Saturday, May 29, 2010

266: Cruel and Unusual & Amos: In Review

Amos 6-9
"Now then, hear the word of the LORD. You say, ' 'Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the house of Isaac.' Therefore this is what the LORD says: ' 'Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will certainly go into exile, away from their native land.' ' " - Amos 7:16-17

Chapter 6 looks like yet another chapter about God's complaints against the Israelites. But toward the end it gets a little strange/incomprehensible. Here's the quote I'm confused about:
If ten men are left in one house, they too will die. And if a relative who is to burn the bodies comes to carry them out of the house and asks anyone still hiding there, "Is anyone with you?" and he says, "No," then he will say, "Hush! We must not mention the name of the LORD."
So this relative goes into a house filled with dead bodies and asks if anyone is with them? Who answers "no" if everyone's dead? As if to further my confusion, he tells the mysterious person to hush and not mention the name of the lord. What? Who mentioned the name of God? Unless God changed his name to "no".

Chapter 7 is yet another chapter about the punishment of Israel, how original. There is, however, a sliver of story today. Amaziah, a priest, sends word to the king that Amos is prophesying against Israel. Amaziah then goes on to tell Amos to get out of town. God responds by saying that since Amaziah told Amos to leave, that God is going to make his wife a prostitute, kill his sons and daughters, and give his land to the pagans. Couldn't Amos have just said, "no, I won't leave"? I'm not even sure why punishment is necessary. The only thing worse than cruel and unusual punishment is cruel and unnecessary punishment.

In chapter 8, God has a metaphor for Amos. God shows him a basket of fruit and asks him what he sees. Amos says, "A basket of fruit" (Amos would have gotten a gold star in kindergarten). God says that, like the basket of fruit, Israel is ripe for the picking (aka destruction). It's nice how God treats Israel like an out of control plant. Every once and awhile they get out of hand so God has to hack them back. It's time God started showing some humanity.

Chapter 9 is about the destruction and restoration of Israel. I can only presume that this is the same destruction and restoration that God talks about in every Old Testament chapter. This is considering that he promises not to destroy Israel ever again at the end of every chapter. Of course, I'm giving the bible the benefit of the doubt. God could be destroying, restoring, and promising never to destroy again every couple of generations.

Amos: In Review
Again I wonder why this book was included in the bible. It's exactly the same as every other Old Testament book. Without the two paragraphs of story about Amos, I suspect that it would be indistinguishable from the rest of the books of the Old Testament (to all but the most avid biblical scholar).

Yet another Old Testament book that leaves me underwhelmed and unsatisfied.

Is "Theistic Evolution" (i.e. God using evolution to create all species) a valid "compromise" between creationism and evolution? If there's one thing fundies and I agree on, it's that the answer to this question is "no".

First the religious argument:
Here are seven reasons why I don't hold to Theistic Evolution.

1. Theistic Evolution says the earth was created millions of years before man was created. The Bible says God created Adam and Eve "In the beginning" (Matthew 19:4).

2. Theistic Evolution says that the word "day" in Genesis 1 is symbolic and doesn't have to mean a literal 24-hour day. The Hebrew word for day can mean a period of light in a day-night cycle, however, a number attached to the word such as in Genesis 1 ( i.e. "first day," "second day," etc.), occurs 359 times in the Old Testament outside of Genesis 1, always meaning a 24-hour period.

3. Theistic Evolution holds to a different order of creation than the Bible. For instance, Theistic Evolution says the sun and stars existed before earth; the Bible says earth was created first.

