Saturday, May 8, 2010

245: Know God, No Peace

Ezekiel 13-15
"Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you ... Because they lead my people astray, saying, 'Peace,' when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash" - Ezekiel 13:8-10

Yay (not), another day of repetition.

God starts out talking about false prophets (again). Remember, there is still no clear (I hesitate to say scientific) way of determining who is a false prophet and who is a real prophet. Wouldn't it be nice if, in God's book that supposed to tell us everything about the world, God would have told us how to objectively determine who's a real prophet and who's a false prophet? It seems that one of God's biggest problems with these "false prophets" is that they are preaching peace when there is no peace. You mean, God doesn't want there to be world peace? Everything makes more sense now.

The next chapter is all about idolatry. Because we really need one more chapter in the bible about how bad idolatry is. Everything is just the same old same old (i.e. God is going to kill you if you're an idolater) until the last paragraph. God says, "And if the prophet is enticed to utter a prophecy, I the Lord have enticed that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and destroy him from among my people Israel." So if God entices a prophet to prophecy, then God is going to kill him? I don't get this one at all. If this isn't conspiracy to murder I don't know what is.

God spends the rest of the chapter explaining how inescapable his judgement of Israel is. He says that even if Noah, or Job were in Israel they would only be able to save themselves. God would still kill their children. But really, God kills Job's kids just for the fun of it, so he's not really making much of a point.

The entirety of chapter 15 (all two paragraphs of it) are God explaining how useless Jerusalem is. God compares Jerusalem to a vine, which is apparently the most useless of woods. If only there were some sort of creator that didn't make plants that are completely useless to humans.

The writer of our article today thinks we should listen to God more.
God spoke audibly in the Old Testament era. He spoke to Adam and Eve daily. He spoke to Noah at length about building the ark. He talked to Abraham about offering his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to test his faith in God's promises. He talked to Moses and the prophets over a great length of time.
Do you ever wish that God would do the same today? If he did, would we always understand what he might say to us? And if we understood it, would we always like what we heard? These are moot questions, because God no longer speaks audibly; he has given us his word, the Bible, as his means of communication with us. But we are to "hear" what he says to us through the pages of Scripture.
Yes, I very much wish he would do the same today. I've never quite understood the motivation for this all powerful all loving creator to remain silent while terrible things happen on earth. Would we understand what this creator has to say? I certainly hope so. He's not very all knowing or all wonderful if you can't possibly understand what he has to say.

Speaking of not understanding what God has to say. How can we possibly understand something written in a different language and left to be copied and translated for 2000 years? That has to be the most inefficient form of communication I've ever heard of.

Saying that we can still communicate with God is the equivalent of saying that Shakespeare isn't dead because we can still read his book. Shakespeare never makes appearances, he never speaks to humans personally, and he hasn't written anything new in hundreds of years. Does this mean people can still have an active, personal relationship with Shakespeare? Actually, Shakespeare and God do have a lot in common, they both love killing off their characters.

I agree that communication is possible through books, but books will never beat a personal conversation if you're trying to convey information.

Friday, May 7, 2010

244: Eyes in the Back of Their Heads, and Everywhere Else

Ezekiel 9-12
"Their entire bodies, including their backs, their hands and their wings, were completely full of eyes, as were their four wheels." - Ezekiel 10:12

God, as predicted, decides to kill all of the people that are worshiping false idols. A man with a writing kit (meaning a pen?) is told to go around and mark all the people that grieve the detestable things that are done in Jerusalem. I guess the people are supposed to constantly grieve about their countries woes? The guards of the temple are told by God to go kill anyone that doesn't have a mark, women, children and the elderly are not to be spared.

In chapter 10 Ezekiel has another run in with God. God tells the men in the temple to take coals from the wheels of God's angels (the same wheels we saw in the first chapter). The people of the temple carry off the coals with their bare hands. Ezekiel then describes these angels (he calls them Cherubim, same thing). Again they have four heads, all in the form of different creatures, but this time they have eyes all over their bodies. You'll recall that Ezekiel described the wheels as having eyes all over them in the first chapter (he still does), but didn't mention that the angels also had eyes everywhere. This guy is totally tripping balls. At the end of the chapter the spirit of God leaves the temple.

