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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

In case you didn’t know, the answer is “no.”  Bart Ehrman explains why…

You can see the full debate here.

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As promised, I’m following up on my previous blog post where I revealed the first video I’ve produced here at TheSkepticalMagician.com – “Genesis Creation Visualized – Scientifically.”  I put a considerable amount of thought and energy into creating this video, and I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look into the reasons why I made it the way I did.

Why re-write Genesis?

A common response one gets when talking to Christians about the origins of the Universe and the lack of specificity and accuracy of the Genesis account — is that the complex laws of physics would have been lost on bronze age peoples, so God had to dumb it down so humans could comprehend all that he had done.  In other words, the divine creator had to be vague, and not quite as accurate because the concepts were not there to explain it fully.  This seems to make a lot of intuitive sense to believers, and it is something that enables them to continue believing what they want to believe, so they don’t take that next crucial step that everyone should take when determining whether or not something they believe is true… They don’t try to prove themselves wrong!  And just like a scientist who submits something for peer review without first trying to disprove their ideas, if they don’t do it — someone else will.  By re-writing the Genesis account as I did (and I could have been far more detailed were it not for my time limits), I was able to show that one could give a scientifically accurate portrayal of the evolution of the Cosmos that a bronze age human could understand, while still maintaining certain poetic liberties.  Had the first 18 verses of Genesis been something similar to what I created, we in present day would have to stop and ask, “How in the heck did these bronze age illiterates know about things like fusion and the forging of the elements within stars?”  “How did they know the Earth orbits the Sun, and how did they know it rolls upon the fabric of space like it does?”  Instead of having to answer difficult questions like these, we’re left with undeniable evidence that the Genesis account of creation is just one more in a long line of creation myths.

Now, I fully admit that the Genesis account as currently written could have happened just like the Bible says, and I say as much in the video.  There is no way for me to disprove this, though I don’t think most Christians would be comfortable with what this would tell us about the creator.  If the Genesis account of the Bible is a literal, historical account of the creation of the Universe, then the creator is a deceiver.  He’s a trickster.  He’s a hoaxer.  In order for the Genesis account to be true, it would mean that creator would have had to intentionally alter time and space itself to make it look like things had occurred completely different than they actually had.  In essence,  that God is one who not only tricks people, but tricks people into not believing in him, or in his written text, which plainly goes against the idea in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

A track that many liberal Christians take is that the Genesis account is not a literal history of creation, but that it’s a symbolic or metaphoric account of man’s relationship with his creator etc, etc, etc.  Again, I can’t disprove that either, though I don’t think people who follow that line of thinking consider the greater negative theological implications for the Christian faith later on down the line.  Without a literal Genesis, or a literal Adam and Eve – there is no basis or necessity for a literal 2nd Adam (i.e. Jesus) to undo what they did in Genesis.  For these types, much of the Bible is looked at as metaphorical or symbolic, and these issues aren’t of any great concern to them, and they are happy to believe just the same.  Again, trying to disprove their perspective is a bit like trying to nail jello to a wall, and there are so many ad hoc fallacies, and so much special pleading injected into the conversation that one can find themselves quickly frustrated.  In general, these types of believers aren’t usually trying to get Biblical creation crammed into science classrooms, and are often times just as against their fundamentalist brethren in that regard as secularists are.  So while I don’t agree with their conclusions, and can no more disprove their claims than I can disprove Russell’s teapot, I can at least respect their ability to accept the clear evidence of origins instead of dogmatically clinging to ideas that are either false (my position), or the product of an omnipotent trickster. (more…)

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Yesterday, voters in North Carolina cast their votes in favor of defining marriage as between one man and one woman.  Not a big surprise seeing they only celebrated their first legal interracial marriage in 1971.  In the end, the US Constitution is on the side of same-sex couples wanting to wed, and opponents don’t have a leg to stand on legally.  Married, heterosexual couples suffer no harm to life, liberty, or property as a result of same-sex marriages being recognized, and because of this, they have no legal standing to oppose it.  This particular culture war issue like so many others – comes back to the Bible.  So, I’d like to pose a question…

“The Bible clearly indicates that slaves should obey their masters, just like they’re obeying Christ (Eph. 6:5). The book of Exodus gives slave owners permission to beat their slaves into a coma, and it’s okay, because the slave is their property, and if they die a couple of days later as a result of the beating – that’s okay too (Exodus 21:20-21). So, with as many as 27 million slaves in the world today – are the Bible verses concerning slavery still applicable? If they are not, why do the verses concerning slavery no longer apply, while the verses against homosexuality remain in full effect?”

