona town where I grew up. He spent eight years at Bethany College in Minnesota to earn a Master’s degree in theology and then received several vicar positions in the mid-west before finally being “promoted” to the position of pastor. Now that I think of it, it sure sounds like the way a business runs…Hmm. Anyway, along the way my mother conceived six boys and quite a temper. I guess the short fuse was a result of trying to corral all six of us to prevent needless blood loss from normal everyday male adolescent activities and I do thank her for that.

I remember asking my father that afternoon after the Sunday morning hustle and bustle was over the same question I asked earlier that morning during Sunday school. I’ll paraphrase his answer:
“Well, Timmy god has a way of doing things that not everyone understands. I think he instilled in the animals a great desire to get to Noah and the ark and they just knew that was where they needed to be and what they needed to do. Kind of like when ducks fly south for the winter or a dog instinctively knows how to swim when they are in water.”

Dad’s answer sounded so matter of fact to me at the time and I was satisfied. He was the smartest person I knew. I don’t recall ever being curious about that subject for the rest of my youth. At the time, I believed my parents knew the answers to things (and I would too, eventually) because they instilled in us that the bible HAD all the answers. My brothers and I were sold on the idea and I took this “knowledge” with me, one way or another, through my elementary, high school and college years. The bible was not and could not be wrong. Dinosaurs? I didn’t believe they could exist because it just didn’t seem to jive with the creation story. All fossils found were just bones of other animals that were pieced together until they came up with something that looked pre-historic. The Grand Canyon? It was formed by the flood waters receding as well as all the continents of earth and the lakes that occupied them a couple thousand years ago. Evolution? Don’t even get me
started. There was NO way something could have transformed. God made it right the first time. Everything presently living was exactly the same as it was at the time of creation. Earth science, geology, astronomy, biology…hogwash. This was the basis of my thinking.

During my youth and teenage years I attended public elementary and high school. My high school years were pretty typical of a lot of people. My parents were strict with our grades and wanted us to do our best. I excelled at English and History and my parents were proud of me for the marks I received in them. A ‘B grade’ in those two subjects was frowned upon. Funny thing, though. They never punished me for receiving D’s and sometimes F’s in biology or any of my science subjects for that matter. My mindset was in “bible” mode during those classes and my parents, in a weird way, kind of admired that about me. When asked about the grades when my report cards came I simply told my parents that I could not go against what they had taught me growing up and what was so hardwired into my thought pattern. The bible and everything to do with it was simply not wrong, the science books were. It’s not like I was lying to them to soften the blow of a bad grade. This is how I truly felt.

Socially, I was a pretty athletic guy who played sports and went to parties and drank beer and was very interested in girls. I was a typical high school teenage boy of the times. My parents never were the wiser until a group of us was kicked off the swim team for drinking on an overnight trip with the team.

It’s interesting that the biblical thought patterns I had for certain academic subjects were seldom found in my social life. It reminds me of a lot of “christians” who regularly attend church nowadays.

Through all of this I wasn’t into church as much as I once had been. It was more like making an appearance and sitting in the back pew in the corner with a hangover from partying the night before. But there, nonetheless. One of my parent’s house rules was that I attended whether I wanted to or not.

Oh, and for those of you have never been to a conservative Lutheran church service it consists of a lot of Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight! Fight! Fight! I guess it’s good to be in somewhat constant motion for the mere weekly repetition and boredom of the service alone is enough to put anyone face first into the awful circa 1970′s era avocado green carpet in a bore induced coma. Oh, and let’s not forget the worship! Five pipe organ led hymns strategically placed in between gospel, Old Testament readings, the sermon, communion and the benediction done by my old man, the minister. Catholics and ex-catholics, I feel ya! Our services were basically, from what I hear from you, “Mass-lite”.
We were such a conservative bunch that the mere thought of drums or a guitar might be enough to bring the wrath of god through the roof in a form of a very well aimed lightning bolt, striking down the “bombastic rocker” musicians. Although, in all fairness, I must point out that an occasional trumpet or flute would make an appearance on random Sundays accompanying a “soloist” singer. God must have been worn down from a week of not answering prayers and wreaking havoc that maybe he couldn’t muster up enough energy for said lightning bolt. Or maybe he was just watching the football pre-game shows and wasn’t paying attention.
As I got older, I eventually moved out of my parent’s house and re-located to Flagstaff, Az. for college with one of my brothers and best friends. That experience only lasted three months for me. Technology is great and all but when most of my classes were broadcast on TV via the Northern Arizona University Television Network AND I could record them on my trusty VCR certain that I would watch them at a later time to “get caught up”, one tends to…should I say…. slack. And by slack I mean party my ass off.
Upon my move back home around Christmas I did not return to church. There was too much to do other than going to services every Sunday and being told how I should be feeling and acting. I was finished with it. I could finally sit my hiney down on my couch and watch the football pre-game shows just like god was doing. But my biblical mindset of the world around me was still lurking in the background.
Fast-forward five years or so.
I’m now married to my wife and have three kids. Although she was raised as a christian we rarely attended church. I was still drinking and partying too much but with thoughts of slowing down. Then, I had a sudden slap across the head the morning after my son’s first birthday party. I had made a drunken fool of myself in front of my wife and family the night before. As I was dry heaving through my hang-over, there was a moment where I thought I was “touched by god” and convinced myself that he was sending me a personal message to quit drinking. I told my wife I was quitting and she gave me a, “yeah right.” She had heard it before. Numerous times. Needless to say, because of this imaginary magical anointing, I eventually became a bible-thumping, on fire for christ, music and youth leader in my new evangelical non-denominational church that I began to attend. Being a life-long musician and fan of music I really got into it because the services had drums, electric guitars, keyboards, mixing boards, stages and lights. Hell, even a smoke machine would make an appearance every now and then. It was freaking rock and roll bee-yatches!! But for god, of course. My wife was convinced that I had changed and there could only be one reason. She started attending with me with the kids in tow.
During this time, I believed god was telling me to bring other sheeple to him. I had all the answers for any question and I let anyone who would listen to me know. They were all in the bible, dummy! The prodigal son had finally returned! My parents were happy to see their son turn back his rebellious ways and were glad I was so happy to spread the good news! However, they were not crazy about the church I attended because of the over the top music and “un-biblical” communion practices. How dare they say the bread and grape juice (“real” christians use wine, dammit) only symbolizes the body and blood of Christ instead of partaking in actual transformed Jesus sushi. They could over-look this, though, because I was finally back on the damn team instead of sitting on the proverbial bench for so long!! This was me for a good three years. Eating, sleeping, breathing, preaching, sharing, getting tattooed and indoctrinating into my children the infallible word of god! Praise the lord and pass the sushi sauce!

Reality has a funny way of introducing itself to certain people. I consider myself one of those lucky few. About two years ago I was looking for a way to make my faith in the good ship lollipop even stronger. I could feel my connection to god slipping a little but was told over and over by people in the church that, “it happens to all of us.” I just needed to pray about it more and maybe give more gifts (money) to god and after a while I’d be right back in the swing of things. I did. Nothing happened. I thought crazy thoughts like the devil was starting to really have his way with me and it drove me to actual diagnosed depression which led to medication. How could god use me to reach so many people and then abandon me like this? I kept thinking it was all a test and that god would reward me in the near future with wisdom and chocolate covered peanut butter cups.

