Sunday, September 5, 2010

365: The Bible: In Review

Revelation 20-22
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." - Revelation 21:8

John sees an angel coming down from heaven. This angel also has the key to the abyss (along with the "star" from earlier chapters). The angel grabs the dragon (who is now being called Satan) and tosses him into the abyss. The dragon is locked away for 1000 years. John says that, after this 1000 years, the dragon will have to be set free again for a short time.

For these 1000 years, those who had not received the mark of the beast were resurrected and "reigned with Christ". I wonder if those people who died before the tribulation started were resurrected.

After the 1000 years are over, Satan is released (why?). He again goes out to the "four corners" of the earth and starts deceiving people.The army Satan gathered encircles the cities of Godly people. However, God finally intervenes and kills all the people who were deceived, and throws Satan into the lake of burning sulfur.

John then sees a great white throne, with an undescribed someone sitting on it. He also sees the dead, "great and small", gathered around the throne. The person on the throne (presumably God) starts reading names out of the book of life. John says that even death and Hades gave God their dead. What? Who are death and Hades? They are obviously not Satan, because after they give up their dead, God throws them into the lake of burning sulfur (Satan is already there). Anyone who's name is not in the book of life is also thrown into the lake of fire.

Next, John sees a "new heaven" and a "new earth" descending from the sky. God explains that he is making everything new (why?). God's conditions for getting into this new earth are quite strict though. He says that anyone who is cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murderous, sexually immoral, a magician, an idolater, or a liar will not be allowed onto this new earth, but they will be cast into the lake of fire. What happened to Jesus? I thought Jesus saved us from our sins. Now if we lie, or if we're even cowardly we're going to be tortured forever?

John goes on to describe this new earth, and the new Jerusalem upon it (he's taken "in the spirit" again). I'll spare you the boring details, but the city is basically made out of precious stones and metals. The twelve gates to the city are each made out of their own pearl. Either those are really tiny gates, or there are giant monster clams in this new earth. John says that this new city does not need a sun, because God's radiance will light it. Of course, no one is actually going to live in this city, because everyone (the bible says) has sinned.

John is then shown a clear river. On the sides of this river grows the tree of life. Jesus then says that he is on his way soon, and blessed are those who keep the words of prophecy in this book.

An angel also tells him not to "seal up" the words of prophecy in the book, because the end times are near. Then it's back to Jesus (the "Alpha and the Omega") who says again that he's coming soon. We get it! The end times are near. Except for not really, because this book was written 2000 years ago.

The book ends with Jesus(?) warning that if anyone adds or removes anything from this book they will suffer the wrath of God. The bible says that "he who says these things" (Jesus) says "Yes, I am coming soon!".

The end.

Revelation: In Review
Well I think Revelation is officially the craziest book in the bible. My biggest question is, where do people get the tribulation story? People have made this incoherent blathering into a rather interesting story.

First of all, the "beast" and the "prophet" are never formally introduced (besides the beast being described as having seven heads). And certainly neither one is introduced as the "antichrist". You could make these people (the beast and the false prophet) be whoever you want them to be. And indeed people have, from Ronald Reagan to Obama.

Second, the rapture is never mentioned in the book of Revelation. The only thing that vaguely resembles people's vision of the rapture are found in the book of Matthew and (some claim) 1 Thessalonians. And neither of these references mention people being taken up, leaving their clothes behind, which seems to be people's modern vision of the rapture.

People seem to have taken what looks a lot like incoherent rambling and made it into something way more than it actually is. Most of these visions aren't even said to be metaphors. The locusts with human faces and woman's hair is the first example that comes to mind. There is no indication that a true bible believer shouldn't be expecting grasshopper-people to invade the world at some point.

This letter to the editor is short today. But it's relevant:
A recent letter to the editor with a closing statement saying, "the Bible was written by men -- not God," is by someone who is totally misinformed. Let me attempt to clarify a very basic teaching of Christianity.

Yes, the Bible was written by men. but to say "not by God" tells me this person has never read the Bible from cover to cover.
And what exactly is reading the bible from cover to cover supposed to do for you? It's like reading the crazy for yourself is supposed to give you some magical revelation that God exists. Are you sure you've read the bible from cover to cover?
The Bible was written by men who were inspired by God. Have you never heard the Bible referred to as "God's word"? Perhaps that is why the Bible is known as the "Holy Bible."

You cannot pick and choose what you will believe about the Bible. Accept it as God's word, because, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Keep digging that hole. The bible is God's word because people say the bible is "God's word"? Or because it's referred to as the "Holy Bible"? That's really your argument?

"You can't pick and choose what you believe about the Bible." Therefore you believe in seven headed dragons, grasshopper-people, and eyeball-covered angel-monsters? The fear of a petty, man-made God that can never be proven is the end of wisdom, not the beginning.

The Bible: In Review
I've divided the bible into several subjects that I find relevant. This will also count as the "New Testament: In Review".

