ARGUMENTUM AD ANTIQUITATEM:
The fallacy of asserting something is good and true because it is old, or because “That’s the way it’s always been.” No one claims slavery is good, but it had existed from the beginning of human history until it was abolished in the last two centuries.
ARGUMENTUM AD NOVITATEM:
The fallacy of asserting something is true or better simply because it is newer. This fallacy is easily demonstrated by a cursory glance at any of the recent Hollywood remakes or reboots of classic films.
ARGUMENTUM AD CRUMENAM:
The fallacy of believing that those with money are more likely to be correct. Secretary of Edumacation Betsy DeVos has billions of dollars and ten yachts but can’t tell her ass from a hole in the ground.
Also referred to as the black or white fallacy. This occurs when a situation is presented with only two alternatives. In the case of a claim that “either everything matters or nothing matters” it might be true that only some things that we do actually matter and some other things do not matter.
Or, the Loaded Question Gambit. The most famous example is “Have you stopped beating your wife?” In the case of ex nihilo creation, the questioner attempts to force agreement that in the absence of a creator the universe must have been preceded by nothing.
The fallacy of drawing a conclusion from premises which are not logically connected to it. The laws of logic are constructed from the axiom of non-contradiction, which is self-asserting (the negation would need to invoke the same axiom) and does not require a mind.
The fallacy of introducing irrelevant material to divert attention from the central discussion. For example a claim is made that without a supreme being there can be no basis for ethics. This is a rejection of anthropological models of morality without even showing the work.
Also known as hypostatization. This fallacy occurs when an abstract concept is treated as concrete. A popular example is the claim that an objective morality exists. Certainly the Bible, which contradicts itself at nearly every turn, is a poor example of this.
ARGUMENTUM AD BACULUM:
Or, the appeal to force. Might makes right. Example: “There is ample proof that the gospel is true. All those who choose to reject the gospel will burn for all eternity in hell.”
ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM:
This fallacy in logic occurs when the truth of a position is seen as dependent on the goodness of the person taking the position. For example, “Atheism is an evil philosophy because historically it was practiced by communist mass-murderers.”
ARGUMENTUM AD IGNORANTIUM:
This fallacy occurs when something is assumed to be true simply because it hasn’t been proven false. If atheists point out that no evidence of God has been presented, believers could very well just say, “Have you tried looking on Proxima Centauri b?”
ARGUMENTUM AD NUMERAM:
The fallacy of asserting that the more people who believe a proposition, the more likely that proposition is true. For example: “Millions of people know the Bible is true. Are you trying to say they are all mistaken fools?”
ARGUMENTUM AD VERECUNDIAM:
Or the Appeal to Authority, this fallacy relies on invoking household names to win support for an assertion. For example: “Albert Einstein was a genius, and not only did he believe in God, but he refused to believe God plays dice with the universe.”
Or, the fallacy of Irrelevant Conclusion, occurs when it is claimed that an argument supports a particular conclusion when in fact it does not. The classic example is citing assorted historical Judeo-Christian benefits to society as proof the Bible is true.
This fallacy occurs when different meanings for a single word is used in an argument. For example, a law of nature (a regularity of succession) is equated to a law of God (a divine precept). Christians no longer observe Saturday as a day of rest per the law of God.
CONVERTING A CONDITIONAL:
A fallacy that makes the premise the same as the conclusion. A classic example: “Homosexuals must not be granted a clearance because they could be subject to blackmail threatening to reveal their homosexuality, resulting in the loss of their clearance.”
POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC:
Also known as the fallacy of Non Causa Pro Causa, consists of the mis-identification of the cause of an event. For example: “I had a headache, so I took an aspirin and prayed to God, and God cured me of my headache!”
Also known as Begging the Question. This fallacy assumes the conclusion as one of the premises of the argument. It commonly occurs when believers state that “Creation implies a Creator.” First demonstrate that reality is a creation and not itself eternal.
SLIPPERY SLOPE ARGUMENT:
This is the claim that should one relatively harmless event occur, there will follow a chain of more harmful events. For example: “If we legalize marijuana, then we will have to legalize crack and heroin and soon our whole nation will be full of addicts.”