I then had a great idea that I thought came from god and here it is. I thought god wanted me to go to the library and get a book in the evil atheist section called, “50 reasons People Give for Believing in a God”, by Guy P. Harrison. I had seen it in passing while quickly cutting through (damn near sprinting, actually) the section on a previous visit to get to where the safe religious books were. My plan was simple. Read each reason and back it up with biblical reasoning to bust the false ideas Harrison gave to lead so many people away from the one true god. This book and author had no chance against me. Dinosaurs, astronomy, evolution, earth science, geology…Bull Feathers!!

Yeah, um, hmm…turns out, after the first chapter I had so many questions that could only be answered by taking an honest approach to actually finding the truth. I stopped reading after the first chapter for a whole day to think and realized something. The truth might have been hidden from me right under my nose for my entire life. The truth might have been hidden from me from the time I could think on my own as a toddler. The brainwashing that was instilled in me, my brothers, my parents by their parents, their parents ad-nausea might have been no fault of our own. I feel we were the product of our mental environment. It’s that simple.

I told myself I was going to approach this over-whelming project with a completely un-biased, take the blinders off way of thinking and if I finished the book and still felt all the answers were still in the bible then god wins. Yeah, I would be happy with that. The next day I read chapters 2-50 in one sitting and for the next month studied them more than I have ever studied anything in my life. One by one, questions were answered and opinions changed that I never believed possible. Above all, science was not the devil’s work thrown together by people who thought they knew better than god. The more I studied and actually used my evolved brain to actually THINK for myself and using the overwhelming evidence that is out there for ANYONE to discover I steadily felt a peace come over me that I had never thought possible. As I realized more and more the horse hockey that I had believed my whole life was wrong and that religion, at its very fucking core, was the root of all my troubled feelings throughout my life the cloud finally lifted and complete freedom has come over me that is almost un-explainable to my family, friends and co-workers. They all know of my transformation but can’t understand it because they won’t LET themselves understand it.

The thing that buggers me the most about all of this is not the family and friends I have lost during my de-programming (which has happened). It is not the feeling of being duped into believing the way I did (which I do feel). Above all, it is the years of knowledge that I have been cheated out of in the field of science solely because of religion. When I first realized that I had no more than a third grader’s education in the sciences is what gave me the drive to learn everything possible about them. It’s a wonderful journey and I will never, ever, ever, ever, ever go back.

Looking back now with a clear, skeptical mind I know that when I imagined I was “touched by god” it was merely my body reacting to years of alcohol and a party lifestyle and it just needed a break. But at the time, the engraved childhood fantasies of god took over and I turned to the only thing that my brain could process that might have been able to offer some sort of comfort and help.

The human brain is such a wonderfully strange and powerful thing, isn’t it?

PK (preachers kid) Timmy Dee.

Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore! Oh, Wait… Shit I Am.


Why?? Because I can.

Hey all.  just a quick note to let you know that the Blessed Atheist/KKBundy/Waylon (Damn, I’m getting too many names) is presently in Kansas City and will be for the next ten days.  I’ll be sitting through ten straight days of OSHA law classes. Ugh!  I imagine my days won’t exactly be riveting but hey, after Exodus and Leviticus I am well versed in useless legal bullshit.  But still pity me. Please!

And if any reader happens to live nearby I’d love to hear from them.  I know the chance is slim, but hey, you never know.  Drop me a comment here and maybe we can have a couple of beers and commiserate over the fate of humanity.

If not I’ll work on writing more.  That should be great.  Days filled with modern senseless legalese followed by nights filled with ancient senseless legalese.

I hope I survive.

 

And because I still can here are a couple more Jesus related Demotivational Posters.

 

Why I Am A 13-Year-Old Atheist


This is Waylon Hedegaard/KKbundy/The Blessed Atheist.  As many know, my wife and I homeschool our son and writing has always been a big part of that.  For a writing project at the end of school, Reilly wrote about what it’s like to be a teen atheist, and  I want to share it with you.  I left the article as written.  It’s in his hand and style and is pretty much untouched by me.  Damned if he doesn’t make me proud.

Here’s Reilly.

My atheism, like many things, has many causes. Thousands of different factors, all thrown at me to produce who I am and what I believe. One of the biggest things that played into my atheism was exposure to everything. I was exposed at a very young age, to church. We never actually attended a Sunday service, but I went to a Bible day camp. Now one thing I must get straight is that my parents are just as atheistic as I am. However, I didn’t find that out until i was seven.  I think that they wanted to let me make my own choice and expose me to everything. Every summer for around three years, I went to the church next door every day for a week. It was fun, I had a good time, and never got the subliminal messages about God. Never really knowing too much about religion, I just thought that it was a big game. However, one thing I did notice was the fact that all of these people were a little odd. I later found out, that this oddity is called religion.

Many Christians are very good people. They live good lives, and have fun. Almost all of my friends are religious. However, stubborn, mean, overly religious people fall into three categories for me:

* Bible thumpers: These people bring up God or the Bible up anytime they can! They constantly praise Jesus for allowing the turkey to be cooked properly, or for having the people they don’t like being struck down with the sniffles. These people think that ‘God’ does everything, and that if they praise him enough, he will forget about that one time in college, when that thing happened with that girl.

* Hardcores: This is the class of people that will go to church every day except Tuesday, when they will write on their Blog about god. These guys usually tend to be rather nice (Or tend to act like it), pretending to not care what your beliefs are, as they bombard you with church meeting invites.

* Zombies: The final, and worst, class of overly religious people. They seem calm, mellow and boring at first. You talk to them for a bit, and notice that they have a lot to say about God. They go on and on about how great he is, centering every conversation on religion. And when you can’t stand it anymore, you let on that you are an atheist. Then they go insane. They freak out at you, talking about how deep in hell your going to go. They attack everything you say, with the tried and true arguments that make them feel as if they’ve won. And if you wonder why I call them zombies, replace God with human flesh. You’ll understand.

Now one thing that I have found out, is that many people simply don’t care. A lot of people will accept you, no matter what you believe. Other people, however, freak out on you and never speak to you again. I know this may sound corny, but these people aren’t worth befriending anyway. I used to never tell anyone that I was an Atheist. It was horrible, because if people don’t know your beliefs, they will assume that you have the same beliefs as they do. With most people, this is actually a good thing. However, with the right-wing, Bible thumper-hardcore-zombies (yes, they do exist), it gets pretty bad. And then you start getting invited to ‘Jesus camp’ and the Element.

Another thing that makes it hard being an atheist, is that I am a homeschooler. The reason that I am is that I know that I can get a better education this way. But the reason that many people do it, is that the schools aren’t religious enough. That one statement should give you a good impression of the average homeschooler. Well, I went to the homeschooler Physical Education meeting, Tuesdays and Thursdays, every week. We played a random assortment of sports, ranging from track, to open swim, to sitting on the floor and rolling a volleyball around. Like P.E. everywhere, it was kind of dull, but I became friends with the people there. They were very nice.

Well one time, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to the Evangelical-free youth meetings (I know Evangelical-free seem like it would be free of evangelicals, but no, quite the opposite). It didn’t come to mind that it might have been religious, because usually religion wasn’t a big thing with me and my friends. Little did I know that my homeschooler friend’s lives revolved around it. So we went to the E-Free mega-church and went into this low ceiling room, full of people doing various activities. I looked around, thinking that this was going to be awesome. But about fifteen minutes into it a tall man, dressed all in black, came into the room and ushered us down some steps. We sat in a blindingly white room, chattering Quietly, until another man came in and handed us each a Bible verse. We all got up, one at a time, and recited our verse. I was getting a little weirded out, when the first man came around and started answering our questions about God. When it was my friend’s turn for question time, his one question was “Where is the proof?”. I gave a little smile when I heard this, but that smile quickly faded at the response. “The proof is the Bible, the word of God” So the proof of God, is something God said? That was the moment when I fully became an atheist.