God/Jesus: The New Testament doesn't seem to have changed God's basic nature, as a petty and unjust being. God sends his son (or himself, depending on what you think about Jesus) to suffer a finite torment for the "salvation" of all of our sins. All we have to do now is believe in this being and we will be saved. Jesus also claims you have to do many other things to be saved, including eating his flesh and giving away all your money. But we'll ignore these for now and just include that with "believing in Jesus".

This is (as I said) both petty and unjust. Petty because Jesus's death was unnecessary. If God wanted to break the rules and forgive people, he could (and should) have just done it. Unjust, because people who have an affinity (for whatever reason) to believe in Jesus are not punished, irrespective of their crimes/sins. While people who (for whatever reason) are unwilling or unable (based on lack of evidence of his holiness) to believe in Jesus are punished.

To add insult to injury, the bible says in several instances that God chooses who he will allow to hear the message of Jesus. The universal salvation of Jesus is not so universal. It seems that God has merely made a loophole in his own rules so he can allow arbitrarily decided people into heaven. This is really no different from the Old Testament. Is this what we would expect from an all powerful - all just super being?

Satan: Based on at least the New Testament, Satan is a "bad guy". In that he will take every opportunity he can to kill people. Unfortunately, it seems like Satan only operates under the express consent of God.

First of all, we know that Satan can be defeated completely whenever God wants him to be. In Revelation he is cast into a lake of fire, never to bother humanity again. Why isn't this happening now? Why does God let Satan persevere?

Second, and along the same lines of logic, why does God let Satan go out and deceive people (causing their eternal doom)? The first example that comes to mind is God/Jesus letting Satan out of the abyss after 1000 years to roam the earth for awhile. Why doesn't he immediately cast him into the lake of fire? God ends up having to kill the people that Satan deceived.

In short, why does God let people be eternally damned if he has the power to prevent it by killing Satan? Is this what we would expect from an all powerful - all just super being?

Heaven/Hell: These concepts are still only vaguely described. And their short descriptions don't seem to match what people think of Heaven and Hell.

When we die, the bible seems to say that we stay dead until the end times. It's only after people are "resurrected" that they eventually go to heaven/the lake of fire. This is in direct contrast to what everyone (or everyone I know) thinks today. For example, when people say their dead relatives are "watching over them from heaven", they're not (in my opinion) making a biblically accurate statement.

"You just haven't read the bible": I look forward to immediately shooting down this ridiculous argument everywhere I hear it. If anything, after reading the bible I found Christianity to be less legitimate. Some portions of the bible are followed to the letter, while others are dismissed as being "only for a certain time in history", or said to be a metaphor.

This causes the bible to be 100% up for interpretation. Both the "God loves everyone" and "God hates fags" theology can be legitimized with the bible.

Conversion: It's probably obvious at this point, but I've not been converted. As I mentioned before, I think reading the bible has convinced me once and for all that it doesn't accurately describe the universe, the divine, or anything else for that matter.

What now?: At this point I don't plan to stop writing this blog. Obviously, I have no more bible to read, but I plan to continue doing the occasional news story (albeit not every day). Also, if I feel I have not done a particular verse/chapter justice, I may (in the future) go back over it to do a more in-depth study. If this seems at all interesting don't unsubscribe!

That being said, I may take a week or so off to relish in the fact that I don't have to write this blog every day :P. There will also probably be some big changes to the layout and/or title of the blog.

E-Word Today: For dividing the bible into 365 sections.

Bible Gateway: This is where I looked up all my bible references.

Commenters: Thanks to everyone that has commented on any of my posts. Special thanks to gmal and Brent Aucoin for commenting every day for months at a time.

Friends/Family/Co-workers: Or anyone else that had to put up with me making time to write this blog. You know who you are ;).

If you have any other questions/comments, or feel like I should include something in this blog that I've forgotten about, let me know in the comments!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

364: King of Kings and Lord of Lords

Revelation 17-19
"Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords." - Revelation 19:15-16

One of the angels that just tossed the bowls of God's wrath on humanity tells John he wants to show him the punishment of the "great prostitute". The angel then carries John away "in the spirit". So he's having a hallucination.

When they get to this woman, she's riding on the beast from yesterday (the seven-headed ten-horned bear-leopard). She holds a golden cup full of of "abominable things and the filth of her adulteries". On her forehead he has written "Mystery, Babylon the Great, The Mother of Prostitutes, and of the Abominations of the Earth".

This is the first obvious metaphor of Revelation. The woman is referred to as "the great city that rules over the kings of the earth". This is a strange kind of metaphor, though, in that John can actually see this woman. Like the other "metaphors", they seem to be physically acted out before John's eyes. Unless he's just making up the rather detailed physical description of these beasts.

