The Ontological Argument: A Dialogue Between Windows Guy and Linux Gal
1. God is, by definition, a being greater than anything that can be imagined.
2. Existence both in reality and in imagination is greater than existence solely in one’s imagination.
3. Therefore, God must exist in reality: if God did not, God would not be a being greater than anything that can be imagined.
Linux Gal: Being imagined is not itself existence, of any sort. To say God exists in the understanding, meaning it the way you do, presupposes his existence. You are assuming your conclusion.
Windows Guy: By analogy the Mandelbrot Set does not have existence in the physical world, only in the imagination. But it can be defined and generated in such a way that anyone in the world can independently study the same features of this mathematical object that exists only in the mindscape. In the same way, when speaking of the universe’s Creator and First Cause, Who is necessarily one, the names for Him may vary but the object in the mindscape corresponding to this God, together with his attributes, is the same for all men.
Linux Gal: But God is not a possible being. Is omnipotence possible? Can god create something so indestructable that even he could not destroy it?
Windows Guy: Creating an indestructable object that can be destroyed renders the word “indestructable” of none effect.
Linux Gal: Could God create a square that has all the mathematical properties both of a square, and also of a circle?
Windows Guy: No, for the same reason God cannot produce a triangle with four sides — such an object is a parallelogram, not a triangle. It is not a limit on God’s power to be unable to do the logically incoherent.
Linux Gal: Could he have not created a world just as we have now, except where people who die of cancer at least die quickly and still meet his mysterious goals? If he were all good, wouldn’t he want to?
Windows Guy: If people died quickly of cancer, more people would die before faith healing or a miraculous remission occurred. If people die slowly of cancer, this gives more opportunities for a recovery at the expense of suffering.
Linux Gal: If something exists only in the understanding, then by definition – it isn’t. It does not exist. It is not actual. Thus, it could not have been “greater than it is”, because it “isn’t” in the first place.
Windows Guy: An oral contract exists only in the understanding of the parties involved, yet it exists, and courts will often award damages in the event of a breach.
Linux Gal: Not all things we imagine really exist. Here’s the fatal flaw in your whole argument, Windows Guy. You consider existence to be an attribute. You’re saying, “There’s this god, see, and he has to also have the property of existence, or he wouldn’t be as great as we define him to be.” But that’s a disallowed operation. First you have to have something, then you can talk about what properties it has.
A DIFFERENCE WHICH MAKES NO DIFFERENCE IS NO DIFFERENCE
Roman Catholics like to claim there is a strong streak of rationalism on their side of the Christian Church, because Aristotle’s precepts were embraced by St. Thomas Aquinas, and even Paul said (Romans 1:20) that a person could so readily conclude that God exists by examining the things of Creation that there was no excuse for unbelief.
Catholics go on to say those truths which were revealed directly to the Church such as the teaching authority vested by Christ in his Apostles are not a faith issue but simply a matter of obeying that which was handed down to our generation through those same Apostles and their alleged successors the bishops.
Even the issue of the resurrection of Christ is not taken solely on blind faith, say Catholics (and I was one of them until the boy butt sex scandal), because many early Christians died rather than deny the resurrection, and it is human nature that people are not likely to be willing to die as a martyr for a hoax.
After Galileo showed the clergy of the Catholic Church the error of their inerrantist ways they no longer speak of the sun orbiting the Earth, and even embrace deep time and a modified form of Darwinism where their god still has some skin in the game. But when we get to the central devotion of Catholicism, which is the Eucharist, or the Blessed Sacrament, all this rationality goes right out the stained glass window.
Other denominations such as Lutheranism and Methodism believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but Catholicism alone embraces a particularly hardcore version called transubstantiation. It is the last thing to be believed by a convert and the first to go in a lapsed Catholic. The basic belief is that in every mass there is a miracle where bread and wine are literally transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus, which is then eaten by the parishioners.
That the flesh of Jesus still sticks to the roof of your mouth like any cracker, and the blood of Jesus still tastes like a chardonnay or a blush or a red (depending on what color carpet is installed in the sanctuary) is explained in a word salad thus: The substance of the wine changes into the substance of the blood of Christ by transubstantiation, and the body, soul, and Divinity of Christ become present by concomitancy. The accidents of the bread remain, while the accidents of Christ’s body are hidden, but not from the eyes of faith.
If you place a consecrated host under a microscope, you will see cells of wheat, complete with chromosomes of wheat DNA. These cells are part of the “accidents” which remain. The human DNA of Jesus’ body are also there, according to the dogma, because it is one of the accidents of Jesus, but they are hidden, but not from the eyes of faith. Obviously you are not using eyes of faith if you put a consecrated host under a microscope.
When I attended St. Philomena our priest was an alcoholic, but undergoing treatment. When he consecrated the Eucharist, the part that he was supposed to drink was not the wine we would drink, but non-alcoholic grape juice, by order of the archbishop. When he first took over the parish and did this thing which was quite out of the ordinary, he assured us, “Don’t worry, this works.” From this I concluded that even the alcohol in the wine is one of the non-hidden accidents that remain, along with the wheat DNA.
That got me wondering, what exactly was the substance of the wine that was transformed, and why do they call it the substance when it is the only thing about the transformation that cannot be substantiated?
After a few more Sundays of this, which hit right about the time in 2002 when the dioscese was using some of my weekly contributions of “sacrificial giving” to pay jackpot payouts to young men who were sexual abuse victims, I said to myself, “You know what girl? This is all bullcrap.” And that was that.
WHERE DID THE UNIVERSE COME FROM?
Where does the matter of the universe come from? The first question to answer is what matter really is. Matter is really “frozen” or condensed energy, like a ray of light that’s wrapped up upon itself like a phone cord SNAFU. Energy comes in two forms: kinetic, and potential.
One form of kinetic energy exists as the free wave/particle dual entities we call photons, which in empty space can only travel at exactly the speed of light relative to all other observers. This means photons can never exist confined in atoms.
Another form of kinetic energy is bound up as particles with mass, which always travel below the speed of light. Under certain conditions particles are formed from the kinetic energy of the collision of other particles.
Kinetic energy is momentum, and momentum is mass times velocity. So whatever excess energy is left over after the creation of these particles is carried away in the velocity of the resultant particles, which we experience as the heat of a nuclear reactor, for example. Heat is really motion.
Potential energy is stored by the relative position of two particles within each other’s gravitational field. It is a negative number that exactly equals the kinetic energy that would be released if the particles were allowed to collide. If you have a rock on the top of
a hill, it has potential energy, and when it rolls down the hill and strikes a wall, the force it delivers is a positive number exactly equal to the negative potential energy that rock had when it was sitting up there on the hill. So the sum of these two energies is zero.
Now if you add up all the kinetic energy of the universe which is in the form of light, matter, and the motion of that matter, and then subtract all the potential energy from the gravitational fields of all that stuff, the total sum of the energy of the universe is zero. That is, NOTHING!
The universe is nothing, it comes from nothing, and if we see something it is only a temporary blip, like a vacuum fluctuation but on a much larger scale.