In the next chapter God starts flying Ezekiel around again. He first takes him to the leaders of Israel and tells him that they are plotting wicked things. God then says that Jerusalem is a cooking pot and the people inside are the meat. That gives a whole new meaning to "melting pot". The rest of the chapter is God again promising that he will eventually bring the people out of exile back to Israel. God says that when he brings the people back, everyone will get rid of all the false idols in the land and start worshiping God. When have the Israelites ever consistently worshiped God? For an all knowing God, he sure doesn't seem to be able to make accurate predictions of what people will do.

In the final chapter of the day, God again has Ezekiel act out one of his metaphors. This time Ezekiel is to act out the exile of Israel by packing his things in front of the people of Israel and walking away. Unfortunately, Ezekiel is not allowed to directly tell them what he's acting out. All he can tell them is that he's acting out something that is very important to Israel. It's like a game of charades where the cost of losing is your life.

I hate to talk about Sarah Palin so much, but she just pisses me off so much every time she opens her mouth. Today is even worse though, we have Sarah Palin and Bill O'Reilly together. That's like crossing the streams.

My favorite quote:
“I think we should keep this clean, keep it simple, go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant ... They’re quite clear that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the 10 commandments, it’s pretty simple.”
Whoa, wait a minute. Our founding documents actually mean that we should base our laws off the ten commandments? Since when? You have to do some major willful misreading to decide that the constitution says that we should use the 10 commandments to make our laws. If you've forgotten what the ten commandments are, let me remind you:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.

2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

6. You shall not murder.

7. You shall not commit adultery.

8. You shall not steal.

9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
I think you could only convince me that there are 3 of those (6, 8, and sometimes 9) that have anything to do with modern law. Is Sarah Palin really saying that we should mandate the worship of the Judeo-Christian God? Is she really implying that we should make it illegal to make "cast idols"?

As much as I want her to run for president (so her opponent wins by default), I don't know if I could make it through a full campaign of having to hear her ridiculous rhetoric.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

243: Don't Cut Your Hair, Except For This One Time

Ezekiel 5-8
"Now, son of man, take a sharp sword and use it as a barber's razor to shave your head and your beard. Then take a set of scales and divide up the hair." - Ezekiel 5:1

Ok, after a day of pure crazy, the bible has gone back to moderately weird and boring.

God starts out with an obligatory metaphor-that-must-be-acted-out. He first tells Ezekiel to cut off his hair. I guess God has turned the corner on the whole chopping off people's hair thing (remember in Leviticus that was a big no-no). God tells Ezekiel to take a third of his hair and "strike it with the sword all around the city". I'm not quite sure what that means, but I bet it's going to be something like Ezekiel running around the city looking like an idiot throwing his hair around. The second third of hair is to be thrown to the wind. The final third Ezekiel is to burn in a fire. Finally, Ezekiel is supposed to save a few strands of hair in the folds of his clothes.

What does this metaphor mean? Well, Ezekiel's hair is a metaphor for Israel (as usual). God is going to chop up one third of Israel, throw one third to the wind, and another third will die of famine (not fire apparently). I know I'm asking this question for about the fifth time, but why exactly does God insist on having his prophets act out his metaphors? Is he actively trying to make them look crazy in the eyes of everyone around them? Or it could just be that these prophets actually are crazy.

All of chapter 6 is just God repeating how he's going to kill the Israelites. This book is turning out suspiciously like the book of Jeremiah. Hopefully it won't be as long and boring as Jeremiah (yes, I know I say this for every book). God again repeats that he will destroy all but a few of the Israelites. Yes, we get it.

Chapter 7 is yet again rephrasing how God is going to kill the Israelites. He tells them (through Ezekiel) that the end has come. God says he will not have any pity on them or spare them from his wrath. I'll spare you most of the blatant repetitiveness of this chapter.