Some Christians, such as Seventh Day Adventists, claim that the universe is only 6,000 years old, with fossils of dinosaurs planted in the ground and the light from galaxies which are more distant than 6,000 light-years pre-positioned enroute.
On one hand they say the existence of God can be known from looking at the things of His creation, just as Paul asserts in Romans 1:20. And on the other hand, they say the world’s true age was faked, possibly as a test to weed out the true believers who rely on faith in the sacred scriptures from those who will be tempted to follow the evil human doctrines of science. What they never do is put the two claims together and conclude that God is a fake.
A fake past joined seamlessly with a real present can never be falsified. The line could be set at last Thursday just as validly as at 4004 BC. With no way to tell, it’s a waste of time to assert any date.
What is the motivation for holding to a six thousand year old universe? Because these Christians have taken an isolated passage from the Bible that says “a thousand years is as a day to the Lord” and they have constructed a narrative that depicts human history as a “week” of these super-long “days”. If the Earth is 6,000 years old, hence six symbolic “days”, then we’re on the cusp of the seventh day Sabbath rest, which is the Millennium to be ushered in by the Messiah.
Unfortunately, they can no longer use Archbishop Ussher’s date of 4,004 BCE for creation, because the year 1996 has come and gone with no messianic age in sight. Frank Klassen, in The Reese Chronological Bible, gives the date of creation at 3976, hence the Millennium will begin in 2024. Subtract seven years for the Great Tribulation and it looks like the Rapture is this year.
SPIRITS, SOULS, AND BODIES
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7)
According to this verse, man is a “trinity” consisting of a material body, the breath (or spirit) of God, and together these comprise a soul.
The word “spirit” is bound up with the word “respiration” and is nothing more than breath, which was a mystery to the authors of the Bible. They thought that that which causes breathing was given by God, and returned to God when a person died. They did not ascribe consciousness to this spirit or breath at first.
The Israelites of the Old Testament did not think much about the survival of the identity after death, saying the dead’s view of God is that “…for in death there is no remembrance of thee…” (Psalm 6:5) and having God return the favor, saying of the dead’s relationship to God, “…whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand…” (Psalm 88:5), a view that is affirmed by Solomon thus, (Ecclesiastes 9:5) “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.”
And so things stood until the Levant was conquered by Alexander II and passed on to two of the three Diadochi who followed in his wake, and there was among the Jews a massive injection of Hellenistic ideas, especially Plato’s “ideal forms”. Just as an actual chair was held to be a poor copy of a perfect “ideal” chair which existed somewhere in a remote mathematical mindscape, so was the psyche held to be the ideal, “true” human being, temporarily imprisoned in a corruptible body. These ideas of a dichotomy between the mind and body were embraced by the Pharisees in the 1st and 2nd centuries BCE, even as the Sadducees retained the Hebrews’ original lack of belief in spirits and angels.
Whereas in the time of David “an evil spirit from the LORD” was considered to be, essentially, a bad mood, spirits after Hellenization came to be seen as disembodied beings of pure intelligence. The spirit hypothesis arose from the paradox of a thinking mind contemplating the end of its own life and trying to imagine not thinking. This impossibility leads directly to the belief that consciousness will somehow continue even after the very organ of consciousness, the brain, has turned into worm-ridden tapioca pudding.
Against this background, aided by a Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, Jesus Christ fashioned a proselytizing variety of Judaism, yet still he taught that God could destroy both body and soul in the grave and that any future dealings with God would occur after a bodily resurrection. His ideas where further spiced by the dualistic ideas of Saul/Paul of Tarsus, which he got, in part, from the Persians along with a refined doctrine of angels complete with principalities, powers, virtues, and the like.
All this in turn set the stage for further developments by the Catholic Church which firmly entrenched the idea of man’s soul as an immaterial entity, incapable of annihilation yet still subject to being bound in bodies or physical places like purgatory or hell. No one, however, has given much thought to the exact composition of a soul, the guage bosons that would be exchanged as force carriers of the soul, how the soul could be confined in a body or lake of fire, or any other such things. Perhaps everyone, all along, knew the soul hypothesis was only so much Bolshevik and didn’t bother with the details.
SATAN AND PARABLES
Windows Guy: Linux Gal, to be clear, are you saying that Satan is not ontologically a
Linux Gal: Yes, 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. But the idea that Satan is a sort of mini-God with almost the same power, 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.