4. Theistic Evolution teaches that there was death, decay and suffering before man walked the earth. The Bible teaches that the world was perfect in every way before Adam and Eve sinned.
These all seem to be pretty valid reasons that Theistic Evolution doesn't jive biblically. If the writer had stopped at 4 we'd have been in perfect agreement. Unfortunately, he went on:
5. Theistic Evolution relies on faith just as much as Young Earth Creation. With "Operational Science," facts can be observed, measured and repeated, and agreement had by evolutionists and creationists alike. No faith needed. However, "Origins Science" is looking at present data but making conclusions about the past that can't be observed, measured nor repeated.
First of all, no it doesn't. Evolution can be repeated in species with high mutation rates (bacteria and other single celled organisms). Setting aside the whole "faith" point being invalid, isn't relying on faith supposed to be a good thing in fundie land? Shouldn't this be an argument for theistic evolution? If you're allowed to have faith in something and pretend that makes it true, then why can't I?
6. Theistic Evolution claims all the evidence supports their views. However, the evidence usually referred to is that found in public education and the public media. Evidence that scientifically contradicts evolution may not make it into these resources, because it doesn't pass the litmus test.
Scientific knowledge, by definition, is available to the public. That's the whole idea behind "peer review". Saying that the only evidence quoted is the evidence in public media isn't an argument against science. What "litmus test" is he talking about? The peer review process? Or the "is this based in reality" litmus test?
7. Many "facts" from one era become disputed or disproven facts in later eras. Examples include:

• The belief that mudstone deposits couldn't have happened as quickly as creationists believe by the flood was shown to be untrue in a science magazine article from 2007.

• The belief taught in textbooks for years that grasses evolved 10 million years after the extinction of dinosaurs has been disproved by the finding of five different grasses in fossilized dinosaur droppings.
I've never heard these two hypotheses cited as key components of the theory of evolution. What are you trying to prove by citing two cases in which scientific hypothesis were revised? I guess if hypothesis change over time based on new evidence (a basic precept of the scientific method) then all of science is wrong and we should just take everything on faith. That is, if some new evidence comes along that changes our ideas about things, we should promptly throw out all evidence because we already know everything. Yes, that makes perfect sense.

I generally think that "Theistic Evolution" is a desperate attempt for the believer to hold on to his/her faith, while at the same time accepting the mountains of evidence for evolution. However, don't let me tell you not to believe it. Believe whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, as long as you don't try to force it on me or the public education system.

Friday, May 28, 2010

265: For Three Sins, Even For Four

Amos 1-5
"For three sins of Damascus, even for four..." - Amos 1:3; "For three sins of Gaza, even for four..." - Amos 1:6; "For three sins of Tyre, even for four..." - Amos 1:9; "For three sins of Edom, even for four..." - Amos 1:11; "For three sins of Ammon, even for four..." - Amos 1:13;

Just in case anyone thought the bible wasn't repetitive, Amos decides to make it blatantly obvious. For the first two chapters (yes, I omitted some of them in the quote[s] of the day), Amos lists the sins of more nations than anyone cared to hear about, and their subsequent punishments. As a side note, shouldn't it read "For four sins, even for three"? If God says you're going to be punished for three sins, it goes without saying that you'll be punished for four.

I have nothing to say about these chapters that I haven't said before. Largely because everything in these first two chapters has been said before. Unfortunately, the next few chapters aren't any better.

God starts out chapter 3 by saying that since the Israelites are the chosen people that they'll be judged for all their sins. I see no advantage to being God's chosen people, especially since there has been no mention of heaven yet. The rest of the chapter is filled with metaphors about roaring lions being like God, I'm sure C.S. Lewis loved that one.

The entirety of chapter 4 is God listing all of the punishment he's given to Israel, and how they have still not returned to him. Are you sensing a theme here, God? I think punishing the Israelites over and over again, then sending seemingly insane people as your messengers isn't working. How about personally visiting each Israelite and asking them each to follow your rules? How hard would that be after the whole, creating the world, thing?

Chapter 5 is the, seemingly mandatory for the Old Testament, call for the Israelites to return to God. But I'm sure they won't, as usual. And God will have to go do the exact same thing he always does. Punish.

