Saturday, November 21, 2009

77: God is Scared of Horses

Judges 1-2
Israel apparently hasn't destroyed all of the Canaanites yet, because they go to battle again. This time Judah is their leader. They again slaughter everything that lives in the cities they attack. They find and capture a king named Adoni-Bezek and cut off his thumbs and big toes. Wonderful.

The bible lists several other cities they destroy, Jerusalem being the only name I recognize. Interestingly they come up against an opponent that they cannot defeat, even with God's help. What could possibly be more powerful than God? Iron chariots. Yes, God can stop the rotation of the earth, but iron chariots are too much for him to handle. I wonder what God would do if a humvee came at him at 80 miles per hour.

In chapter 2 we move forward another generation. This generation apparently forgets about the God they should be worshiping again, and worships Baal (even they aren't convinced by the crazy stories of their fathers). This is going to be the premise of Judges. The Israelites stop following God's commands, God sends a Judge, the Israelites stop following God's commands again. And so on until the chapter is over. At least we might have some interesting stuff in this book.


Looks good right? That is, until you read Psalm 109:8 - "May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership." Even that doesn't sound so bad until you read the sections surrounding 109:8.
Appoint an evil man to oppose him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.

When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.

May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.

May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.

May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.

May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.

May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.

May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
Well I certainly hope they don't mean that passage to be put in context, because threatening the life of the president is illegal. There is an interesting quote in the Christian Science Monitor's (oxymoron?) article on the matter:
The problem is you don’t know if people who are donning that message in a shirt or on a bumper sticker are fully aware of the quote or what follows. Obviously that message makes the ambiguity disappear. If they’re just referring to him being out of office, that’s one thing. If they’re referring to him being dead, that’s so offensive. It’s protected speech, but it’s clearly offensive.
It's protected speech? Really? This is probably going to put me under the category of "super nerd" but I looked through the US Code and found the statute that forbids threatening the president, it reads:
Whoever knowingly and willfully deposits for conveyance in the mail or for a delivery from any post office or by any letter carrier any letter, paper, writing, print, missive, or document containing any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or to inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States, the President-elect, the Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President of the United States, or the Vice President-elect, or knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the President, President-elect, Vice President or other officer next in the order of succession to the office of President, or Vice President-elect, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. - US Code: Title 18; Part 1; Chapter 41; 871 (a)
If these people are knowingly conveying a prayer for the president's death, I'm not sure how that's protected speech. apparently agrees with me, they have pulled the tshirts with this saying on them because they "have determined that these products, in the context of the full text of Psalm 109, may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest physical harm to the President of the United States." Kudos Zazzle.

(via Chicago Tribune)

Friday, November 20, 2009

76: God Won't Forgive You & Joshua: In Review

Joshua 22-24
In chapter 22 Joshua sends the people back home who didn't want to cross the Jordan river. They have done their fighting duty and are no longer needed. Upon returning home, these people build an altar. Joshua, and the rest of the Israelites that are still on the promised land side of the Jordan, see the altar, and think that they are building an altar to another God. Their first instinct, of course, is to kill them. Joshua and his army cross the Jordan and prepare to attack. Before they kill them they decide to ask why they built the altar. They built the altar to show that they were still part of the Israelite tribe even though they were on the "wrong" side of the Jordan. What's the lesson here? Maybe your first instinct shouldn't be to raise your army and go to kill everyone over an altar.

Joshua 23 seems like it's going to be uninteresting. It's titled "Joshua's Farewell to the Leaders". It starts out with the same old lines, follow God's laws, if you follow him you can slaughter all of your enemies, if you don't follow God you're going to die. Fine, I've already talked about this, till the last paragraph.

Joshua says that he is going to die. He tells the Israelites (I guess so they will keep the faith after he is gone) that God has kept all his promises. Ok, that's fine. But Joshua goes on to say "just as every good promise of the Lord your God has come true, so the Lord will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you." Oops, we forgot a conditional statement there. I think the bible meant to say "if you are naughty" God will wipe you from the land. That is not, unfortunately, what it says. It just says that God will bring down all of the "evil" he has threatened on the Israelites, no matter what, end of sentence. Equally frightening is that his sentence admits that the things God does (in punishment) are "evil". How can a being that is completely good be capable of doing something evil? I'm commonly told that God cannot do things "against his nature", if this is true, then at least some part of God's character is evil. I would argue that it's a rather large part.