RELIGION IS A HE-MAN WOMAN-HATER’S CLUB
“Females possess less vital force than the other sex, and are deprived very much of the bracing, invigorating air, by their in-door life. The result of self-abuse (masturbation) in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, and frequently, inward decay of the head. Cancerous humor, which would lie dormant in the system their lifetime, is inflamed, and commences its eating, destructive work. The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes.” – Ellen G. White, A Solemn Appeal (Appeal to Mothers) pg.73
Q. What other gods are you atheist about? A. Whaddya got?
Atheists don’t need to make a case for atheism, because we are “innocent until proven guilty” and it is up to the “prosecution” to prove we are wrong with a preponderance of evidence. This must be the default position until evidence for God comes in, otherwise we (and Christians too) would need to make a case for being a Zeus atheist, or an Apollo atheist, or a Baal atheist, or any number of other gods.
THE EVOLUTION OF GOD
Like the Linux kernel, the “Judeo-Christian” tradition has evolved with incremental steps, but unlike the Linux development process these steps have not been properly documented. We can see the final “source code” of religion by examining sacred texts, but we are forced to deduce how it evolved by looking at inconsistencies within the scriptures and how they relate to the religion as it is practiced today.
At first the House of Israel practiced henotheism which not only admits the existence of other gods, it acknowledges that those other gods have their own power. This is seen in the commandment by Yahweh/El to have “no other gods before me” which only makes sense if other gods are held to exist and also have the ability to grant favors or engage in divine violence in competition with the Hebrew God. This fitted in well with the early status of the Hebrews as simply one group of bacon-eschewing Canaanites living among other bacon-loving Canaanites.
Later when the House of Israel rose to become (temporarily) the dominant power in the Levant they refined this to a concept that is better expressed by the term monolatry, which holds that the gods of the surrounding nations indeed did exist, but their power simply did not compare to that of their own God. This is captured in Psalm 82:6-7 which has God saying “Ye are are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.”
When Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem and took the Jews into captivity in Babylon this was a fundamental blow to the Jewish concept of God as they had always understood it. They did not even sing songs of lament to Yahweh in their captivity, because they thought he was just a local deity hanging out in Palestine who could no longer hear them. But the Jewish priests used the crisis to transform God from a purely local deity to a universal one. It was the only way to explain why the holy city and the temple had been destroyed. God was god of the whole world, including the Babylonians, which he had used as agents to punish the Jews for this or that ritual defect.
The injunction against idolatry remained on the books, but in light of the new monotheism it came across as an overreaction to misguided competing rituals which could have no real effect since the invoked deity did not exist and therefore could never make good on any promises.
Later, the development of Pauline Christianity, which borrowed many dualist concepts from the Greeks, explained this vestigial artifact of the scriptures by merging all Baal worship or Marduk worship (or even, to Protestants, the veneration of Mary) into Satan worship. This actually elevated Satan from a mere angel to a deity in his own right. Even today, in Christian fiction such as the books of Frank Peretti, God and Satan are depicted as playing a global game of Othello, turning this soul white, turning that soul black, and the winner will be the god with the most human souls of his color at the end of the game.
BORN THIS WAY, WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?
There are many gays and lesbians who want to be straight, because of the less-than-accepting atmosphere in many cultures. So you get the ex-gay movement. But of course 99.99% of spokespersons in the ex-gay movement eventually resume their lives as gays, which gives you the ex-ex-gay movement. They say they haven’t found a Gay Gene yet. Well, a Gay Gene wouldn’t make sense, because gays and lesbians don’t, as a general rule, breed. There’s no handedness gene either. But roughly 12% of human beings have their motor skills focused in the left hand and arm rather than the right. It could be a cocktail of different genes that decides which way the baby will go.
Or perhaps sexual (and hand) preference is just a pair of stable emergent properties described by chaos theory, as illustrated above, since there isn’t enough bandwidth in human DNA to encode the hookup of every neuron in an embryo’s brain . Either way the whole kerfuffle is much ado about nothing, like when the Code of Moses made people go around as hermits with leprosy when all they really had was a little psoriasis.
All I can tell you from my experience is that from the gitgo I crushed on Caroline “Joy” Ellis on the Bugaloos, not David “Keith” Cassidy from the Partridge Family. So in my experience sexual preference is innate, exactly like my preference to use the right hand, and every bit as boring as that.
There are just as many left-handers, per capita, in the World of Islam as there are out here in the World of Infidels, but due to the bad rap the Q’u’r’a’n gives the left hand in general (like reserving it to fill in as toilet paper), you would be hard pressed to find a southpaw who is out of the closet in Syria. So whether the Q’u’r’a’n promotes lesbianism or not, it has nothing to do with the incidence of actual lesbians, only with the incidence of out lesbians. As for the Q’u’r’a’n being misogynistic, who’da thunk it?
The predecessor species of mankind blended smoothly into homo sapiens such that (in retrospect) there were never fewer than two thousand individuals of our species. In other words, evolution never flipped a switch and had one ape mother suddenly give birth to a single human baby. In fact, human babies still are apes, and so are human mothers. So no talking snake, no missing rib, no apple, no tree of life, no cherub with flaming sword. Sorry.
ON THE HOARY CANARD “ATHEISTS BELIEVE THERE IS NO GOD.”
Atheism is not a “belief there is no God” because to have a belief is to hold a proposition.
There are thousands of other things that Christians, like atheists, do not have a belief in, from Sasquatch to elves.
If the mechanism is correct that the non-existence of God is a belief held by atheists, than both Christians and atheists must also have matching propositions for the non-existence of a host of other things, which clearly we do not, since we can only name a few.
So for the record, Christians believe in the existence of Yahweh and they do not believe in the existence of Zeus. Atheists do not believe in the existence of Yahweh and we also do not believe in the existence of Zeus.
Perhaps the underlying motivation for some Christians to say atheists believe there is no God is a suspicion they have that believing in something is far inferior to understanding something. And perhaps it is enabled by the same sloppy reasoning that results in some Christians saying evolution is “only a theory” as if that were a bad thing.
IN THE COMPANY OF GIANTS
“The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” — Caesar Cardinal Baronius (an enlightened cleric for his day and age, Pope John Paul II mentioned this quote in his rather late apology to Galileo)
“No apparent, perceived, or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.” –Ken Ham
DID THE POPE SAY ATHEISTS CAN GO TO HEAVEN?
“First of all, you ask me if the God of Christians forgives one who doesn’t believe and doesn’t seek the faith. Premise that – and it’s the fundamental thing – the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart…” (Pope Francis, letter to agnostic newspaper editor Eugenio Scalfari)
1. If a non-believer turns to God don’t they, ipso facto, become a believer?
2. What does a non-believer have to be contrite about?
3. How can a non-believer sincerely regret violating a religious precept he doesn’t believe in?
4. If the mercy of God is constrained by the attitude of the transgressor, why do we even call it mercy rather than justice?
For the general amusement of anyone having an IQ with three digits.
Homleand says: (http://homleand.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/why-evolution-is-false/)
Why evolution is false
There are many reasons why evolution makes no sense, but liberals insist on pushing their lies. But here is the final, definitive reason: Generations. Let’s call each generation 30 years:
2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096
That’s 12 generations, or 360 years. That means you’re related to 8,190 people over the past 360 years. Do you know who they are? I guess not. So if humans have been around for 200,000 years, as the fundamentalist Darwinists say, that first generation alone would have to have an impossibly huge number of people. That would be about 6,666 generations, so it would be 2^6666 people in the first generation of humans. Think about that: How would that many people exist in the first generation if the first humans were mutations from apes?
Evolution is a lie. Even basic math agrees!