Why do earthquakes happen? Some pastors have unique opinions.
"God is not controlling things as we think," New Day Christian Church pastor George Logan said. In his opinion, the "terra firma" we live upon is leased to us as human beings.
"God can only intervene at our request," Logan continued. "That's why prayer is so important."
Wait, God can only do things if someone asks? Have we reduced God to some sort of genie? And see I thought all this time that God was all powerful. I stand corrected.
Logan agreed that the Bible speaks of disasters as we draw closer to the end of time. Is God trying to get our attention?
Logan said, "God's primary way to get the attention is the proclamation of the gospel from the standpoint of what He has to say." If a disaster moves us to turn our attention to God and His word, so be it, he added.
Right, nothing like God mercilessly slaughtering people to get people to turn to God.
Whether God allows disasters and tragedies, Silver Creek Seventh-day Adventist church pastor Barry Mahorney said, "God is sovereign and he could in fact stop these events." He doesn't believe they are a type of punishment though.
If it's not punishment what is it? What kind of monster has the ability to stop suffering but chooses not to for absolutely no reason? Of course, God works in mysterious ways, but if it looks like a monster and it kills people like a monster...
"They (disasters) do help us to realize we are living in the end of time," Mahorney said.
He believes these events spark a call to service.
"It awakens the Christian community; we realize we are here to be servants and help," he said.
Logan said he has seen an outpouring of Christian love and support through tragedy.
And disasters have been helping people realize they're living in the end time for 2000 years or so. The fallacy of all this is that, if there were no disasters, Christians wouldn't have to be helpful. Is God killing people just so Christians can show how nice they are?
"The most tragic I remember was a family who awakened to a fire," he said. "They all got out, but the husband went back into the house and didn't make it out."
"I tell people in situations like this, or during a suicide, I don't have the answers, but I know a God who does and our comforter is the Holy Spirit who comes alongside and is here to support us," Mahorney said.
So God had the power to stop this husband and father from being killed, but chose not to so all those wonderful Christians could show how great they are to a family in grief. What an awesome message of love, pastor Mahorney. If this is what God does, I'd kindly ask him to leave us alone.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

264: Joel

Joel 1-3
" 'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.' " - Joel 2:12

We have yet another book about God punishing Israel. Again, God is "gracious" enough to offer them a surcease of punishment, if only they would ask.

Chapter 1 is all about locusts. Joel tells the people of Israel to wail and cry about all the locusts. At this point, not even the writers of the annotations on my teen study bible can deny that the repetition is getting annoying. This is their annotation for this section:
Have you ever gotten to a class and been totally surprised that you were having a test that day? Somehow you didn't hear any announcement - five of them, the teacher says! - about a test. When you read the Old Testament prophets you can get sort of tired of hearing the same warnings again and again. If you wonder why there's so much repetition, the answer is simple. These people listened to God's prophets about as carefully as some teens listen to their teachers! Not listening to teachers can mean a bad grade. But Joel 1:5-11 is a reminder that not listening to God means weeping, wailing, mourning, grief, and despair.
Sort of tired of repetition? Well obviously God repeating himself isn't working. So stop! My favorite Albert Einstein quote is constantly relevant when it comes to the bible, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Maybe nobody is claiming that God is sane, he's definitely not acting like it.

In chapter 2 God continues on his long rant about how the Israelites should be sad about the locusts. I think they're sad, God. They are probably starving to death after all. He ends with the usual offer to accept him and stop the punishment. I can only conclude that God isn't getting his message out very well. If someone were killing me and they offered to stop, I can't imagine why I wouldn't accept.

In chapter 3 God tells Israel that they will eventually never again be invaded or destroyed. I guess this is one of those prophecies that just hasn't come true yet.

Yet another completely pointless book of the Old Testament.

What's worse than molesting little boys? Saving lives, according to the Catholic church.

Sister Margret was excommunicated for advising one of the patients, at a hospital where she is the senior administrator, to get an abortion. This woman suffered pulmonary hypertension which can precede up to a 50% maternal mortality rate. What does she get for this life saving advice? Not just suspended like many pedophile priests, she was excommunicated. Meaning she can no longer take the sacrament. I couldn't care less about the sacrament, but I'm sure this was fairly earth shattering for a nun.