Due to the highly noticeable lack of atheists in Bismarck, not many of my friends have the same beliefs as me. Many of my best friends are highly religious, going to church every Sunday, attending the Element and taking part in all of the religious events that they can. I really don’t care what their beliefs are, as long as they don’t shove it in my face all the time. I even help with some of their church-based-charities. Not only that, but all of my friends know that I am an atheist. It would seem like this would be something you would tread lightly on, but no, its actually a bit of a joke to us. We point out ironic moments, like when we played Clue, and I get stuck as the Reverend. That is how I know that I am hanging out with good people. They don’t care what I believe, as long as I’m nice about it.

So, in conclusion, Atheism really doesn’t affect my life that much. Many people talk about how depressed they would be if they were an atheist, but I feel quite the opposite. I feel like I lead a great life. And I do lead a great life, because I feel like I do (This, unlike proof of god, is an acceptable use of circular logic). I don’t lead a good life because of what I believe, but because of my actions.

I suppose this last paragraph could have been summed up in four words: Don’t be a dick.

Reilly Hedegaard

Moses and Yahweh, Lost In Translation.


Moses, now having The Lord Genocide’s precise instructions on how to live and more importantly, how to build great altars and temples to He Who Shall Not Be Named ( I am just Shittin’ ya. It’s God.) is instructed by God that he should move on. Unfortunately, like a cuckolded lover, God is still pouting from the Hebrews affair with that Golden Hussy from the last few chapters. We all know the old saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” which — I’ll try to be diplomatic here — may or may not be true, except for God. No one can throw quite such a dumb-assed hissy fit quite like Our Lord God when people aren’t falling all over themselves in adulation. That shit-ass takes every perceived slight way too seriously and gets worked up over the smallest of things. Eye just one golden bovine while walking through the mall and Bam! All the sudden, he wants to kill you and everyone you know. Shit dude, lighten up a bit. I was just looking for Baal’s sake! It’s not like you caught me in a Motel 6 rubbing oil on her udders.

So God wants the Hebrews to move on. I’m not really sure why as he doesn’t actually want them to get to the Promised land for another 39 years, but nevertheless, he demands they move and wander around for another few decades, and they do. Have you ever noticed how Yahweh’s not into just giving gifts but instead makes people suffer for everything they get? So they go, but he refuses to go with them. I told you he was a pouty little bitch. Just look.

“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

Now I’m not sure I know what that means but it sure sounds to me like Yahweh has a bit of a temper, and like a mother who has had a very bad day, he doesn’t trust himself around his children. “If I gotta stop this caravan, your all going to be sorry!” You ever think that there are some beings, divine or not, who should never be parents? This entire concept is reinforced by the next line.

When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.’” So the sons of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

So not only does he doubt his self control– notice how it changed from “might” to “would” –but takes away their ipods and jewelry. Apparently, he’s using that old parental maxim handed down through the ages, If dad’s pissed, everyone suffers… and perhaps, dies! His feeling are hurt and he’s not ashamed to let everyone know… then threaten to kill them for it. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for getting things off your chest, but that seems to take it a wee bit too far. Seldom do my crying jags end in bloody rampages.  Well, um… Yeah, seldom.

I’m just sayin’.

What we need here is a kind of Divine Prozac, a Mega Marijuana, or perhaps, a Holy Hashish, anything to get Yahweh in a better mood. Hell, while we’re dreaming lets’ get him something for all those obsessive-compulsive, bi-polar and schizophrenic traits too. Wow! That’d be the drug to end all drugs. It’d make heroin look like a placebo.

The only problem is that with that asshole, I’m sure it have to be administered hourly… as a suppository.

Any volunteers?

Anyway, Moses has built a special tent where he meets God on a regular basis. This is a particularly funny part.

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent,the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the LORD would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

I think this passage says much about Moses and the writer’s need to show him back in control. The rebellion is over, beyatches.  Moses won.  The people all obey him for he is the only one who remains in God’s favor. Don’t believe me? Just ask him. God actually listens to him. Somedays, he and The Lord Genocide just sit around shooting the shit and getting high. “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Yeah just like a friend… Who appears in the form of a cloud… and who’s mere visage can be fatal… and who regularly threatens to kill everyone you know. Yeah, I got a lot of friends like that.

The old saying has never been more true. With a friend like Yahweh, who needs enemies.

BTW, anyone else notice the young man who would not leave Moses tent. Can you say Boytoy? I knew you could.  Seemingly, Ted Haggard was just following an ancient tradition.

But to further the idea that Moses and the priesthood in general are absolutely essential, Moses is constantly finding it necessary to intercede for the Hebrews to change God’s malevolent little mind for Mister Pouty Lip is constantly wanting to kill them. The writer of Exodus tries so very hard to show how essential the priesthood is. Shit like the following litters the pages of Exodus.

Then he (Moses) said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.”

Sheesh! I know that the common consensus today is that Exodus was not written by Moses himself and was likely written much later, but some of this positively smacks of a great degree of self-aggrandizement as if Moses was padding out his celestial resume.  1354 BCE — Became God’s best friend.   1356 BCE — Cured cancer  1357.  BCE — Saved the Hebrews… Again!  These pages are so full of conceit that a part of me screams that a man named Moses must have had something to do with it’s writing. A chorus of voices in the back of my head demand that this asshole has pulled off the greatest scam of all-time. Just read the self serving propaganda through these chapters and judge for yourself. It reminds me of all that shit Stalin used to personally write for Pravda regarding himself.

“Should you feel tired at a time when a man should not be tired, think of him — of Stalin – and work will become easier. Should you be at a loss as to how you should act, think of him — of Stalin – and your decision will be the right one.”

Yeah. When I have a difficult personal decision to make I always use the old “What Would Stalin Do?” wisdom which, of course, mostly boiled down to “Kill the fuckers!” Then again is it any different from using the wisdom of the incestuous son of another mass murderer? At any rate according to themselves, both Stalin and Moses made life better… um?; they both had violent purges of dissidents; they both ruled by terror and fear and they both thought they talked to God. That is Stalin thought he was god and talked to himself in the shower every morning, and Moses thought he was God’s best friend which, when referring to imaginary beings, comes out to be pretty much the same thing.

It brings to mind other possible similarities. Most people are aware that Stalin is not his birth name. He was born with the fine sounding handle of Yosif Vissarionovich Dzugashvili. Understandably, he realized early that to go far in politics and genocide, he needed a name that didn’t sound like someone pissing on a fence. He required something that would bolster his image, something manly, “steel”. Stalin is Russian for steel, the Man of Steel. In light of their other similarities, I’m sure that “Moses” is really an archaic Hebrew word for “He with the Large Dick”.

That or it could mean “I am a huge Prick”.

Translations can be a bitch.

The Battle Yet Rages


For those of you interested, Daz has taken up the mantle of fighting the scientific infidel at his own site.  He and Mr. Hubbo have started a regular series of conversations on the existence of God.  Now, I know many here got pretty sick of that fight, but I salute Daz for taking this on.  It is a battle that should be fought, and thus far they have been excellent to read and well-reasoned in approach.   I have also enjoyed the more orderly arrangement.  Admittedly, we tend to get a little chaotic here with the  intertwining comments and replies, and the argument can get hard to follow.  In truth, Daz’s is a better method for this debate and I urge you to go there.  He has the power to arrange the arguments in a logical order and hit the high points one by one.