Just so we don’t waste our time with the whole “Slavery in the Bible was different” canard, we’ve already addressed that issue here, so we can just focus on the question.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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I recently finished The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, and thought it might be a good idea to do a short book review, despite the fact that it was written in the late 1700’s.  Thomas Paine is best known for his work Common Sense, which helped to solidify colonial sentiment and fan the spark of revolution into flame.    In this book, he shouts the praises of the “pure and simple profession of Deism,” while providing his arguments against organized religion, and Christianity in particular.

Reading the book, I could easily see myself as a Deist if I had lived in the time of the revolution and the Founding Fathers.  I also think it would be quite likely that if Thomas Paine was able to find himself in this day and age, that he would be an atheist.  While some of his arguments in the book were a tad on the weak side, he also had many good points on which a theist might ponder, and considering the times it was written in, he really did an outstanding job.  Here are some of the more memorable quotes from the book (a few are a tad longer):

“What have ye still to offer against the pure and moral religion of Deism, in support of your system of falsehood, idolatry, and pretend revelation?  Had the cruel and murderous orders with which the Bible is filled, and the numberless torturing executions of men, women and children, in consequence of those orders, been ascribed to some friend whose memory you revered, you would have glowed with satisfaction at detecting the falsehood of the charge, and gloried in defending his injured fame.  Is it because ye are sunk in the cruelty of superstition, or feel no interest in the honor of your Creator, that ye listen to the horrid tales of the Bible, or hear them with callous indifference?  The evidence I have produced, and shall produce in the course of this work, to prove that the Bible is without authority, will, while it wounds the stubbornness of a priest, relieve and tranquilize the minds of millions; it will free them from all those hard thoughts of the Almighty which priestcraft and the Bible had infused into their minds, and which stood in everlasting opposition to all their ideas of his moral justice and benevolence.”  

“At the time those books were written there was no printing, and consequently there could be no publication, otherwise than by written copies, which any man might make or alter at pleasure, and call them originals.  Can we suppose it is consistent with the wisdom of the Almighty, to commit himself and his will to man upon such precarious means as these, or that it is consistent we should pin our faith upon such uncertainties?  We cannot make, nor alter, nor even imitate so much as one blade of grass that he has made, and yet we can make or alter words of God as easily as words of man.” 

“It was upon the vote of such as Athanasius, that the Testament was decreed to be the word of God; and nothing can present to us a more strange idea than that of decreeing the word of God by vote.  Those who rest their faith upon such authority put man in the place of God, and have no foundation for future happiness; credulity, however is not a crime, but it becomes criminal by resisting conviction.” (more…)

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I finished reading Penn Jillette’s new book, God, No!  Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales this weekend, and figured it was about time I wrote a book review on my blog.  I’ll start off by saying if you’re offended by what is considered by many to be blasphemy, or words like: fuck, shit, piss, bitch, cunt, motherfucking, dick, pussy, goddamn, cock, tits (big fake ones), masturbation, or cocksucker…  OR if you are easily offended by talk of sex, oral sex, gay sex, or straight sex while 40 ft. underwater scuba diving, then you probably won’t enjoy this book.  If this first paragraph of my review hasn’t bothered you too much, then you should do fine.

I seldom read books that would be considered by many to be “relaxing reads.”  I almost never read fiction (even though I enjoy it) because if I’m going to read something, I want to learn something from it, so I end up spending a lot of time reading books on science, philosophy, religion, culture, and politics.  I find that kind of reading relaxing and enjoyable, and even though it’s good reading to me, every now and then a book like God, No! is a breath of fresh air that breaks up the monotony, and allows me to enjoy a book just for the sake of enjoying a book.

Penn and his partner Teller are really the first professional magicians that I have any memory of as a child.  I’m sliding towards 33 years of age now, and I don’t remember when it originally aired, but I remember watching them perform and then expose “Blast Off” to the tune of “Liftoff to Love” from the comfort of my grandparent’s living room as a kid.  If the topic of magic and magicians came up from that point on in my youth, my mind almost always returned to that one performance, and when the magic bug finally bit me in my early twenties, I still found myself flashing back to that evening in grandma and grandpa’s living room.  Needless to say, the profound impact Penn & Teller had on me as a young lad made me all the more interested to read Penn’s book.  That — and of course our shared libertarian leanings.

