Saturday, December 5, 2009

91: Jonathan and David Make Out

1 Samuel 18-20
David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together - 1 Samuel 20:41

Yes, that David

Well, apparently pressing ctrl-a highlights your entire blog post. And when you don't realize you've pressed ctrl-a and then press backspace, your entire blog post gets deleted. So this is my second draft of today's post (which took me two hours to write the first time).

David finishes talking to Saul and goes to Saul's son, Jonathan. David says, for the first of many times in this chapter, that he "loves [Jonathan] as himself". What does this mean? The bible doesn't say how David loves himself. It also says that Jonathan makes a covenant with David. What does that mean? What kind of covenant? Jonathan then takes off all of his clothes and gives them to David. What? Why would he do that?

David goes to war several times and is successful. So successful, in fact, that Saul becomes jealous of him. Saul is just going to keep an eye on David, but God sends an evil spirit to Saul and he tries to kill David with a spear. Why is God sending evil spirits to people? Moreover, why does God even have evil spirits under his command? David avoids his spear twice.

Just as a side note. Why is Saul still king? Wasn't David anointed king a few chapters ago? God's only action seems to be sending evil spirits nowadays. No more smiting people for not putting the right king in power.

Saul then becomes afraid of David. Saul is so afraid that he gives David command of an army. Wait, what? Why would you give an army to someone you're afraid of? These sections are making less and less sense as we go on.

Saul then tries to set David up with his daughters. David says no several times because he does not have the money for the bride price. Saul tells him that his bride price is 100 Philistine foreskins. The bible says that Saul is hoping David will die in attempting to cut off the Philistines' foreskins. David, apparently overeager to chop foreskins, goes out and kills 200 Philistines and collects their foreskins. I wonder what he's going to do with the extra 100 foreskins.

Saul tells all of his attendants and his son Jonathan to kill David. Jonathan begs his father not to kill David, and he agrees. Saul says "As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death". This becomes amusing when Saul attempts to have David put to death (again). Does Saul think God exists?

An evil spirit from God comes to Saul again. And again he tries to spear David. This is the exact same story as the beginning of chapter 18. David escapes and goes to his house. That night Saul sends men to kill him but David's wife warns him of the attack (how does she know?).

David flees to Samuel in Ramah. This is where the story gets a little trippy. Saul sends men to Ramah to kill David. Instead of killing David they begin "prophesying". What does that mean? Saul sees that David was not killed and sends more men. They too prophesy. Saul, not learning his lesson, sends more men. Surprise, they prophesy too. Finally, Saul goes to Ramah himself to do his own dirty work. Saul falls victim to prophesying too (he also gets naked but that's beside the point). I'm a little confused as to what's happening here.

David runs to Jonathan and tells him that his father is trying to kill him. Jonathan doesn't believe him because his father promised that he would not try to kill David. They set up a plan to prove to Jonathan that his father wants to kill David.

David is supposed to have dinner with Saul for the "New Moon" festival (I guess the Israelites like the Twilight book series), where Saul is probably going to try to kill David again. Jonathan will go to that festival and say that he sent David away to Bethlehem. If Saul is mad, it will prove that he was going to kill David, if not, he wasn't going to. Of course, when the festival comes around Saul is mad at Jonathan.

Jonathan, now realizing that his father is crazy, sends a signal to David, who is hiding in a field. David comes out and bows to him three times. They then start crying and kissing each other. You may say "these are just greeting kisses". I don't think so. Here is the passage:
David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together
David bows to greet him. Then they kiss and weep. They don't kiss then weep. This implies that they spent an extended period of time weeping and kissing. I know this was a different time, but two men repeatedly professing love for one another, then spending an extended period of time alone kissing each other, implies at least some level of homosexuality.

Ok, hopefully I don't delete the post this time.

I spent awhile today trying to find some news relevant to the bible. I couldn't find anything so I settled for something interesting but unrelated.