It’s difficult to comment on his site so I open this post up to comments you may want to make, but I also recommend dropping Daz a note to let him know what you think.  He’s doing a great job and needs to be commended.  En garde, Mr. Hubbo.  You’re in for a drubbing.

Damn.  And then I forget to link to it.  What an idiot I am.  Go here.

Email From the Edge.


I wonder how much they are asking?

I get email.  Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone does so there’s nothing usual in that, but every so often, my email gets well… interesting. Yeah, interesting, that’s the word.  Most times, it’s from people who agree whole heartedly with what I have to say. Sometimes, it’s someone who disagrees even more passionately, and then every now and then I’m not really sure what the writer believes but the mere fact that he “believes” comes through strongly, and his creative use of ALLCAPS, incoherent platitudes and white space usually offers something amusing. But every so often it’s completely different. Is this one of those different ones? Well… I’ll let you judge. This letter was in my inbox last weekend. I left the document completely unedited save for leaving out the last name.

Name: Lee *********

hey! im a 16 year old guy trying to figure out the meaning of life….i really just want to make my own life and have no one else control it….i used to be super SUPER relgious and now im still having probelms with it….i cant find any error in the Bible i do know alot about it and every contradiction out of the some 500 in there has an intepration that makes total sense

i want to be an atheist because i want control of my own life…all my desires and my own brain

ive been a conservative CHristian up to this point but now i just dont know

i tried looking into evolution but there is so many wholes as there is in everything else

im starting not to care about religious boundaries anymore i really just want to be a humanist and live the life that makes me happy

problem is that good ole Bible nothing has been proven wrong in it(from my opinion)

i dream of a life like yours

please give some advice if you dont mind

sorry i dont type correctly haha but i would love a free thinkers insight

i just dont want to live for nothing

Hmm.  I read it and alarms began to blare through my head. Part of me, a large part, screamed that this must be a set up. People, particularly Christians on the edge losing their faith, simply don’t think like this. And if I’m wrong and some actually do, I’d bet much that they don’t talk like this. What this echoes most strongly is the Fundamentalist viewpoint of why people become atheists.  This isn’t some boy on the verge of reason.  It’s an Evangelical interpretation of what they think that someone who throws away their faith must go through.

Allow me to paraphrase what the cynic in me is hearing.  “I want to have the life of a freethinker, to decide what’s right or wrong on my own, to be a selfish master of my own fate, Alas, the Bible just keeps proving accurate no matter how many times I have tried to prove it otherwise. In the face of all this evidence proving Christianity true, what’s a budding freethinker to do?”

I feel this is an accurate interpretation of what’s happening here. In fact, I’d bet on it, but if I close my eyes and assume it’s true — a feat I am becoming quite adept at with this study — what should I tell 16 year-old Lee? What insight does one free thinker have to offer another budding but likely fictional freethinker?

First, read what we have written so far. I have tried to do my best to point out the Biblical absurdities and the commenters here have been amazing at pointing out all that I have missed. As a team, we have nailed the Christian God thoroughly and will continue to do so for many years to come.  I didn’t realized what entertainment value the Bible had.

Second, Lee, comes the natural counter to this idea “i cant find any error in the Bible i do know alot about it and every contradiction out of the some 500 in there has an intepration that makes total sense.” This glossing over the vast number of idiosyncrasies is done using several techniques.  The first is usually placed under the concept of hermeneutics. Thank you to Mr. Hubbo for introducing that word into my vocabulary.  I knew the definition long before I knew what it was called.  Hermeneutics is a concept I have argued against in these posts and in running battles in the comments, and I will continue to fight as my last breath leaves my body.  Hopefully not soon with some Christian pitchfork stuck through my chest as they’re burning down my house.  What?  You people don’t wake up in the dead of night screaming about horses of cross bearing psychopaths roaming the streets?   Um… Yeah, me neither…

Anyway, let’s do with some definitions first. Hermeneutics, in regard to Biblical interpretation, is taking the Bible as a whole and not as a collection of parts. On the surface, this sounds like a fine idea, and overall, I would support viewing any human document hermeneutically, but when it comes to how the Biblical literalist uses it, I must make an exception. Their work in this area is simple apologetics, a defending of a position already taken using whatever sleight of hand one can use. When a literalist finds a contradiction or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable such as God slaughtering thousands of Egyptian children or destroying a civilization for becoming too great and threatening his own power, he or she only needs to pick through that vast repository of phrases to find one that tempers it or counters it or allows them to ignore it completely.  Bingo!  Contradiction alleviated.

This is what allows the fundamentalist to condemn homosexuality with vigor but ignore many of the other verses in the same chapter. You just get to pick and choose what you want to hear and ignore the rest.  For example, “He who lies with an animal shall surely be put to death,” is followed soon after by “If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you are not to charge him interest.”   How come we never hear about that anymore. It was big in the middle ages but not now. With all the raging homophobes screaming from every pulpit about the dangers of homosexuality, someone has to explain to me why aren’t banks being burnt to the ground. We have Christians lending money at interest all the time.  But of course, this lack of economic freedom would go against what we want to believe so we just ignore it.  Homosexuality outlawed.  Banking good.  See how easy that was?

This same verse condemning gays is preceded by this little gem. “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken for he is his property.” Beating slaves to death is fine as long as you don’t do it too quickly.  Yeah… Now this one was big prior to the civil war but isn’t used much today. Why?  Is morality relative?  These are just two of thousands of instances of God either being a bastard or out right contradicting his own teachings.

The reason that an advanced use of hermeneutics is so useful in plastering over the vast gaps in sheer Biblical decency is that it allows anyone to pick and choose the parts that they want to follow and ignore that parts they would rather forget. If you start with the firm conviction that God is perfect and the Bible is inerrant combined with your own preconceived notions, it is a simple matter to come up with an interpretation to suit what you already “know” is true.  You don’t change yourself as much as you change the Bible to suit you.  In the brilliant words of George Bernard Shaw,  “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.”  (Thank you to Daz for that.)

Hermeneutics is often accompanied by the whole “That was the old covenant. Jesus sacrifice brought a new covenant to us.” So God changed the covenant from a harsher on to a nicer one? Why? Did the perfect God make a mistake with all the evil he did with the first one? And if so why do we still pick and choose only the parts of the Old Testament that we want to follow and not the whole thing? Who chooses those parts? Why do we swear by one verse and ignore the whole next page?

These two Biblical polishing techniques are then followed with the only available option to Christians when confronted with the idea of a wicked God: they make excuses for him. He killed all the children of Sodom and Gomorrah and Egypt because the parents were evil (evil here simply means not following God’s arbitrary commands) and therefore the children would be evil.  This has been pointed out on more that one occasion that this is why God punishes to the third and fourth generation.  God punishes children for the sins of their parents.  But ask yourself Lee, if we followed the same technique and butchered the children of our enemies on purpose, would we be doing the right thing or the wrong? If we purposefully tortured and killed children in our wars and conflicts would we be honorable or despicable?  WWJD?  Isn’t this the ideal Christians strive for?  But alter it slightly and make it “What would Jehovah do?”    Should we be butchering the Iraqi children as we speak?  Should we take the babies of criminals and butcher them on the court house steps all in the name of justice?  No?  Are we not following his example?  Why can God do anything he wants and name it good simply because he’s the one who did it?  Might doesn’t make right, yet here he is committing genocide and his apologists smile and tell me about perfect justice and perfect love and how those flawless concepts necessitate genocide.  Perfect justice involving the slaughter of innocents?  Perfect love?  Perfect bullshit!