The angel tells John that the beast is going to devour the woman and burn her with fire. It still isn't clear whether the beast is supposed to be a metaphor or not (people clearly interpret it as a metaphor). Nobody ever said the beast was actually a person. In fact, the word "antichrist" hasn't even made it into the book of Revelation.

John then hears many voices telling people to get out of Babylon, or they will share "her" torture. What did Babylon do that was so much worse than the rest of the cities of the world? Why are two full chapters of Revelation devoted to it?

After John hears these voices, the angel grabs a large millstone and throws it into the ocean. He says that with equal violence Babylon will be thrown down. Did he really need to throw a millstone into the ocean to illustrate his point?

After this, they are somehow back in heaven with the twenty-four elders and the eyeball covered monsters. They again fall down and worship God, saying "hallelujah". John tries to worship the angel that's been leading him around, but the angel tells him to worship God instead.

John then sees "heaven standing open". Isn't he already in heaven? Out of heaven comes a man riding a white horse. His eyes are blazing like fire, and he is wearing many crowns on his head. He is dressed in a robe that's been dipped in blood. This must be Jesus, because out of his mouth comes a large sword to "strike down nations". Why is the relatively peaceful Jesus now riding in on a white horse, covered in blood, personifying the wrath of God? Isn't Jesus's entire purpose to quell the wrath of God?

The army of the beast then gathers to try to kill Jesus. The beast and the "false prophet" are captured and thrown into a fiery lake of burning sulfur. Their army is killed with the sword that came out of Jesus's mouth. The bodies of the beast's army are devoured by birds (who somehow survived the multitude of plagues).

Apparently the Discovery Channel hostage taker was an atheist:
Another atheist extremist went on a rampage last week, taking hostages at the Discovery Channel building and demanding the network do more to proselytize evolution and fear about environmental Armageddon. Before he harmed anyone, police shot the terrorist dead.

The violence and the response of atheist evangelists, such as American shock-scientist PZ Myers, illustrate how organized atheism increasingly resembles religion.
Another? How many atheist extremists have gone on rampages recently? More importantly, do any of these people go on rampages in the name of atheism, or do they just happen to be atheists? I would contend that you have to already be completely insane to go on a rampage in the name of atheism. "I don't believe in something, therefore I must kill you", makes far less sense than "God tells me that I must kill you. I've devoted my life to God. Therefore I must kill you".

First of all, from reading this guy's writings, he's obviously insane. He wanted the Discovery Channel to start airing programs at least once a week telling people to stop having babies, and to sterilize themselves. This somehow had something to do with Darwinism(?).
The vast majority of atheists lead peaceful, moral and humble lives. They love their children and help their neighbors. A small fraction proselytize with confrontation, just as a small percentage of religious faithful proselytize and demonize others. Of the few atheist proselytizers, a tiny fraction kills people and blows things up for the cause.
It just so happens that all of that tiny percent of atheists are completely insane. Indeed, mental health experts are saying that James Lee suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Why is it that none of the 9/11 hijackers have been diagnosed with a mental disorder? Oh, that's right, they weren't insane. They had a firm belief, based on their religion, that God was calling them to kill people. Ok, maybe that is insane, but that means that all other religion is equally insane. Some religions just call for good things instead of bad things.

Friday, September 3, 2010

363: The Number of the Beast

Revelation 13-16
"This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666." - Revelation 13:18

I would call this section completely insane, but I feel like I'm getting a little redundant. For brevity's sake, just pretend that after every paragraph I write today, I say, "What the fuck? How can anyone possibly believe this heaping pile of bullshit?". Even if this craziness is a metaphor, you'd have to be a little insane to come up with seven headed dragons and grasshoppers with human faces and long hair.

This section begins with yet another seven headed, ten horned beast. This time, instead of having crowns on his head, he has crowns on his horns. On each of this beast's heads is written a "blasphemous name". John goes on to further describe this beast as looking like a leopard, but having bear feet and a lion's mouth.

The dragon from yesterday comes and gives this new beast all of his powers, his throne, and his "great authority". John says that one of the heads of the beast "appears to have a fatal wound" but it's been healed (this appears to have no relevance to the narrative). The beast then starts wandering around the world, and people start worshiping him.

Then John sees yet another beast. This time coming out of the earth. This beast is described as having horns like a goat, but "speaking like a dragon". The new beast goes around the earth, performing miraculous signs, including causing fire to fall from the sky. He also (somehow) receives the power to kill anyone that doesn't obey him, and gives people a "mark" on their hands or foreheads such that they can't buy or sell without it. This mark is either the name, or the number of the beast, which is "666". I'm sure it's a complete coincidence (not), but the Roman Emperor Nero's name just so happens to add up to 666.

Where has God gone off to? Why is he letting (presumably) Satan kill people who are just trying to worship God? In short, why is any of this necessary?

Next, the seven-eyed seven-horned lamb-Jesus is back! He is standing on Mount Zion with the 144,000 saved people standing around him. That means if the apocalypse happened today, a whopping 0.0021% of the population would be saved. That's a 1 in 47,000+ chance, for those keeping track.

