Class Warfare Blog

September 14, 2019

Sometimes a Blurb is Enough, Part ???

Filed under: Religion,Science,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 7:35 am
Tags: , , ,

I see a great many books recommended by Amazon.com based upon my reading tastes (as indicated by my searches and purchases, I assume). This one caught my eye: Genesis and the Big Bang Theory: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science and The Bible. This is the blurb accompanying that title:

A ground-breaking book that takes on skeptics from both sides of the cosmological debate, arguing that science and the Bible are not at odds concerning the origin of the universe.

The culmination of a physicist’s thirty-five-year journey from MIT to Jerusalem, Genesis and the Big Bang presents a compelling argument that the events of the billions of years that cosmologists say followed the Big Bang and those of the first six days described in Genesis are, in fact, one and the same—identical realities described in vastly different terms. In engaging, accessible language, Dr. Schroeder reconciles the observable facts of science with the very essence of Western religion: the biblical account of Creation.

Carefully reviewing and interpreting accepted scientific principles, analogous passages of Scripture, and biblical scholarship, Dr. Schroeder arrives at a conclusion so lucid that one wonders why it has taken this long in coming. The result for the reader—whether believer or skeptic, Jewish or Christian—is a totally fresh understanding of the key events in the life of the universe.

* * *

Why the author had to go to Jerusalem on his “thirty-five year journey” is mysterious. The creation didn’t take place there, Genesis is available on the Internet as are several tons of discussion of it, so. . . ?

I have not yet read this beast, but it is a common approach of apologists to establish a correspondence between what we perceive as reality and their scriptures. Since their scriptures have a poor track record in such comparisons it is easy to scoff, but I decided to give this a go. I will report back.

Of course, there are a few minor foundational issues with all such comparisons. While one may establish that the order of the steps of creation as described in scripture is the same as actually occurred, in scripture the process by which they occurred is magic, something that has never been observed. As a colleague of Daniel Dennett put it (approximately) is that “real magic is fake and fake magic is real.” And any sort of physical explanation for a manifestation of nature must include not only the event but the process by which is occurred and “God did it” is not so much an explanation but an admission that one doesn’t know why or how it happened. And, it would be much more convincing if the scriptural account differed from reality and later, our view of reality had to be corrected due to mistakes being made and it came into alignment with scripture. This never happens. More often apologists claim that scripture corresponds with reality perfectly and then we find errors in our picture of reality and this is followed by some other apologist claiming that scripture was in perfect agreement with the new reality. (Note that Christian scripture corresponded exactly with Babylonian cosmogony and then Aristotelian cosmogony and then modern cosmogony (apparently), all three of which are vastly different. But I get ahead of myself. As I said I will attempt to read this book and report back.

For those who object that Yahweh “speaking” the universe into existence shouldn’t be characterized as magic, I offer this definition: magic (noun): the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. If the scriptural creation account is not mysterious and didn’t involve supernatural forces, then it was a natural thing and we don’t need a god to account for it, so scriptural creation is magical, almost by definition.

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August 27, 2019

The Cosmological and Ontological Arguments Unleashed

Let us start slowly, first with the Cosmological Argument. For those unfamiliar with this argument, here is a common version of it:

The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.
    2. The universe has a beginning of its existence.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
    4. Therefore, if the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

So as to not run afoul of what we know about cosmology, let us say that this “creator god” created the universe in the form of its incredibly dense form prior to the “Big Bang” event (the sudden expansion of the universe). So, this “universe seed” was created and it was unstable and will fly apart shortly . . . Bang! There it goes! A wait of only 14 or so billions years gives us the universe as we perceive it now. There, science and religion are compatible . . . uh, er . . . um . . . not really. The long wait is not an objection in this scenario as a being that can exist outside of space and time, could step outside of time at the Big Bang event and then step back in “now” and voila . . . no wait. There are, however, many actual objections to the injection of a “creator god” into this scenario, the simplest being “none is needed.” The only reason for injecting a creator god into this scenario is to establish that god’s bona fides as the creator of the universe. The physical situation does not need or even allow for such an injection.

In any case, some theistic apologists now claim the Big Bang event as their creator god’s creation of this universe. But, wait . . . there is more!