And ask yourself this, Lee, if the Bible is so consistent, why are there so many different interpretations of it. Why are there so many Protestant sects in the United States and around the world — 30,000 by one estimate — that have a radically different outlook on what that book really says? Why has the interpretation of this book changed dramatically through history? Every sect whether present or historic uses a different approach to hermeneutics to get that book to say what ever they want it to say. Then they claim to be one of the few groups of people on the planet who really knows the truth and then often try to convince all the other people of the validity of their claim…  Usually at the point of a sword,   This infallible book has been the inspiration for the crusades, the inquisition, the conquest of other lands and vast religious wars that have left entire regions decimated. The Bible was used extensively to justify both sides of the American civil war or for that matter, most any civil wars. How can so many people get so many different meanings out of a single book that is supposedly perfect?  And why do those meanings usually reflect what the people really want to do anyway?

Think about it Lee. It’s because of those very contradictions. It’s because of those flaws.  Those terrible differences in tone and decency have given people all the tools they need to give divine justification to whatever the hell they desire. Even a brief but honest reading of history of the western world demonstrates the truth of these statements.  The cross has been at the forefront of atrocity after atrocity.  God strides hand in hand with every tyrant for every despicable and depraved act. Virtually every call to war, genocide and massacre that the western world has been responsible for has held the cross high and asked for their God’s blessing while crushing any resistance underfoot.

So, Lee, I ask you to do one thing. Read the Bible, but not as they, the preachers and bishops ask you to. Don’t be praying for “God’s” guidance while you read.  Don’t make excuses for the evil contained there in.  Read it with an open mind.  Or even better, read it how you would read the Koran, that is looking for the brutality and evil.  Read it how you would read the nonsense in the book of Mormon.  Then ask yourself if the behavior exhibited by your God  is rational and decent. Ask yourself that if any human ruler emulated this behavior and actions that you would think as highly of him as of your God.  Or would we be going to war just to stop him?

Then ask yourself this, Lee: what evidence is there for a God aside from the Bible, a book that shows it’s inadequacies with every page?

And Lee?  We don’t live for nothing.  We live for what we choose: our wives, our children, our friends and our life.  Life is too beautiful to be wasted following what someone else says is God’s will.  Free thinkers think! First! Foremost! Primarily!

Book Review — The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out Of Extinction by Rebecca D. Costa


Every now and then, for a variety of reasons, a book stands out to me as either a major paradigm shift and therefore so important that everyone on earth should read it, or it contains as a such a grand and systemic review of what brings us to our present that everyone on earth should read it.  Both type of books are so important to who we are and where we are going that I cannot over stress the effect they have on me.  For the first category, books like Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel and Collapse shine forth.  Now I read a lot and it’s a rare book that will show me the world in such a way that, in addition to ringing true, I will have never considered anything close to that viewpoint before.  They both had completely new ideas on every page for me.  I couldn’t put those two down, and in fact, I start reading Collapse to my son this afternoon.

In the category showing us how we all got to this point, the example that comes most firmly to mind is Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything.  People may laugh at this choice but I can recall few other books that even approach its ability to show the sheer humanity involved in science.  With humor and an irreverent awe, Bryson shows us our world in a level of detail that thrills me.  I’ve read this book three times and most strongly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in a history of science.

Does The Watchman’s Rattle live up to these books?  Could  it possibly reach the bar set so high by it’s predecessors?  Goddamn it!  That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out these last few days.  Thus far I just don’t know.   At times, brilliant, at others, provoking, the book lunges through ideas like mega-churches through money, thrilling me with the scope and grandeur of the work and convincing me of its authenticity.    Then I’ll stumble upon one little section, sometimes only a phrase that will cast the rest of it in doubt.  Provoking, it is.  Truths, both massive and new, are woven throughout.

But is it an accurate vision of our past and future?  Well… Beats the hell out of me, and not just because I can’t see the future. It’s more because I can’t see that what she lays out as solutions aren’t just panaceas created out of a hope for humankind to survive.  I just don’t know.  More research will have to be done.  At the very least, this is a book that I will be chewing through for a very long time.  That alone should recommend it to many of you.

The Watchman’s Rattle thoroughly discusses the problems facing mankind but not the common problems we are all used to hearing about.  Oh sure, climate change, overpopulation and dwindling natural resources are all mentioned, but these are not the root of the problem.  According to Costa, the root of humankind’s problems and the reasons so many civilizations have fallen is that they have all reached a “cognitive limit”  on what they could figure out.  Every civilization reaches a point where the complexity of its troubles becomes too great for merely human brains to figure out.  Once a people’s troubles become too complex for our brains using knowledge, they revert to beliefs or faith in what they cannot prove to help them.  Any reader of this blog will understand my horror of that.

Is this true?  Not being an expert, my opinion here must be taken appropriately, but this rings so true it hurts.  As our own world grows in complexity and the problems we face today look too impossibly convoluted to solve, I see many people reverting to belief or faith only because it’s simpler and easier.  The world has become so specialized that a mere human could never hope to understand everything even in their specialized field.  Therefore, we must increasingly rely on experts and specialists to guide us, but there is growing resistance.  The acrimonious debate over climate change is a prime example.  Many are no longer willing to turn over complicated science to the experts but demand, without merit, that they can understand it too.  But to truly understand it would take years of study that virtually none aren’t willing to put in.  So they espouse a belief that it isn’t true and find erratic bits of evidence to support that belief… or just make shit up.

They haven’t expanded their knowledge to encompass the problem.  They have dumbed down the problem to fit readily on a neat shelf within their own minds comfortably resting next to similar beliefs about pollution, abortion and God. If it’s too hard to understand the problem just believe you do.  It won’t solve anything but will give you some smug satisfaction and superiority over the so-called experts.

In a nut shell, this is the root of the problems in The Watchman’s Rattle.  Costa then breaks these down into separate “supermemes” that humanity tends to fall into that support belief over knowledge.  I can’t get into the specifics here only because I couldn’t do them justice.  Suffice it to say that people often prefer the simpler solution over the right one.  And look around.  Can anyone really argue with that assessment?  Shit no!

It’s not her analysis of the problem that I find difficult.  I think she is spot on there, one of the best I’ve read.  My trouble lies with her optimism for overcoming the problem.  This is very reliant on altering human behavior and cognition through a variety of ways, most of which would be considered speculative to say the least.  She finds the most comfort in the studies of “insight”, the brain’s way of unconsciously arriving at conclusions without apparent effort.  Now I admit, this area does fascinate me and perhaps we can study and control this mental ability better, but to hold on to it as tightly as she does makes me lose hope in our future rather than gain it.  The study of insight is at it very beginning and I think that most of what we could infer here could safely be labeled unproven.

My opinion here is not helped by what I consider the weakest part of the book, that is its reliance on single very controversial demonstrations of how we are missing the boat.  These go by with hardly a word of explanation, but raise the hackles on the back of my neck.  Events like NASA research into spaced based power systems are brought forth as near perfect solutions to today’s problems that we are missing because of our inability to accept new things.  Um… Maybe… Someday.  Does she have any idea what it would take to get a system up and running, even a prototype?  She falls victim to her own list of human frailties by grandly simplifying an unbelievably complex and unproven system into something to be taken for granted.  There are other similar issues.  I could have made this book three times as good by simply going through and editing out two pages of speculation as fact.

