Class Warfare Blog

July 17, 2017

Hulk, No, God Smash!

Filed under: Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:13 am
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I quote Persedeplume (of MyDoorIsAjar):
I’d like to meet the god who isn’t angry, or coming back angry, or about to wreak retribution on some massive scale. I’d like to think we can get along without unnecessary suffering. I’d like to think life is hard enough and the “rite of passage” where we’re all accepted as adults is to have done it with grace, dignity, help from our friends and family, and love.”

We seem to prefer such angry gods, even angry gods with the label “the god of love.” One philosopher points out that we respect power and anytime a god does something massively powerful, we respond to the exhibition of power, even if we bear the brunt of that power.

The dominant religion in this country is basically incoherent … except that the believers believe that their god has immense power to grant boons and to punish. If a boon is granted, then we are supposed to be grateful. If we suffer from some such display of power, then we are being punished for being bad. (Pat Robertson blamed the tsunami in Indonesia on homosexual sinners.) So, no matter what happens to us, it is due to their god’s actions.

This very same religion claims that a son of their god was sacrificed to absolve us of our sins (sins being disobedience of their god’s wishes). Later they claimed that the “son of god” was really their god himself (in disguise?). I have yet to see how this human sacrifice has any effect on anything. Was the suffering of the crucifixion equal to all of the suffering of all of the innocents up to that time? Apparently not. It was merely symbolic. So, how does symbolic suffering of an innocent person wipe away the criminal records of all of us? While the symbology is painted vividly (our sins were “washed away” by the blood of Christ, etc.) it still makes no sense. How did this action pay our fines, or serve our sentences for us?

And, as I have argued before, the god Jesus could not die, only his human wrapper could, and what is one more human sacrifice to the God of Abraham, who once directed King David to take a census of his men and when David did that, his god upbraids him and punishes him for counting what is not his (they were his god’s soldiers, not David’s, don’t you see). So, David is punished by his god slaughtering 70,000 of his soldiers! I suspect David also had to go to bed without supper that night. There seems to be no record of what the 70,000 felt, nor do we know what happened to them in the afterlife. (Are they still burning in the Lake of Fire or shambling around in the dark of Sheol?)

So, if David’s “crime” of following his god’s directives was salved with 70,000 deaths, what could one death do for all of humanity? Especially when you consider that neither the god nor his offspring died, just the human wrapper. Plus, even after this “real death” experience, that wrapper got to live again. What happened to it when the son of god rose to Heaven isn’t explained. Is Heaven air conditioned? Is there food for a human body? Does Jesus have to inhabit the body 24-7 and does it just stand idle when he does not? There are just so many issues not covered by scripture.

July 5, 2017

Why Don’t Atheists Just Run Amok?

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:38 pm
Tags: , , ,

One of the claims of god-fearers is that atheists are dangerous because they have no basis for their morals. Without a god to dictate what “being moral” is, and enforcing that moral code, there is just nothing stopping atheists from raping, looting, and killing, now, is there? I propose to explain why this is not the case, so that the god-fearers can understand.

This is just one point of many that can be made, like “It isn’t any fun,” but the primary reason that atheists don’t just run amok is that is just isn’t safe. Has anyone ever seen atheists run amok, specifically because their is no divine retribution, anyway? I have never heard of such a thing. I have read about numerous cases of bad treatment of people because they weren’t considered real people by the appropriate religious experts, but no amok running, per se.

Getting back to my main point: running amok ain’t safe. Let’s start with a hypothetical situation: a beautiful woman lives on an atheist’s block. If he were to go rape her, I mean, what could go wrong? For one, she may be a martial arts or MMA expert and she may beat the shit out of him. Or she may have a brother, father, uncle or other relative who owns a baseball bat and they may beat the shit out of him. (We have made this an element of society in the form of law enforcement. In Chicago, cops regularly beat the shit out of people, and shoot them, and then drag what’s left in for a trial.)

Obviously there is a great deal of downside to this running amok. When word got around, you could lose your job. Other people would shun you for being an asshole, etc. So, let’s say you embrace the badass nature of amok running, plus you are not a dumb atheist, but a smart one. You realize that to be able to run amok without negative consequences, you need a gang of atheists. There is safety in numbers, it takes a village, etc. So, you gather a gang, all ravening atheists, who form a mutual protection society. You go rape some woman and a male relative of hers takes offense and a baseball bat and comes looking for you and … Bob’s your uncle, you have a dozen guys there to greet him when he shows up. Easy peasey. But the problem with this approach is there is nothing stopping the aggrieved members of society from forming an even bigger gang and beating the shit out of your gang and you, of course.

Such behaviors: bullying, running amok, etc. only “succeed” in the short turn. Eventually you get the shit beaten out of you, or dead. (Ask Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi.)

So, the real reason why atheists just don’t run amok is that running amok is a lot of work and it just isn’t safe. Get along with people, treat them well, and you will lead a better life. This running amok idea may sound good to you, but it sounds miserable to us. It just isn’t any fun, you see.