Chapter 24 is called "The Covenant Renewed at Shechem". Why do they have to keep renewing the covenant? This is at least the sixth time they've done it.

The beginning of the chapter pretty much lists all of the "wonderful" things God has done, which generally include slaughtering people. The chapter is not without interest though. Joshua just needs to keep his mouth shut, he's being the Joe Biden of the bible. Here's his next unfortunate quote:
Joshua said to the people, 'You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.'
Uhh, what? If we are incapable of serving God then what are we talking about this for? Give up now is apparently the takeaway message from this chapter. That sounded a little crazy, but Joshua isn't done yet. He renews the covenant, then he takes a rock and puts it at the base of a tree. This is then what he proclaims:
'See!' he said to all the people. 'This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.'
The rock heard everything you said? The rock is going to be a witness against the Israelites? I think it might be time for the nursing home Joshua. I guess God can make rocks talk too, along with donkeys.

At the end of the chapter, and the end of the book of Joshua, Joshua dies at the ridiculous age of one hundred and ten. At least God didn't kill his disciple this time.

*Joshua: In Review*
Joshua is a book of conquest. Of course, it's "righteous" conquest if you're a Christian and easily believe these things. I have personally been to bible studies where we read some of the nasty passages from Joshua and the Christians in the room laughed off the blatant atrocities. This is far from something that can be lightly dismissed. Your God and your morals don't line up.

I'm not sure how people can read this and have no empathy for the people being ruthlessly slaughtered. God is destroying these people for arbitrary reasons, and arbitrary sin that humans commit regularly, that you commit regularly. These people were born at the wrong place at the wrong time, they attempted to retreat, they attempted to surrender. God hardened their hearts and would not allow it. On top of that, we can only assume that since God didn't like them they are eternally in hell. Why? What did they do to deserve eternal torment? How much do you have to twist the definition of "love" to match the tyrant you observe in the bible?

Sorry, that was more of a rant than a review, but that's pretty much all that happened in Joshua. God commanded the Israelites to kill people.

As I'm sure 99% of you have heard, Ray Comfort and his minion have been (for the past couple of days) passing out the Origin of Species with a 50 page intelligent design introduction. As a side note, I may review that introduction in my more general purpose blog. I've already read it, it was painful. Now, every promenant blogger alive has already covered this story, so I won't talk too much about it, but I will share with you my personal story of confronting some of Ray Comfort's minion. This discussion turned into bible debate, so seems to be relevant for this blog.

The Society of Non-Theists at Purdue staged a counter protest for the Ray Comfort books. We handed out fliers with some good pro-evolution anti-stupidity info to anyone getting the defaced Origin of Species. We split up because there were several people in multiple locations. By the time we came back together Jen (over at Blag Hag) was talking to a few of the creationists. The conversation had apparently shifted from evolution to the bible, once the creationists figured out that she knew a lot about evolution and very little about the bible. Interesting (dishonest) debating tactic. I know at least a little about the bible so I was thrown into the fray.

The most interesting part for me was when they said "God has never killed anyone". Which was a major foot in the mouth moment, anyone following my blog for any length of time knows that God has killed people. For example here, here, here, here, here, here, oh and here (this isn't anywhere near a comprehensive list). God hasn't killed anyone? Really?

They went on to clearly admit their circular reasoning. Here is a paraphrased exchange.
Us: "How do you know that the bible isn't a fake?"
Them: "Because it's the inspired word of God"
Us: "Ok, how do you know God exists?"
Them: "Because the bible says so."
Us: "That's circular reasoning, don't you see the problem with that?"
Them: "That's where the faith comes it."
They then went on to tell us that we had faith as well because we don't know where the universe came from. It doesn't take faith to say "I don't know". If someone asked me the circumference of the earth, I would say "I don't know". What do I have faith in, in that situation? Yet we apply that same "I don't know" to the beginning of the universe, and suddenly I have blind faith in science. No. I don't. End of story.