Recently, a straight man (Ted Cox) went to a gay-to-straight conversion camp, posing as a gay man.

I don't have too much to say about this other than that this reaffirms how stupid it is to try to convert people to heterosexuality. What if homosexuality was the norm? Could all of you straight people be converted to homosexuality? If you answer no, then why do you think these people can be converted? If you answer yes, then it might be time to examine your sexuality.

The full story is here. It's an interesting read if you have the time.

Friday, December 4, 2009

90: David and Goliath

1 Samuel 15-17
David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine's sword and drew it from the scabbard. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword. - 1 Samuel 17:51

God says (through Samuel) that Saul should go kill some Amalekites. He isn't supposed to take any plunder for himself. Saul isn't a very good listener, so he kills everyone but the king and takes sheep and cows as plunder.

The bible doesn't say why Saul leaves the king alive, but it does say that he is going to sacrifice all the plunder to God. God is going to be happy right? Saul is going above and beyond to try to sacrifice to him. Wrong. God decides that Saul can't be king any more because he didn't kill everyone/everything. Isn't that a little nitpicky? Saul was going to kill them, he was just going to be a nice guy and sacrifice them as burnt offerings. They'd still be dead. Apparently this is unacceptable.

Saul has to beg Samuel to come back and worship with him. Samuel finally does come back, and he calls the Amalekite king in with them. Is the heathen king going to come worship with them? Are they going to try to convert him to Judaism? No. Samuel kills him. God forbid they leave him alive (literally).

Samuel goes to find a new king. God tells him about Jesse of Bethlehem, and his sons. I imagine this character as looking like Jesse from Mr. Deity. Maybe I just watch too much Mr. Deity. Ahem, anyway. Samuel goes to Jesse and checks out all of his sons. The seven oldest ones are not to Samuel's liking, but when he sees David (who is apparently very handsome) he knows he has his man. Samuel anoints David king. By the way, there is no mention of kissing this time. Why does Saul get a kiss and not David?

Our focus shifts back to Saul, who is being tormented by an evil spirit from God (not making this up "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him."). Why does an all loving all good God send evil spirits to people? His servants suggest that he get a harp player to serenade him while he has the evil spirit and he will feel better. They suggest none other than David, who is apparently good at shepherding and harp playing. Saul likes David so much that he becomes one of his armor bearers.

Now, what you've all been waiting for, chapter 17 "David and Goliath".

The Philistines gather to attack the Israelites. Saul sees this and assembles the Israelites to defend Israel. Wait a second, I thought Saul wasn't king anymore. Did we go back in time? There is a giant Philistine (9 feet tall, that's not as giant as I had imagined) named Goliath that would come to the battle lines every day and shout for an Israelite to fight him. Everyone was scared, because one 9 foot tall guy could definitely kill an entire army of Israelites.

David overhears the soldiers talking about the riches that the person who fights Goliath will get, and he suddenly becomes brave (read: greedy). He goes and tells Saul that he will fight Goliath. Saul sort of tries to talk him out of it, but not really. He then loads up David with his own armor and a sword. David says he is not used to having all of that stuff on and takes it all back off. David goes and finds some stones and puts them in his pocket.

David goes out to Goliath and makes a valiant speech about how God is going to deliver the Philistine into his hand. David slings a stone at his head and kills Goliath. What you may not have heard in Sunday School is that David then cuts off Goliath's head and carries it around with him for the rest of the chapter. That's not such a cute kid's story.

At the end of the chapter Saul apparently loses his mind. He turns to one of his assistants and asks who the father of David is. Saul was clearly told this in 1 Samuel 16:18. Saul calls David over, now calling him "young man", did he forget who David was? He asks who his father is and David says "I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem". What? Jesse isn't Saul's servant, David is Saul's servant. What is going on?

It's Christmas time, and as all Atheists know, it's the perfect time to wage war on happiness. It is our solitary goal in life to burn Christmas trees, take down wreaths, sue to take away nativity scenes, and most importantly utter "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".