Windows Guy: But when Christ explains the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), he says that the one who sows the weeds (“the people of the evil one”) is the devil. Christ identifies of the other elements in the story as persons, so why would this one identification of the devil, the evil one, be different?
Linux Gal: Parables are 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 make this mistake also 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, he was teaching about the need to repent before one’s life is over and it’s too late.
A CONSPIRACY THEORY THEORY
The Flat Earth Society has become a truly global movement and is now taking donations for a communication satellite.
Christians embarrassed by the scientific absurdities in the Bible try to say it doesn’t explicitly teach the Earth is flat, but it does so implicitly in Luke 4:5:
And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
So how did Satan and Jesus see the Kingdom of Chin from a “high mountain” at the same time they saw the Kingdom of Phrygia?
The usual dodge is that Satan just showed Jesus a vision of all the kingdoms of the Earth. But if so, then we are free to doubt anything stated by the Bible. Maybe the resurrection of Christ was just a vision.
Linux Gal: Windows Guy, there’s no space aliens. We would have heard their equivalent of the World Series and seen their version of “I Love Lucy” first, and then after setting up a two-way conversation over many years, teaching each other to speaka zee lingo, we would have made an appointment to meet in The Hague or something, where they would announce that Al Gore is right about global warming , and it would all be under the sunshine policy, out in the open, on CNN and no conspiracy stuff. It would NOT be just the UFO and some hayseed on his combine in Idaho or some shit like that.
Windows Guy: You see, Linux Gal, that is exactly what the theory says has happened, more or less. The government knows, you don’t. That’s what this disclosure business is all about. Breaking it gently to the masses.
Linux Gal: It’s always like that, these silly claims, whether they be religious ones or claims about UFOs or faces on Mars or grassy knolls or WTC #7s falling down after a controlled demolition, you name it. There’s always a tidy explanation for the lack of evidence. God has to hide so people can believe in him rather than just look up and say, hey, look, there’s God. The UFOs are covered up by the CIA because if the Russians knew we were getting all our technology from Alpha Centauri they’d initiate a nuclear first strike before our perfect reverse-engineered Centaurian missile shield was ready. One faction in NASA sent the Mars probe to cash in on the contracts, and the other one caused it to “fail” with buggy software to keep it from seeing the Martian monorail system, because if society saw how efficient mass transit worked on Mars, they’d demand it here on earth and the Oil Lobby mightn’t like it.
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.
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.
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
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forego their use.” –Galileo.
“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
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.
1. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God
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.
Caveat: As an empiricist this is not actually sufficient for me, but for those who are fans of the ontological argument and such, this might be convincing.
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
What is the purpose of the Devil? I’ll lay it out for you, if you are willing to accept it:
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
“In order that nothing may be wanting to the felicity of the blessed spirits in heaven, a perfect view is granted to them of the tortures of the damned.” — St. Thomas Aquinas
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.
The first mention of Satan by name in the Bible occurs in 1 Chronicles 21:1:
“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.
1 Samuel is such perfect picture of Christianity as it is practiced today is should be moved into the New Testament. For thus says the LORD of hosts:
“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.
History of the Church, allegorized
For many years after the United States (Christianity) achieved independence from Great Britain (Judaism), the country remained unified on the surface, but deep divisions festered even as early as the presidency of George Washington (Peter Bar Jonah). Eventually Jefferson Davis (Martin Luther) initiated events that grew out of control and led to secession (Reformation). After the South (Protestantism) won the Civil War, soldiers (Jesuits) from the Union (Catholicism) won back the state of Missouri (Poland) from the rebels.
In the years following this counter-reformation, the Southern states (such as the State of Presbyterianism) broke away from cooperation with Jefferson Davis’ home state (the State of Lutheranism). The State of Texas (Anglicanism) even began to break up into smaller states such as the State of Methodism and Wesleyism. The individual counties of West Texas (Baptists) in turn each went their own way.
Each tiny county in Texas, sometimes with no more than seventy citizens (parishioners), declared they alone were the true United States of America with the same politics (doctrines) as the Founding Fathers (Apostles). In many cases these counties even divided and subdivided into individual townships, often over issues such as what color hymnal to use or whether womenfolk can wear jeans, but each township affirmed that they alone bore the true faith and allegiance to the original intent of the founders.