Then three angels fly around the world, shouting in every language that the judgement has come. They say that anyone who has the mark of the beast is going to drink wine out of the cup of God's wrath. These people will also be tortured with fire and sulfur in the presence of angels and of Jesus. This torment will go on "for ever and ever".

After this, angels start coming out of heaven with sharp sickles. A voice from heaven tells them to go down and "harvest the earth". They go down, harvest the "grapes" of the earth, and toss them into the wine press of God's wrath. When they crush these "grapes" blood comes out. Either these are special grapes with blood inside them, or the grapes are people.

There is then yet another set of seven angels. These seven angels have come to deliver the final seven plagues of God. Isn't everyone dead yet? I think we're up to about four thirds of humanity killed. Humanity has been crushed in a wine press, hailed upon, all the stars have fallen out of the heavens a couple of times.

Before these plagues begin, John sees all the people that resisted the beast on the edge of a sea of melted glass and fire. They are all playing harps (given to them by God, of course), and singing songs of Moses. I couldn't make this shit up if I tried. Aren't all these righteous people supposed to be dead? Wasn't the beast just given the power to kill anyone who didn't believe in him?

John then looks into heaven and sees the "Temple". Out of this temple come the seven angels with the seven final plagues. One of the eyeball covered six-winged creatures hands the seven angels seven golden bowls of God's wrath. I think my brain is melting. Bowls full of wrath? What does that even mean?

A loud voice from the temple (God) tells the seven angels to pour out the seven bowls of wrath onto humanity. I'll go through these seven plagues quickly. First is the plague of painful sores. The second plague turns all the oceans to blood, killing every sea creature. The third turns the rivers and springs to blood. The fourth makes the sun terribly hot and burns those who are alive. The fifth plunges the kingdom into darkness, and men gnaw their tongues in agony. The sixth dries up the river Euphrates, and frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the "false prophet" (who I don't think we've actually been introduced to). All the kings are gathered together for battle at a place named "Armageddon". The final plague causes a massive earthquake, breaking up all the cities of the earth.

Today's section ends with 100 pound hailstones coming out of the sky, crushing people. Wonderful.

I'm sure most of you have heard about Stephen Hawking's assertion that there is no God. Or at least that God wasn't needed to start the universe. The Christian News Wire is on the case. They've decided that Stephen Hawking doesn't know what he's talking about because... wait for it... Ray Comfort says so:
An extract of Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design, was published in Eureka magazine in The Times, in which the professor said: "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist." Comfort, said, "It is embarrassingly unscientific to speak of anything creating itself from nothing. Common sense says that if something possessed the ability to create itself from nothing, then that something wasn't nothing, it was something -- a very intelligent creative power of some sort."
Wait, what? Here's Comfort's logic as I understand it: "If nothing can make itself into something, then the nothing isn't nothing, it's actually a super intelligent being". First of all, let me give you the disclaimer that I'm extremely skeptical of anyone that thinks they can say anything about the beginning of the universe. I obviously haven't read Hawking's book yet (it's not out) so I'll reserve judgement.

However, I'm at a loss as to how God suddenly coming into existence makes more sense than a homogeneous singularity suddenly coming into existence. As usual, the reaction from the fundies is "this is not what I believe, therefore it's wrong". It's hard to immediately reject just about any argument (unless it's seven headed dragons) without first reading the whole story (i.e. what was Hawking's line of thinking?).

Needless to say, the book should be an interesting read.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

362: The Bible, Now with Dragons

Revelation 9-12
"Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads." - Revelation 12:3

As you'll recall from yesterday, the seven angels are blowing their trumpets. This section picks up with the fifth angel blowing his trumpet. This causes yet another star to fall out of the sky. But this isn't a normal star. This "star" is referred to as "he" and "he" is given a key to an abyss.

"The abyss" is described as a giant furnace. I can only assume that this supposed to be hell. When the star opens up the abyss, a swarm of locusts come out. These locusts are given the powers of scorpions, in that they have stingers. These locusts are not actually given the power to kill people, but only to sting and torture them mercilessly.

That's not the only think peculiar about these locusts. They are described as looking like "horses prepared for battle". On their heads they are wearing crowns of gold, and they all have human faces. They also have long, womanlike hair, and breastplates made out of iron. What. The. Fuck. I don't think I actually have anything intelligent to say about this. Anybody who claims John wasn't on drugs when he wrote this needs to rethink their lives.

Next, the sixth angel sounds his trumpet. This causes the four angels who were bound up near the Euphrates to be released, killing one third of humanity. What four angels bound up near the Euphrates? Why is none of this ever mentioned in the other gospels, if this is legit? With these angels come horses with lion heads, that breathe sulfer-fire breath. I guess that seems pretty reasonable at this point.