Or, that's what conservative pundits would have you believe.

This seems to me like a war on anything non-Christmas. In fact, the American Family Association has gone so far as to make a list of companies that their readers should boycott because they don't say "Christmas" in their advertising. Right, because they wouldn't want to be inclusive of their non-Christian shoppers.

If I, and Atheist, say anything about the "holidays" I'm immediately waging war on Christmas. What? Are we denying that there are, in fact, other holidays this time of year? I promise you there are. That's like saying acknowledging the fact that there are other religions means that I hate Christians.

On top of all of this. I celebrate Christmas. *Gasp* I, along with most every other Atheist I know, enjoy celebrating Christmas and all that comes with it. Except, of course, Jesus. We exchange gifts, we see family, we put up Christmas trees, and we have a nice meal. Is Jesus really the most important part?

While I celebrate Christmas, I can realize that there are other people that exist (shocking, I know), that may or may not share my holiday. Therefore, if I don't know someone's religion/holiday preference, I say "Happy Holidays". So Christians, give inclusiveness a try this year, you might make a new friend.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

89: Don't Eat or You Die

1 Samuel 13-14
"You acted foolishly," Samuel said. "You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command." - 1 Samuel 13:13-14

Chapter 13 is incredibly ambiguous. Here is the first sentence:
Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.
The two words in italics have a footnote that says the Hebrew does not say that. So Saul was either thirty years old, or just some number of years old. And he either reigned for 42 years, or just 2 years. There's a bit of a difference.

Saul decides to fight the Philistines again for some unstated reason. He has a son named Jonathan who fights with him. They don't do so well and decide to scatter and hide. Saul somehow sends for Samuel and waits seven days for him to get there. When Samuel doesn't show up after seven days Saul decides to give burnt offerings to God. Just as he is finishing the offering Samuel shows up.

Samuel then says that Saul has not kept God's command and that he won't be king for much longer. I feel like I'm missing something here. What did Saul do? Is he for some reason not permitted to give God burnt offerings?

The Israelites somehow lose their weapons (or they never had them I guess), and can't make new ones. Because they have no weapons they resort to sharpening their farm tools. I'm not sure why the bible makes such a big deal out of this, it doesn't seem to have any significance for the rest of the book.

Jonathan talks his armor carrier into sneaking away with him to stage an attack of their own. He goes to the town on Bozez and kills 20 men single-handedly.

Oh man, this section is confusing. In chapter 14 there is a heading "Israel Routs the Philistines" (1 Samuel 14:15). It says that panic struck the whole army. Are we talking about the Philistine army or the Israelite army? The bible doesn't say.

Saul says to go get the ark of the covenant. The bible then says that the tumult in the Philistine camp increased. This makes me think that the Philistine army is the panicking one, but why would Saul need to get the ark if things were going well? So everyone's army is panicked?

The Israelites get themselves together and rout the now unorganized Philistine army.

At the end of chapter 14 Saul forbids his army from eating until he has taken revenge on his enemies. Jonathan, after his father gives the command, returns to camp from his little adventure with his armor carrier. Having not heard his father's command he eats some honey. Finally, someone decides to tell him his father's order and Jonathan says this:
My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies. Would not the slaughter of the Philistines have been even greater?
They have a battle that night, and the men of the army remember what Jonathan said. They take all the animals that they obtain in the battle and slaughter them on the ground. Eating them with blood and all, oh no! When Saul hears about this he exclaims "Roll a large stone over here at once". Yeah, roll a stone over there! Wait, what? He then tells his men to slaughter their own animals and eat them without blood. So what did the stone have to do with anything? Does he need to roll around a stone when he's stressed?

Saul then asks God if he should go kill some more Philistines that day and God doesn't answer. This obviously mean's someone has sinned in the camp so Saul decides that he is going to find out who it was.