You’re doing your calculus wrong. You start from the final population (P1= 7 billion), and work back to the initial population (P0 = around 2,000 individuals, by the way, not two), take t=200,000 and then solve for k in P1=P0*e^kt. Hint, the inverse exponential (logarithm) function is ln() on your calculator. That gives you the growth rate. You can’t just make up your own constant k and plug it in and run the numbers, that doesn’t mean anything.
Homleand says in reply:
That literally makes no sense. This is what liberals do when they lie about evolution and the weather. They make up a bunch of terms that sound important, but are really just made up mumbo jumbo. In this case, “e^kt” is not a real word, it’s just something the liberals made up to push their agenda. Comments like this only serve to confirm the Genesis depiction of the creation of the Earth.
I reply once more:
- e is the natural logarithm
- t is time
- k is the rate of growth (it’s what you’re looking for)
This is first year calc. Please tell me you are not homeschooling your kids.
SOUTHERN BUDDHIST CONVENTION
Buddha’s soteriology consists of indifference to the evils of the world. Nirvana is achieved when you attain complete detachment. This is not compatible with historical Christianity, because believers are called by the Great Commission to teach the gospel of repentance unto eternal life, and heal the whole world of the consequences of sin (through the power of the Holy Spirit), just like Jesus did in Palestine for three years.
However, I do see Evangelical Protestantism as being somewhat closer to Buddhism in this respect. Many are content to “get saved” and then spend the rest of their time on the front porch detached from life, whittling in their rocking chair until the rapture, which itself is the ultimate detachment. They don’t dare get engaged in the world trying to reverse evil, because that’s “works-based salvation” and if they even think about doing it they will be “fallen from grace” according to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, even though they simultaneously believe in Once Saved Always Saved.
But the do-nothing porch whittling rapture-watchers aren’t the worst ones. The worst ones are roll-in-the sawdust, babble-in-tongues, rockin’ back ‘n forth, eyes rolled back in their heads beat yer kids and wives fundies whacked out on vicious word o’ the TV and Radio evangelists screaming “send us yer money Thank Yewwww Jesssssuzzzz!” …whackos like Jimmy Bakker, Tammy Bakker, Jim Jones, Bob Larson, Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popov, Reverand Ike, prosperity preachers grubbing $40.00 a week from little old ladies on Social Security, thieves, frauds and pedophiles, anti-semitic remark of the day ala Pat Robertson, Billy Graham, white man’s nation, white man’s religion, white power preachers, skinheads, Klansmen, white citizens councils with their whites only religious schools, backward masking, demon rum, demon dice, creationism, black helicopters, commies under every bed, UN is going to invade us, Obama is a Muslim antichrist, militia-joining, tax-resisting, Harry Potter-fearing hysterical creeps and loonies.
Churches that pray for peace and have candlelight vigils against war in the Middle-East don’t even make the needle twitch.
Pastor John Hagee says, “When 50 million evangelical bible-believing Christians unite with five million American Jews standing together on behalf of Israel, it is a match made in heaven. It is time for America to consider a military preemptive strike against Iran to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Israel and a nuclear attack in America.”
If God planted more Gardens on more Earths scattered across the universe, and if the essence of the Garden story was that it was a test of free will, whether it would be abused in disobedience or result in obedience, and if it was a fair test, then it stands to reason (heh!) that there’s a number of planets where no Fall took place.
On each one of those worlds would dwell a pair of creatures who lived forever in perfect happiness, tending their fruit trees and ignorant of even the knowledge of sexuality. Never would they go out from the garden to learn agriculture, and mining, and smelting, and steam power, and electricity, and finally the transmission of electromagnetic energy carrying information.
And so it is that only Fallen races talk to each other over interstellar distances, and venture out to meet each other. But if we don’t hear anyone talking, or greet anyone coming, it might be that we were the only world to Fall.
HOLES IN GOD THEORY
Christian: God has conscious preferences and behaves intelligently to bring about what he prefers. God thinks, calculates, plans, chooses and imagines.
Planning and “bringing about” things requires that God exists in a certain point of time. There must be a past, a present, and a future to a God who chooses and imagines. And anyone who experiences the future transforming into the past experiences change.
Christian: But God never changes. God cannot learn from experience because he already knows everything.
If God never changes, then he cannot know what time it is “now”. In order to accept 5:57 pm as “now” one must have changed from the state of accepting 5:56 pm as “now”. And if God doesn’t even know what time it is, then he cannot be omniscient.
Christian: But God is all knowing, or omniscient. God knows everything that can be known.
Except that if God knows everything that he will do, then he cannot “plan” or “imagine” or “choose” as you stated. He cannot be a personal God.
Christian: God is omnipresent because he is a spirit. God is not physical. He is not composed of atoms and energy. Telescopes cannot see him.
If God is composed of something which is not physical, a pure intellect not made of atoms and energy, then it follows that God cannot influence beings which are made of atoms and energy, and this isolation works both ways. This is the realm of the mind-body problem.
Christian: But God is omnipotent, almighty. God can do anything that can be done.
Except that God cannot avoid what he knows he himself is destined to do.
Christian: God is everywhere at once, omnipresent. God is not localized in space. For all practical purposes, the claim that God can accurately perceive what is going on everywhere and can effectively intervene anywhere, is equivalent to the claim that God is everywhere.
If God is omnipresent, why did he have to “go down” to see what the human beings were building at Babel? Why are sinners in hell said to be cast out from the presence of a supposedly omnipresent God?
Christian: God is perfectly good. God cannot do that which is morally wrong.
God was either not powerful enough to stop Germany from killing six million of his Chosen People, or he didn’t want to get involved, which is not the choice of a perfectly good being.
2. The Old Testament doesn’t apply anymore, except for some parts like the ones condemning homosexuals or calling for a death penalty.
3. Only the New Testament applies, except for the parts we ignore, like when Jesus forbids remarriage, because Brother Rush and Brother Newt with their third wives are godly men. Also the part when Jesus said set aside all your possessions before following him is communistic. We’ll determine which ones don’t apply anymore and get back to you.
4. Some parts of the Bible are to interpreted literally, like when the Earth was created in six days, or all human beings are traced back to just two individuals, and other parts are metaphor, like when the Bible says the heaven is a solid dome over the Earth. You just shut up and tithe, we’ll decide.
5. When parts of the Bible contradict science, or other parts of the Bible, or would be illegal to carry out like killing witches, they are definitely a metaphor for something. We’ll get back to you on those.
6. The entire Bible is divinely inspired by God, however. That’s the important thing to take away.
ARGUMENT FROM FIRST CAUSE, DEBUNKED
Recently a member of the WordPress community made the claim that atheists can only remain in their unbelief by deliberately denying all the scientific evidence which concludes that God is. Unable to resist, I asked for the single best item from this alleged cornucopia of scientific evidence to see if I could get traction on it.
The answer given was: Genesis 1:1=the effect (the created world) demands an adequate cause (God).
My answers are provided below:
1. In the Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, Arda (Middle-Earth) springs forth when the One, Eru Iluvatar, infuses the song of the Ainur, the children of his thought, with the Flame Imperishable. This statement has precisely the same level of scientific validity (ie. falsifiablility) as Genesis 1:1, which is to say, none.
2. It is a sloppy methodology to assert a necessary cause for every effect until we arrive at the creator deity that one worships, only to immediately suspend the requirement.
3. Even allowing a metaphysical argument for the necessity of an uncaused cause, this remains abstract rhetoric rather than concrete scientific evidence, which was the original claim.