Over in Utah the Quorum of the Thirteen Colonies kept alive what they considered to be Joseph Smith’s restoration of the politics of the Founding Apostolic Fathers,
which they said was lost for many decades.
Meanwhile in Washington D.C. (Rome) the citizens of the original Union (Catholicism) continued to elect their presidents (popes), and preserved the original founding
documents at the Bureau of Archives (Vatican vaults).
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL
Upon the death of Solomon in 931 BCE, after a reign of forty years, the united Kingdom was split into two separate states, with the ten northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel moving its capital to Shechem, while the two southern tribes of the Kingdom of Judah retained its capital at Jerusalem.
In 922 BCE Jeroboam I became the first king of the rump state called Israel. He built his capital first at Shechem, but them moved his court to Penuel east of the Jordan River.
To prevent the people from going to the temple in Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam broke with Yawhist religion by introducing the worship of the golden calf at Bethel and the region of Dan, telling the people the golden calf was their own god El all along, and the feast days for the golden calf were timed to coincide with the feast days in Jerusalem.
After reigning for nearly two years, King Elah drank to excess and was slain by General Zimri, who commanded half of his charioteers. Zimri destroyed the whole house of Baasha, leaving no male heir alive, and ascended to the throne himself in a kind of military coup in 876 BCE.
But when the army heard that Zimri had killed the king and set himself up in his stead, they proclaimed General Omri as the true king of Israel and marched from Gibbethon to lay seige to Tirzah. When the wall of Tirzah fell, Zimri set fire to the palace and let it burn around him rather than be captured alive. And he had reigned a total of seven days.
King Ahab married Jezebel, daughter of the king of the Sidonians, and converted to her religion of Baal worship. He built a temple to Baal in Samaria, and during his reign of twenty-two years the prophet Elijah arose to preach in opposition to the worship of Baal introduced by King Ahab and his wife Jezebel of Tyre.
King Joram was wounded in battle against the Arameans at Ramah, and retired to Jezreel to recuperate. Then in 842 BCE, Elisha, who succeeded Elijah as the greatest prophet in Israel, anointed Jehu, lieutenant of Joram and son of Jerhoshaphat, as king over Israel. Elisha commissioned him to destroy the entire house of Ahab. Jehu formed a conspiracy against Joram, and drove his chariot to Jezreel where Joram lay ill from his wounds, and there he slew Joram and his ally Ahaziah king of Judah.
When Jehu drew near to the gate of Jezreel to slay Jezebel, he saw the woman standing on the rampart of the wall, together with a number of court eunuchs. Jehu told them to throw her off the wall, and when they did, Jehu rode over her body with his horse to ensure she was dead. Dogs ate the remnants of her body, so that no one could ever point to a tomb and say, “There lies Jezebel.”
And the heads of seventy sons of Ahab was sent to Jehu in baskets.
King Jehoahaz was defeated by the Arameans, and much of Israel was occupied until the end of the his reign. At one point, the kingdom’s power was reduced to fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand foot soldiers.
Under King Jeroboam II’s long reign the Northern Kingdom reached the pinnacle of its wealth and power and territorial extent. The population of Israel exceeded 350,000 and the border of the nation extended from the river Orontes to the Mediterranean Sea. For a time, it was the leading power of the region.
The prophet Isaiah made note of an alliance between King Pekah and King Rezin of Aram that threatened King Ahaz of Judah. But this was the time the Assyrians made their bid for great power. Under Pekah’s reign the kingdom of Israel was reduced to solely the lands of Ephraim and parts of Manasseh. Then in 732 BCE King Pekah was slain by Hoshea, son of Elah.
In the fourth year of his reign, Hoshea was summoned to the court of Shalmaneser to explain his failure to pay the 1,000 talents of tribute required of him. He was imprisoned, and the Assyrians attacked Israel from 727-725 BCE. The province of Samaria became, for all intents and purposes, a vassal of Damascus governed by military officers.
In 721 the Assyrian army was withdrawn to secure the succession of Sargon II after the death of Shalmaneser.
In 720 Sargon II occupied all of Israel and deported the people to the east, where they soon lost their identity forever as separate tribes through intermarriage with the Medeans, which was the standard procedure of the Assyrians at the time to quell possible uprisings. If they had done the same thing to the southern Kingdom, there would be no Jews or Christians today.