In chapter 8 God again appears to Ezekiel (i.e. the weird half metal, half fire God). God flies Ezekiel to Jerusalem and tells him to look upon the idols the Israelites have created. God then flies him to a courtyard were there is a hole in the wall. Ezekiel is instructed to dig into this hole. When he does he finds a passageway. Along this passageway someone has taken the time to record all the sins of Israel. All of the detestable animals they've eaten and all of their idols are recorded there. God then takes Ezekiel to see a group of 25 men worshiping the sun. God says he's going to punish these worshipers, but that's where the chapter ends. [to be continued...]

Fundie letters to the editor never cease to entertain me.
I’m enraged that American Christians are allowing the name of God to be taken out of every public institution, and we Americans are not even allowed to speak the name of Jesus, in fear that it might offend some ones religion in this country. What about our feelings, and beliefs as American Christians? Everything we believe in is being threatened or taken away from us, and given in to false gods and religions. There is no other god than the one who created heaven and earth.
When did this happen? Last time I checked I, you, and everyone could say Jesus whenever they wanted. Your concern for other people's feelings is admirable, but you're the only one preventing you from saying the word "Jesus". I challenge you to produce one solid thing that's being/been taken away from you as a Christian, I can't think of anything. Churches are still operating on Sunday, and freedom of religion is still in place.
Why has this country suffered so much in the last few years? God is taken out of the schools, and court houses, and not allowed to mention his name, or even pray publicly to our creator. Then America asks the question, what went wrong in America. We went wrong, we put our Jehovah God outside our lives, and said no thank you God, and shut the door.
So God is somehow punishing us for not praying enough? If only we had more God in schools and courthouses we'd be just fine? Not that we're too bad off right now in relation to a lot of the parts of the world. The masses aren't starving, for the most part people have homes (or at least places to sleep). And again, since when are people not allowed to mention God or pray publicly? I see people wearing Jesus paraphernalia all the time.
Remember when America was the greatest nation on earth, when God was our supreme deity? God stands at our hearts door and knocks, to anyone who would open and invite him into their life. Why can’t America see the light, and when everything started to go down hill in this country?
I don't personally remember those days, but I've heard stories. Stories of racial minorities being segregated, stories of child abuse in churches, and stories of gay/lesbian/transgendered people being killed for being who they are. I don't think I want to go back.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

242: The Bible, Officially Insane

Ezekiel 1-4
"Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle." - Ezekiel 1:10

This is one of those "what the fuck" days. If you didn't think at least some of the writers of the bible were high or mentally ill, you will after today.

Ezekiel is sitting by the river when he sees a windstorm coming from the north. As the storm comes closer he sees four creatures. As they come even closer, Ezekiel sees that these creatures have four wings and four heads each. Their bodies are human but their legs are calf legs made of bronze. They have one head that's human, one of an ox, one of a lion, and one of an eagle.

That's not all. Beside these creatures are wheels. They are built as if a wheel is intersecting a wheel (making them spherical). These wheels follow the creatures everywhere they go. If that's not weird enough, Ezekiel says that the wheels are full of eyes. Someone please try to convince me that this isn't completely insane.

Finally, Ezekiel sees God. Ezekiel says that God looks as if he is half made of metal (his upper half) and half made of fire (his lower half), and that God has the figure of a man.

Artist's representation of what I've just described

Ezekiel falls face down (or more likely just falls because he's so high). God tells him to stand back up, and he does. God tells him that he's going to send him to the Israelites because they are stubborn. Then God says something strange, "But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you." Ok, a little creepy. Is this some kind of metaphor? (The answer is no.)

God gives Ezekiel a scroll. Ezekiel says that on the scroll are written words of lament and mourning. Then God tells Ezekiel to eat the scroll. Yes, go back and read that sentence a few more times and let that soak in. Ezekiel, being a good servant (and also totally high) eats the scroll. How big was this scroll? Eating even a little paper is not an easy task, eating an entire roll of parchment must not have been fun. God then lifts up Ezekiel and takes him to the exiles at Tel Abib. God spends the rest of the chapter telling Ezekiel that he should warn the Israelites when God says they are going to be killed.