4. The hypothesis that every effect requires a cause is falsified by the observation, via the Casimir effect, of the uncaused creation of virtual particles in the void. Briefly, this happens when two parallel metal plates in close proximity create a resonant cavity between them, restricting the momentum-spectrum of vacuum fluctuations that may appear in the gap, while on the exterior of the apparatus the vacuum fluctuations are not constricted, resulting in an energy gradient, a pressure if you will, that can be detected.
5. Occam’s razor is the principle that one is not to multiply entities without need. A godless eternal universe would be a simpler hypothesis than an eternal creator, obviously, because it would eliminate the subsequent step of creation.
WHO LIED IN THE GARDEN?
WHO LIED IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN?
God: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Satan: “Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
(She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked)
God: “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.”
Genesis 5:5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.
We report, you decide.
1. Things are said to exist if they are verified. For example, neutrinos are verified (barely) by observation.
2. Things have the possibility of existing if they are verifiable in principle (the red dress Cleopatra may have worn on her 20th birthday could have been verified, in principle, by her or by those present at her birthday party).
3. Things do not exist if they are not verifiable, even in principle (a ball that is simultaneous all red and all blue does not exist because it is a self-contradiction and not verifiable, even in principle).
4. Consciousness before death exists, because it is being verified now (you are conscious, for example, of the elements of this proof).
5. Consciousness is a private phenomenon which is only verifiable by the person who has it. This is why it can only be inferred that animals, who cannot speak, have awareness.
6. Consciousness after death may exist, because it could be verified, in principle, by the subject himself, post mortem, if and only if consciousness after death exists.
7. The case that “no consciousness after death exists” does not exist, because it is not verifiable, even in principle, since verification requires the consciousness of the deceased.
8. If the case that “no consciousness after death exists” does not exist (7), and if its negation, that “consciousness after death exists” is not strictly ruled out (6), then consciousness after death must exist, by the rule “if not non-A then A.”
OPEN-SOURCE MYTH MAKING
Myths are simply the stories we tell each other to explain the apparently inexplicable. Belief in a creator god or gods, belief in an afterlife, and the belief that ritual or prayer can change the outcome of events is nearly universal across all kindreds and peoples and across every age. These elements persist even in isolated cultures which are officially atheist, such as North Korea, where Kim Il-Jong is exalted to a godlike status complete with domestic shrines.
Yet the lower animals demonstrate little if any religious sensibilities. To explain this we wonder whether human brains have a “religious” center in the cerebral cortex, a neurological architecture hard-wired to provide a religious response and experience.
If there is really one true God out there, then why did he wait so long to reveal himself, and why did he first reveal himself to the Hebrews, ignoring all the other populations of the earth, while allowing Paganism and other religious beliefs to rise? The emergence of the concept of the Abrahamic God coincided with the invention of writing. For the first time, it became possible for men to codify their ideas about God and transmit them faithfully to future generations rather than trusting their ideas to an oral history which is subject to being corrupted over the generations by contradictory responses generated by that very “religion center” that some speculate is part and parcel of being human.
The problem with revealed, written religion, however, is that it also locks in as dogma certain tribalist attitudes about slavery or gender roles or methods of justice which are subsequently superceded by the normal evolution of society. We don’t execute witches or homosexuals anymore, but the commandments to do remain enshrined in Torah.
So think of traditional religion as Microsoft Windows, controlled from a central “Mecca” (Redmond), closed to debate or change, one size fits all. Classic religion certainly fulfills the needs of the “God center” of the brain, but it only does so in certain pre-described ways which leaves many questions unanswered. Still, for 95% of users, at least in the United States this closed-source myth-making is good enough, and the very fact that it cannot change is taken to be a mark of its superiority over other myths that do change.
The remaining five percent will gravitate to open-source myth-making, where the stories we tell are compared to what we actually see in the world around us, and we establish a feedback loop to modify those stories until they are incrementally matched to the way things are, which is what we call the truth. This open-source myth-making, created by Father Galileo, is science.
GROAN OF ARK
Some people have nothing better to do than to look for the Ark of the Covenant. The Bible makes no mention of the Ark after the Babylonians sacked the temple and carted off its gold. The Ark is not present in Ezra’s second temple. The Ark is not present in Herod’s third temple.
According to the prophet Jeremiah, modern Israel will not even think about the Ark. For it is written (Jeremiah 3:16) And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more.
In fact, there is biblical “evidence” that God has recalled the Ark to heaven, for it is written in another place (Revelation 11:19) And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
Nevertheless, some people who think these are the end times believe the Ark will be found, and it will be part of the fourth temple (never mind that animal sacrifices were done away with at Calvary) so that the Antichrist will have something to desecrate. Gotta give Damien Thorne something to do, right?
Q. But isn’t Jerusalem becoming of interest to the entire world?
A. Jerusalem is a holy city for three Abrahamic religions. It has always been of interest.
Q. But isn’t the US Currency falling in value?
A. This is more of a sign that Americans like to buy imported oil and finished goods. Since we pay for them in dollars, we are shipping a lot of dollars overseas. There is more supply for greenbacks than demand, so the price (value) of the dollar falls.
Q. But isn’t the European Union ( which are the Ten Kingdoms who give their power to the Beast in Revelation) gaining strength?
A. Sure. So what was the economic objection to “socialism” again?
Q. But isn’t Russia becoming defiant and returning to a Cold War stance?
A. Why must a sovereign nation be compliant to the United States?
Q. But isn’t Apostate Christianity running rampant?
A. One person’s apostasy is another person’s orthodoxy.
Q. What about the One World religious movement that is gaining momentum, led by the Pope?
A. Didn’t Christ say he would have one flock and one shepherd?
Q. What about how natural disasters such as earthquakes are increasing in record numbers?
A. Please provide statistical evidence that the frequency of natural disasters are spiking, and your methodology for setting the lower cutoff to filter out small misfortunes like road washouts.
Q. What about the apathy in the Church?
A. There is no apathy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Q. What about the gay rights movement worldwide?
A. Gosh, the next thing you know, we will want to ride in the front of the bus or drink from straight people’s water fountains.
Q. What about all the Celestial signs increasing?
A. Name one recent celestial sign. You do realize, do you not, that eclipses can be predicted well in advance?
Q. What about how the number of crimes is rising?
A. If crime is a constant percentage by population, and if population rises, then crime rises too. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Q. What about China’s immense military power, 200,000,000 troops, precisely as predicted in the Book of Revelation ?
A. China only has 2,250,000 active troops and very little recent combat experience, unlike the United States.
Q. What about the fact that love for others waxeth cold, exactly as Jesus predicted it would do in the End Times?
A. Okay, I’ll give you that one. And meanwhile you try to pass amendments to the Constitution to make sure same-sex couples who do have warm love for each other can’t get married.
We have prayer for the same reason we still have the sin of idolatry, it’s a vestige of an earlier theology when there were many gods and heaven was like City Hall.
But when the temple got zapped by the surrounding kingdoms (Babylon, Rome), Yahweh was re-interpreted to be the only God of the whole Earth to explain why he would send soldiers from outside of the Chosen to punish the Chosen with genocide for skipping a Sabbath or two, or helping themselves to some bacon. The attacking armies were agents of this larger God even as the Chosen were.
Nobody stopped to question why a single real God would be “jealous” when other fake gods received worship. Television series often have early continuity errors like this before they get their story straight by the third or fourth season.