As is typical in apologetics, the left hand doesn’t tell the right hand what it is doing and thus creates problems . . . over there.

Now we switch over to the Ontological Argument. Again, for those who need a reminder, here is one version of it:

The Ontological Argument for the Existence of God

  1. By definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined.
    2. A being that necessarily exists in reality is greater than a being that does not necessarily exist.
    3. Thus, by definition, if God exists as an idea in the mind but does not necessarily exist in reality, then we can imagine something that is greater than God.
    4. But we cannot imagine something that is greater than God.
    5. Thus, if God exists in the mind as an idea, then God necessarily exists in reality.
    6. God exists in the mind as an idea.
    7. Therefore, God necessarily exists in reality.

Now by the logic of the Ontological Argument we can find that the Ontological Argument is bankrupt, basically beginning with “By definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined.” That this is a false premise has been pointed out by many. In essence, if you accept this premise as a basic fact, you have just defined a god into existence. (Does that make you a god, if you create one?) But the “god” being discussed isn’t just any old god, it is the Creator God™ whose name has changed a number of times since this argument was first made but is considered to be the god of the Abrahamic religions (if all of those might be lumped together). This is the One True God™ who did indeed create this universe. So, this is the one god who must be considered as “a being than which none greater can be imagined.” Think about this. If this god could create the universe seed which expanded and became “our universe,” He must be very powerful indeed. But if creating a universe seed is a sign of power, I can imagine a god that can create two such seeds at the same time. And if I can imagine that god, it must be greater than a god which can create only one at a time, no? So, that god must exist also, according to the logic of the Ontological Argument. There is no argument that the god who created the one universe seed, ours, is the same god as the one that can create two simultaneously, so a claim that it is the Abrahamic religion’s god that can create two simultaneously is pure speculation. The Abrahamic god may be just a baby god, playing in a creation sand box until he has honed his skills and can be taught by the greater gods how to create two universe seeds at the same time.

And, if there is a god that can create two such seeds, and there must be . . . according to the logic of this argument . . . then I can imagine a god that can create three such universe seeds simultaneously and that god has to be greater than the god who can create two universes and the kid god in the sandbox who can create only one. And can there be a limit here? If I can imagine that a god could create hundreds of universes simultaneously, why not thousands, billions, trillions, etc.? Soon we will be up to our asses in multiverses!

So, the “premise” that “by definition, God is a being than which none greater can be imagined” means, in all likelihood, that the deity that created this universe is not that god. This also means there is not just one god because there is no support of that idea either and we are now all polytheists. We certainly cannot take the word of the deity that created this universe that there is but one True God™, because it is clearly not that “god” by this definition. (His other comments seem more than a little boastful and one would expect a being of that power would show a little humility.)

So, clearly, monotheism is also bankrupt as are all of the religions worshiping a clearly inferior deity.

And, hey, I didn’t make the arguments. Blame the apologists.

 

August 22, 2019

What Motivates Trump’s Supporters?

Like many of you, I felt that the primary motivation of Trump voters was the economic stagnation of the middle class and middle America. The elites were getting richer, hand over fist, while we were getting squeezed by employers and creditors, and that left us with the only option of getting mad. That may not have been the primary motivation, however. This a “must read” article from The Guardian.

A New Poll Shows What Really Interests ‘Pro-Lifers’: Controlling Women by Jill Filipovic.

The subtitle is “According to their own survey responses, anti-abortion voters are hostile to gender equality in practically every aspect” (I assume they meant “every respect” at the end there.)

And, of course, at the source of all of this misogyny? Well, you figure it out.

August 10, 2019

Book Report—The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American

I am trying to catch up on reporting on books I have read and can recommend to you. The latest is The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American by Andrew L Seidel.

I highlighted all kinds of paragraphs to use in this review, but there were just too many of them. I’d end up quoting the entire book. So, I decided to offer you just a bit of the concluding chapter. The author starts by explaining that he had taken an elderly relative to a Catholic mass. The quote beings with some ruminations on that event.