This seems like an arbitrary goal, but I feel like if I have a religious person say "Well, you just have to take it on faith", then I've won that conversation. There's nothing you can say to contradict "I believe something based on no evidence". I just have to wonder what goes on in someone's head that believes something based on (admittedly) nothing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

75: Legos Sin Too

Joshua 19-21
All of Joshua 19 lists towns allotted to the remaining six tribes (not listed in chapter 18). Sometimes I get the feeling that the translators of the NIV just slapped their keyboards for some of these city names. Here are some of my favorites: Allammelech, Shahazumah, Zaanannim, Shaalabbin. I think this is the formula for biblical town names, start with a short, nonsensical word. For example Blah. Then you repeat a syllable. Giving you Blalah. Repeat a couple of the letters. Blaallah. Add "sha" to the beginning and "ah" to the end. Shablaalah. Yes, I'm bored, and I've probably just offended anyone who speaks Hebrew. Sorry, your language looks funny in English.

This is one of those sections that could be ripped out and effect nothing. I mean, no, all the sections are important, because it's the word of God.

Chapter 20 is titled "Cities of Refuge". No! We've talked about cities of refuge twice already, I don't know if I can take this level of boring. I wrote about it here if you really want to read it again.

Oh no, all of chapter 21 is more dividing up land. This time for the Levites. The chapter ends with the narrator telling us that God fulfilled all of his promises. By the way, does Joshua narrate Joshua? I guess that would make sense.

*News* (sort of)
Hmm, bible news is slow. Luckily I'm still finding interesting bible related things to talk about.

A man that identifies himself as "Rev. Smith" has created a Lego illustrated bible. I can't really tell if this is a Christian site or not. Some of the sections in the law category come off a little snarky, such as "When to stone your children" and "When to stone your whole family".

There are so many good pictures from the law section, but I think this one is my favorite:
Yes, this is a man masturbating, while watching TV, with a Lego pizza on his lamp stand. Note the white Legos on the floor. Why does he have Lego legs laying next to his couch?

(thanks to Adrian Moore of Metaxis for the inadvertent story suggestion)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

74: Lolz, I iz Readin teh Bible

Joshua 16-18
Well unfortunately I've paged through this section and it's mostly dividing up land again. I'm not going to torture you with the painstaking descriptions of the land division. There are still a few little stories and I'm going to try to find good/interesting stuff for the news sections. Luckily we're going to be done with Joshua on Friday, so I might have something interesting bible wise this weekend. Alright, here goes nothing.

Chapter 16 is all about Joseph's inheritance, and the inheritance of his descendants. Fascinating read. Almost as good as the "A" section in the dictionary.

Joshua 17 is a little weird. It seems to go through a generation or two, yet Joshua is still alive (he was old to start with). These descendants are having problems with the Canaanites, so they ask Joshua about it. Joshua tells them to clear the land. I must be missing something here. Oh wait, the bible is strewn with random, pointless stories. I keep forgetting.

In chapter 18, seven of the Israelite tribes have not yet claimed their land. Joshua commands them to send people out to survey the land. They do and Joshua distributes the land. Oh. I thought that story was going to have a point. Alas, no.

Oh no, the bible is going to describe the land allotment for each of the seven tribes. Only the first tribe (Benjamin) is described before Joshua 19 ends. Which means I have the rest of them to look forward to tomorrow. I can't wait.

*News* (sort of)
You old people may be wondering why I misspelled my blog title. It's, of course, LOLCat language. LOLCats being generally cute pictures of cats with misspelled captions. Why am I talking about this? The bible has been translated into LOLCat language, which you can see here. The main punishment in this translation seems to be "ceiling cat" (God) taking away your cheezburgers and watching you masturbate. You may ask if there is any evidence that ceiling cat (blessed be his name) did, in fact, create the universe. Luckily, the moment of man's creation was captured:

Well, there is officially one more piece of evidence for a cat creating man than for God creating him. I'm tempted to switch translations (LOLCat is obviously the only righteous translation), but alas, I would have to start over from the beginning if I did that, and that's sure as hell not happening.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

73: Dividing the Spoils

Joshua 12-15
This is a slow bible day and a slow news day, we could be in trouble.