Eventually this newly universalized God was given the attribute of omniscience. Yet we still make requests of this God as though he were just an old school tribal deity. Ain’t inertia grand?
THE ROLE OF THE DEVIL
2 Samuel 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
The purpose of the devil is to be the scapegoat for all the times that Yahweh had to be the bad guy. Someone recorded in the original text that Yahweh provoked David to number Israel. Later, some priest, writing the book of Chronicles and documenting the same event, said, no, the devil made David do it.
Satan was invented as a way to isolate God from capricious acts, not retributive ones. “An evil spirit from the LORD was sent to vex Saul”, etc. The act of numbering Israel was a faithless act, punished by God by giving David a choice of three years of famine, three months of fleeing before his enemies, or three days of plague. But people began to wonder why God punished Israel for something he himself incited David to do, at least according to 2 Samuel.
A POST-CHRISTIAN NATION?
Christ didn’t come to save nations, but individuals. If an individual stops following Christ, then that’s between that person and Christ. If a nation stops following Christ, what that really means is that evangelism is failing to reach the next generation.
Making a belief in a 6,000 year old universe a prerequisite for salvation might have a lot to do with it. For many apostles, the belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible is indeed necessary to attain eternal life, for if the Bible cannot be trusted on issues of geology or biology or cosmology, then its teachings on soteriology are in question.
Or maybe it’s the central message of the gospel that is the real problem: that we are to send telepathic messages to a Jewish ghost letting him know that we will accept him as our master and ask him to remove a curse that was passed down to us after an old woman who was made from the rib of her partner ate a piece of fruit from a magical tree because a talking snake told her to do it. I don’t know.
ARGUMENT FROM MIRACLES
If one posits that miracles have occurred, how does one get from that to the existence of a God? Why not just conclude that miracles are part of the natural world?
Depicted here is the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. Suppose a number of people drink some Lourdes water, and later discover their stage four cancer has fallen into complete remission. What is it about this evidence that makes you believe in God, as opposed to believing in something else?
Lourdes water has been analyzed and found to contain, dissolved within it, oxygen, nitrogen, carbonic acid, carbonates of lime and magnesia, a trace of carbonate of iron, an alkaline carbonate or silicate, chlorides of potassium and sodium, traces of sulphates of potassium and soda, traces of ammonia, and traces of iodine. Suppose this combination of compounds somehow had an objective therapeutic benefit for cancer much the way they discovered a certain cocktail of drugs were effective against HIV. Would believers, defending the miracle qua miracle, attempt to debunk this research as vigorously as atheists debunk a young earth creation? Would the Catholic Church attempt to suppress this research, along with stem cell research and the like, lest doctors end up putting the miracle in a bottle and ending the lucrative pilgrimages to the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes?
Why should anyone identify a self-aware self-directed entity with superpowers as the cause of any purported miracle? It’s the same question that pops up in the various metaphysical arguments for God. How do you go from the First Mover directly to the Father of Jesus Christ, discarding Zeus and Cthulhu along the way?
WACKY BELIEFS OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
These are the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses which could be considered wacky when compared to the beliefs of mainstream Christians. In that way, they are very much like outtakes on the cutting room floor after the Star Wars Christmas Special was put together. Imagine scenes so silly they were considered too silly to be allowed in the Star Wars Christmas Special!
- JW wacky belief #1 – Christ is not equal to God because He is a creature.
- JW wacky belief #2 – Christ was first of God’s creations
- JW wacky belief #3 – Christ died on a stake, not a cross
- JW wacky belief #4 – Christ was raised from the dead as an immortal spirit person
- JW wacky belief #5 – Christ’s presence is in spirit
- JW wacky belief #6 – Kingdom under Christ will rule earth in righteousness and peace
- JW wacky belief #7 – Kingdom brings ideal living conditions to earth
- JW wacky belief #8 – Earth will never be destroyed or depopulated
- JW wacky belief #9 – God will destroy present system of things in the battle at Har-Magedon
- JW wacky belief #10 – Wicked will be eternally destroyed
- JW wacky belief #11 – The human soul ceases to exist at death
- JW wacky belief #12 – Hell is mankind’s common grave
- JW wacky belief #13 – Only a little flock of 144,000 go to heaven and rule with Christ
- JW wacky belief #14 – The 144,000 are born again as spiritual sons of God
- JW wacky belief #15 – (What you wont be told) If you become a JW and then leave them because of their false teachings, you will be literally shunned. Your family that remains in the organization will not be permitted to even talk to you!
- JW wacky belief #16 – (Which they will not tell you) The Watchtower Society is the only source of truth on earth today and your soul will be destroyed if you refuse their organization.
- JW wacky belief #17 – The Watchtower Society and its followers are all prophets of God today and the Governing Body is directed by angels from God.
- JW wacky belief #18 – The Watchtower and Awake magazines originate with and are treated as equal to the Bible.
- JW wacky belief #19 – They deny the that God consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
- JW wacky belief #20 – They deny the deity of Christ (Arian view) Jesus is a created being also called Michael the archangel, and was the first and only direct creation of God.
- JW wacky belief #21 – Jesus was not the Christ (Messiah) until age 30, even though their own bible says in Luke 2:11, “because there was born to you today a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
- JW wacky belief #22 – They deny the bodily resurrection. After Jesus was buried in the tomb, Jehovah dissolved his body into gases and it disappeared forever.
- JW wacky belief #23 – Jesus rose invisibly in three days, so Jehovah had to “materialize” a fake body for him complete with fake nail prints so His disciples would believe it was really Jesus risen.
- JW wacky belief #24 – They deny the personality of the Holy Spirit (viewed by the Watchtower organization as “God’s active force”, similar to radio waves)
- JW wacky belief #25 – They deny man consciously survives death.
- JW wacky belief #26 – They teach the eternal punishment of the lost is annihilation.
- JW wacky belief #27 – They deny the bodily, visible return of Christ (Christ’s “return” was only His “turning his attention” invisibly toward earth in 1914, and there was an invisible “rapture” of the dead members of the 144,000 in 1918.)
- JW wacky belief #28 – The cross is a pagan symbol of sex worship, and that all buildings or persons displaying the cross are likewise pagan. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Jesus died on a cross but a stake.
- JW wacky belief #29 – However, recent “new light” in the Watchtower now admits they are not certain about the cross, but will continue to deny it anyway. Further, the watchtower originally claimed it was a cross.
- JW wacky belief #30 – They teach Christ is the mediator for only the 144,000, not the average Jw.
- JW wacky belief #31 – Teach only the 144,000 must be “born again”, not the average Jw.
- JW wacky belief #32 – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob etc. were to be back on earth as perfect humans in 1925. The Society built a palatial home called “Beth Sarim” for them BUT when the patriarchs failed to show up, the President of the Society moved in.
- JW wacky belief #33 – Their light gets “brighter and brighter”, allowing for many changes and “about faces” on their doctrines. Yesterday’s error is today’s “truth”. Often the “light” bounces back and forth from old to new views and back again! (Might we call this discarded truth… “black Light”?)
- JW wacky belief #34 – Blood transfusions are rejected and if a Witness receives one willingly, it results in his eternal death. However, the society allows Hemopheliacs to consume blood for medical purposes to save their life.
- JW wacky belief #35 – To salute the flag is an act of idolatry.
- JW wacky belief #36 – Participation in any civil holidays, mothers day, birthdays brings condemnation of God.