“The last mass I witnessed was during a full Catholic wedding. The priest mentioned the happy couple about sixty times—a respectable number, given that we had gathered together to celebrate them. But the priest was also able to mention his church and god more than 235 times. This four-to-one ratio of church over couple has held at the two other Catholic weddings I’ve attended. The Catholic Church is co-opting the prestige of more illustrious events, people, and moments for itself. Two people dedicate their lives to each other, and religion injects itself in the middle. Christian nationalism excels at this type of piracy and imposition. It attempts, like the Catholic priest at those weddings, to bask in unwarranted glory. It seeks to co-opt undeserved greatness, accolades, and credit. It claims a nation dedicated to the freedom of and from religion, for one particular religion. It insists that a nation with a godless Constitution is dedicated to one particular god. A religion that demands fearful, unwavering obedience takes credit for a rebellion and revolution in self-government. It declares that that revolution was the brainchild of a few Christians rather than of a group of unorthodox thinkers testing Enlightenment principles. It even claims universal human morality as its own invention. Christian nationalism also contends that the United States of America is exceptional because the nation was chosen by a god, not because the founders’ enlightened experiment was successful. Christian nationalists sometimes misconstrue a 1983 Newsweek quote: ‘Historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document.’ Ken Woodward and David Gates’s full quote is more interesting, and, as one would imagine, more reflective of reality: “Now historians are discovering that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document: the source of a powerful myth of the United States as a special, sacred nation, a people called by God to establish a model society, a beacon to the world. Biblical America is indeed a myth, a powerful one (emphasis mine SR).

“The sad irony of the myths of the Christian nation, biblical America, and Judeo-Christian principles is that they are born out of a misplaced zeal to revive or extend American exceptionalism. Trump and his Christian nationalist brethren want a return to a Christian nation; they want to “make America great again.” But religion did not make the United States, let alone make it great. ‘We the People’ make America exceptional. Religion is the millstone around the neck of American exceptionalism because religious faith denies experience and observation to preserve a belief. It is for this reason that it is unlikely to contribute to progress, though it will take credit for what science, rationality, experience, and observation have accomplished. America succeeded as an experiment because it was based on reason. If we abandon reason in favor of faith—or if our elected leaders commit this sin—we are asking to regress. Not to some golden age, but to a time ‘when religion ruled the world . . . called the Dark Ages . . .’”

It is abundantly clear that the idea of a Christian Nation is a power play, an attempt to grasp power for a “special” group of people. Unfortunately, the thinking behind this movement is roughly: Christianity good, America good. Christian America . . . double good. Christianity has no elements in it that are at all democratic. If you believe that it does, please explain that to the Pope. Declaring this nation to have an official religion would gut the Constitution and create religious strife like no attack from our enemies could conceive.

This book dismantles all such claims and efforts in this vein and is high recommended to those of you who wish to preserve the Constitution and the Grand American Experiment in self-governance.

August 6, 2019

The Effing Elites, Part . . . I’ve Lost Track . . .

I am reading a lot of history of the Biblical era and I ran across one very interesting take on the elites we refer to as “royals” today. It is from the Book of Samuel in the OT/Hebrew Bible. (I know the two are not identical, the HB being hijacked and edited by Christians to make the OT, but close enough here.)

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead[b] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. 22 The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”

So, ole Samuel understood rightly that kings were bad news, but was overruled by Ole Yahweh. Yahweh certainly is in favor of totalitarianism, so why would he have an opposition to kings? And in this case, Yahweh is clearly issuing a punishment on his people for being disobedient to their true king, himself. And, as an exercise, consider what would have happened had Yahweh thundered “Absolutely Not!” At least a human king gives a bit of cover to a totalitarian theocracy (aka someone to blame other than Yahweh).

Any way, my point is this: royals are a pain in the ass and should be dispensed with. They are relic elites at best. Think about how they came about. (Really!)

Typically, some local bully accrues enough muscle to confiscate anything he desired. Part of the crops were confiscated. The most attractive mates were confiscated. The best property was confiscated. And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse.

Over time, one or more of these bullies became ambitious and gathered together a war band and took over the other bullies in their neighborhood. Not wanting to actually stay in place and do the work of oppressing the locals, the resident bully was sworn to fealty to the overbully, or if his fealty was suspect, his head was lopped off and another promoted to that office, with the fear of that happening to him supporting his fealty. The local bully then paid tribute to the overbully.