The strangeness isn't toned down for the final chapter of the day. God tells Ezekiel to get a clay tablet and carve the city of Jerusalem on it. Then God tells him to lay siege to it (yes, lay siege to the inanimate clay tablet). He tells Ezekiel to set up siege works, battering rams, and camps against it. I have an interesting image in my head of a guy attacking a clay tablet. Are we all in agreement that this man is high or mentally ill yet? Wait we're not done yet.

God then tells Ezekiel to lay on his left side and "put the sin of the house of Israel" on himself. God tells him to lay his side for 390 days. Yes, Ezekiel is to stay laying on his side for over a year, I'm not sure what this is going to accomplish. After he's done, God tells him to lay on his right side for another 40 days to take on Judah's sins too.

God tells Ezekiel to put various ingredients in a jar, and use them to make bread during his 390 days of laying on his side. God says to weigh out 20 shekels of food to eat per day. Ezekiel is to use human feces to bake his bread. This is supposed to symbolize Israel eating impure things. When Ezekiel hears this he objects, saying that he has never eaten any unclean animals. God relents, and tells Ezekiel that he can use cow feces to cook his food. Ezekiel seems satisfied with this.

Moral of the story: Just say no to drugs.

Michael Pinto doesn't want us to pick and choose what parts of the bible we follow.
The Bible is not like a box of chocolates that you can pick through and choose pieces when addressing sexual orientation issues.
Ok, so it's only a box of chocolates when it comes to working on the sabbath, what foods to eat, when to trim your beard, whether or not to shave your head, killing people for adultery, killing people for witchcraft, and whether or not to kill people for the "sexual orientation issues"? It's ok to pick and choose what tenants of the bible to follow, unless it has something to do with those nasty gays.
The difficulty I find with most reconciling churches is that while they emphasize efforts toward justice they minimize the sinful aspects of homosexual actions and relationships. As Rev. Knapp points out, there are no passages in scripture that condone homosexual activities regardless of the context. Battling in favor of gay marriages does not make such relationships and activities any less sinful if you use the Bible as a basis for your determination of what is holy and what is evil.
Again, no matter how much you try to reconcile shaving your beard every morning, it doesn't make it any less sinful. Also, the churches that tell people it's ok to be a worker on Sunday need to clean up their act.
If reconciling churches really wanted to reconcile people with gender orientation problems they would offer programs such as those provided by Exodus International to help individuals overcome their same-gender attractions and desires.
Right, because that always works.
We are called to love all people because they are created in God’s image. But we are also called to battle evil because the fall of Adam and Eve has left each one of us with a sinful nature. That is the message of Scripture. As such, the Bible is not like a box of chocolates where we pick and choose particular verses that support our views. Instead, it is to be read and learned in totality so that it guides our lives today — even if what it asks is difficult — and fills us with hope for tomorrow when all struggles (including those with gender issues) will be resolved in God’s loving presence.
I'm sure letting someone know that they are immoral for loving someone will fill them with such hope for the future. Michael tells us to not treat the bible like a box of chocolates, but he may be the biggest offender. The bible mentions homosexuality on only a few scant verses, while working on the sabbath is condemned constantly. You can't just pick and choose what parts of the bible to follow, Michael. In the end though, I agree, you shouldn't treat the bible like a box of chocolates. Throw the whole thing out, not just a few select verses.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

241: Cruel and Unusual Punishment & Lamentations: In Review

Lamentations 3:37-5:22
"Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long?" - Lamentations 5:20

The remainder of chapter 3 from yesterday is the writer saying how God has destroyed everything. However, towards the end of the chapter the writer goes back to saying how wonderful God is because he eventually came to his rescue. I don't get it. How is God still good if he destroys an entire nation, but saves one person?