THE SILENT YEARS
Protestant Christians, who acknowledge only 39 books in the Old Testament, call the four centuries between the close of Malachi and the opening of the gospel of Matthew the Silent Years, where the Bible says nothing about the events taking place in and around the Holy Land, and without a good grasp of what happened (and a great deal did happen), it is more difficult to understand the culture that Jesus was immersed in as he brought his healing ministry and message of the immanent reign of God to the people of Judea. My hobby is to try to make complicated subjects simple to understand, so in this post I cover this period of time in the Levant.
Philip II, king of Macedon, conquered the Thebans and Athenians at Chaeronea in 338 BCE and brought all of Greece except Sparta under Macedonian rule. When he died in 336 BCE, his twenty year-old son Alexander succeeded him and freed all the Greeks in Asia Minor from Persian rule. For the next twelve years, Alexander forged the largest empire the world had ever known.
After defeating King Darius at Issus in 333 BCE, Alexander subdued Egypt and founded the city of Alexandria. The following year, all of Palestine fell under his domination. But Alexander left no heir, and upon his death in 323 BCE, his generals, called the Diadochi, divided the empire between themselves and became rivals. The Diadochi put on royal crowns, and so did their sons after them.
Ptolemy I Soter, one of the Diadochi, claimed Egypt for himself and defended Alexandria from the other generals. He also founded the Library of Alexandria and became the first Egyptian king of the Macedonian Dynasty of Ptolemies.
Ptolemy II Philadelphus succeeded him in 283 BCE and brought Alexandria to its peak of power and influence. The Pharos lighthouse was constructed during his reign.
Ptolemy III Euergetes extended the Ptolemaic Empire to embrace Palestine, Asia Minor, and the islands of the Aegean. But after his death the empire gradually began to decline.
A rival Diadochi named Seleucus I Nicator founded a like empire centered in Asia Minor that ruled the lands conquered by Alexander from Thrace to India. 13 As the Ptolemies weakened, Palestine gradually fell under the rule of this Selucid Dynasty.
At this time many Jews began to adopt the ways of the Greek gentiles who dominated them. They tried to covered the marks of their circumcision, and built gymnasiums, and no longer observed the ordinances of the Mosaic Law. With some support of these secularized Jews, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes declared Judaism abolished, and dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to Zeus.
Many of the Jews were ready and willing to abandon their old religion and accept the doctrines of the Syro-Macedonian king. The priest Mattathias began a set of terrorist acts to deter Hellenized Jews from sacrificing to Zeus. In a kind of proto-Sharia law situation, Jews who were caught breaking the 613 precepts of the Law of Moshe were killed, and boys were forcibly circumcised.
Eventually this campaign, which was based out of hiding places in the desert outside of the cities, became a full-scale revolution to return to the fundamentalist Yahwhist doctrines instituted by Ezra.
Upon the death of Mattathias, his third son Judas Maccabeus took over leadership of the revolt. He defeated Apollonius and Seron, and turned back Lysias who came with half of the army of King Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, and also he repurified the temple in Jerusalem. But Judas Maccabeus was killed on the field of battle confronting governor Bacchides.
Jonathan, fifth son of Mattathias, then led the revolt. He renewed battle against Bacchides and defeated Apollonius. After that Jonathan became the high priest of the Jews. Jonathan Maccabeus was taken prisoner and killed after an invitation to meet Trypho for peace negotiations.
Simon Maccabeus, brother of Jonathan, then began to lead the Jews. He too was the high priest, as was his son and grandson after him. Simon obtained independence for Judea from Demetrius II. He battled Antiochus VII and defeated him. Then Simon was betrayed and killed by Ptolemy the son of Anubus, governor of Jericho, at a banquet in the stronghold of Dok.
John Hyrcanus I, son of Simon Maccabeus, battled Ptolemy, the murderer of Simon, avenging his father’s death. He rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and also battled Antiochus VII. Under his reign, Judah prospered much.
Aristobulus I Judah, son of John Hyrcanus, annexed the territory of Iturea to Judah. During his reign, some of the Jews began to teach a doctrine that everyone who ever lived on the earth would be raised to life again in a simultaneous general resurrection to witness to sovereignty of God, and after that, all life on earth would come to a violent end.