Now, I am not saying that these overlords served no purpose. They did, on occasion, defend the people under their oppression from invading other bullies, but their record in doing this was mixed at best. And, over time, the divine rights of bullies got amplified. The bullies claimed to own all of the land, without purchasing it or establishing ownership by working the land, or . . . just “Mine!” And if anyone complained they got hit in the mouth if not worse. Many also claimed to own the people residing on the land, who became de facto slaves, again by no other expedient than “Mine!”

Collusion between the religious elites and the secular elites gave ordinary people no place to go for alternatives.

Effing elites.

Today’s elites are money enabled. Their power is not divine, although they bribe religious elites to support their secular notions. They bribe politicians to make sure that governmental power is theirs and not “the people’s.” The jigger the rules of wealth acquisition so that their money/power ever increases. For example, Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy and businesses? Capital investment has dipped to a new low just recently. So much for the argument that businesses would invest that money in expanded productivity, jobs, etc. Oh, yeah, jobs were eliminated by those businesses, too. Those businesses did exactly what was predicted: stock by-backs to enrich their shareholders and executives, and more money injected into politics to improve their lot even more.

Effing elites.

My fear is that the only option left to ordinary people involves torches and pitchforks. We seem to be closer and closer to such responses.

Even that old troglodyte Henry Ford knew that enriching his workers just a bit gave him more customers, but the modern elites aren’t willing to share any of their ill gotten gain. They believe they earned it. The divine right of the rich is to believe that they are rich because they are better than you or me. They even have a prosperity gospel now. Effing religious elites.

 

 

 

 

August 2, 2019

Yet Another Book Report

Warning! Danger Will Robinson. This book is being recommended only for philosophy nerds. Warning!

If you were unaware, I minored in philosophy in undergraduate school, even after my chemistry adviser informed me that chemistry majors did not minor in philosophy. Now you know more about me, at the minimum that I don’t take advice all that well.

This book is a serious treatment of Christian apologist arguments up to the present day. The author includes many of Swinburne’s arguments, Plantinga’s arguments, and even Craig’s argument. They are all treated with respect and dissected as if in an anatomy lab.

The book is The Nonexistence of God by Nicholas Everitt. Apparently it is the best selling of his over two dozen books. This is a careful philosophical analysis and you can tell from the title what the overall conclusion was.

And, boy did he stick to his philosophical guns. In discussing, for example, faith in a god based upon personal experience, he did not even mention what I think is the strongest counter evidence, namely that such a “personal experience,” no matter how profoundly felt are interpretations of what they felt. How can anyone confirm that their god spoke to them. In the Bible, the phrase, “This is the Lord, your god, . . .” occurs over and over. So, apparently voices in your head can be assumed to be hard to identify. How does one recognize God’s voice? How does one know that it is not Satan speaking, or another god entirely, or a ventriloquist. (Holy Moley, can you imagine the havoc Jeff Dunham could have created in Hebrew circles?)

The capper is that of people claiming to have personal experience of their god, it is always the god of their patents. Hindus claim Vishnu spoke to them. Muslims claims Allah spoke to them. Buddhists claim that the Buddha spoke to them. And I am sure those going a viking heard Odin speak to them.

Personal experience claims are interpretations. In order for them not to be, the “messages” have to be stripped of interpretation. So, Abraham would have to say “I heard a voice in my head that told me to take my boy, Isaac, up on the mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering” or worse “I got the feeling that I needed to take my boy, Isaac, up on the mountain and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.” By claiming that it was Yahweh who had told him this, then Yahweh followers would be all over this story. But if he just claimed a voice in his head told him to do that, he might be looked at a bit differently. Interpretations are often made to please one’s audience. (Even Flip Wilson’s “The Devil Made Me Do It” was such a device.)

Also, I am always suspicious of people who claim they heard long, windy speeches in their heads. Our thoughts are usually too fast for words. They usually come as images or preformed ideas that flash into existence. The words only follow later as we try to describe our ideas/notions.

In any case, Philosophy Nerds of the World Unite! Read this book if you are so inclined.

 

August 1, 2019

A Very Interesting Jesus Argument

I have a number of book reports that have been stacking up, so I will get on it. The first book is “Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed” by R.G. Price.  I am recommending you get this book and read it if you are so inclined to by the topic as I have yet to see anyone make this fundamental argument, even though many of the pieces of evidence he supplies I have seen before.