He casts lots and somehow determines that his son Jonathan was the one that sinned. Jonathan confesses that he ate honey and his father tells him that he must die. The Israelites like Jonathan so much that they rescue him from Saul. This is the first sign that Saul may not be king for much longer.

Gay marriage is shot down again in New York. And surprise, surprise, it's about religion.

Ruben Diaz, a New York senator defended his evangelical viewpoint on gay marriage by essentially saying "well all the other religions don't like gays either". Here's part of his speech:
Gay marriage is not only opposed by us evangelicals. All the major religions in the world also oppose it...The Jewish religion opposes it. The Muslim religion opposes it. The Catholic religion opposes it.
Right, it's totally ok to be a bigot now.

Rather than going on and on about this and getting myself pissed off I'll leave you with a video of a New York senator making her case for marriage equality.

(via Baptist Press)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

88: Samuel and Saul Make Out

1 Samuel 9-12
Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul's head and kissed him, saying, "Has not the Lord anointed you leader over his inheritance? - 1 Samuel 10:1

Chapter 9 starts with a Benjamite losing his donkeys. He sends his son Saul and a servant to go find them. Saul is a head taller than any other Israelite in the land. They look far and wide but can't find them. Finally, they decide to consult a prophet to figure out where the donkeys are.

Saul and his servant come to a town and ask to see the prophet. The prophet that is in the town just so happens to be Samuel. The bible says that the day before God had told Samuel about Saul coming to town, and said that Saul would be the new king. Sure he had. It couldn't be that Saul is tall and looks kingly. Samuel invites Saul to dinner and they spend the night talking on the roof of Samuel's house.

The next morning Samuel tells Saul to send his messenger ahead so he can give Saul a message from God. Samuel then whips out a flask of oil and pours it on Saul. Then he kisses him and tells him that he's king. What the hell? Is the bible turning into cheesy gay porn?

Samuel makes Saul king. The people don't like Saul. I'm not sure why, they asked Samuel for a king and he provided one. Quit complaining.

The Ammonites are going to attack the city of Jabesh. They send messengers everywhere asking for help. When Saul gets the message his first reaction is to chop up two oxen, and send the pieces with messengers to everywhere in Israel. The messengers are told to say "This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel". Uh, ok? Nobody said they weren't going to help. I guess Saul just wanted to chop up some oxen.

Saul ends up gathering an army (nobody wants their oxen chopped up) and defeating the Ammonites. Upon seeing Saul in action, the people change their mind and reaffirm Saul as their king.

Samuel sees that he is no longer needed and leaves. In his farewell speech he says that the Israelites were naughty for wanting a king. To show them how naughty they were he asks God to rain on their fields. Is it just me or are Samuel's miracles just not that exciting? He hasn't prophesied or done a single thing that can't be explained away as coincidence.

Samuel says that if they continue their evil ways their king will be taken away from them.

Apparently the bible is actually converting people to Catholicism in China. I'd be curious to find out what passages they are reading that makes them decide to convert.

Reportedly, there are over 300,000 converts in Shanghai alone. Supposedly Shen Cheng was converted to Catholicism (along with many others) by "exploring the scripture". Again, I would really love to know what part they are exploring, it seems pretty terrible to me. The Catholics have even set up bible camps for the young Chinese. I thought we learned our lesson about putting Asians in camps (sorry, horrible joke).

This is a bit of a funny side note, I got this article from a website called the Catholic News Agency. Their spelling ability makes me question the validity of the rest of their article. Here is a screen shot of their title:

That would be Shanghai. I hear they have this newfangled thing called spell check.

(via Catholic News Agency)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

87: God Gets Captured

1 Samuel 4-8
When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate. His neck was broken and he died, for he was an old man and heavy. He had led Israel forty years. - 1 Samuel 4:18

The Israelites start fighting the Philistines again. This time they fail miserably. They are doing so terribly in battle that they decide to bring the ark of the covenant to the front lines so God will help them. When the ark came into the town the Philistines were afraid:
"A god has come into the camp," they said. "We're in trouble! Nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? They are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the desert.
Gods? How many gods to the Philistines think there are? It's interesting that God has become a genie. If you rub the ark does he give you three wishes? God doesn't seem very all powerful when he's stuck in the immediate vicinity of the ark of the covenant.