- JW wacky belief #37 – Only persons who use the true name of God, Jehovah, will have their prayers heard by God. No salvation is possible without using the name “Jehovah.”
AQUINAS ON HELL
1. The sufferings of the damned will be perfectly known to the saints or blessed in heaven, and will only make them the more thankful to God for his great mercy towards themselves.
2. There can, however, be no pity in the saints with reference to the damned. For, on the other hand, they know that the damned are suffering what they chose and still perversely choose. On the other hand, pity is painful in the one who experiences it, and there can be nothing painful in heaven.
3. The blessed are in full conformity with the will of God who wills justice. The saints rejoice in the accomplishment of God’s justice. To this extent it can be said that they joy in the pains of the damned.
Because God is love. So yeah, sign me up for that religion.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
At great personal sacrifice, Sarai married off her slave girl Hagar to Abram so he could knock out an heir, just like God promised. And as soon as she conceived, Hagar began to show contempt in the way she looked at Sarai, and Sarai could see this in Hagar’s eyes. Professor Harold Bloom suggested that the Yawhist (the source for much of Genesis) was actually a woman in the court of Jeroboam, and certainly the way rival women can annihilate each other with glances, with “looks that kill” is a hallmark of women’s fiction. Hagar ran away.
In the wilderness Hagar seemed to confuse an angel with God himself. This chapter has the first appearance of the word “angel” in the Bible.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
So which was it, an angel, or God? This confusion continues. During an incident in an upcoming chapter where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac, the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” And he said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
Later in Genesis it gets to the point were Joseph even ascribes redemptive powers to this angel!
Genesis 48:16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
What is going on here? We are beginning to see the process where the Yahweh of the Southern Kingdom of Judah is being merged with El-Elyon of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The hands-on deity of the Yahwist who talks to Abram face to face is going to morph into a transcendent, almost abstract figure who only deals with men by remote control, using avatars which are called “the angel of the LORD”.
The “angel of the LORD” is like the “Predator of the UNITED STATES”, and when the Predator drone kills a terrorist in Pakistan, it is the same thing as America killing him.
That is not to say that God is not accompanied by other beings of a higher order than men. These are the Elohim and two of them accompany him to visit Abram and they go on to nuke Sodom and Gomorrah. It is these other beings to whom God is speaking when he says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. And they were eventually called angels in an evolutionary process that you could well imagine could occur with my drone analogy.
Imagine that after many years of hitting targets in Pakistan with the “Predator of the UNITED STATES” we send in ground forces to do the same thing. And the native people, who had come to fear the sky Predator, transfer that name to the ground forces, and speak of legions of predators.
So you wanna go up against some top guns…
Admit it creation fans, that’s what you’re here for. You want to step outside the safety of your little faith assembly for a little bit, play in the big leagues, have a pillow fight, score some quick points, then run back to your flock to share your sea stories. We skeptics need you to bring your “A” game but you end up giving us the standard Junior Varsity stuff:
“You don’t believe in a creator God? Wow, you have more faith than I do!”
“There’s no evidence that humans evolved from apes, so it’s just another belief system.”
So I’d like to make a few suggestions just to up the quality of the debate and keep the innernets from filling up with crap. The first one has to do with your willingness to actually look at the data. Back when Galileo made his telescope and became the first person in the history of the world to see that the Moon had mountains and valleys and that it was clearly another world, not just a silvery disk in the sky, he felt like a kid in candy store. He wanted to share this with everybody. Hardly anyone would, even when he set the telescope up and invited them to look. Don’t be one of those guys. The truth is the way things are, and if your book doesn’t exactly match up with the way things are, then so much the worse for your book.
Second, human beings didn’t evolve FROM apes, we ARE apes, the sole species of our genus Homo in the family Hominidae (great apes) with three other genera comprising six other species. Honestly, it’s difficult to believe this basic fact isn’t widely accepted, and some of the rhetoric used in denying it reminds me of the screeching and poo-throwing of the primate section of a zoo.
Third, what you call evolution (the Modern Synthesis of descent with variation) doesn’t have to explain life, the universe, and everything to a T. It’s a theory that explains the diversity of life on this planet. Natural selection isn’t even up for discussion, really. That “organisms which are more suited to replicate are more common” is a simple tautology like “all bachelors are unmarried”. We’ve even seen natural selection work with your side of the house when a series of predatory court cases led you from pure creationism to creation “science” to intelligent design to God knows what else you’re cooking up now.
Fourth, the old standby that contingent beings require a necessary being to explain their existence, “and this all men call God” doesn’t work because we don’t live in a Newtonian universe where every effect must have a generative cause. The decay of an unstable nucleus, or the rise and fall of a quantum vacuum fluctuation has no cause. Wake up and smell 1900 CE.
Last, your old standby the argument from design is totally undermined by the anthropic principle which boils down to, “The world appears to be designed to be compatible for life because if it wasn’t, no one would exist to complain about its incompatibility with life.”
Somewhere out in space there may very well be another planet circling a stable sun with a self-moderating climate, a magnetic field to shield it from cosmic rays, a large moon to dampen wobble due to precession, a large gas-giant planet to vacuum up most stray comets and asteroids, the optimum rate of spin to moderate both temperature extremes and stormy weather, an active geology to move carbon out of the atmosphere and rebuild eroded lands, plus a fully functioning water cycle. And on that planet folks will look around and go, “Wow, there must be a God, look how perfect this place is.” And on all the other planets they won’t say that. This is called statistical bias. If you only hear the stories of the lottery winners, then winning the lottery seems easy.
“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
I hear often about Satan tempting people. One lesser light says when Christians sin, they are specifically being tempted by Satan to sin against God. That makes no sense to me. If Satan is an angel, and if angels are limited in their locality (i.e., they are not omnipresent), then how can Satan tempt all living Christians around the world at the same time, any more than his anagram, Santa, can deliver presents to children around the world on the same night?
There are millions of people all over the world today who are succumbing to Demon Rum. That does not mean I’m talking about a literal demon, or one who is omnipresent, but it is a figure of speech representing alcoholism. In the same way, Satan is the personification of temptation. And when she is vanquished someday, subjects in the Kingdom of God will never again stray into sin.
There is no actual person or angel named Satan.
When Peter rebuked Jesus for saying openly that he must be crucified and rise the third day, Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” Does that mean Jesus thought Peter was Satan or that Peter was possessed by Satan? No, it means Peter was tempting Jesus to take the easy path, and go along to get along, and Jesus recognized that as Satanic.
When Christ went into the wilderness to be “tempted of the devil” he was really just being tempted by temptation.
But the idea that Satan is a goddess with almost the same power as the creator, competing with God to flip souls to the white side or the black side like some giant game of Othello is a corruption of Christianity, an infiltration of Zoroastrian dualism.
When Christ explains the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), he says that the one who sows the weeds is the devil. Christ identifies none of the other elements in the story as specific persons, so why would this one identification of the devil as the “enemy” be any different?
Parables were wonderful ways to teach a religious truth, but they are very poor sources of information if they are taken literally. Some atheists like to play Gotcha with the parable of the mustard seed, where Jesus said, “when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth, but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs and becometh a tree”. They focus on that because the mustard seed is not really the smallest seed, and it does not really become a tree. Jesus was teaching about how his Church would have very inauspicious beginnings, but would someday fill the whole world.