So, how to begin?

Let me start with a hypothetical, one the author does not use explicitly. What would we know of Jesus if the four gospels and the book of Acts of the Apostles did not exist? Would we know anything about the aforementioned character Jesus? I suspect that you, like me, would answer “virtually nothing.” We would not know anything about said Jesus or his actions or what he said as they are really discussed nowhere else. If you were not aware, whenever Paul mentions anything with regard to the existence of Jesus, he quotes prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures. He says nothing about what Jesus looked or sounded like, not does he mention his “earthly mission” or any of his teachings. When he talks about Jesus, he talks about him “coming,” never returning or coming again or in a second coming. As far as Paul gives evidence, Jesus hasn’t been on Earth yet and his crucifixion occurred in heaven. So, without the gospels, there is no earthly Jesus.

To parse this a bit farther, which gospel came first? You got it in one! It was the Gospel we call “Mark.” And when was the Gospel we call Mark written? Best estimates are just after or late in the Roman-Jewish war, ca. 70 CE. Author Price (not Robert Price, by the way, the famous atheist—he did write the forward however) points out that every event in the Gospel we call Mark is a literary reference to a Hebrew Bible scripture. In summary, this “book” is a common example of books written to explain to Jews by Yahweh is kicking their asses yet one more time. The war mentioned was devastating to Hebrews. Jerusalem was sacked, the Second Temple was raised. It was so devastating that Jews gave up animal sacrifices and created the Rabbinical system in response. The scriptural literature is rife with examples of documents explaining to Jewish audiences why they were being punished. This is another one. The argument is made, therefore, that since all of the main points are actually literary references to the failures of Hebrews in their scriptures, that this is a book of fiction. The motifs and stories are based upon other stories, provided by the Hebrew Bible. (He was not the first person to notice this, by the way.) The author also speculates that Paul’s letters were also source material for this gospel. (I’ll let him make those arguments. They seem good.) He makes this fundamental argument quite forcefully and there are other works that back this up (references supplied).

The argument continues, however. Both of the Gospels we call Matthew and Luke borrow heavily from the Gospel we call Mark. Since Mark is fictional, then neither Matthew nor Luke could have had any direct evidence of the life of Jesus as they accepted fictional content as if it were true. The evidence points to Matthew trying to soften the criticism of the Jews, which then drew a response from Luke who tried to soften the impact of Matthew. Luke seems to have borrowed from Matthew, amongst others, as well as Mark in his response which led to hypothesis that both Luke and Matthew, assumed to be writing independently, must have had access to a common other source, referred to as Q (from the German word Quelle, which means “source”). This hypothesis is not necessary if Luke borrowed from Matthew. Of course, both Matthew and Luke add “birth stories” and “crucifixion stories” to fill in what Mark left out. (Note that Mark writing just after the devastating war, would have no motivation to support the earthly crucifixion story, so necessary to various Christian churches.) The Gospel we call John is quite different from the other three and was written last, probably about 100 years after the events claimed to be being described, but John doesn’t refer to anything not already in the other three, hence John also has no claim on independent knowledge and by using fictional sources and portraying them as being true, is also fictional.

This is the novel argument, in my opinion. By showing that Mark is fictional and that the other three borrowed heavily from that fictional source, one can conclude that none of them had any first or even second person knowledge of historical events. The Book of Acts, can also be folded into this argument.

The reason that the gospels are considered historical documents is that it was claimed that all four were written independently and since they describe many of the same events, they corroborate one another. Gee, I wonder who first made that claim? Possibly someone with a stake in the scriptures being “true” might have made the claim but since there is no evidence for this claim, we are left to consider whether they were written independently or they copied from one another. The evidence that they copied from one another shows up in how many sections were copied verbatim. If these were divinely inspired by an all-knowing entity, one should think that what got written, were it supposed to be independent, would have been inspired enough to be unique and not verbatim quotes from earlier documents.

There is a common question: “If the Gospel we call Mark is fiction, why would such a thing get written?” The motivation now seems clear. With all of the literary references laid out (a common writing process of the time, by the way) it seems clear that “Mark” had two motivations: one was that the Jews were being punished for not recognizing the celestial Jesus cult and, secondarily, for not sharing the “good news” with gentiles, as was the desire of the Apostle Paul.