In all truth Costa’s book holds close to the fine edge between genius and fantasy.  I just wish I could better judge which side of that line she is on.  I am not into woo.  I hate the stuff and my woo detectors are generally pretty effective at sniffing out bullshit, but here, I am just not sure.  What do I rate it?  Ask me tomorrow and again next week and I’ll likely have different answers for you.  For making me think… A ten!  For bringing forth an original statement of the problems facing us… a ten!

I wish I could stop there, but alas.  The book is very thought provoking, very original.  This I can say without a doubt.  Is this an accurate roadmap to the future?  Sigh!  Rating that I’d have to give it somewhere between four and ten.  Don’t like my wishy-washy analysis? I don’t either.  It frustrates me that I can’t  accept it or throw it out.   I’ll tell you what.  Why don’t some of you read it and we all could discuss what the book really means.  At the very least, this book has provoked me to think and think hard, and that makes it worth reading right there.

So someone help me out here and tell me what you think.  I need someone to talk to about this.

Book Review: Pandora’s Seed — The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization.


at its essence, Pandora’s Seed is a cautionary tale regarding the history of the human race and the paths we have taken.  Author of the popular The Journey of Man, Spencer Wells’ newest book encompasses a wide scope, all the major forks we have come to in our cultural evolution. The book attempts to cover how the choices made millennia ago deeply affect every thing from obesity and mental illness to climate change and religious fundamentalism.  The scope is vast.  The depth is, unfortunately, is not. While the book in its smaller scale is admirably comprehensible for the general reader, the in-depth study I wished for is missing.  There really should be no diving signs posted around most of the chapters because I can easily see the bottom.  I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but I would have preferred to plumb the depths of this topic more thoroughly. There is plenty of good solid information.  I just rue the fact that there is not more.

The book wraps itself around the premise that human evolution selected for many characteristics in humanity that we no longer need, characteristics that are, in fact, detrimental to our current well being.  It’s a story we have heard many times before.  Millions of years of evolution shaped us to be hunter-gatherers, to live off complicated carbohydrates and meat, to survive in small social bands where everyone knew everyone else, where diseases were rare and not readily spread from clan to clan.  Our self-alteration into an agricultural-based society rapidly changed these constants and thereby altered humanity forever — for good and for ill.

Sensibly, Mr. Wells never advocates a return to a primitive lifestyle. His work suggests more of a careful study of how our cultural evolution is affecting our health and well being today as individuals as well as the health of society in general and the planet we live on. Starting with diet, Pandora’s Seed marches us through humanity’s difficulty in adapting our biology to modern diets and behaviors.  The rise in many chronic health concerns like diabetes, obesity and heart disease can be attributed to the change to agriculture some 10,000 years ago.  The prevalence of many of our infectious diseases today was caused by our long association with domesticated animals and hence their diseases and our need as a farming society to settle in larger and larger groups allowing new diseases to spread easily and rapidly.  These conclusions are well supported by the evidence and Wells does a fine job of arguing this case.

As the book progresses, however, it seems to become less scientific and more conjectural.  I understand that this is due to the author’s entire purpose of the book which is to show how our decisions today will affect not only our children but our descendants for thousands of years.  The purpose is admirable and lofty but the execution is less than stellar.  I felt the need to remind myself of this purpose periodically while reading, but that thread should have been woven obviously and bluntly throughout the narrative.  For instance, when he tells the tale of Mount Tambora exploding in 1815 ( A great tale which he tells well.) and drastically cooling the planet for the next year, I shouldn’t have to wonder why he’s relating this story.  It should be more obvious.

I agree with the concept  that decisions made 10,000 years ago affect who we are.  And, of course, decisions we make today will influence our descendants for dozens, if not hundreds of generations.  This theme should be central in the choices we make today, and Wells does try to get this across but with too loose of a narrative and questionable results.

It is not that I didn’t agree with what he was saying, or that I didn’t learn anything.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  It is just that each individual segment is well written, but taken as a whole, the work is not cohesive enough. It’s almost more of a series of essays than that a single work.  A stronger thread should have tied these widely disparate sections together.  Compared to Jared Diamond, the master of grandly unifying separate ideas, Wells’ book comes up as a distant second.  Cohesion is difficult for many authors, myself included.  I understand.  But in works of this scope, differences in cohesion is the difference between average works like this and masterworks like Gun’s Germs and Steel and Collapse.

I give it six Blessed A’s out of ten.

As an aside, I must relate a discovery I made here.  In the chapter on disease, Wells mentions a researcher at the NIH by the name of Deirdre Joy.  This name rang something in my poorly contrived mind and after a few pages I had to turn back and look again.  I knew a Deirdre Joy in the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic where I served. She was an amazingly competent and funny woman with a blistering wit which could wash away most opponents in a few short words. To be fully honest, I had a complete crush on her and followed her around rather pathetically until it was stated to me in a politely blunt fashion that she wasn’t interested.  That did cool my ardor but not my admiration.  Searching on Google (what in the hell did we ever do before that arrived on the scene?) rapidly proved to me that there is only a single Deirdre Joy of note and that I certainly knew her.

At the risk of looking like a stalker, I also must admit to looking for a picture of her.  Now! Now! It’s not what you think!  As hard as I tried, I just couldn’t picture her.  Struggling mightily with my own brain gave me nothing.  I could see her gestures and hear a few witticisms she threw out.  But… Damn!  This is a woman who I… lusted after… yet aside from blond hair, my mind was completely empty.  Upon looking at her photo, however, the mental images came rushing back, but I must ask. Where the hell were they all that time?  Obviously, the neurons holding that information in an iron grip  had not died.  Were they misplaced, sleeping, being coy?  Were they shy?  Sigh!   If I could only call up all the shit I have stored in my head when I need it, I’d be a genius.  But no, I end up wandering warped and twisted cerebral hallways for days looking for the mental equivalent of lost sock.  If there is any better proof of not being designed by God, I have yet to hear it.

Anyway, I know it’s a bit rednecky but this is the first time I have read a book and found someone I actually knew in its pages.  I’m so happy.

The Promised Land: I Give You This Land, All You Have To Do Is Steal It.


From the never dull Brick Testament.

 

Exodus 23/20-33.

Ah, look.  Who would have thought?  Yet another Biblical genocide.  Well, more of a preview for one really, a promise of ass-kickings to come, a movie trailer of a minor apocalypse.  Here the Lord Genocide promises his chosen ones that he will give them land, Hence the term “promised land”.  Unfortunately that land is already under the ownership of several other tribes of humanity so God’s promise is really an offer of aid in the extermination or expulsion of said peoples in exchange for complete and absolute obedience.  There’s always a price to be paid even with Yahweh as your best friend forever.  Hell, especially with Yahweh as your buddy.  That guy’s like a giant vampire extracting a price for shit he just pretends to do.  But we’ll get into that later.

Here he lays out a plan where the Hebrews will conquer the land of Canaan, not only conquer but completely destroy the inhabitants dwelling therein. People may be ignorant of this but they call it the land of Canaan for a reason — the Canaanites dwelt there.  Now God’s wants other people to have it. So many questions arise! Why does God give them someone else’s property?  Can’t he make more land? Will this vastness of death and suffering eventually work out in some kind of plan?  Are there oxymoronic limits on omnipotence?  Mysterious ways? I do not know.  But merely to ask these questions demands that Yahweh really exists.  Although this site loves to assume that he does and poke holes through the very idea, it would be more illustrative to occasionally take another tack, namely to be blunt about the fact that he doesn’t exist and simply state the dangers of passages like these. We certainly can and should ask the preceding questions to believers, though.  In fact, we could ask so many more.  But I find it enlightening to look at why this section was written.  What other reason could it be than a justification, perhaps even after the fact, of the Hebrew’s “right” to possess the land. God gave it to then after all. Who can argue with the will of God?