Chapter 12 lists all of the defeated (read: slaughtered) kings. There were thirty one kings (and presumably cities) in all.

In chapter 13 God comes to Joshua and says that there is still land to be taken. Joshua doesn't seem to care, and starts dividing up the land. The rest of chapter 13, all of chapter 14, and all of chapter 15 painstakingly describe how the land is divided. I think I deserve a medal for reading this.

There is a tiny glimmer of interesting in Joshua 15. Caleb starts fighting some more tribes, these tribes aren't Israelis so nobody seems to care. Caleb apparently had a hard time capturing a city, because he offers his daughter for marriage to anyone who will capture this city. Someone does capture the city and takes his daughter as a wife. I'm not sure what the purpose of this story was, I just thought I'd mention it.

Parents at an elementary school in Boston demand religious items be sold at a holiday fund raiser. Because God forbid you have a school fundraiser without also flaunting your religious symbols.

You can read the full article here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

72: God is Inefficient and Moses was High

Joshua 9-11
The Gibeonites see that Israel is killing everyone and decide to make a treaty with them. However, they also hear that God has commanded Moses to kill everyone, no treaties. So they have to get a little inventive. They come to the Israelites with worn out clothes, and say they are from a far away land. Since they are from a "far away land" the Israelites don't see any problem with making an oath not to kill them. And voila, the Gibeonites are safe from destruction. Wait a minute, did someone just get rewarded for lying? God seems to have no problem with this, in fact, he doesn't seem to be around in Joshua 9.

Chapter 10 is called "The Sun Stands Still". The other countries around Gilgal (a Gibeonite city) see that the Gibeonites have made peace with the Israelites. They decide that they need to attack the Gibeonites. Why would you attack your neighbor because they made a treaty with someone out of fear? Why not attack your real enemy? Anyway, that's not the biggest problem with this chapter by a long shot. The Israelites and the countries around Gibeon battle at Gilgal. Apparently it's to the advantage of the Israelites to have more daylight, so God stops the sun. Say what now?

First of all, "stopping the sun" would do you no good if you were trying to make the day longer. The correct term, of course, would be to say "stop the earth's rotation". But these ancient people didn't know that yet. God must not have figured it out yet either. The bible also says that the moon stops. This whole system is suspended for a full day.

Allow me to apply my elementary physics knowledge to this situation. The earth is spinning at over 1000 miles per hour, so God would also have to stop the atmosphere from spinning as well. Otherwise nobody would be alive (1000 mile per hour wind tends to be bad for life). Now we have to stop the moon. The moon moves due to earth's rotation, and it's rotation around the earth, so we still need to stop the moon's orbit. The moon is moving at about 2000 miles per hour around the earth, so again, the laws of physics have to be suspended for awhile, while the moon comes to a crushing halt. But now we have another problem, the moon is falling in toward earth. God has now stopped the earth spinning, and the moon moving, and now has to hold up the moon for a full day. After the day he has to propel them back into motion (an equally difficult task). For what? A God with this sort of power could instantly vaporize the opponents of Israel at a fraction of the energy expenditure.

In fact, a God with this sort of power could lift the city off the bedrock, turn it upside down, and shake Israels enemies out (then vaporize them). I can think of much more flamboyant impressive things for God to do with all of that power, instead of the rather interpretable "stopping the sun", but we wouldn't want to be too sure of his existence. I guess God reserves the right to choose the most inefficient way to moderately impress someone.

Wait a second, I'm going to be accused of not taking the bible literally. I think we have to stop the sun also. The sun is moving around the center of the galaxy at almost 500,000 miles per hour, and the sun is over 300,000 times the mass of the earth. But wait, our galaxy is also moving through the universe at over a million miles per hour, so God has to stop that too. I give up. All of this so that a few tiny humans could fight for an extra few blinks of a galactic eye?

The Israelites win, of course, God isn't going to do all of that for nothing. Joshua captures the five kings of the opposing army and personally executes them. He then hangs them on trees. God must be missing the "love your enemy" part (in his own book). What did these people do to deserve being completely destroyed?