June 22, 2017

Bad Polling Leads to …

Note I have been very busy lately, so haven’t been posting much. Should be back to normal soon. Steve

I am a regular reader of Religion Dispatches, which I recommend to you. In today’s article, “GOP ‘Stealthcare’ Bill Reveals Catholic Bishops’ Priorities,” the topic is, of course, the GOP healthcare bill. (I didn’t say “new” healthcare bill because there hasn’t been an “old” healthcare bill since Medicare.) Foregoing a discussion of the main topic as we still do not know what is in that bill, I was struck by this section:

“A new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows just how successful the effort to forge the church’s opposition to reproductive and LGBT rights into a new political wedge issue to motivate right-leaning religious voters has been. According to the poll, which probed the political divide between urban and rural voters:

“Nearly 6 in 10 people in rural areas say Christian values are under attack, compared with just over half of suburbanites and fewer than half of urbanites. When personal politics is taken into account, the divide among rural residents is even larger: 78 percent of rural Republicans say Christian values are under attack, while 45 percent of rural Democrats do.

“This particular divide, and this widespread sense of Christian persecution, is relatively recent. As Julie Ingersoll noted here on RD, while evangelical leaders had tried to gin up a sense of Christian persecution going back to the mid-1990s, as late as 2005, “the argument that Christians were a minority in need of protection was not persuasive in the broader religious right.” But a “little over a decade later, conservative Christians across the country … now see themselves as targeted by powerful elites, one step away from imprisoning and executing people for their faith.”

I find such polling to be destructive as it asks people questions like “Do you feel Christian values are under attack?” without defining what Christian values are. According to Wikipedia, “The term Christian values historically refers to the values derived from the teachings of Jesus and taught by Christians throughout the history of the religion.” What comes to my mind are: give away your possessions and follow Jesus (Renunciation of Worldly Goods), the poor will always be among us, so the need our help, turn the other cheek (Renunciation of Violence), love your enemies (Unconditional Love), along with a few other things.

If you were to ask U.S. citizens if they should give away their wealth and sell their worldly goods, what do you think their answer would be? And couldn’t taxing the rich be seen as a way to help the rich get into Heaven? Didn’t Jesus say a rich man had about as much chance of getting into Heaven as … well, you know?

And, if the poll takers were thinking about one thing as being paramount: belief in a Protestant Christian god (not the Jewish one, not the Muslim one, not the Indian or Asian ones), I can see how they might think that their religion is “under attack.” Atheists are bold nowadays, are we not?

But I recall that in the 1960’s, my high school and college years, some wags did a poll in an interesting way. They tried to get people to sign a petition. The petition, word for word, was the Bill of Rights, Amendments 1-10 of the Constitution. But the typeface was one clearly made by a computer, using no “old timey” script as a give away. They struggled to find anyone willing to sign their petition! Hey, details matter in polls.

More recently, polls have shown that approval rates for Obamacare were much lower than approval rates of the main features of Obamacare, that is if asked “Should pre-existing medical conditions allow insurance companies to raise the price of your insurance or to refuse to insure you?” The answer was a resounding “no.” Obamacare? Boo, hiss!

The religion issue of Christians feeling persecuted is relatively recent as was pointed out in the article and mainly made up out of whole cloth by conservative radio talk show hosts and the like of Fox (sic) News. Since people in rural areas get larger doses of this propaganda, it likely has a greater effect.

If the poll questions were to ask things like “Should we collectively do more for the poor and less unfortunate?” the answer would likely be a high percent yeses. If it were phrased as “Should the government do more for the poor and less unfortunate?” I suspect the answer would be more to the “no” end of the spectrum. This is because our “governments” have been characterized as something other than “we collectively” by conservative propaganda (something evil, bwa ha ha).

How you phrase these questions determines to a large extent how people answer them.

June 6, 2017

And the Cure for Immorality … Jesus!

Over the last century and a half, the impact of evangelical protestant Christians on our culture has only grown. Their basic message was and is that the immorality riddling our society can only be cured by accepting Jesus into your heart. (Our current Vice-president and former president George W. Bush are both of this ilk.) They have risen into the political stratosphere of this country to the extent that they are determining policy efforts in major ways to put their ideology into the form of laws governing us all.

But, is their claim correct? To test it, I decided to check some numbers. If they are right, then the prisons should be populated with heathens, pagans, and members of all of those other non-Christian misbegotten religions. The wonderful people at www.fivethirtyeight.com supplied some data, to wit:

This chart compares the population of prisoners to that of the general population. For example: atheists are roughly 10 times more likely to be found in the general population than in prison. Huh, maybe being an atheist  leads to a crime-free life. With Catholics, it seems to be a push, the percent of prisoners reporting to be Catholics is the same as reported by the general populace.