Chapter 4 is more explaining how God has destroyed everything. And you can't have a good God killing people section without women eating their babies:
With their own hands compassionate women
have cooked their own children,
who became their food
when my people were destroyed.
It's still unfathomable to me how an all loving God can force people to eat their own children. Is there no such thing as cruel and unusual punishment? I don't care how many sabbath days you've broken, or how many people you've had sex with, nothing warrants this kind of punishment.

The entirety of chapter 5 is the writer lamenting the fact that they have to scavenge food from Egypt. Everyone has to toil in the hot sun for food and water, and slaves rule over the Israelites. Hey, at least you're not eating each other anymore.

Lamentations: In Review
There's not too much to review here. This book seems to be a condensed version of all the other complaints the Israelites have had throughout the bible.

All of these complaints bring up the same issue over and over. Do the Israelites deserve the punishment they've received? My answer is no, and I'm sure I'll never convince anyone that says yes. I feel like you could almost make an argument out of this if God were just painlessly killing these Israelites, but that's certainly not what's happening. I just can't picture an all loving God prolonging someone's torture and forcing them to do terrible things to stay alive, even if they did deserve punishment.

I found something thoroughly terrifying on the internet today, Yes, that Sarah.

The creator of the website wrote an article for The Sun:
Christian evangelical women in Louisville, Kentucky on April 16, guess which book she mentioned as the one she reads to her daughter at bedtime?

Try the biblical Book of Esther.

That’s right — Sarah Palin, mocked and pilloried by Jewish liberals as a danger to world Jewry because of her Christian beliefs, reads to her 8 year-old from a book that most Jews should probably spend a little more time with.
The book of Esther? You mean the only book so far that doesn't mention God once? Yes, that's probably the only book that's appropriate to read to an eight year old from the Old Testament. Anywhere God is mentioned he's slaughtering thousands, that doesn't make for a very good kid's story.

The writer goes on to quote Palin:
And then, you know, hearing any leader declare that America isn’t a Christian nation, and poking an ally like Israel in the eye, it’s mind-boggling to see some of our nation’s actions [in] recent days, but politics is truly a topic for another day.
But America isn't a Christian nation. Even if you can convince me that the nation was founded on Christian values by Christians, that doesn't mean we're currently a Christian nation. As soon as 100% of the people in the country are Christians you'll be able to convince me that America is a Christian nation.

Also, why should Israel get some kind of special treatment? Your bible tells you? I don't know about any of you, but I don't want a leader that bases his/her foreign policy off of this book. We might end up trying to invade what used to be Babylon or something. Oh right, that's Iraq.

(via The Sun: New York)

Monday, May 3, 2010

240: Lamentations, May Contain Lamenting

Lamentations 1-3:36
"Zion stretches out her hands, but there is no one to comfort her. The LORD has decreed for Jacob that his neighbors become his foes; Jerusalem has become an unclean thing among them." - Lamentations 1:17

I think the majority of the books in the bible could just be called "Lamentations". This book isn't packed with particularly new or revolutionary complaints (lamentations). The one defining feature of this book is that everything seems to be personified. Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel as a whole all seem to be personified all the time.

The chapter starts with Judah crying about how she has no more friends. All the roads to Zion are also mourning (because nobody is walking on them anymore?). Jerusalem has a filthy skirt and is crying out to God. Zion is stretching out her hands but nobody will comfort her. Did I mention that everything is personified in this book? Overall nothing interesting happens in this chapter. The bible just tells us again how Babylon destroyed everyone.

Chapter 2 continues this wordy recounting of how the Babylonians destroyed the cities of Israel. It is interesting that God interchanges himself destroying Israel and the Babylonians destroying Israel. For example:
The Lord is like an enemy;
he has swallowed up Israel.
He has swallowed up all her palaces
and destroyed her strongholds.
He has multiplied mourning and lamentation
for the Daughter of Judah.
Nowhere (recently) have I seen a story of God personally coming down to destroy Israel. It was the Babylonians doing the destroying, so why is God taking credit for it? And if God is taking credit for it, why are the Babylonians being punished for this destruction?