To see if the author makes these arguments well, I think you have to read the book. For me, a lot of puzzle pieces fell into place reading it.

July 23, 2019

Jesus and the Apostates

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

On Quora this question appeared “Can you reject God and come back?” It is easy to read a lot into such a question. It might be a poignant plea. It might be someone looking to cover his ass. There might be all kinds of motivations for the question.

Most of the answers were kindly, telling this person that yes, God is love, yada, yada, yada. Some answers were from people of religions other than Christianity and some from people of no religion.

The people who answered who are Christians are, as usual, being kind but not true to their scripture. Consider the following (italics added).

“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.”(Hebrews 6)

Once in God’s pocket, if you jump out, there is no getting back in. The word “impossible” resonates with the definition of their god’s power of omnipotence, that their god is able to do all things that are logically possible. Here scripture tells us that those who have believed and who then fall away are impossible to redeem.

Evangelicals are noted for trying to woo those who have fallen away back into Jesus’ arms. Why would they do that when scripture clearly says that doing so is irrelevant, the apostates are doomed?

Christopher Hitchen’s point, which he made over and over, is that the “moderate” Christians, the ones who give cover to the immoderate ones through their social standing and good works, etc., are not good Christians. They ignore scripture and follow their own moral codes and then claim that they are good because of their Christianity.

The simple answer to “Can you reject God and come back?” is no, not if your are a Christian. Salvation awaits, however if you just change your beliefs. there are other religions which will offer salvation if you just convert. Everyone who does is saved. Of course, this is the same claim as all of the auto insurance companies make: “people who switched to GEICO (or whatever) saved an average of $402!” What they do not point out, of course, is that people who cannot save money, don’t switch. Only people who do actually fill out the forms.

Since we know you are an apostate, we are not debating what you are, just the cost of making you what you want to be.

July 1, 2019

Apparently He Didn’t Check His Notes

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 1:15 pm
Tags: ,

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord . And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)

Apparently Old Yahweh got a little confused when He decided the perfect way to lift his curse from Adam and Eve and all of their progeny was to father a child and sacrifice him by nailing him to a tree.

I repeat “. . . anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering . . .  is an abomination to the Lord. I guess he forgot to check his notes or maybe he doesn’t equate the sacrifice of Jesus to the burnt offering of some random child. No precedent there, nope: “Move along, these are not the gods you are looking for.”

Come on people, there are so many logical holes in this “narrative,” how can anyone believe this story without being completely intellectually dishonest?

Postscript And I didn’t even bring up all of the acts of magic perpetrated in those scriptures (including by Jesus) that, oh, have been forbidden. How many Israelite kings used soothsayers, astrologers, prophets, and other magic sources?

June 26, 2019

Evolution of the Gods—Why Monotheism?

The Hebrews invented monotheism by all accounts. Prior to the invention of monotheism, everyone was in some form a polytheist. (I know this is not strictly accurate but I am not chopping details at the moment.) Now, it wasn’t exactly the case that polytheism did not work. It worked very, very well for what religions do. All of the positive benefits of, say, Christianity, can just as easily be attributed to polytheism, but polytheism actually offers more. The “more” in this case is religious tolerance. If one traveled in the ancient world, one ran into batshit crazy beliefs of all stripes. People believed the world was created by a god vomiting, or a god masturbating, etc. But people were used to different beliefs because they themselves “believed” in multiple gods. (The word belief is maybe a bit loaded for this situation. Gods were part of the fabric of society. Not believing in them was similar to not believing in goats or streets or armies. Not believing was not much of an option. )

The Romans made a great deal of hay out of this as they were a typical smash and grab civilization (their continued existence was based upon looting), different from others only with regard to the sheer size of the effort, and the first thing they would do when they conquered a people was to define a correspondence between the gods of the conquered people and the Roman gods. The Romans felt, rightly I think, that if people were forced to worship strange gods they would resist Roman rule more than if they were allowed to keep their own, comfortable, well broken in gods. So, the Greeks had a messenger god (Hermes) that was equated to the Roman messenger god, Mercury. Any conquered people who had a messenger god would be told that the Romans also worshiped “their god” but they just called him Mercury. Since they worshiped the same gods, they were less alien to one another and the assimilation could begin. The Romans invested a great deal of effort in doing this, keeping extensive records on these correspondences (in the Office of Cults, or some such bureaucratic group).