Protestants, which would include the evangelicals are very close to 1:1, maybe 2:1?, indicating that, if Jesus is the cure, apparently it doesn’t work so well, certainly not as well as being an atheist. Of course, the Evangelicals have prepared spin for this situation which is that those people in prison have not truly accepted Jesus into their hearts and, thus, “are not true Christians.” This, of course, is not based upon knowing anything about the prisoners, just that their ideology proclaims that “true Christians” cannot do illegal things, by definition.

If they were looking for a cure, look at the Pentecostals. Very few of them run afoul of the law, so these Evangelicals should be selling Pentecostalism as the cure for society’s immorality, not evangelicalism.

For those wanting to paint Pagans, Muslims, and Native Americans as “real bad guys” and blame their religious affiliation, we need to look in a mirror. We have been locking up non-White people for a very long time for, well, not being white. If a white person had committed their crimes, they would more likely be in county jails for a shorter time or get off scot-free.* The surest way to avoid a murder wrap is to kill someone while wearing a policeman’s uniform. We do not want to believe our police are capable of irrational killings, so they don’t. Our faith is indeed strong.

* So as to prevent illiterate criticism of my use of the term scot-free, please be aware that “scot,” in this case, is from the Old Norse word “skot” meaning something to the effect of “payment” or “contribution.” In English, “scot” initially just meant “tax.” The phrase scot-free was first used in reference to municipal tax levies. It does not refer to a Scot, which is a person of Scottish descent. Currently, only rich Republicans seek the phrase as a descriptor.

May 17, 2017

Trapped Between Two Ideals

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 11:03 am
Tags: ,

The religions I see around me all talk of people as if they are scum. We are all sinners. We are unworthy. We are saved by God’s grace, not by becoming a good person, or achieving a stage of enlightenment. Speaking for myself I have never sinned. I have no reason to seek salvation as I am not condemned, except by the ignorant or those seeking political advantage over me.

There seems to be little middle ground in this discussion. On one side we have statements such as:
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”
Prince Hamlet (via a Mr. W. Shakespeare)

And on the other we have:
“I am, after all, only human”
Everyone

Admittedly, Prince Hamlet’s outburst is stated with no little irony, but there are oodles of comments of how humans are “the peak achievement of evolution,” “made in God’s image,” etc., etc. Likewise the “what can you expect from me?” comments abound also.

Interestingly, religions encourage both of these extreme viewpoints.

Both viewpoints, I hope you believe, are deeply flawed, playing upon common emotions and observations. We are amazed at the things infants can do; we sometimes amaze ourselves. We see professional athletes and scientists and artists do things that are so far beyond our abilities that we must believe that we have some sort of divine spark in them and therefore, us.

We also see incredibly stupid things done by humans having temporarily, we hope temporarily, been bereft of their senses. There seems to be a cottage industry on cable TV providing video clips of these astoundingly stupid things, for us to marvel and laugh at, and despair of.

But the vast majority of people I meet are just people, people who have skills and flaws, and are mostly just trying to get through life with some grace. When a religion comes around addressing us as we really are and encouraging “the better angels of our nature,” I will consider it.

 

 

 

April 18, 2017

I Am Completely Gobsmacked (An Easter Special!)

I do not understand why the major Churches are not protesting the Finding Jesus series on CNN. The only reasons I could come up with is they do not know it exists or they are corrupt to their core. I can’t imagine they believe the things being said on that show.

In the latest episode of this travesty of a series we are treated to the story of Lazarus. This is described as “the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ mission” by one of the usual talking heads. There are relics in the episode, of course, to submit to testing. In this case, we are told that a church in Cyprus has in its possession some of the very bones of said Lazarus. To utilize the “latest scientific techniques” these relics are to be tested. Since you, by now, know that the pattern of this show is to use any scientific results as a tease to keep you watching, they do not announce the results until minute 58 of the one-hour show. The test was a C-14 determination of the age of some wooden shards that were found in the sarcophagus along with what they believe are Lazarus’s bones. The relics, of course, were not made available for testing. We are told that the wood, shown being handled by naked skin over and over (an absolute no-no for things to be dated by C-14 as this will add modern carbon to the sample), is juniper wood, native to Cyprus and known to be used for coffins and the like. So, blah, blah, blah, tease, tease, tease and the date? The wood was harvested in the last 200-300 years, so it is “modern.”

Jesus was a stud, don’t you know. Lazarus was, too. They were best bros!

Every episode I have seen so far has a similar pattern. And if you compare this pattern with how scientists communicate, you will find a complete contrast. First of all a scientist will not report negative findings, unless it is part of a larger investigation. First they will tell you what their findings were, they will tell you how they obtained them (in enough detail you could verify their work), and then they would go on to discussing what they might mean once everyone is in possession of the facts. In this series, the discussion takes place ad nauseum and the facts are dropped in when you aren’t paying attention, usually at the very end.