Whoever wrote this book (it's generally attributed to Jeremiah) has some harsh words for God at the end of the chapter:
Look, O LORD, and consider:
Whom have you ever treated like this?
Should women eat their offspring,
the children they have cared for?
Should priest and prophet be killed
in the sanctuary of the Lord?
Yes, God is still making people eat babies.

Chapter 3 seems to be a story about God beating the crap out of whoever the writer is. First the man (again, probably Jeremiah) is made to walk in the dark. Then God makes his skin old, and walls him in (imprisons him?). He's then weighed down with chains, mangled, shot multiple times with arrows, shot in the heart, has his teeth broken with gravel, and is trampled on the ground. Then God has the people of Israel laugh at him. What does the (probably dead) man have to say about all of this?:
Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
God's love?! What love? I don't know if there is a more clear message that someone doesn't love you. If someone locks you up, shoots you, and breaks your teeth, I think you can safely assume they're not very fond of you. If by "consumed" the writer means killed in the above quote, I think I'd rather be dead then have all of those terrible things happen to me. At some point God's "mercy" (i.e. beating the crap out of you) becomes worse than his "ultimate punishment" of death.

Dale Mcalpine was arrested in the UK for "a public order offense, causing 'harassment, alarm or distress' after disparaging homosexuals". This was in the context of citing biblical passages. Needless to say, Christians in the US are freaking out.

This is the wording of the law he broke:
(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:

(a) uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
(b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.
Well, this looks like a pretty open and shut case. The language was insulting, and according to the police report, could be heard by many. Do I agree with the law? No. But that doesn't mean he didn't break it.

However, I do support hate crime laws in the United States (as I understand them). Some people feel that this would violate their right to quote scripture. Maybe a new law would, but maybe a new law should. Here is an example of something I think should be protected by freedom of speech:
The bible says gays are terrible, and I completely agree. I think they're gross and I don't want to be around them.
By the way, I don't agree with any of that, I'm just using it as an example. Something that I don't think should be protected speech is this:
Leviticus says that we should kill all the gay people. I completely agree! Meet at five o' clock Monday and we'll go kill the gays.
The line is crossed when you start making threats against the people you are hating. So in that respect I disagree with the UK law, I don't think simply insulting someone should be grounds for arrest.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

239: Obey God, You Die; Don't Obey God, You Die & Jeremiah: In Review

Jeremiah 51-52
"This is what the LORD says: 'See, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon and the people of Leb Kamai. I will send foreigners to Babylon to winnow her and to devastate her land; they will oppose her on every side in the day of her disaster.' " - Jeremiah 51:1-2

So it turns out that yesterday's rant about Babylon wasn't the end of it. God's monologue about how horrible Babylon is actually continued into today.

I still don't get it. God spends the entirety of chapter 51 (and 50 for that matter) repeating how terrible the Babylonians are. For what? Following God's orders? God clearly says that he is going to send the Babylonians to take over Jerusalem. In fact, he says that he's going to give Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar (the king of Babylon) personally. The first example I find of this is Jeremiah 27:6:
Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him.
This is only one example, but like anything God says he has to repeat it a hundred different times. This is certainly not a unique example of God referring to Nebuchadnezzar as his servant, or of God clearly stating that he's going to give the Israelites over to Nebuchadnezzar. What does Babylon get for being a servant of God, and following his orders to take over the city and destroy Jerusalem?:
"Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has devoured us,
he has thrown us into confusion,
he has made us an empty jar.
Like a serpent he has swallowed us
and filled his stomach with our delicacies,
and then has spewed us out.
May the violence done to our flesh be upon Babylon,"
say the inhabitants of Zion.
"May our blood be on those who live in Babylonia,"
says Jerusalem.
Therefore, this is what the LORD says:
"See, I will defend your cause
and avenge you;
I will dry up her sea
and make her springs dry.
Babylon will be a heap of ruins,
a haunt of jackals,
an object of horror and scorn,
a place where no one lives."
To summarize this quote: God is going to avenge the Israelites for what those nasty Babylonians did. Excuse me? God is going to "avenge" the Israelites? If he wants to properly avenge them he should go kill himself, considering he's the mastermind behind the whole "destroy Jerusalem" idea. I guess you can't ever win when it comes to obeying God. I would say more, but the chapter is really just repeating the same concept (i.e. the punishment of Babylon) over and over again. At the end of chapter 51 the bible says "the words of Jeremiah end here".