We now take an almost two chapter long break from blowing trumpets (I suppose they're building the suspense for the final trumpet). In the meantime John sees an angel come out of the heavens. This angel is robed in a cloud with a rainbow over his head, with a face like the sun and fiery legs. So there is a naked, flaming angel coming out of the sky with a big rainbow over his head. I believe this holds the record for the gayest angel of all time.

This angel is holding a "little scroll". The angel plants his feet, one in the ocean and one on the land. He then shouts, and the voices of "seven thunders" speak. John says that he was about to write down what they said, but then an angel told him not to.

The angel voice then tells John to take the little scroll from the angel and eat it. No, that's not a typo. He's supposed to eat the scroll. This has actually happened already in Ezekiel, so I'm not sure why I'm surprised. After John eats the scroll, his stomach turns sour. No shit, eating an entire scroll will probably make you sick. Thanks for the insight, John.

The next story is about a creature from the abyss coming up to earth and killing a bunch of people. Their bodies lay in the streets for three and a half days, until God breathes life back into them. These newly formed zombies then go around terrifying people. They all then go up to heaven. Wait, why do they get to go to heaven? And why do I want to go to heaven if there are zombies up there?

Finally, the seventh trumpet is sounded. This causes the twenty-four elders to start worshiping God with even more vigor. Then heaven opens up, and the ark of the covenant is revealed. The ark of the covenant? I guess God just carries it around for shits and giggles now.

This is where it really gets crazy. I know what you're thinking, "how can it get crazier". That's easy: an enormous dragon!

Yes, along with a woman "clothed with the sun" with a crown of stars on her head, comes an enormous red dragon. This dragon has seven heads, all with crowns, and ten horns. The woman is about to give birth, so he waits near her to devour her child as soon as he comes out. Why doesn't he just eat the woman?

When the woman does eventually give birth, God snatches the child away. The woman then flees into the desert where she is taken care of for 1,260 days. At the same time, the dragon invades heaven, where he has an epic battle with the angel Michael, ending in the dragon (now called Satan) being cast out of heaven. Why did God allow this battle to happen? Why didn't he just snap the dragon out of existence?

The dragon, finding that he's back on earth, decides to go chasing after the woman again. God gives the woman great wings so she can fly away from the dragon. She then flies to a place in the desert where she will be taken care of for "a time, times a half a time". Wait, a time times a half a time (1 * 0.5) is just a half a time. Not that this gives us any clue as to how long she was actually protected for.

Finally, the dragon spews water out of his mouth to try to drown the woman. The earth (yes, the earth) seeing the woman is in trouble, swallows the water coming from the dragon. The dragon, frustrated, decides to go try to kill the woman's offspring. And that marks the end of today's giant clusterfuck of crazy.

What should Christians think about MMA (Mixed martial arts)? They should hate it because it's too violent:
Psalm 11:5 says, "The LORD examines the righteous and the wicked. He hates the lover of violence." This is a hard verse for at least two reasons. First, it does not say that God simply hates violence, but rather, that God hates those who love violence. Second, it confronts our culture's lust for violence, a lust which many Christians indulge rather than reject.
Really? You're really going to try to convince me that God hates violence? The bible is chocked full of instances of God not only committing, but condoning violence from the Israelites. That's not to even mention his orchestration of Jesus's crucifixion. For someone that hates violence, he certainly seems to be the perpetrator of a lot of it.
UFC and MMA amounts to violence porn, a term which has been applied to movies with wanton violence such as "SAW," where violence is not part of the plot, it is the attraction. Violence for violence's sake, as opposed to instrumental or redeeming violence, desensitizes the viewer to the graphic horror of watching two people pummel each other for the sake of entertainment. UFC and MMA offer exactly the kind of violence condemned in Psalm 11:5. Ezekiel 7:23 decries, "the city is full of violence." Why are Christians supporting violence in the city?
Desensitizes people? What the hell does the bible do then? What's killing a few hundred people in the name of defeating terrorism, if God has commanded that thousands be killed. That is being desensitized. In fact, I have witnessed Christians talking, bemusedly, about how much it must have "sucked" to be one of those worshipers of Baal in the Old Testament.

No, it doesn't just "suck", it is genocide. It is an atrocity. That's like laughing about how much it would have sucked to be a Jew in the holocaust. The other major difference is that Hitler, who killed millions, is hated. While God, who has also killed millions (if you believe the bible), is loved.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

361: Down the Rabbit Hole

Revelation 4-8
"In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.' " - Revelation 4:6-8

This vision goes from moderately unreasonable (in biblical terms) to simply crazy. I realize that most people think this is "metaphor", but the bible gives no indication that that's how we're supposed to interpret it.

Jesus finishes dictating the letters, and John sees an open door to heaven. He hears a voice that says "come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this". Immediately John is swept up into heaven. When he arrives, he sees a man that looks like "jasper and carnelian" sitting on a throne with an emerald colored rainbow (what?) encircling him.