So, where to start? The revivification of Lazarus is “the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ mission”? Well, that is interesting because there was no mention of it in the Gospel of Mark. No mention in it in the Gospel of Matthew. No mention of it in the Gospel of Luke. Only in the Gospel of John are we treated to this powerful story. (To their credit, they mention this.) The Gospel of John is put anywhere from roughly 100 CE to 125 CE by most scholars. This puts it almost 100 years after the events being described and at least 25-50 years after Mark was in circulation and 10-35 years after Matthew and Luke. Some argue John came first; others much later; I don’t want to get into that. While there is a great deal in common between the other three gospels (some of it because of direct copying) there is little in John that is common with the other three. This is explained away by many as “The Johannine narrative is indebted to oral and possibly written traditions that were transmitted from earlier decades.” The person who wrote that sentence had no idea, he was only speculating, wishfully speculating at that.

So, resurrecting Lazarus was “the ultimate miracle of Jesus’ mission” but failed to even be mentioned until two to three generations have passed from this most impactful of events. One wonders how such a story survives in the oral tradition and is neglected by the written tradition.

Please also consider that there are three pillars of Christianity: one is the scriptures, the other is prophecies, and the third is the miracles. It is said that were any of these three to fail, the whole edifice would crumble. So, this is a big fucking deal. But was the Lazarus miracle all made up? Was it a forgery? Good question. Don’t look at this for answers.

Throughout this debacle of a TV show, the talking heads make the most astounding claims and statements. When Jesus is told that Lazarus, his “best friend” according to the story (they basically declared them to be He-bros.), Jesus dawdles and doesn’t come running. The talking heads ask “Why was Jesus delaying?” “Was it hesitation …?” Hello? All of the Christian religions believe that Jesus was God (and declared it a heresy that he received the holy spirit when he was baptized so he has been god for a long time). many claim Jesus was 100% man and 1005 god. If he was God, would he not know all that had happened and what would happen? One of the talking heads jumps in and offers “I think Jesus had mixed emotions. He seems to be waiting for word from on high.” From “on high”? From himself? My incredulous meter just cracked. No one seemed to mention the obvious: Jesus can’t do a big resurrection miracle if somebody isn’t dead.

So, as the story goes, Jesus finally winds his way to Lazarus’s place and is confronted by Lazarus’s sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus takes center stage and tells Martha the now famous speech “ I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even though they died and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” The talking heads gush about what all this means! I would like to point out that this show is, in part, about Lazarus’s bones. You see … he lived and then died and then he lived … and then he died for good. And according to John, nobody loved Lazarus more than Jesus. So, if that is how he treats his friends …

In the re-enactment Jesus cries when he approaches the tomb of Lazarus. And then … and then … the Announcer, using his best “voice of god voice” says “ Jesus has shown his humanity, now he will show his divinity.” WTF? Where in scripture does it say that? This is stated as a fact, pure and simple! The re-enactors then re-animate Lazarus, but that was a fairly easy task as they did not kill the actor playing Lazarus.

And they are not done. After Jesus raises Lazarus, the announcer or one of the talking heads says that this action “would identify Jesus as the Messiah.” Nowhere in Jewish scripture is the Messiah identified as a miracle worker; the messiah is a military man, a political leader, a deliverer of the people from oppression by outsiders. This is why the Roman occupation produced so many messiahs. They were needed for the Israelites to be saved from the Romans. To prove that Jesus was the messiah, all he had to do is point his finger to the sky and curse all of the Roman soldiers living in that region and have them fall dead. Those are the credentials that will convince every Jew that Jesus was the Messiah. (If you are nor a fan of death and destruction and would want Jesus to earn his title as the Prince of Peace, he could cause all of them to lose their memories, to forget they were Roman soldiers. That would do the trick.) Get caught and being executed as a petty criminal is not how one establishes oneself as a messiah.

Of course, they have to whip through the rest of the Jesus story in short order to complete the context for the Lazarus story. And in doing that they make the statement “Jesus is betrayed by Judas …” Hello? Jesus wasn’t betrayed by Judas, Judas was proving himself to be at least Jesus’ second best friend (after Lazarus, I am sure now). If Jesus isn’t taken by the Romans and crucified so he can be resurrected, there is no Christianity. (Can you imagine Jesus wheezing his last breath as an old man say “But I am the Son of God, I tell you …”?) Judas is doing this task at the behest of Jesus, knowing he will incur the wrath of the ignorant fisher-folk who are the core of Jesus’ followers.

Of course, there is no such thing as an ultimate absurdity in these shows. We are treated to a talking head who says “I think it is wrong to only find value in a story if we can trace it back to some historical events … this story (of Lazarus) tells us about the willingness to lay down your life for a friend.” WTF? My incredulous meter just healed itself and then cracked even worse. Since it is a good story, nothing else matters? What? <sputter, sputter> … not when you are using that story as evidence for the existence of your god; it is not good enough and never will be. Plus who laid down his life for a friend? I wonder if she read the story?