I just don't understand how working to save someone's life can possibly be worse than molesting children.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

263: Same Shit, Different Day & Hosea: In Review

Hosea 8-14
"Do not rejoice, O Israel; do not be jubilant like the other nations. For you have been unfaithful to your God; you love the wages of a prostitute at every threshing floor." - Hosea 9:1

All seven chapters today are just a continuation of the last chapters from yesterday. In other words, it's just God repeating how the Israelites are bad and how he's going to continually punish/forgive them.

Chapter 8 is about how bad the Israelites have been, and how their idols will be broken to pieces.
Chapter 9 is all about how Israel is going to be punished for all the bad things she's done. This includes: miscarrying babies, being infertile, having no breast milk, having God no longer love the Israelites (so much for all loving), and killing their children if they somehow give birth to them. Chapter 10 is a continuation of the punishments in chapter 9. This time God doesn't even give us specifics, he just says that he is going to utterly destroy Israel. The chapter still manages to go on for a page and a half.

In chapter 11, God remembers that he's supposed to be all loving.
How can I give you up, Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, Israel?
How can I treat you like Admah?
How can I make you like Zeboiim?
My heart is changed within me;
all my compassion is aroused.

I will not carry out my fierce anger,
nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim.
For I am God, and not man—
the Holy One among you.
I will not come in wrath.
I thought God wasn't supposed to have a change of heart. All the Christians I talk to seem to reject the idea that God can "change his mind". Well, sorry, it's right here, "My heart is changed within me". More importantly, what does this mean? Is God going to destroy Israel or not (*spoiler alert* he does in the next two chapters)?

The next couple of chapters are a slow progression into God forgetting that he just said he wasn't going to destroy Israel. Chapter 12 is pretty mild, God starts out listing all the sins that he hates about Israel. He should really stop talking, he's going to get himself worked up. He says near the end of chapter 12 that he's going to make the Israelites live in tents again. Well that's not so bad.

By the time we get to chapter 13, God's completely forgotten his compassion. God says he's going to come upon Israel like a lion and rip them open. God says Israel is destroyed because they are against him. In fact, he goes so far as to say this:
I will have no compassion,
even though he thrives among his brothers.
An east wind from the LORD will come,
blowing in from the desert;
his spring will fail
and his well dry up.
His storehouse will be plundered
of all its treasures.
No compassion? But you were just boasting about how you had a welling up of compassion. I thought God was bipolar, but even if you're bipolar you don't switch that fast. Maybe ADHD? God ends the chapter by saying that the Israelites will have their babies dashed on the rocks and their pregnant women will be ripped open.

Chapter 14 says that if only the Israelites would return to God he wouldn't have to punish him. I hate to break it to you, God, but only being nice when you get your way isn't "compassion". Also, you can't be considered compassionate if you're only nice part of the time. Welcome to the real world, I know you're used to being in imagination land.

Hosea: In Review
Aside from a few of the first chapters, this book was slow torture to read. It wouldn't have been so bad if this was the first time I'd heard all of these things. But I've heard how Israel was going to be punished and restored at least ten times now. Some of these books really didn't need to be included in the bible. I'm not sure what they're supposed to add, considering there isn't a single new idea to be found in their pages.

I guess God doesn't think we'll take him seriously unless he repeats what he says at least 20 times.

What happens when a local Fox News affiliate meets the Fox News Channel mother ship? Nothing good.

First of all, if you have a strange name, I don't think that means you're going to get beat up every chance bullies get. Second, I love how he forgets what's in his own book. Finally, DVD's with extra features mean that we should all kill ourselves? You're conservative, that means you're against euthanasia, remember?

I definitely approve of the book being called "The Bible of Unspeakable Truths". Like the bible, it seems to be full of nonsense that nobody should ever read.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

262: The Sacred Raisin Cakes

Hosea 1-7
"The LORD said to me, 'Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.' " - Hosea 3:1

The book of Hosea marks our reentry into the same old terrible bible. It seems that Daniel was just a pleasant hiccup. We're back to God listing how terrible the Israelites have been. Back to God telling a prophet how he's going to destroy the Israelites, only to keep them alive to anger God again.