Around this throne are twenty-four other thrones. On these thrones are twenty-four "elders". In front of the main throne are seven blazing lamps, holding the seven "spirits of God". God is kept in seven pieces in lamps now?

Also around the main throne are four creatures, covered in eyes. Each of these creatures has six wings. One has the face of a man, one of an ox, one of a lion, and one of an eagle. These creatures seem like a weird amalgamation of Isaiah's seraphs (who have six wings) and Ezekiel's wheels filled with fire (covered in eyeballs). These creatures' only job is to sit around all day chanting "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come".

John then sees at the right hand of the person (thing?) on the main throne, a scroll. This scroll is sealed with seven seals. An angel asks if anyone can break the seals on the scroll, but nobody responds. John starts crying because nobody can break the seals. What does he care?

The angel tells him not to fear because the lamb of God has come to open the seals. John then sees a lamb, "looking like it's been slain". I'm going to presume this is Jesus, even though the bible says that it actually looked like a lamb. Is Jesus a shape shifter now?

We haven't gotten to the weird part yet (seriously). John describes this "lamb" (Jesus?) as having "seven horns and seven eyes". Even if this isn't Jesus, it's still the weirdest shit ever. Anyway, this seven-horned seven-eyed lamb-Jesus takes the scroll from the right hand of the jasper-man. After lamb-Jesus takes the scroll the entire cast of characters (eye-covered angels, elders, and jasper-man) bows down and sings songs about how awesome lamb-Jesus is (they just call him "the Lamb", capital L).

Lamb-Jesus then starts opening the seals. When he breaks the first seal the eye-covered angels yell "Come!" and a man rides in on a white horse carrying a bow. The bible refers to him as the "conquerer".

Jesus then breaks the second seal and the angels again yell "Come!". This time a man rides in on a red horse. This horseman is given the power to bring peace, or make people kill each other. He is also given a large sword.

The next seal is broken, and this time a black horse rides in carrying scales. One of the angel-creatures says "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!". What the hell does that mean? I don't think this is the right time to set the minimum wage.

The fourth seal is broken and the final horse rides in. This horse is pale, and it's rider is none other than Death himself. Followed closely behind this horse is "Hades". Hades? Is this someone different than Satan? I was under the impression that Hades was only followed in Greek mythology. Death and Hades are given a fourth of the earth to kill by the sword, plague, famine, or with wild animals.

When the fifth seal is broken, John sees, "under the altar", the souls of those who have been slain because of the word of God. They seem eager to have others suffer their fate, and ask God when the rest of humanity will be judged. They are all given white robes, and someone (God?) tells them to wait a little longer. Again we see indications that the end of the world is supposed to be only a little further in the future.

When the sixth seal is opened, there is an earthquake, the sun turns black, and the moon turns red. The bible also says that the "stars in the sky fell to the earth". Excuse me? How can the stars fall to the earth? Someone obviously doesn't understand that stars are thousands, if not millions of times larger than earth. Then the sky recedes like a scroll, and all the mountains and islands are removed from their place.

Lamb-Jesus then takes a break on the seal breaking. John says he sees four angels standing at the four "corners" of the earth. Right, because the earth is flat and has corners. These four angels are holding back the "four winds". Whatever that means. An angel then comes out of the east with the official "seal" of God. He then goes around putting God's seal on people's foreheads (144,000 in all). These 144,000 seals are distributed among the 12 tribes of Israel (12,000 each).

John then sees a hoard of people wearing white robes. John describes the number of people as too many to count. One of the elders asks John who all these people are. What? Aren't people in heaven supposed to have the knowledge of the universe, or something? John, who somehow knows, tells the elder that these people have come out of the great tribulation.

Lamb-Jesus then breaks the seventh seal. There is then silence in heaven for a half hour. Well that was massively anticlimactic. Then the "seven angels who stand before God" are given seven trumpets. Yes, we have yet another group of characters.

Yet another angel takes a golden censer and fills it up with fire from the altar. He then takes the fire and throws it onto the earth. What an ass hole.

The seven angels then sound their trumpets one by one. The first trumpet brings a hail of fire mixed with blood upon the earth. A third of everything on the earth is burned up with this fire-blood. The next trumpet brings a huge mountain that is thrown into the sea. A third of the sea is turned to blood, and a third of the sea creatures die.

The third trumpet brings down the star named Wormwood (I thought all the stars had already fallen). This "star" turns the water bitter and kills many people from drinking it. Right, because all the people aren't already dead from the mountain being thrown into the ocean or global fire-hail.

The fourth trumpet blocks a third of the sun. Wait, I thought the sun was already blotted out by the breaking of the seals. A third of the stars are also "struck". The stars have now fallen out of the sky from the breaking of the seals and been blotted out.