Why, oh, why is this word hash of a Christian abomination not being protested by the major churches? Blasphemy right and left. Idiocy right and left. Over and over these people make the mistake historians are taught never to make: the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past (presentism). They are taking conclusions from far after the period and applying them to first century Judea and Israel. At this point, stoning, which I suggested in my last post, is too good for these people. They need to be condemned to some vile and hideous torture. Maybe being forced to get all of their news through Fox, something awful like that.

The series is “Finding Jesus,” the subtitle is “Faith, Fact, Forgery” but they never seem to use the word forgery.

April 9, 2017

Inquiring Theists Want to Know!

Theist apologists are always coming up with questions for atheists, kind of like the questions Catholic kids come up with for their Catechism teachers, e.g. “If God is all-powerful can he create a rock so big even he can’t lift it, Father?” Here is one of the latest:

Without a personal Creator-God, how are you anything other than the coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature, spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space for just a little while before you and all memory of your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness?”

Gosh, as an announced atheist, this makes me want to go slit my wrists, but I am laughing too hard to undertake that task with any skill, so I will just tackle this question first.

Underneath all of the snark embedded in this “question,” is a feeling of superior knowledge, that the questioner knows that without his creator god, life is just futile. (None of the other creator gods will do, don’t you know.)

So, “a coincidental, purposeless miscarriage of nature,” hmm. Well, I can’t be a miscarriage because I actually was born, but coincidental, I’ll own up to that. My parent’s believed in planning their family and I was the third of the two children they planned, so, coincidental I am.

Now, “spinning round and round on a lonely planet in the blackness of space.” I can detect no spinning. There is a gym nearby that offers spinning but I do not subscribe for that. The planet is “lonely,” that I do not get. The solar system has eight major planets, some minor planets, and myriad moons, etc. This guy makes it sound like there is the Sun and the Earth and little else. He must be reading his Bible. Maybe he means that I am lonely. Well, if I am, then I am very picky regarding having friends with over seven billion other humans to chose from, plus myriad other non-human companions I could entice to come live with me (for free room and board). No, I am not lonely; he got that wrong.

“In the blackness of space?” We seem to be quite well adapted to the light-dark cycles on our planet. The Scandehoovians who experience almost no “dark” during the winter go a little batty behind that, so “dark” is apparently a good thing for us. I like looking up at the dark sky and seeing all of the pretty lights, so not really dark at all, so he got this wrong, too.

But, yes, in a little while (littler all of the time) I shall die and kinda-sorta be forgotten. I still remember my parents and grandparents and other deceased relatives, so I expect to remain in memory of my younger relatives for some time. I am named in a family genealogy that goes back to the 1700’s and am recorded in a number of diverse histories, so will be “remembered” that way to some extent, and I have written close to a dozen books, which will remain available for a very long time, possibly many decades, but really I will not give a shit as I will be dead.

I have to ask, are all of those people supposedly in Heaven and Hell enjoying their immortality? Are they “remembered” by the living? Is not everyone remembered by your God who cannot forget anything (otherwise He would not be all-knowing), so is not everyone, in your world view, remembered forever and ever? Very puzzling attitude then for for you, a believer, to have.

And “your futile, pointless, meaningless life finally blinks out forever in the endless darkness.” I am looking forward to the endless blackness, far preferable to the Lake of Fire you promise my kind. But where do you get “futile,” and “pointless,” and “meaningless” from? Are you saying that because you are a Christian, your life is automatically not futile, not pointless, and not meaningless? If so, you are going to have to provide some details. What is your purpose in life? If it is to end up in Heaven at the side of your God, isn’t that a little self-serving? It sounds a lot like “I am going to get mine and the rest of you can go roast in Hell.” Many of your ilk tell us that good deeds will not get us into Heaven, but faith will, so you exalt people who do not do good deeds by have faith over people who lack faith, like me, who do good deeds. Sounds a lot like “I am going to get mine and the rest of you can go roast in Hell.” It also sounds as if you believe that your God has a plan for you. (He believes in family planning, unlike our current GOP.) Can you tell me what your plan is so I can see whether or not you are meeting your quarterly goals? No? Another thing I just have to take on faith, I guess.

And, last, regarding “meaning” as applied to one’s life. Meaning is something that is created in the hearts, minds, and words of others. You can read about the meaning of people’s lives in Wikipedia, for example. These meanings are divined, if you will allow the use of that word, from others observing our deeds. So, one creates the meaning of one’s life by doing. I can live with that.

And, I can die with that.

 

April 5, 2017

A Class Warfare Blog Public Service: A Review of “Finding Jesus: The Bones of St. Peter”

Filed under: Entertainment,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 9:02 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I have just completed a review of Finding Jesus: The Childhood Home of Jesus, finding it puzzling and rather self-defeating. But a couple of nights ago, I was bored in the extreme and another episode of Finding Jesus showed up on the TV schedule. Well, “in for a penny, in for a pound,” I thought, “why not?”