But Christians do that too when they try to derive information about conditions in the afterlife from the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Jesus wasn’t teaching anything about hell, any more than the book of Jonah is about a man hitching a ride back to Mesopotamia in the stomach of a whale shark. Jesus was teaching about the need to change before one’s life is over and it’s too late.
RESURRECTION EVENT MATRIX
|Who visited the tomb?||Mary Magdalene, the “other Mary”||Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Joses||Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, Joanna, and other women||Mary Magdalene|
|Why visit the tomb?||To see the tomb||To bring spices||To bring spices||Body already spiced before they arrived|
|Was the tomb open before they arrived?||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Who was waiting at the tomb?||One angel||One young man||Two men||Two angels|
|What were the messengers doing?||Sitting on the stone||Sitting inside, to the right||Standing inside||Sitting on each side of the stone|
|What did the messengers say?||Meet Jesus in Galilee||Meet Jesus in Galilee||Jesus is risen like he told you||“Woman why weepest thou?”|
|Who did Jesus appear to first?||The women who visited the tomb.||Two disciples in the country||Two disciples in Emmaus||Mary Magdelene|
|Where did the risen Jesus first meet the disciples?||Mountain in Galilee||To the Eleven at a meal||Emmaus||In a room|
|What happened when they met?||Disciples worshiped, some doubted||Jesus reprimanded them||Jesus materialized, reprimanded them, then ate||Jesus passed through locked door, blessed disciples, no reprimand|
|How long did Jesus linger after the resurrection?||.||One day||One day||Eight days|
|Where did the ascension take place?||No ascension||Jerusalem||Bethany||No ascension|
When people get together to talk about new religious movements, too often the word “cult” is tossed around as a pejorative to mean any religious movement they don’t like. Never mind that Catholicism has been around for 2,000 years and has over 1 billion adherents, it’s called a cult by people whose own particular religion was started in 1984 and might claim a total of 75 adherents. What is sorely lacking is an objective standard by which we can identify something as a cult.
The crucial moment for any new religious movement is the death of its founder. If the movement was centered around one strong figure merely to allow him to exercise power over the men and get sexual favors from the women, then it most likely will shatter upon that leader’s death. If there is at least a core of truth in the movement, it will survive the death of its leader, such as the lynching of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and perhaps rally around another one, such as Brigham Young, who led an LDS remnant from Missouri to Utah.
So we can define a cult as any new religious movement whose founder has not died. And by death, we’re not talking about those close calls in the operating room where the heart stops for a few moments, we’re talking about someone who is whipped to within an inch of his life, nailed to a cross all day, then buried in the ground over the weekend. So right away, Christianity is not a cult because Christ has died.
Overcomer Ministries in South Carolina, however, is a cult because founder R.G. Stair has not died (going to jail doesn’t count).
Jehovah Witnesses are not a cult because Charles Taze Russell, who founded the movement in 1877, died long ago.
Calvary Chapel is a cult because Pope Chuck Smith has not died.
The Worldwide Church of God is not a cult because Herbert W. Armstrong has died.
It remains to be seen if the universally-despised Westboro Baptist Church (see image above) will survive the recent death of founder Fred Phelps.
THIS LIFE IS A TEST FOR THE AFTERLIFE?
When atheists point out that a supposedly perfect and intelligent Designer seems to have created a world filled with imperfection, the usual dodge is that all the flaws in this world are due to the abuse of free will that God imparted to humans as a precondition for his ultimate purpose of testing human beings for their fitness to inhabit heaven.
But even if we accept the claim that animals did not eat meat until the “Fall” of Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world (and thus introduce a curse on creation) before the Fall God authorized Adam and Eve to eat plants. This amounts to some cells eating other cells, which is an inherent imperfection, since all cells strive to continue to exist. Plants alone, with few notable exceptions, derive their energy directly from the sun without acting as parasites on other cells.
Nevertheless, the world and all its horrors, such as infant mortality, are put forth as a kind of obstacle course to train souls for heaven. The problem is that heaven is said to be absolutely perfect. There’s a mismatch between the test and the end use. It seems much more likely that a person who somehow manages to thrive despite everything this world can throw at him or her would be more suited for a place of punishment, like hell.
The Jews call the story of the Binding of Isaac the Akedah. When the boy was about fourteen, God said to Abraham, Take now your son Isaac and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will point out to you. Which Abraham promptly began to do, without uttering a word in defense of his innocent son.
Along the way young Isaac asked his father where the lamb is for the offering, and Abraham lied to deflect this question, saying that God himself would provide the lamb.
Abraham and Isaac went to a hill that would later be called Mount Zion, where the first and second temples were built, and where Dome of the Rock mosque exists today, and Abraham in obedience prepared to make a human sacrifice of Isaac.
At the very last moment, an angel showed up and said, Abraham, do not harm the boy, for El Shaddai knows now that you trust him alone, and will not even withhold your only son from him.
This divine test terrified the teenage boy Isaac, and traumatized him for life. He became a momma’s boy, going almost immediately from under the wing of his mother Sarah to his wife Rebecca. And the thing was, it was absolutely unnecessary, if God is truly omniscient as Christians tell us he is. It was a divine twiddling of thumbs. God didn’t need to test Abraham’s loyalty any more than he needs to test any one of us. “[F]or the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) He already knows what we’re made of, right? Bueller? Anyone?
As a category this can only really apply to propositions. But as soon as we grasp this then immediately we see that vast amounts of the Bible are simply not candidates for being either ‘inerrant’ or ‘errant’. For instance, was Jesus’ prayer, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” errant or inerrant? As a prayer it was not even a proposition so it cannot be factually true or factually false.
But on the cross Jesus was not actually uttering a prayer on the fly, he was reciting Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” And inerrancy would apply to Christ’s meta-meaning when he made that citation. Inerrancy would say that Christ really was forsaken by God, and it was not just a cry of self-pity. And this leads in turn to a whole theology of atonement that says Christ was cut out of the Trinity briefly, which is heterodox in terms of historical Christianity, because either Christ was demoted from godhood for a time, or there were two gods for a time.
Even more important, one must realize the Bible is not a book, but a library of 73 books (or 66 books if you wish), and each book falls into different categories. There’s history books (Numbers, Samuel, Kings, Nehemiah), novellas (Job, Jonah, Ruth), poems (Song of Solomon), calls for social reform (Isaiah, Malachi), biographies (the gospels), a travelogue (Acts), a collection of pastoral letters, and apocalyptic literature (Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation). It’s not all a monolithic block of “doctrine” delivered straight from God, which is the underlying assumption behind its purported inerrancy. The Bible is not an exhaustive catechism.
This is perhaps where the Roman Catholic approach is a net plus. In Catholicism, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are considered two faces of the same deposit of faith “delivered once to the saints” and they are each illuminated by the teaching authority of the Church, which Catholics believe was granted by Christ to the Apostles and comes down to believers today. Catholics call it the Magisterium, and its function is to be a sort of supreme court applying what is written to life on this lonely ball, which never stands still.
Tradition overcomes the logical conundrum of having scripture interpret itself, which is a circular proposition. However, if tradition is completely unshacked from scripture, as it is with the various Catholic dogmas associated with the mother of Jesus, then a very familiar problem raises its head, as demonstrated below:
Prisoner #1: Vermin is going to kill Johnny’s brother at the Savoy Theater tonight. Pass it on.
Prisoner #2: Vermin is going to kill Johnny’s mother at the Savoy Theater tonight. Pass it on.