Overall, I found the book very enjoyable.  I’ve seen some criticisms that there was too much profanity in the book, and that Penn rambled too much at times, to which I reply, “What did you expect?”  This is a book by Penn Jillette, and it’s written just like he talks (if you haven’t seen his rants on Penn Point, I suggest you check them out).  Penn even admits in the book that there’s a lot of rambling, and if you’re familiar with him, this should not bother you.  If you don’t have a clue as to who Penn Jillette is, then you may not enjoy the book as much.

God, No! is loosely built around the “Atheist Ten Commandments” that Penn put together after being challenged to do so by Glenn Beck.  I say loosely built around because sometimes the particular commandment at the beginning of the chapter doesn’t seem to connect with the story that follows.  For example, Commandment #7 Thou shalt not commit adultery, which had the Atheist’s 7th Suggestion of “Keep your promises – If you can’t be sexually exclusive to your spouse, don’t make that deal,” was followed up with a story about pitching the show Bullshit shortly after 9/11.  It was still a good story, but it didn’t have anything to do with the commandment/suggestion so far as I could tell.  That would really be my only knock against the book.  Well, that and the typo on page 157 that says, “…we might could get away with onstage.”  But considering I’ve read a Christian book that spoke of “Stan’s kingdom of darkness,” I’d say that single error is pretty minor.

Another critique I’ve heard about the book is that Penn is weak on science and isn’t serious enough about it.  To this I would say, “Did you actually look at the cover of the book before you read it?”  There’s a picture of the book at the start of this review in case you missed it, and the cover has Penn Jillete with hands together in mock prayer, in an atheist choir robe, in front of stained glass.  If you thought this was going to be a book of serious scientific exploration then obviously you would be very disappointed, and while we’ve all heard the adage to not judge a book by its cover, sometimes the cover is a good indication of the general flavor and route the book is going to take.  If you want something a little more directed towards the philosophy of science, then you can pick up Massimo Pigliucci’s book, Nonsense on Stilts.  If you’re looking for an irreverent book that will make you laugh and cringe at times (Penn searing his cock to a blowdryer), as well touch you emotionally (Penn dealing with the death of his parents) like I was, then you’ll find God, No! to be an enjoyable diversion from business as usual.

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I will warn you right now that the video below is extremely disturbing.  I could only watch about 30 seconds of it myself.

Exodus 22:18 says, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  And the people in the video below certainly don’t have a problem taking God at his word.  This is one of the dangers of pentecostalism to highly superstitious people in places like Kenya and other third-world areas, and I think it’s one of the greatest proofs that the Holy Spirit does not exist.  Christianity in the Western developed world has been tempered by enlightenment thinking, however, the same cannot be said for various regions in Africa.  If you leave people in the developing world with nothing but a Bible and the Holy Spirit to guide them – you get things like this:

The purpose for this post however is not to say, “Look at the evils of Christianity.”  While I agree with Steven Weinberg that “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion,”  I would like to make a larger point here by using the video above as an illustration and metaphor of sorts.

If you watched the video above, you no doubt found it as reprehensible as I did whether you’re an atheist or a believer, but I would like you to view things a bit differently for a moment.  Essentially what we have is a weak group of people who are at the mercy of a larger unified force that they are powerless against.  They cry for mercy in the flames, and they receive none.  This serves as a perfect illustration of what is to come according to the segments of Christianity that believe in a fiery hell.  An omnipotent force, far more powerful than the group in the video, looks on as people burn in agony.  The difference however is that the burning on this Earth is temporary, while the supposed burning in the afterlife is forever.  How is it that a believer can watch a video like the one above and be utterly disgusted by the injustice doled out by the limited temporal force, and yet call “just” that which is doled out by the omnipotent eternal force upon a being so powerless and inferior?

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Game Description: There is another, lost chapter to the Bible no one has ever read. The Almighty has organized a grand contest of strength and now the greatest icons from both Testaments must engage in ferocious, bloody battle to determine who is most worthy to earn a seat at the right hand of the Lord himself.

Just click the image above to engage in hand-to-hand combat as Jesus, Satan, Eve, Noah, Moses, or Mary.  Unfortunately there are no awesome finishing moves in this one, but it’s still a fun way to waste a few minutes.  Enjoy!

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