You may recall that this CNN series has the following description: Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research. Finding any meaningful research in this series will be a miracle, I am afraid.

In this episode we are treated to one half of an hour of talking heads reciting the story of Peter from the Christian Gospels, there being virtually no other records of the man. Peter is not spoken of as a literary character but as a real person through all of this and since talking heads can be rather dull, they had actors re-enact parts of the story for the talking heads to talk over. (The parts of scripture were selected from here and there as there are myriad conflicts in this story, but I am setting that aside for the moment.) We are told that Peter was a large man, a strong man … because? Well, “he was a fisherman and fishermen have to be strong.” Well there is a good story line, might as well use it. The fact that the boats were small and one could not be quite large and still move around in a small boat, thus favoring small, strong men as fishermen seemed to escape the gentleman with the, uh, opinion. The average Israelite was about 5´4˝ tall. More than likely fisherfolk were about the same.

Peter also had long straight hair, and Anglo features, including blue eyes. Gosh, Jesus looked Anglo, too. Nobody looked particularly Palestinian in the enactments, instead they looked like Anglos in drag. At least Jesus wasn’t a blond (he was a hunk, though, just sayin’). The commentary focused on how Peter and Jesus were best buds, bros even. They claimed that Jesus gave Peter his new name (Simon being his old one) because he would be the rock upon which Jesus would build his church. I suspect the nickname Petros was more likely given because Peter was hard headed and obtuse, failing to understand Jesus’  teachings over and over. Plus the “foundation of his church” comment was the only such utterance or action taken that had anything to do with founding a church or new religion, which leads me to believe it was an interpolation of the author of that gospel and not anything planned by Jesus. Why Jesus would want to build a church is puzzling since he saw the coming of the new age in just a few short years and stated this over and over.

Jesus (above) was a stud, don’t you know. Peter, uh, not so much … but he did have blue eyes!

Anyway, we are treated to the “traditional” Peter stories for half an hour, peaking in the joy of Peter meeting Jesus after resurrection. They emphasized once again, the betrayal of Judas and Peter’s denial of Jesus … three times(!) … as if they were important actions. Hello? If Judas doesn’t lead the police to Jesus, how does he get arrested, executed, and resurrected? If Peter leads an armed resistance to Jesus’ arrest and is successful, no resurrection and no Christianity. If Peter says “Yes, I was Jesus’ chief acolyte,” he gets rounded up along with Jesus and ends up on a cross, too. Judas had to be Jesus’ best bud, because who else but your best friend would help you commit suicide?

They end up with the absurdity of Peter’s final execution insisting he be crucified upside down because he wasn’t worthy of dying as his master had. WTF? Being suspended upside down in such a brutal way would lead to a quick death, certainly one would be unconscious in short order. Crucifixion is designed as an extended tortuous death. Why would the Romans do Peter this favor and shorten his agony? Why would the Romans do anything Peter asked? It doesn’t end there, apparently, because according to Catholic tradition, Peter’s body was taken down from the cross by “Christians” and buried on the site over which St. Peter’s Basilica was eventually erected. Crucifixion victims were largely left to rot on their crosses, as a deterrent to other criminals. Why the Romans would allow the body to be taken down and buried is puzzling, but what the heck, they did it for Jesus, too.

Well, so much for the first half an hour. In the second half hour, we are treated to a parody of an archaeological

expedition into the catacombs under St. Peter’s Basilica. We are told stories about the finding of the bones of St. Peter! In the first serious episode, we are told of an archaeologist who finds a graffito stating that St. Peter’s bones are within some chamber and lo and behold, bones are found. Upon examination, they seem to be a mixture of the bones of two men, a women, and some animals. Oh, well.

But then another set of bones is found by Vatican sleuths and we are told that these are the real bones of Peter, no further investigations are needed. Hey, if we can’t trust the Vatican to tell the truth, who can we?

Well, not having those bones to do any fancy scientific testing on means there is no scientific evidence at all, so the researchers wind two teeth (in Belgium!) said to be St. Peter’s enshrined in a church. The church gives permission for carbon-14 dating and DNA testing, so … boy, oh boy, oh boy! We gonna do some science. The dating result? The teeth were part of a live person in … drum roll, please … 250-340 CE! (This range represents the error of measurement of about ±50 years for this short of a span from the present.)

So, the episode concludes with the lame claim that “without permission from the Vatican to examine what they claim are St. Peter’s bones, it is impossible to tell …” Pathetic.

Stop for a minute and ask. If the teeth had dated to first century CE, what would that have proven? Were they Peter’s teeth? Or Jesus’? Or Jehoshaphat the Carpenter’s?

What if the Vatican said, “Sure, take the bones, play with them all you want, grind them to make your bread, have at it.”? If they were carbon dated to first century, DNA tested showing they were of an Israeli man, what would that have proved? Hello, the Church believes Peter was a real man, having done the deeds claimed for him in their scriptures. It doesn’t need proof but it sure doesn’t want its “holy relics” proven false.