Prisoner #3: Vermin’s mother is going to kill Johnny tonight at the Savoy Theater. Pass it on.
Prisoner #4: Johnny and the Mothers are playin’ “Stompin’ At The Savoy” in Vermont tonight. Pass it on.
If we take the Old Testament prophecies to be idealized hopes for the future of Israel, or ambiguous predictions which have a Christian fulfillment, we do well. But if we take them to be divinely-given visions of the actual future, relayed to us from God’s point of view in eternity, we run into trouble, because the Hebrew prophets, effective voices for social and religious reform, were some of the lousiest prognosticators we’ve ever seen. Christians who are opposed to biblical inerrantism perhaps won’t go so far as to compile all the failed prophesies in the OT, but atheists have no compunction against doing so, and our evidence abounds. I only touch on them lightly here.
PROPHECY ONE: Israel’s Gentile enemies would be destroyed (e.g. Isa 34:1-4; Zech 12:1-9; 14:1-5, 12; etc.)
This is true for the most part. We don’t see the Amalekites or the Romans or Nazi Germany around anymore. Egypt is still there, but they are more or less at peace with Israel. Then again, Israel itself was destroyed by the Romans, and only exists today as a colony founded by revivalists from Eastern Europe, largely Marxists and atheists. It is difficult to look at the topless beaches in Tel Aviv and see this nationalist movement as a triumph of Yahweh, more so when we see how they treat the Palestinians.
PROPHECY TWO: The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah would be brought back from their respective exiles to their Promised Land (e.g., Jerermiah 33:7).
The problem with this prophecy is that intermarriage and a deliberate policy by the conquering Assyrians to eliminate the tribal identity of their subjects has totally destroyed most of the components of the Northern Kingdom. They were intermarried with the Medeans and thus truly scattered. Only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi remained more or less intact, and these in turn have been absorbed into the construct we call “Jews”. Unless the state of Israel is prepared to open their borders to the Syrians, this cannot be fulfilled. Most believers, when they do think about this issue, dismiss it with a handwave and say that God can sort out everyone by DNA.
PROPHECY THREE: In later traditions there was the expectation of a resurrection of the dead to vindicate the righteous martyrs of Israel – they too would share in the blessings of the new age (e.g., Dan 12:2; 2 Macc 7).
Later Hellenistic encrustations imported into Christianity developed this theology of the resurrection into a system where human souls were considered innately immortal, like the angels, and the whole panoply of salvation amounts to a procedure like we see in Harry Potter, where the students are sorted by a talking hat into various rival houses according to their temperament. In any event, it is hard to vindicate something with a phenemenon (resurrection of the dead) that itself has no tangible evidence.
PROPHECY FOUR: The Jerusalem temple would be rebuilt, desecrated by the antichrist (Dan. 9) , and eventually YHWH would dwell there again (e.g., Ezek. 40-48).
If so, then the Muslim mosque called the Dome of the Rock, which occupies the physical location of the former Holy of Holies, exists as a sort of cork on the fulfillment of Jewish eschatology. If a third temple is built will need to be consecrated (one cannot desecrate what has not been made holy), and the Jews will again practice animal sacrifices which Christians believe have been superseded by the final, universally efficacious sacrifice of God’s son. If the rituals are carried out and God fills the temple with his presence, as the Bible says he did in the time of Solomon, it would be a repudiation of the New Testament. God would be saying, in essence, “I never heard of Peter, Paul, or this carpenter guy.”
PROPHESY FIVE: “I will dry up the streams of the Nile and sell the land to evil men; by the hand of foreigners I will lay waste the land and everything in it. I the LORD have spoken” (Ezekiel 30:12) – No record exists of this ever happening. There are years when the Nile fails to flood the banks, permitting irrigation, but never when it ceases to flow altogether. Likewise, Isaiah prophesied that the sea would dry up. Dinnit.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:26 “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”. Yet without death, wealth and power would continue to accumulate in fewer and fewer immortal hands, and old ideas would never give way to new ones. Without death, people would not feel the vitality of living that the very brevity of our life stimulates, and the Earth would continue to fill up with people until everyone was eating those funny green graham crackers Charlton Heston found out about in Soylent Green.
Whether death is destroyed now or at the end of time, it is not really our enemy, no more than pain is our enemy. Pain is a defense mechanism, just as the fear of death is. People who cannot feel pain rarely live to be twenty years old, and those who feel we should wage a war against Demon Pain are as ignorant as those who mistake, as the slings and arrows of an enemy, the natural fear of death which is ingrained in all living things to cause them to avoid risky behaviors.
People pay good money and go on diets to keep themselves from extending to infinity in all directions in space, yet they lament that human life is finite, and seek the holy grail of making themselves unlimited in the direction of time. But look around you. Nothing in this world is meant to endure forever. Even the redwoods last for only 2,000 years, an eyeblink in the life of the Earth. In time the very sun will die.
Sometimes individual cells in your body decide they want to be immortal too (like three years ago when I had Stage Three Inflammatory Breast Cancer) and they reproduce like crazy. They end up killing the whole body, and that squashes their little plan in the bud. Any species that became immortal would fill the Earth, driving out all others (just like a cancer), when it is the very diversity of life on this planet that makes life for any one species possible. Evolution ensures that the average life span of any critter on Earth is optimum for that critter. So take your 70-80 years and enjoy them.
Jesus said, “Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” We cannot eliminate our fear of death and it is not really desirable to do so. But Jesus teaches us not to worry about death. And for those who believe in the resurrection (which included myself before the Catholic Church’s boy butt sex scandal), after teaching us not to worry about death in words, he died and rose again to teach us in a way that resonates directly in our soul.
“I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, … Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” 1 Sam. 15:1-3
And when did Amalek sin against Israel? Way back in the Sinai days, probably 250 years before the time of King Saul. Christianity is all about holding grudges for centuries. That is why Jews are still called “Christ-killers” today.
There are basic principles at play when you punish someone:
One, it has to be timely in order to correct the behavior at hand.
Two, you have to leave the punishee alive, or the correction is a waste of time.
Three, the punishment should be proportional to the offense…you don’t cut off someone’s hand for flipping the bird, you don’t torture someone for all eternity for joining the wrong church.
Since the Amalekites did not wipe out the Israelites but only discomfited them, it’s not logical to wipe them out down to the last man, woman, child, and head of cattle 250 years later. In fact, it smells like nothing more than vengeance.
As ordered, Saul went ahead and killed every man, woman, child, and animal among the Amalekies but he spared their king, Agag.
Fundies like to say Exodus 20:13 means “do not murder” rather than “do not kill”. Well, okay, let’s play that game. It’s just killing to slay a soldier on the battlefield, and it’s just killing to slay all the women and children, but to kill an unarmed man after the battle (the King) is murder. On judgment day, Saul could point to the Law and say, “I slew those fierce babies and women in the heat of the battle, but not the King because I didn’t want people to think I was a cold-blooded murderer.”
The prophet Samuel, last and greatest of the judges of Israel, immediately rebuked Saul in the name of the LORD for sparing King Agag. And here’s the part that makes the whole tale resemble modern Christianity: Saul repented, acknowledged his sin, and begged for forgiveness.
And the forgiveness was not granted!
Then Samuel himself finished the job on Agag, went away, and never saw Saul again. So you can see that Samuel was the perfect proto-Christian.
Yes, this is about you.