So, polytheism was perking along quite nicely, and the Hebrews were not different in this. The conversion of their religion from polytheism to monotheism shows up quite clearly, even if all you have to study is the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament). So, I know this is quite a long set up, but my question is simple: why monotheism?

It is now clear that this transition to “pure” monotheism began in the late seventh century BCE (thousands of years after the supposed times on the earlier OT). The effort lead to the first written Hebrew Bibles a couple of hundred years later, written by the same kinds of people. So who were these people? My guess is that I don’t think you will be surprised to find out that it wasn’t the common people. They couldn’t read or write and weren’t interesting in much more than the survival of themselves and their families. The only people capable of such a campaign were the elites. As the story is told (in Kings, if memory serves) the “priests” “discovered” an “old” document that clarified their religion for them. The King, being a representative of God on Earth (an anointed king, that’s what that means), had this document read from the ramparts of his city, and ordered all of the people to come, hear, and pay heed. If the Bible is to be believed, the message didn’t get out into the hustings at all quickly, nor was it enforced well, as polytheistic practices continued for centuries after this event.

So, this “found” document. What was it? It was a declaration of pure monotheism and the rites need to follow it.

So, one answer to the “why?” question is simply to say that God revealed His true desires this way . . . but that is a specious response. Why did he wait so long? Why wasn’t it clear from the beginning? Why was the worshiping of “false gods” tolerated for so long? And so on. Even the fundamentalists who believe that the Earth is only a bit over 6000 years old would be hard pressed to explain why Yahweh waited until about 2600 years ago to explain the rules of the game.

So, why monotheism, really?

Polytheism has religious tolerance built into it. Monotheism has religious intolerance built into it. When you worship the One True God™ all other gods are false gods. Worshiping them becomes abominable (literally). Your worship is right and correct, theirs is wrong headed and it undermines the worship of the One True God™. Recall that the Christians did not get in trouble with the Romans because they worshiped the OTG™. They got into trouble because they wouldn’t add the emperor to the list of gods to receive worship. What was a simple thing for polytheists was an immensely troubling thing for the Christians. The Christians, in addition, found themselves tying themselves into knots to preserve the illusion of being monotheistic, creating bizarre concepts such as the Trinity. All of the “other” gods and demigods got makeovers or erased. (If Satan isn’t a god, a being powerful enough to oppose Yahweh and still exist, then what is a god?)

Monotheism does cause problems but it also increases team member commitment to the team.

So, why? Why did the elites care to make this change? The obvious answer is power. Later when Christianity became a state religion of Rome, a whole bunch of pagan temples, pagan land, pagan wealth flowed into the hands of the elites. The more lands you got, the more money, the more power you had. (Consider the display of wealth that is the Vatican, all considered “necessary” for the Pope who is a head of state.) Prior to this Roman adoption, Christians didn’t have churches. Afterward they did. The Romans insisted they have “temples” just like all of the other cults.

So, the Hebrew elites (all were religious because you could not be an elite and not be a religious figure) pushed this change and the more power they gathered to themselves, the more they pushed it. (You don’t go faster hitting the brake pedal.) That power was really just in the central halls of government (palaces and temple) but most everybody prefers to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small one in a big pond.

There really is no other reason. To make it a theological decision, instead of a political decision for example, there is much more to explain, as indicated by some of the above with little in the way of ready explanations. Granted this monotheism brought down criticisms of fanaticism and worse, but Jews tended to be fairly highly regarded because of their consistency. Of course, the Roman elites rarely encountered “ordinary” Hebrews outside of battles and then Roman soldiers were the only ones allowed to touch them. The Roman elites interacted with priests, rulers, merchants and the like. They didn’t even collect their own taxes, they sold the tax receipts to entrepreneurial Hebrews (as tax farmers), which is why “tax collectors” were widely despised. So, the regard for Jews by “the Roman elites” was of the “Jewish elites.” Those rich/powerful people, they sure stick together. This seems to be rooted in their common pursuit of ever more political power.

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