The producers did one thing rather well, pointing out there are no records whatsoever that Peter was ever in Rome or that he founded the Catholic Church. (Peter is referred to as the first Pope.) They go to some length to claim that the tradition is real, but what does that mean? It means that the word was handed from person to person down the centuries in a game of historical “Telephone;” that has to be accurate, right? (If you are not familiar with the party game of Telephone, look it up.)

Then you have to ask: why would the bones of a man constitute a holy relic? This passion to have a touchstone to important events leads to the modern practice of buying tee shirts at concerts and sporting events, so it is very human, but what religious function might bones serve? They do not speak. They have no message, etc. And this is from a group of people who have perpetrated myriad hoaxes involving weeping or bleeding statues, etc. As mentioned, enough splinters of the “one, true cross” have been sold to make an entire log cabin. But there was the current Pope displaying the bones of St. Peter (kept in a little coffin-like box) to rapturous crowds at the Vatican.

Can you imagine scientists bowing their heads if Einstein’s skull were displayed? Or how about Aristotle’s knuckle bones?

Amazing!

Again, the only purpose for an episode such as this is to make money from the gullible. No new facts were revealed (other than those teeth were not Peter’s), no wisdom was revealed, no nothing.

March 31, 2017

Finding Jesus … Holy Shit: Follow-up

CNN blurb for the series: Finding Jesus discovers fascinating new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research.

I recently posted regarding watching an episode of a CNN series called “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” In this episode (S1, E9) the title of which is “The Childhood Home of Jesus” we were led to consider whether said home had actually been found. The sole line of evidence for this “discovery” was a reference in a 7th C. document about Nazareth which referred to two churches, one of which was still in existence, the other was lost. The other was reputedly built upon the ruins of Jesus’ family home!

An archeologist, Ken Dark, had been invited to view the ruins beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent which was in a building “said to be built upon the ruins of a church.” The examination of the catacombs under that building did indicate a former church being there but also there were “walls” within the walls indicating that the church might have been built upon the ruins of a house!

So the question got asked for the first time: “Was this the childhood home of Jesus of Nazareth?”

The motivation for the asking of this question is clear right off of the bat as a Jesuit cleric admits that if it were that house, then Jesus was not a fictional character, that “He led a real life.”

Whoa, quite a bit of validation there, I would say.

Let’s stop to consider if such an identification is possible. What they managed to prove so far is that a 7th C. document about Nazareth claimed a church was built upon what were claimed to be the ruins of Jesus’ family home. The authenticity of that document wasn’t claimed to have been corroborated, nor was any other documentation provided. But, what if a chain of documents leading back to the appropriate time were found, that could be authenticated, identified the site as that home, the home of an artisan named Joseph. Since that name was quite common, how could one verify one had the right one? Documents would not have included the names of spouses and children surely. There could have been two people with the same name, ten years apart, or twenty, or thirty that occupied the house. How would you know which was which?

If they found a message carved into the stone of the house’s original foundation that said : “This is the home of Yahushua bar Joseph.” Would that prove anything? The answer is always “no” because of the perfidy of human beings. If someone built a church on the foundation left of a house and that church got into financial trouble, could you not imagine someone carving that message into the stone, weathering it a bit, and then announcing the miracle of miracles, the discovery of Jesus’ childhood home, and reap a large number of new members to support that church.

Could you honestly say that a chain of documents could not be forged? (Such a chain is useless in any case as such documents were not made, let alone kept.)

My point is that the entire question is dishonest.

There is no possibility of identifying any common building from that long ago. Large, ornate public buildings might be identified from written descriptions. Other buildings might be identified from their structures as being a forge or a stable for horses or barracks for soldiers, but the home of a fairly ordinary person? Zero chance.

So, you have to ask yourself what the purpose of such a TV show is. What possible “new insights into the historical Jesus, utilizing the latest scientific techniques and archaeological research” could be had from such a bogus search? Apparently the purpose of the show is to make money off of gullible consumers of such shows. There is no scientific purpose, nor is there an historical, or archaeological, purpose for such a speculation.

It is the equivalent of going to the possible site of Goliath and David’s epic possible individual combat and picking up a stone asking: “Is this the stone that David used to slay the warrior Goliath?” Or could it have been ancient aliens?

March 23, 2017

Finding Jesus … Holy Shit

I just finished watching a recorded episode of a CNN series called “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” In this episode (S1, E9) the title of which is “The Childhood Home of Jesus” we are led to consider whether said home has actually been found. The sole line of evidence for this “discovery” was a reference in a 7th C. document about Nazareth which referred to two churches, one of which was still in existence, the other was lost. The other was reputedly built upon the ruins of Jesus’ family home!