The Ancient Hebrews were a legal minded people.  Anyone one who has read just a bit of the vast amounts of Law within this book can hardly doubt that legality was paramount, and these verses give a justification to their claim, a reason why they deserve the land more than the people already dwelling there.  Here, their Manifest Destiny is more firmly stated than the Monroe Doctrine, a bold plan for their future expansion.  This was both the carrot and the stick offering great riches but demanding strict obedience. This was their rationalization for genocide.  They needed the land.  Someone else had it.  Excuses could be invented.  It was likely no worse than many of their contemporary’s or our contemporaries justifications for their own personal massacres, but it is no better either. People are people and they have been for a very long time.  So I’m not saying the Canaanites and their kin were better than the Hebrews, and I’m not saying they were worse.  Please keep in mind that by all evidence most ancient contemporaries were jackoffs. Like anywhere in history, those that were too decent didn’t last long against their more aggressive neighbors.  A fact the many of us are unwilling to face is that if other people have what we want or need, we will often invent some reason to take it from them.  An honest look at history shows that every group and tribe on earth is Machiavellian to the core.  We don’t remember Machiavelli because he was good and just.  He strikes a chord with us because we see ourselves in his writings. Face it people, evolution on a harsh planet has trained us well to be bastards.  Would our creation by a loving God have done it nearly so completely?  Does that even make sense?

Exodus 23/20. “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.”

Obey me and I will destroy your enemies!  My angel will bring you into the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.  What else other than a complete genocide could this mean?  Do not question! Do not rebel! Do not think for yourselves! And if you remain loyal I’ll help you kill your neighbors and take their lands.  Sweet deal, eh?  In essence, this is a great device to ensure the retention of power by the  ruler, Moses, and the ruling class, the priests.  The only way to get the land is complete and utter obedience to God.  The only way to obey God is to obey the only one who God will speak to, Moses.  Cunning, don’t you think? Do you still doubt that Moses was the greatest cult leader of all time?  Truth is, he’s damned good at his job and knows exactly what to tell his people to keep them from straying. One almost has to admire him… Almost.

Let’s continue with Exodus 23/27

You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces. But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.”

Obey God and he will even break out the hornets on you enemies.  Hornets?  Really?  What’s next?  Barrels of Monkeys?  Angry cats? Sexually depraved rhinos? Again you can see the carrot and stick here.  Destroy their god’s temples and Yahweh will stop your women from miscarrying.  He will remove sickness. Women will be fertile. Your enemies will turn and run, and… Don’t forget the hornets!  Aside from those blasted hornets and enemies fleeing, I don’t see why any god who even claims a passing familiarity with benevolence wouldn’t do these thing anyway.  Stopping sicknesses and infertility? What kind of buttplug would withhold these essentials from people you claim to adore?  If you’re the creator of everything, why did you make them in the first place?  You create diseases then demand complete obedience to get rid of the very creations you inflicted on humanity.

Ow!  Brain filling up. Must purge!  Purge!  To use a term I just heard, by the bowels of Christ, how do believers actually hold all this shit in their head simultaneously?  Every time I try to do this I feel as if I have some kind of mental dysentery.  I shove biblical ideas in at one end while watery and poorly digested shit is forced out the other.  It has to come out.  No matter how hard my mental sphincter tries, it just can’t hold it.  Ugh! I think I’m going to have to lie down.

But first onto Exodus 23/29

I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. “I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.

Um. OK. You’re going to drive them out but not all at once because every one knows that beasts in the fields pose a far greater danger than those mere tribes of people whose lives and land you’re stealing. Yeah!  For your information the land was truly taken little by little.  It took centuries and was often retaken by other empires.  What this statement does is make the promise non-falsifiable.  With only a vague idea of a timeline, priests could always claim that the time was not ripe, and with the demand for obedience, they could always claim that the people were not loyal enough.  We’ve seen both of these used far too many times in our history to not interpret it this way.  Prophets or priests make some vague open-ended prediction and then continually make excuses for it not happening or blame their acolytes for a lack of faith.

In fact, already the offer of help is clarified to exclude any forceful help from God, other than the hornets, of course.
“I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.”

Well,… I’m not going to drive them out.  I’ll let you do it.  Looking forward, one sees that the promise is only fulfilled at the end of the Exodus and even then poorly. Deuteronomy 1:8 says: See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them. In other words, “Here is the land I have given you.  Now go take it from those already living there.  Yeah I’ll be… Right behind you… Yeah, that’s the ticket!”  That’s like me taking my son into a store, pointing out an ipod and telling him that the ipod is his for I have given it to him, all he must do is steal it.  That plan could save me some money on birthday presents just like it saves God from having to really do anything… or exist.

The whole section ends with this grim proclamation.

“You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

This is the most frightening statement here.  It allows no compromise and no mercy.  They are the enemy and must be driven out at all costs.  Their very presence will bring doom. Even though I know that history is rife with such proclamations and events,  this send chills through me.  That they did it is one thing.  Mini-cides like this happened on a yearly basis in the ancient world.  But that there is a vast group of people right here and right now who use this book as the one inerrant guide to life, the one source of all morality, terrifies me.  In spite of the progress we’ve made, a sizable minority of people still look to this book as an error-free moral blueprint. And this blueprint actively condones the extermination of those different from you.  Scary, huh?  Next Halloween, I’m going as a Bible.

The single comforting bit of knowledge is that most biblical archeologists don’t believe there was much of a conquest merely a slow growth of the Hebrews in a sparsely populated land.  There is little evidence for any kind of sudden devastating warfare and in spite of what the Biblical sources tell us, little reason to believe this genocide took place.  But what really happened isn’t my concern as much as what Biblical literalists think is right and wrong, and this clearly puts genocide in a God-endorsed category, an endorsement that can hardly be looked with anything other than revulsion in today’s light.

Have you ever noticed that God’s help as predicted by prophecy or prayer is always proclaimed as some grand and glorious thing, angels leading the charge to war, God throwing thunderbolts from above, amputees being healed, but when later preachers go back to see if the prophecies or prayers have been answered, the criteria used to judge the efficacy is hardly consistent with the original bold predictions.  Listening to how today’s preachers proclaim the end is near and bring out their list of fulfilled prophecies is a joke.  Most are so vaguely interpreted as to render all of it meaningless.  In the thirty years since I started listening to this shit, there is always a new claim for a new antichrist (usually a Democrat) or event that only roughly corresponds to what the Bible really says.  Ten years later, the same group of preachers have a different set. God doesn’t work in mysterious ways.  He works in undetectable and nonexistent ways.

Great prayers ask for God’s help, whether in war or sickness or disaster.  When the hardship is over, believers will sift through the wreckage of their lives to find anything proving that their God still loves them.  Their communities are in ruins and their families lie in graves at their feet, yet they continue to grasp on to the slightest silver lining as proof God is real.  To disbelieve at that point is horrifying and unthinkable.  That their loss was meaningless and eternal can’t be borne. The only way they can hold on to what they have lost is to desperately believe… in anything!  They cling to an imaginary promise that they will get it all back.  They won’t.