The cherry on top of this pile of bullshit is a magic talking eagle flying by. This eagle says "Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels". That's the most articulate eagle I've ever heard. The chapter ends there, you'll have to come back tomorrow to see the atrocities the other three trumpets bring.

tl;dr A seven-eyed, seven-horned lamb-Jesus broke seven seals, while six-winged animal-headed eyeball-covered creatures shouted "come" to four horses with magical powers. Sounds legit to me.

It just had to be today when someone tried to argue how wonderful the bible is:
I wonder why it is that Christianity and its tenets are so troublesome.

Is it because the Bible, above all other books, holds us more accountable for our actions and to a single God? Is it because we become threatened by the truth of our own lives when measured by such guidelines as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “love your neighbor as yourself”?
No, it's because the Bible, above all other books, is unadulterated bullshit. Seven eyed goats? You really believe this shit? Anyway, *pissed off mode, deactivated*. Some people judge their lives on "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" without the bible. That's not even an original Christian idea (a quick wiki search of "The Golden Rule" is revealing).

The writer seems to forget that there are other Christian tenants besides the golden rule. Namely, the oppression of women and the acceptance of slavery. If all of Christianity was the golden rule, I don't see myself having a problem with it.
As a nation, we need to come back to what was fought for in 1776, and that was freedom.

Our forefathers fought for our right to express our beliefs without condemnation from others.

Our country was founded on Christian principles that should not be pushed aside just because another culture protests. Keeping America on its Christian foundations will let freedom reign.
Sorry, incorrect answer. The forefathers did not fight for the right to express beliefs without condemnation. In fact, the first amendment guarantees the right to express your condemnation of any religion you'd like. What is protected is your right to express your beliefs without government prohibition or endorsement.

Keeping America on it's foundation of creating a "wall of separation between church and state" (as Thomas Jefferson put it) is the only way of truly letting freedom reign.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

360: The Alpha and the Omega

Revelation 1-3
" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.' " - Revelation 1:8

Chapter 1 starts with the bible telling us that this is a revelation from Jesus to John. It says that "blessed is the one" who reads this text. It must be good.

John then greets himself and goes right into his story of how he received this revelation. John says that on the "Lord's day" he was "in the spirit" (aka high on drugs?) and he heard a loud voice behind him. When he turned around, he saw seven gold lampstands. Walking among these lampstands was a man with white hair, eyes that glow like fire, and feet that glow like bronze in a furnace. In his right hand he is holding seven "stars", and there is a double edged sword coming out of his mouth. There seems to be a slight misunderstanding of what a "star" is.

When John sees him, he falls on the ground and plays dead until Jesus tells him not to be afraid. I say this is Jesus, because he describes himself as being dead and alive again. I'm not quite sure how Jesus is speaking when there is a sword coming out of his mouth. Jesus goes on to say that he wants John to write a letter to the angels of the seven churches of Asia. The rest of today's section is Jesus dictating those letters to John.

First to the angel the church of Ephesus. Jesus first introduces himself as the one who "holds seven stars" and walks among the lampstands. Jesus goes on to say that he's proud of what they've done (or, I should say what the angel has done), but he'd like them to repent anyway. Wait, the angel has to repent? Who is he talking to? He says that if they do not repent, he will come take away their lampstand. I'm not sure what that means, I didn't even know they had a lampstand.

Next to the angel of the church of Smyrna. Jesus says that they should not be afraid of what they are going to have to suffer. He says that the devil is going to put them in prison for ten days. But if they are faithful Jesus will give them the "crown of life". I'm not sure why these are addressed to the angel of these churches. Jesus seems to be talking directly to the people. He even refers to them as plural (e.g. "some of you will suffer").

Third, to the church of Pergamum. Jesus refers to Pergamum as the place where "Satan has his throne". Doesn't Satan live in hell? Jesus also tells these people (or the angel?) to repent.

Next is the church of Tyatira. Jesus seems to be very upset that this church tolerates a woman named Jezebel. She apparently leads many of Jesus's servants into sexual immorality, and leads them to eat food sacrificed to idols. Jesus says that if adulterers don't repent, he is going to cast them onto a bed of suffering.

The fifth letter is to the church of Sardis. This time Jesus introduces himself as the one who holds the seven spirits of God. That seems like a very arbitrary number of spirits. Jesus says that those who have not "soiled their clothes" will not be blotted out of the book of life. Jesus really doesn't like it when you take a dump in your clothes hamper. Oh wait, was that a metaphor? I can never tell.

The sixth letter is to the church of Philadelphia. Jesus says that he has placed before them a door that can never be shut. He also says that since the people of Philadelphia have endured so patiently that they will be exempt from the hour of judgement. He ends the letter by saying that he is on his way "soon". Jesus has a pretty ridiculous definition of "soon".