I guess God was taking a nap in the ark because 30,000 Israelites die in the next battle with the Philistines, and the ark is captured. My opinion of God's power is dwindling. Someone make a gold box so we can catch God. When Eli hears that the ark is captured he falls off the back of his chair, breaking his neck.

The Philistines take the ark to the temple of Dagon, and place it beside Dagon. Several websites say that this is a statue of Dagon, but that's not what the bible says. The next day Dagon is face down beside the ark. His attendants pick him up and put him back in his place. So Dagon is either a statue or really, really lazy. Why so ambiguous bible? The next day Dagon's head and hands are broken off, and he is lying face down on the floor again. A statue falls over and the Philistines immediately attribute it to the ark of the covenant?

Dagon was a Philistine fish-god.


Fun fact: One of H.P. Lovecraft's first stories is titled "Dagon". The main character discovers a human-like species that worships a giant monolith. The main character later wonders if the legends of Dagon could have originated from the species he discovered, hence the name of the story.

After God defeats Dagon (you beat up a statue, congratulations) he starts inflicting tumors on the Philistines. They somehow realize that God is doing this and decide to return the ark to the Israelites. They think they need to give a guilt offering to the Israelites for stealing their God. In their infinite wisdom, they carve their tumors out of gold and put it with the ark. Why would the Israelites want gold carvings of their tumors? Not only that, they carve rats out of gold and send it with the ark also. I think those are officially the worst guilt offerings ever.

In the ensuing years, Samuel takes back the land that the Philistines took from Israel. He then becomes a judge over the Israelites. The people of Israel ask for a king and Samuel asks God about it. God goes on to list all of the nasty things that the king will do if Samuel does appoint a king. The Israelites don't care, they really want a king. God and Samuel finally agree to appoint someone.

Stay tuned to figure out who the new king is, I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat.

Can "turn the other cheek" be taken too far? Mike Huckabee is sure trying. In 2000, Maurice Clemmons sent a letter to Huckabee (who was then Governor of Arkansas) saying:
I'm still ashamed to this day for the shame my stupid involvement in these crimes brought upon my family's name ... I have never done anything good for God, but I've prayed for him to grant me in his compassion the grace to make a start. Now, I'm humbly appealing to you for a brand new start.
Clemmons was granted that pardon. Fast forward to Sunday, Clemmons is suspected (he's the only suspect) of an unprovoked attack on the police, killing four. I wonder if Huckabee would have so readily released an Atheist with a similar message of redemption.

Maybe we should turn the other cheek and forgive Huckabee for this one occasion where he let his religion get the best of the law. Unfortunately this isn't Huckabee's first slip. In 1999 Huckabee was instrumental in setting free a convicted child rapist (Wayne DuMond) who in 2000 and 2001 raped and murdered two women in Missouri.

Maybe it's time that Huckabee kept his religion out of the judicial system.

[I just found out while I was editing this that Maurice Clemmons has been shot and killed by police officers.]

(via Examiner)

Monday, November 30, 2009

86: When God Speaks, He Sounds Like Man

1 Samuel 1-3
Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life. - God, 1 Samuel 2:33

As usual, these sections begin with a woman (this time Hannah) who cannot have children. Hannah makes a deal, that if God gives her a child she will "give him to the Lord for all the days of his life". Great, I'm sure he'll appreciate that. So much for not bargaining with God. I wonder how many children I would have to dedicate to God for him to make me have a child. Now that would be miraculous.