Alexander Jannaeus, brother of Aristobulus, was the first high priest of the House of Mattathias to call himself King, thus founding the Hasmonean Dynasty. An aggressive warrior, he died in battle. Under his reign the movement of the Pharisees came into existence, which means the “Separated Ones”. The Pharisees opposed the Hasmonean innovation of combining the kingship with the high priesthood in one person. They also believed that the dead would be raised again, but they denied the world would end in a final apocalypse. The Pharisees built synagogues in every Jewish city and town where the people could study the Torah under the tutelage in the scribes, or Sopherim, and also offer prayers for the return of the House of David to power in Israel.
After that, Queen Alexandra, wife of Aristobulus, enjoyed a benevolent reign of nine years. During Queen Alexandra’s reign a high priest was chosen from the landed aristocracy of Judea, also known as the Sadducees. His policy was to avoid rebellion at all costs, even to the watering-down of Jewish traditions with Hellenistic and Roman ideas, and this policy to accommodate with the world was much criticized by the Pharisees.
King Aristobulus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, reigned until the intervention of Pompey after his conquest of Syria for the Romans.
King Hyrcanus II, son of Alexander Jannaeus, was named ethnarch of the Jews by Pompey and elevated over his brother. Thus Pompey maintained the Hasmonean Dynasty on the throne, but only has his clients.
King Antigonus, son of Aristobulus II, was decapitated by a pretender to the throne named Herod who was favored by Marcus Antonius and Queen Cleopatra after they defeated Pompey. Herod was subsequently declared king of the Jews by Mark Antony acting in his role of triumvir.
King Herod the Great conquered Joppa and Medeba and captured Jerusalem after a seige of three months. He occupied Samaria and restored the temple to the glory it had been purported to possess during the time of King Solomon.
In Egypt the last Pharaoh was Ptolemy XV Caesarion, son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Queen Cleopatra VII. Following the suicide of his mother in the wake of the battle of Actium, Caesarion was executed by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavius and Egypt was simply annexed by Rome.
Herod soon became a client of Octavius, who was later called Caesar Augustus, the First Citizen of Rome. It was during the reign of Augustus and Herod the Great that Yosef son of Heli, betrothed to Miriam daughter of Yochim, found that she was already with child…
THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
The ten tribes of the northern kingdom had many grievances they left unvoiced during the reign of Solomon, but after he died they demanded many reforms from his son and successor. Instead, Rehoboam promised to lay an even heavier yoke upon them than his father had. Apparently none of Solomon’s wisdom was imparted to his son. So the kingdom went into a permanent schism, with the greater part of the tribes of Israel in rebellion against the house of David, but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to King Rehoboam.
So the northern tribes refused to acknowledge Rehoboam and anointed Jeroboam as their king instead. The officials that Rehoboam sent to Israel were murdered when they came north. And so war broke out between the northern and southern kingdoms where once they had been ruled as one, and the war continued all through the reign of Rehoboam.
King Abijam permitted a cult of male prostitutes to flourish in Judah.
King Asa reigned forty-one years over Judah, banishing all the temple prostitutes allowed by his father and even destroying all the idols set up by Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijam. After that Yahweh alone was worshiped in Judah. And there was war between Asa king of Judah, and Baasha, king of Israel, as long as they both reigned.
King Jehoshaphat stepped up to the throne when he was thirty-five years of age, and he reigned for twenty-five years in Jerusalem. When Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab of Israel and daughter of King Ethbaal of Tyre, brought priests of Baal into Israel, none of these priests were allowed to enter Judah during the whole reign of Jeshoshaphat. He began a campaign of judicial reform that installed fair judges across the land of Judah and set up a court of appeals in Jerusalem to watch over those judges.
Jehoram was thirty-two years of age when he became king of Judah, and he reigned for eight years in Jerusalem. Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab of Israel, became his wife. During his reign, Edom, a vassal province of Judah, revolted and named their own king.
After the death of her son, Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah had the entire royal line murdered except Joash, who was an infant spirited away by Jehosheba the sister of Ahaziah. For six years Joash remained hidden in the temple of God while Athaliah ruled Judah. She introduced the worship of Baal to Judah but was killed seven years later in a coup orchestrated by the high priest Jehoiada, the husband of Jeho-Sheba. And Joash, who was only seven years of age, was proclaimed king of Judah in 837 BCE.