God’s promises aren’t real, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have power.  Religion is a force in the world, sometimes for good, sometimes for evil.  When God promises great things while demanding complete obedience, frightening things can result.  And since it’s in the realm of magic, many of the promises become gifts in an unprovable afterlife, a payment plan using Monopoly money.  Denying proof and relying solely on faith removes any checks and balances from the system.  At that point the system is too often controlled by the mob, and the mob is too often controlled by just a few men.  The balance between good and evil swings on the character of human beings, never the most trustworthy of linchpins.

Whether it’s a promised land or 72 virgins, the promises of a fictional God, an infallible ideal, or any other magical thinking give us the rationalizations we require to become true barbarians.

And as products of a vicious evolution, we never need much.

We’re just bastards in the hands of a non-existent God!

 

Biblical Property Rights And The Price Of Virgins.


Not much to do with the post, but I like it anyway. Click to embiggen!

We finally continue our travels through the grand halls of Biblical law, laws handed to a beloved people by a benevolent God to guide them through troubled times.  These were great laws, laws of such majesty and scope that they have kept peace on Earth for three thousand years, laws which have aided humanity in its quest to discover the universe.  Here we shall cover the great Biblical teachings on the Germ Theory of Disease and the heliocentricity of the solar system. We shall see how God for little reason other than graciousness just gave us the Laws of Thermodynamics and Atomic Theory.  We shall…  Nah!  I’m just shitting you.  For the most part, these divine rules deal with the price of sheep and virgins.  And we all can see how laws regulating those are going to further humanity’s progress well into the Twenty-first century.

On the other hand I feel the need to be honest here. This next set of laws is an unusual mix for the Bible in that many of them actually make some degree of sense… Well, they make sense in a man-made, patriarchal, women are cattle kind of way.  With that in mind one can still view them through the historical lens of our species’ struggle to find some measure of order within its ranks.  These are laws which tend to act as a social lubricant to keep the various parts functioning, keep the rough edges of humanity from abrading each other too harshly, and as such, tended to do their job.  Many of them are not just or right by today’s lofty standards, but as judged by contemporary comparisons, these laws give the Hebrew society a rough and tumble structure within which they can carry on the day to day business without killing each other. In fact, this set only makes sense as a result humanity’s long and painful voyage of self discovery in a harsh world with no guidance.  Mere humanity battling its way through its own inept assholedness ( I made that up) could form laws such as these. Only a simple people trying to get a growing clan to not kill the others could invent rules such as these.

However, if you insist on demanding that these were handed down by perfect and all powerful Grand High Poobah of the universe then… well… they are seriously shit-assed crazy.  They merely trim off the roughest edges of barbarism and allow people to minimize the conflict between each other. They do little more than that. They are not lofty.  They are not greatly forward-looking.  They are so obviously not divine that it’s absurd to insist they are.  If someone continues to hold to the claim, they do not defend the idea of the divine but merely plunge the hypothesis into the ground. It would be a piss-poor God who could hand his purposely flawed creations shit like this yet pretend it’s roses.

Let’s take just a few and examine them closely.  Again, these are not major steps in jurisprudence.  Many fall firmly into the “Keep your Goddamned Cow off my lawn” or “Keep your phallus out of my daughter” variety.  Many others state the reparations due if your cow does wander onto my lawn or your phallus does wander into my daughter, wandering phalluses (phalli?)generally bringing higher prices than cows.

Exodus 22/5 If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.

Or Exodus 22/16-17. If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife.  If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.

Again we see a strong propensity to view women as mere objects to be bartered and sold and only endowed with a monetary value to her father.  If some jackass comes and seduces a daughter, he owes little to her but much to the father, hardly an enlightened idea.  But through all this there are humanitarian gems… well, maybe more like pretty rocks.  Even the last line above has some potential for mercy.   If her father absolutely refuses to give her to the seducer, the seducer shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.  This does give a good father some leeway to find a better match for his daughter and gives her some breathing room for her supposed sin.   It’s not much, I understand, but it’s something.  At least they’re not burning her at the stake.  It just goes to show that if we set the bar low enough, we can find something of value.

Moreover, there are other passages here that positively smack of liberality.  Here:

If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account.

In essence, if you catch a thief in your house in the night you are excused it he ends up dead, but if you wait until daylight the killing will be considered murder.  Odd coming from the same book that people continually quote an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  I’ll admit that it’s more liberal than I ever would have thought.  Damned ancient bleeding heart Hebrews screwing everything up!  Of course right after that is the statement He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. Better than being beaten to death, but hardly something we follow today.  Aren’t there any literalist willing to pick up God’s banner here and carry it forward?  No?  Just not enough God fearing people, I guess.

And just look at the actual justice in these passages.

Exodus 23/1-9.  “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. “You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute.  “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just. “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Damn!  Read right, this is downright humane and achieves actual justice even by today’s standards.  Here’s stuff we could actually use in our century.  It’s not cold fusion or a cure for cancer, but it is enlightened.  Alas, its decency is swallowed by the other less humane passages.

Truly, the incongruity of some of these better verses with others before or after it is hilarious,  most often grimly hilarious but funny never-the-less.  For example, the passage following the payment due a father by the seducer is infamous  Exodus 22/18-20 “You shall not allow a sorceress to live followed by the perverted justice of Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.” And topped off by the loving declaration “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed.” Whatever sum-bitch came up with these is one sick mother. And as usual, we are back to fire and brimstone, death and destruction.

But immediately after this are wonderful verses concerning the care of strangers and widows and orphans, truly enlightened verses showing the way to a kinder gentler Bible yet still dirtied by the horrors encasing them.  Like pearls in the manure pile, the good stuff is buried deeply in the rest of the shit. Sure! We can scrape it off, clean it up and still use the good stuff .  This is what most liberal Christians do, pick and choose from the best of what’s really there, and I have little problem with this.  If one wants to use the best parts but leave the rest of the decaying mass behind, that’s great. We should take the best of all literature and use it to enrich our lives. However, the fundamentalists are determined to prove it is all truth all the time. No questions allowed. No options either.  Just believe you bastards! Evangelicals use garbage like this as an excuse to spew hate and bigotry at any who oppose them. These are the bits that they can selectively bring out to condemn nearly anyone.

Doubt me?  How many sorceresses have been killed using just that first passage?  How many heretics have been burned at the stake in the last thousand years using the last?

It’s the rapid Biblical shifting back and forth, from good to evil that makes me a bit nauseous.  Please, take a look for yourselves. The more you read this book the more schizophrenic Yahweh becomes, and I certainly don’t mean some minor mood swings.  I mean a smearing bat-shit on your face kind of crazy.    The pages here virtually drip with frightening bipolar declarations which wind between the not too bad and totally fucking twisted with reckless abandon “Take care of all orphans and widows because God is mercifu… WTF!  What’s he doing?  Jesus Christ! Kill ‘im!  Kill ‘im now! Mother fu… Ah, look at the puppy.  Happy thoughts!”

Were God human, we’d have the little bastard stuffed in a straitjacket and padded cell… very securely locked, of course… and lots of medication.  But he’s God so his flaws are looked at as virtues.  His sociopathy is described as benevolence.  He becomes a superhero, a perfect being, the ultimate in divine goodness. What a load of shit!

I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating.  Why can’t we hold our gods to a higher standard?  Why does the concept of perfection excuse the vast piles of behavioral bullshit that contradict it?  Why does the “flawlessness” of God allow him to duck the obvious burden for so many glaring flaws?

I still think we should consider the straitjacket… And the medication.  Never forget the benefits of drugs.

Personally, I think just taking him out and getting him laid would likely help.


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