In the first chapter, God tells Hosea to go find an adulterous wife and marry her. She has a son and God tells Hosea to call him Jezreel, because he will soon destroy the Israelites at Jezreel. Hosea then has a daughter and God tells him to name her "not loved", because he isn't going to show love to the house of Israel. Hosea then has a son and god tells him to name his son "not my people". This is yet another example of God making a prophet act out his strange metaphor. What point is so important that you need to name someone "not loved"? If that's not child abuse I don't know what is.

Chapter two seems to be a metaphor. Otherwise God is just rambling. God seemingly tells Hosea to rebuke his mother, because she's not God's wife. I'm obviously missing the metaphor, or just missing the point entirely. God says that if this mother does not wipe the adulterous look off her face, he will strip her naked. This is evidence that even God likes bad "your mom" jokes. This chapter is titled "Israel Punished and Restored", you'll forgive me if I have nothing intelligent to say about it.

In the third chapter God tells Hosea to reconcile with his wife. Is God torturing him? First he has to marry an adulterer, then he's forced to reconcile with her? God says that Hosea should love his wife even though she is an adulterer, just as God loves Israel even though they worship sacred raisin cakes. Sacred raisin cakes? Knowing that, at some point, someone revered raisin cakes as holy is hilarious to me. The last sentence of Hosea 3 says that, though the Israelites will spend many years without a king, they will eventually come back to God and back to David their king. David? Isn't David long dead? Is God going to bring him back to life to lead the Israelites?

The next four chapters are long and terribly boring. Chapter four and five is God telling Israel how bad they've been. I think they know, you've only spent about five other books explaining how bad they've been. Chapter 6 and 7 are all about how Israel is unrepentant for their many sins. If I were a praying man, I would pray that there are no more chapters like this ahead of me in the bible. The blatant, pointless repetitiveness is wearing me down.

Any good feelings I had about the bible after reading Daniel are officially reversed by these first seven chapters in Hosea.

Very few stories really get me angry, this is one of them.

This article is in response to an article about a Kenyan church devoted to witnessing to the "other sheep". These "other sheep" are the twenty or so gay people that go to worship at a church that has the courage to preach love in what is surely a very homophobic country. If I were to compliment religion on accomplishing something, this church would be near the top of my list of successes.