The final letter is to the church of Laodicea. This time, Jesus introduces himself as "the Amen". Whatever that means. In this letter, Jesus berates the Laodicians for being neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. Jesus, a famous hater of lukewarm food, says that he is going to spit the Laodicians out (why were they in his metaphorical mouth?). He ends with, of course, telling them to repent.

Does anyone actually take this book seriously?

One church has decided it's never too early to start bible lessons:
One Salt Lake area church believes babies are not too young to learn Bible stories.

The idea behind Bible study for babies at New Pilgrim Baptist Church is that hearing stories, touching objects, and seeing pictures will help children build a strong religious foundation.
Yes, you have to get in there and crush free thought before there's even the slightest chance of it's existence. The simple fact is that if you began indoctrinating someone when they were a baby, you could convince them to blindly worship a rock. If your religion is so perfect and true, why not teach them about Jesus when they're teenagers? Surely God has made a loophole for those younger than 10, who surely have no chance of fully understanding who/what Jesus is.
Reggy admits that some babies don't understand some of the activities all the time but what they manage to learn will have a lasting impact, especially if they stray from the fold for a while.

"Now we live in such a pluralistic society, they have a lot of choices out there," says Reggy. "We're praying that when they get to that age, that will be at least one of the options that will be available to them."

Reggy says more often than not, she sees kids in her congregation who have grown up learning the tenets of their Christian faith and those kids have grown into adults who live by those beliefs.

The youngest child in this year's class was 9 months old.
Isn't having to begin indoctrination at 9 months old to keep people in the pews a bit of a warning sign that your ideas might seem like bullshit to unbiased observers? You shouldn't be teaching your children your religion any more than you should be teaching them what political party they should belong to.

Of course, if we let them think for themselves, they might come to a conclusion that's not insane. And we can't have that.


Monday, August 30, 2010

359: Three Books in One

2 John 1
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." - 2 John 1:10-11

This is the shortest book of the bible by verse and word count in the NIV. If my googling is correct, 3 John has the honor of being the lowest word count in the KJV.

That being said, I don't have a whole lot to say about his one. John says (to whoever he's writing to) that he's overjoyed at her children's finding Jesus. He then tells her to love everyone and follow "his [God's?] commands". Again, I'm not sure what he means by "commands". Old Testament commands? Commands of Jesus?

John goes on to say that if anyone comes to them and does not bring the teaching of Jesus that they should not let them into their house. This person is doing "wicked work".

John ends this letter by saying that he's saving the majority of his teachings for when he visits this woman in person. Hopefully we didn't miss any life changing revelations on account of John's brevity.

3 John 1
"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." - 3 John 1:11

As if it weren't bad enough that 2 and 3 John are competing for the title of shortest book of the bible, they are also almost exactly the same.

John again starts out by saying that he is grateful that the children are "walking in the truth" with Jesus. And he again ends by saying that he's got a lot more to say in person.

John complains to whoever he's writing to that he wrote to the church, but the leader will have nothing to do with him. He says that this church leader will not even accept the brothers into the church.

John ends by telling his friend to imitate what is good, not what is evil. He also says that anyone who does evil has not seen God. Wait a minute. Just yesterday he said that no one had "seen" God.

Jude 1
"But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' " - Jude 1:9

Jude starts out by saying that he was originally going to write about shared salvation, but decided it was more important to write about all the false teachers among them. These people, Jude says, are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. And he says they serve as an example of the people that will "suffer the punishment of eternal fire".

Jude says that these people even slander celestial beings (angels). To show how bad this is, Jude tells the people about the time when the archangel Michael was arguing with the devil about the body of Moses. You know, that time. Oh, right, the bible has never actually mentioned that incident before. Way to make that one up Jude.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that even the archangel didn't slander the devil. Therefore it's unfathomable that a mere human would slander a celestial being.

Jude ends by telling the people to persevere through all these false teachers.

Onward to Revelations!

You know you're crazy when an organization calling themselves a "Christian militia" says "whoa, that's over the line":
An armed Christian organization which had pledged to protect a Florida church as it holds "International Burn a Quran Day" withdrew its support from the event Wednesday, saying it "does not glorify God," according to a posting on its website.
It gets better:
Right Wing Extreme founder Shannon Carson told CNN. "We don't want to be a part of inciting violence and racism anymore."
Is this the twilight zone? Is it possible that they could have empathy for Muslims?

Maybe they just realized that "International Burn a Quran Day" is the dumbest idea ever. What is this event accomplishing? First of all, how about reading the Quran instead of burning it. I'd venture to say the vast majority of Christians (including the ones who plan on burning Qurans) have never read a word out of the Quran. Shouldn't you at least fix your ignorance before you show the world your idiocy?

Second, I can't even begin to imagine the repercussions if someone created "International Burn a Bible Day". More than just insulting the religion, it seems like a militant act.

In the end it's only going to piss people off. I'm not saying we should be stepping on eggshells so that we don't upset the Islamic world. But blatant provocation is probably a bad idea too.

(via CNN)

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