An archeologist had been invited to view the ruins beneath the Sisters of Nazareth Convent which was in a building “said to be built upon the ruins of a church.” The examination of the caves under that building did indicate a former church being there but also there were “walls” within the walls indicating that the church might have been built upon the ruins of a house! Artifacts were found that date to the first century and we are off and running.

The question gets asked, “Could this be the childhood home of Jesus?” We are then treated with breathless commentary along the lines of “the house seems exactly to be the sort that Jesus would have grown up in,” and “this was clearly a home inhabited by a pious Jewish family.” Imagine that. A home in first century Nazareth inhabited by a pious Jewish family, how rare!

They have trouble steering a course through the lack of evidence, of course. They keep asking the question, “Could this be the childhood home of Jesus?” but in a one hour show it takes them to the 59th minute to finally utter “… it is possible, but can’t be demonstrated.”

Really? Then what was used to fill the time between the asking of the question and the answering?

Well, we got all kinds of comments indicating that understanding how Jesus was raised would tell us a great deal about who Jesus was as a man. Really, a god incarnate was going to be shaped by his upbringing and the teaching of his parents? Must be a particularly feeble god.

Part of the filler was descriptions of Joseph and Mary. (I wonder where they got the information?) It was carefully explained that Joseph wasn’t a carpenter but an artisan, a class of people who were consider lower than peasants who worked the land, yet later we were lead to believe that Jesus must have been part of an upper middle class household. (I would guess this was to not offend the upper middle class target audience for this diatribe.) Later we are told that Jesus worked for many years as a carpenter, which is rigorous work, making Jesus into a manly man. Apparently he worked his way up from artisan, making his father proud.

They found artifacts, such as wool spinning tools, which a “woman of the time” would use to spin wool (I’m shocked, I tell you, shocked!) … but immediately thereafter that woman had a name … Mary. Sentences began Mary this, Mary that, etc. They found glass beads that were typical of women’s dresses across the Roman empire for centuries, which would, of course, been part of Mary’s dresses.

Interestingly, Mary was responsible for teaching the boy Jesus how to be a Jew and be part of God’s plan. How a god incarnate would have gotten along without that instruction, is horrifying to consider.

Then there was a longish aside involving a revolt in 4 BCE involving rebels capturing the city of Sepphoris. This city was four miles from Nazareth but 15,000 Roman troops took the city back, crucified 2000 rebels and sold the rest of the inhabitants into slavery. Four miles is a brisk walk of an hour for a mature adult but Jesus was about two years old at the time (having been born in 6 BCE) and could never have made the trip, nor would a two-year old remember anything as an adult from when he was two.* But we were told that “even if Jesus didn’t see the events himself, he would have heard stories from that point onward.” Possibly this shaped his nonviolent mission, it was claimed. Apparently they hadn’t heard about Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. And, the god of all creation fear the Romans? Really? I thought he made the Romans.

Then they segue to a Bible story from Luke about how Jesus went into the synagogue in Nazareth to preach and was rejected to the point of being dragged to a cliff with the intention of being thrown him off of it. But Jesus walked away … mysteriously … never to return to his boyhood home village. How this added to their case for the discovery of Jesus’ childhood home was not made clear.

I think they should have titled this series “Finding Jesus: Fantasy, Fiction, Fable.”

The only “evidence” they have is a mention in a 7th C. text regarding a church reputed to have been built upon the ruins of Jesus’ childhood home. At that time, I am sure there were no false claims of artifacts from that time being holy. The fact that an entire village of houses could have been built from the then known fragments of the cross was just another miracle. So, if that document said it, it is probably true.

They then took the ball and ran with it, using their imaginations and little else, they entertained the fantasy that they had found the childhood home of Jesus and, amazingly, that if that were able to be confirmed that it would tell them something. To most Christians, Jesus is the Creator God of their religion. He is the Father and Holy Spirit as there is only one god. That he was capable of creating the entire universe, the Earth, all of the plants and animals, and the first human beings and still needed his mother to teach him what “God’s plan” was is preposterous. That he would need any help at all is preposterous. That his mission was ever in doubt or in danger is preposterous. Everything must have happened as he planned it to happen. Period.

What were these people thinking?

And if that place really was Jesus’ childhood home, how could it have been forgotten? Oh, yeah, God lived around her a long time ago but we forgot where. Really?

What were these people thinking?

Oh, I forgot, thinking is not encouraged. It is entirely okay to get some press for your believers and provide them with some support for their beliefs even if it is entirely patent nonsense.

Just listen to the pretty stories and, above all, do not ask any questions.

* * *

* According to BibleWalks.com “The city (Sepphoris) is not mentioned in the acts and events of Jesus, but he probably has (sic) visited the city, which is in the near proximity of his childhood village of Nazareth. The city was a commercial center for the whole area and he may have received work as a carpenter.” And the beat goes on … they have no evidence but “he probably has visited the city,” looking for work … in the site of the horror that lead him to fear the Romans so very, very much.

 

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