Dorothy Kweyu will not let this compassion and humanity go uncriticized. She had the "unenviable" task of proofreading the article about the Kenyan church:
It occurred to me that as a mother and a Christian, I would be failing in my responsibilities, albeit as a layperson, if I did not express the utter horror and revulsion that was mine at reading such brazen affirmation of an evil. I can, therefore, confirm that my revision task was as “unenviable” as was the writer’s — something you do because you have no option; it’s all in a day’s work.
What responsibility do you have to condemn people that are working toward equality and humanity? Maybe you need to reexamine whatever ideal has given you this "responsibility".
In taking a position, I know just how I risk attack. As a journalist, I am somehow expected to shed my Christianity on entering the newsroom and embrace some amorphous ‘‘tolerance’’ ethos. Secondly, and most important, as a sinner, who has been saved by the grace of God, and who is deeply conscious of Jesus’ challenge to those who would throw the first stone, I also know that the same Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery: “Go and sin no more”.
I think Jesus' idea was for you to shut up and leave people alone (though, admittedly, I'm paraphrasing). If they are sinning so terribly, that's between them and Jesus. Judge not lest ye be judged. Especially if you are judging someone for something only a cold hearted ogre would say is a "bad thing". This is, after all, a country neighboring Uganda, who tried to pass a law making it legal to kill gay people. Maybe these people need a little more love and a little less condemnation.
I start on the premise that man and woman are complementary, and if God had a plan for homosexuals, he would have made us all male or all female. That he made us male and female testifies to the need for the other, which is why homosexuality is condemned in the Bible.
Oh, so God doesn't have a plan for everything now? This all knowing God somehow doesn't know that some people are going to turn out gay? He's somehow left a hole in his universal plan that conveniently revolves around your personal prejudices? The hypocrisy is infuriating.
What do I make of Mr Kimindu’s claim that “sexual orientation is not a choice; it is innate and there if nothing one can do about it”? For me, using that argument is as illogical as saying, ‘Leave shoplifters alone because the tendency to shoplift is genetic; it runs in families, and there’s nothing you can do about it’.
The question I always have for people with this flawed logic is, what if things were reversed? What if the bible said that only homosexuality was permitted? Would you then be able to switch to being attracted to women? Many people respond by saying that they would be abstinent in that case. But I think we all know that's bullshit.
Mr Kimindu made a sad but true revelation: that some men who worship in his church are married to conceal their homosexuality. “They use marriage as a cover-up, but keep male concubines who are more pampered than their wives.” For those who don’t know it, that kind of relationship is one of the main drivers of HIV and Aids — because anal sex poses the greatest risk of acquiring the deadly virus.
There is so much wrong with this I don't even know where to begin. First, men having wives as cover ups is a symptom of people like this woman condemning them for who they truly are. If there weren't crazy bigots, there would be no need to fake straightness. Furthermore, the spread of HIV in Africa is a symptom of lax sex education and condoms being unavailable. One of the reasons for condoms being unavailable is the pope saying how terrible they are. This, for once, isn't bigotry coming from the church, but it's just plain stupid.
That means that whether you are a Christian or not, homosexuality still exposes you to a higher risk of infection with HIV. Therefore, even professed atheists should be afraid — very afraid of the emerging acceptance of homosexuality under the guise of tolerance.
Afraid of what? If you're not gay, don't have gay sex. Acceptance doesn't mean we all go out and have gay sex and we all have a higher risk of HIV. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The fear of bigots that contribute to the world's problems and strive to hold the world in the dark ages.

If you don't like gay people, don't be gay. Keep your bigotry to yourself.

Monday, May 24, 2010

261: I Read, but I Did Not Understand & Daniel: In Review

Daniel 10-12
"I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, 'My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?' " - Daniel 12:8

This whole section is a big vision that Daniel has. After hearing this vision, Daniel mourns for 3 weeks.

As Daniel is walking with some of his friends he sees a man. This man's skin looks like a precious stone, his body looks like bronze, and his face is like lightning. Interestingly, none of the people he is walking with see this vision. Which brings me to the only logical conclusion: Daniel is a nut job who's hallucinating. Yet we are still reading his book thousands of years later and are told to take him seriously.

Daniels colleagues are, for some reason, terrified and run away to hide (I guess this means doing something crazy, because we are told that his friends can't see this person). This leaves only Daniel and his imaginary friend to have a long conversation. This angel (I don't know what else you would call him) tells him that God heard his prayers, but the angel was busy in Persia so he couldn't come let Daniel know that he'd been heard. What? The angel was busy? Couldn't God come himself? If God really is all powerful, he must be terribly lazy. The man then says that he's come to explain what will happen to the Israelites in the future.

The next chapter is so confusing and convoluted that I don't think I can accurately summarize it. The angel from Persia tells Daniel that there will be two kings, one of the south and one of the north. The next page is filled with the convoluted interactions between these two kings. To help you feel some of my pain/confusion, I'll quote you just one of the paragraphs of this story:
The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great power. After some years, they will become allies. The daughter of the king of the South will go to the king of the North to make an alliance, but she will not retain her power, and he and his power will not last. In those days she will be handed over, together with her royal escort and her father and the one who supported her.
This goes on for the next page and a half. I'll make an attempt to summarize, though I can't promise that I completely understand this story. The king of the south attacks and defeats the king of the north. Many then rebel against the king of the south. The king of the north attacks the king of the south. The two kings try and fail to make an alliance. The king of the north again (years later) attacks the king of the south and wins (I think). The two kings then make an alliance, but they are both lying to each other. The king of the north, at the "appointed time", again attacks the king of the south. This time the king of the north fails. And all of this will happen at some unknown time in the future. It all makes perfect sense.