The rest of chapter 10 talks about Israel moving through cities, slaughtering anyone who stands in their way (or doesn't stand in their way for that matter). It's never explained how these random people so offended God. I think we can safely assume that in cities of thousands of people that there were at least a few newborns. I'm not sure how a newborn baby can deserve to be ruthlessly slaughtered. What could the baby have possibly done?

Chapter 11 continues the slaughter, but this time we have to throw a little animal cruelty into the mix. God commands Joshua to "hamstring" their enemies horses. After a little googling, I found out that hamstringing a horse turns out to mean cutting the tendons in the back of it's legs, making it unable to walk. This would likely cause an agonizing death from dehydration or starvation. All of the humans in the city are "exterminated" (bible's word not mine) by Joshua. On the bright side, at least they weren't mutilated and left to starve (the bright side isn't too bright).

We have God hardening hearts again. This is always the most disturbing part for me, these people wanted to make a treaty with Israel, but God would not allow it. This is apparently because God wanted to have these people "completely exterminated". Then why not do his own dirty work? I can't imagine that all of the Israelites were happily slaughtering babies and maiming animals. So God was presumably causing suffering among the Israelites because of his bigotry. How is killing someone who was completely willing to surrender not murder? How is God not violating his own commandments?

At the end of chapter 11, the land finally has a rest from war (I guess everyone else is dead).

A study finds that Moses was probably high when he saw the "burning bush". This apparently comes from an Israeli researcher. I guess acceptance is the first step to recovery. This researcher apparently has first hand knowledge of the effects of the drug in question (ayahuasca). This caused him to "See music" and he "experienced visions that had spiritual-religious connotations".

An explanation with no supernatural connotations? This can't be right.

You can read the full article here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

71: Walls of Jericho

Joshua 5-8
As happens every few chapters, the Israelites forget to circumcise everyone. God reminds them and Joshua makes flint knives and chops up everyone's penis. I've still don't really understand why they have to do this.

As Joshua heads toward Jericho, he meets a man with a drawn sword. Joshua asks if he is a friend or enemy, the man says that he is sent from God. Joshua is immediately convinced, that was easy. He asks what message God has for him. The angels message is "take off your sandals". That's all, inspiring. It doesn't say anything about the angel after this.

For six days, Joshua is to march around Jericho with his priests carrying trumpets. On the seventh day he is to march around the city seven times playing the trumpets. On the seventh time around everyone shouted and they blew the trumpets, and the walls of Jericho fell. The big question here is why did they have to dance around the city for 7 days for God to make the walls fall down? It obviously wasn't the trumpets that made the walls fall, there had to be some divine help. Why does God need his creations to dance before he will do anything?

They, of course, spare no one in the city. How is killing a defenseless child not murder? The only person in the city they do spare is Rahab the prostitute. I guess she was the lucky one.

An Israelite named Achan decided to keep some of the plunder from Jericho, which is a big no no because God wants them to burn the plunder.

Joshua, not realizing that one of his people had sinned, sends three thousand men to take the city of Ai. God decides not to help them because of Achan, but doesn't let anyone know that before hand. The Israelites are routed by the people of Ai, because they didn't have Gods help.

God finally tells Joshua that someone sinned among them. Joshua starts asking around, saying "give glory to the Lord", "give him praise", and "Tell me what you've done, do not hide it". Finally Achan cracks and tells Joshua what he's done. Ok, now he's going to get rewarded for his honesty right? They can just get rid of all of the stuff he stole and burn it or something. Wrong. I never learn. They take all his possessions and his wife and children. Stone him to death first, then stone his wife and children. Then they burn everything. Nice guys.

Now that God is happy again, Joshua takes all of his forces and invades Ai. Of course, they kill everyone in the city, not sparing women or children. They did save the king though, so they could lynch him outside the city. Again, these are obviously the most good and righteous people in the world.

Joshua renews the covenant again, that's getting old.

The Vatican is talking about aliens. Not the foreign person kind, the extraterrestrial kind. They seem to have decided somehow that this isn't a problem for their religion. But if we do find extraterrestrial life that's a big problem for the earth-centered bible. Especially if these aliens are more intelligent than we are. If we are created in God's image, yet there are more intelligent creatures out there, then God has some problems.

Read the full article here.

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