Uzziah ascended to the throne of Judah when he was sixteen years of age. Uzziah restored Jerusalem to its former glory and built up many farms across the land. He reconquered territory formerly belonging to the house of Judah in the Negev region and regained control of restive Edom. But near the end of his life Uzziah became a leper and retired to a house apart from the palace while his son Jotham ruled Judah as regent.
Ahaz ascended to the throne of Judah when he was twenty years old. The capital city of Jerusalem survived a combined seige by the Arameans and King Pekah of Israel. Simultaneously, however, the Edomites conquered Elath, on the Red Sea, and drove the Judeans out of it. Ahaz paid the Assyrians to attack the Arameans and the northern kingdom.
At this time the Assyrian Empire seized Damascus and put King Rezin to death. After that, King Ahaz caused a copy of the pagan altar of bronze oxen he had seen in occupied Damascus to be constructed in Jerusalem, thus reintroducing polytheism to Judah.
Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he began to reign. He removed every vestige of polytheism in Judah, including the high places that had existed under every king since Rehoboam. He even destroyed the bronze serpent made by Moses, because it too had become an idol.
Hezekiah refused to serve the Assyrian king Sennacherib the son of Sargon II, the Assyrian king who destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel. Sennacherib therefore laid siege to Jerusalem and forced Hezekiah to pay a tribute of thirty talents of gold, eight hundred talents of silver, gems, antimony, and many jewels. Also paid in tribute was carnelian, couches and chairs inlaid with ivory, elephant hides and tusks, ebony, boxwood, and other rich treasures, along with Hezekiah’s daughters, his wives, his musicians, men and women. All of these things were taken by King Sennacherib to Ninevah.
Later, to prepare Jerusalem in the event of another seige, Hezekiah constructed an aqueduct to bring fresh water into the Pool of Siloam inside the city.
King Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign. During his reign, the high priest, Hilkiah, reported to the king that he “found” a book hidden in the temple which restated the precepts of the law. This book later became the fifth book of the Torah, known as Deuteronomy.
Josiah used the occasion of the finding of the book to call the people to renew their covenant to God. And Josiah commanded all the religious items made for Baal, Asherah, and other gods to be burned outside the city. He tore down the apartments of the prostitutes in the cult of Asherah. He also destroyed the altar to the golden calf built in Beth-El by King Rehoboam.
When Pharaoh Neco went toward the River Euphrates to link up with the Assyrians in 609 BCE, Josiah went out to confront him, but he was slain at the plains of Megiddo. And his son Jehoahaz succeeded him.
Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned only three months in Jerusalem. Pharaoh Neco took him captive at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and demanded a tribute of much silver and gold. Jehoahaz died in captivity in Egypt, the first king of Judah to die in exile.
Neco then appointed Eliakim, another son of Josiah, as king of Judah. Eliakim changed his name to Jehoiakim. And Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign over Judah in 609 BCE.
After his defeat at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and serving as his vassal for three years, Jehoiakim revolted against Babylon. But Johoiakim died before the combined armies of Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites and Ammonites could reach Jerusalem. He was succeeded by his son Jeconiah.
Jeconiah was eighteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned only three months in Jerusalem. During his reign, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, personally laid siege to Jerusalem. Jeconiah surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BCE and was taken captive to Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar took all the treasures of the temple and deported the army, the craftsmen, and all the leading citizens of Jerusalem. Only the very poor remained behind to till the land. Nebuchadnezzar appointed Mattaniah, the uncle of Jeconiah, as king and changed his name to Zedekiah.
Zedekiah was twenty-one years of age when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. So Nebuchadnezzar and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem and laid siege to it.
King Zedekiah attempted to escape the city but he was captured in 587 BCE and brought before Nebuchadnezzar. The sons of Zedekiah were slain before his eyes, and then Zedekiah was blinded, bound in chains, and taken to Babylon.
The Babylonians burned the temple of God, the palace of the king, and every other house in Jerusalem. The walls of the city were torn down and the surviving people of the city were taken into exile in Babylon. From that day forward the kingdom of Judah ceased to exist.