I guess this last chapter isn't written by Jeremiah. Did it just get thrown in the book of Jeremiah for funsies? The chapter isn't very exciting anyway. It just repeats the story of king Zedekiah being captured, having his eyes poked out, and being carried off to Babylon. The one interesting fact (I use the term "fact" loosely) from this chapter is that there were a total of 4,600 Jews that king Nebuchadnezzar took into captivity. I'm not sure if this was the entirety of the Jewish population or not.

Jeremiah: In Review
I guess I'm not quite sure what the purpose of this book was at all. There were some stories, but none of them were really new. We had already heard the story of Israel being captured by Babylon, I could have really gone without hearing it all over again. From a literary perspective, this makes the book incredibly boring. I've read no other book that repeats this much of its storyline.

In general, I find the relationship between God and Jeremiah a little strange. Really it seems more like Jeremiah is insane rather than he's talking to God. Certainly all of the kings that he talked to in his time thought he was nuts. Otherwise I think they would have paid a little more attention. Jeremiah's insanity really becomes apparent near the end of the chapter, when he decides that "God" is going to punish Babylon for something that Jeremiah said God told them to do. So either Jeremiah is insane, or God is insane.

The university of Kansas held an interesting event named "Ask a Christian a Question" this past week. I really think this is an interesting way to open up a dialog. Anyway, in the name of continuing the dialog, I feel I need to respond to some of their answers.

One of the first questions was this:
I grew up taking the Bible fairly literally. How do we know the Bible hasn’t been altered, as far as the text, through thousands of years? How do we know besides taking it on a basis of faith?
And the answer:
Any human being has to live with the concept of faith, meaning trust. We all live this way. Because we are limited beings, we have to live this way. God has given us overwhelming amounts of evidence to put our faith in. Our society thinks these are two different realms. That’s actually a philosophical idea that I don’t believe is real.
So the answer is we do have to take it on faith? I think the very basis of his answer is incorrect. Faith doesn't automatically mean trust. Trust is a belief based on solid factual evidence. Faith is belief without evidence. It's interesting how the answerer (like most Christians) says that there are mounds of evidence for God, but then they neglect to even mention one of these pieces of evidence.

Another question:
I’ve always taken the Bible more as a guide. Is there any contradiction in the Bible as you see it? What should the Bible be taken as, for example, things like Noah’s Ark or Adam and Eve? Should we take them as a guide, or were there really two of every animal entering into a boat?
And the answer:
Answerer #1: We believe that the Bible is unified in the sense of the essence of what it communicates. It was inspired that God worked through humanity to write exactly what he wanted to write.

Answerer #2: There are clearly things in Scripture that are symbolism. There are other things, as you mentioned Adam, Eve and Noah, that appear to be historic accounts. What’s historic, we take as historic, and in other places we don’t. Compared to other religious writings in the world, these are really kind of mundane. They’re not really bizarre or out there in the sense you find in other writing. There really is a difference.
So all of those seemingly contradictory statements were placed there by God? For what reason? As for the second answerer, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Compared to what other religions does Christianity seem reasonable? Talking snakes, talking donkeys, the sun stopping, a human being born of a virgin, all of the species in the world fitting on a wooden boat, a human being formed from another person's rib. Those are just the unreasonable things I can think of in 30 seconds. I could probably list hundreds of things in the bible that seem completely crazy. Most of these stories are far from "mundane".

I do find it amusing that the new litmus test for deciding whether your religion is crazy is to compare it to other crazy religions. How about you start comparing your religion to reality and decide if your ideas are crazy from there.


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