When she finally does have a child (the bible says it didn't immediately happen, maybe God had to think about the deal for awhile) she names him Samuel and gives him to Eli, a priest. Eli has wicked sons. They eat meat offerings before the fat is burned. How dare they! If that's wicked, then what is destroying entire civilizations and killing women and children? Oh, that's God.

Eli goes to his sons and tells them to behave. They won't listen to him. That's not especially surprising, but what is surprising is why the bible says they wont listen to him:
His sons, however, did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the Lord's will to put them to death.
Why is God able to take away people's free will for some things and not others? And why does he only take away people's free will so he can kill them?

Because they won't listen (God won't let them), God says that they will no longer be priests, and he will find someone else to take their place. Hmm, I wonder who that could be? God is punishing them for something he himself has done to them. Great.

Chapter 3 is titled "The Lord Calls Samuel". Though it probably should be titled "Eli Calls Samuel". The chapter starts out by saying that visions of God were rare in those days. They're pretty rare (read: non-existant) these days as well.

God (supposedly) calls Samuel. Instead of Samuel asking who the hell is talking to him, he immediately goes to Eli and asks what he wants. Either Eli sounds exactly like God, or it's Eli talking. This happens two more times, each time Eli denies that he's said anything. Finally, Eli tells him to go into the other room and lie down and God will talk to him some more. Yeah, right. God can't talk in the same room with Eli, and the person talking sounds exactly like Eli? I smell bullshit. "God" tells Samuel that the house of Eli will never be atoned for because of the sins of Eli's sons.

When Samuel comes into the other room Eli makes him repeat his conversation with God lest God deal with Samuel harshly. Why wouldn't God just talk to both of them if he wanted both of them to hear the conversation? Now Eli doesn't even have to pretend he doesn't know what was said in Samuel's conversation with "God".

Samuel becomes widely known as a prophet. I'm eager to see if God speaks to Samuel when Eli isn't around.

Can you imagine a science teacher convicted of murder being allowed out of his cell once a week to tell the other inmates about science? Me neither. But if a convicted murderer wants to get out of his cell once a week to minister, that's perfectly fine.

Howard Thompson Jr. has sued his prison and won the right to continue his "ministry". What if his religion said he couldn't be imprisoned at all? Do we have to respect that religion too? I think, if you murder someone, some of your rights should be taken away. That's how punishment works.

I'm not saying he can't have a bible, and believe in Jesus, or Allah, or Santa. But why should he get special permissions (to preach publicly) that the other prisoners are not afforded?

(via The Baltimore Sun)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

85: Ruth, All of It

Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. - Ruth 3:7

Well, I've read over this book, and I'm not sure what the point is. It seems like this could have been thrown in as a random story somewhere else rather than it having it's own book.

Ruth is the daughter-in-law of an Israelite woman (Naomi) living in Moab. Ruth and Naomi's husbands die and Naomi tells Ruth to go back to live with her parents. Ruth says no and goes with Naomi to Bethlehem.

They go to live with one of Naomi's relatives, Boaz. He is a well-to-do farmer with many servants. He allows Ruth to be one of his servants, and lets her collect enough food to live.

They continually call Boaz their kinsman-redeemer. This must have some significance in the ancient world. Anyway, Naomi essentially tells Ruth to seduce him (Ruth goes into his room at night and sleeps at his naked feet). Boaz says that he will find someone else to buy Naomi's husband's land, and marry Ruth (maybe this is what a kinsman-redeemer is?). The other man he asks says no, so Boaz says that he will take the responsibility and marry Ruth.

There is a small genealogy section and the chapter ends. I'm not sure what the purpose of this book was. God is only mentioned in passing.

We have yet another time where someone is trying to mix their religion and their sports. Just stop. God doesn't care about your sports team.

As many of you have probably seen/heard Tim Tebow puts bible verses on his face during all of his football games (he is the Florida Gators' quarterback). This is the quote he used for the Florida v. Florida State game:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I'll let you analyze that and tell me what the hell that has to do with football.

(via Gather)

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