The last part of the chapter is about "the king". This king will say terrible things against God. He will exalt himself over every God thought up by man. The angel says that he will promote some strange new god that no one has heard of. Both the king of the south and the king of the north will oppose him. Eventually this new king will be defeated, or just die, or something (there's not really a clear conclusion).

The last chapter goes off the deep end, it's titled "the end times". In the end, the angel Michael will rise to protect the people. The angel says that this will be a time of distress that has never been seen up until then. He says that multitudes who "sleep in the dust" will rise. Some will be destined for everlasting life, some for everlasting shame. Is the bible talking about zombies again? The angel ends by telling Daniel to seal up these words till the end time. Well I guess Daniel dropped the ball on that one, considering this isn't the end time and I'm reading these words.

Once the angel finishes his monologue, two more figures come out of nowhere. Daniel asks how long it will be before these end times happen. The angel gives him this answer:
It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.
What the hell does that mean? I'm comforted in the fact that Daniel seems to have no idea what's going on either. He tells the men, "I heard, but I did not understand". The angel, I guess feeling sorry for Daniel, decides to give a more clear measure of time:
From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
Nope, still lost. Hasn't daily sacrifice been abolished? Shouldn't the world have ended about three years after daily sacrifice was abolished?

If anyone know's what all this is supposed to mean, I encourage you to leave a comment.

Daniel: In Review
Up until today, I have to admit that I've really enjoyed reading Daniel. I obviously have some complaints about how legitimate Daniel's visions are, but at least it was interesting.

This is one of the very few books in the bible that doesn't contain a rewording of the first couple of books of the bible. There wasn't even a mention of keeping the sabbath day holy!

This is really what I expected from the entire bible to be before I began. There are plenty of angels around, God generally isn't an ass hole, there is little to no repetition of ideas, and there are parables/stories on every page. If only the whole bible was like this I wouldn't be such an unsatisfied reader.

For once I'm giving a book of the bible a positive review.

This is a question many people have been asking lately: Who is responsible for the Gulf oil spill? Ted Turner has an interesting answer:

Anything bad that happens is obviously God punishing us for something he's not pleased with. This is the same logic that cave men were using thousands of years ago. It's the 21st century, grow up.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

260: Gabriel

Daniel 7-9
"While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill - while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice." - Daniel 9:20-21

Daniel does a lot of dreaming today. His first dream is about four beasts. The first beast is a winged lion. As the lion nears Daniel it's wings are ripped off and it stands on it's back legs like a person. The second beast is a bear with three ribs in it's mouth. The next beast is a four headed four winged leopard. The final beast has iron teeth and ten horns. The bible doesn't say whether it takes the form of an animal. As Daniel watches one of the horns pops off the head of the last beast and starts talking to him.

Instead of saying "what a strange dream" Daniel finds the need to interpret it. How he figures out the interpretation is a little vague and strange. The bible says Daniel "approached one of those standing there" and asked him to interpret his vision. Approached one of what standing where? The mystery person/thing he's consulting tells him that the dream means there will be four kingdoms. The bible doesn't mention the interpretation of the lion's wings being ripped off or the bear with ribs in his mouth.

The next chapter is about a vision. In this vision Daniel sees a ram. This is, for once, a fairly unremarkable creature. The next thing Daniel sees is a goat with a prominent horn coming from between it's eyes. So it's a unicorn goat? This goat flies across the land and mauls the ram.

As soon as he sees this vision a man appears before him. Daniel hears a mysterious voice saying "Gabriel, tell his man the meaning of the vision". The angel Gabriel tells Daniel that the ram represents Media and Persia, and the goat represents Greece. Gabriel then tells Daniel to put these visions out of his mind because they are about the distant future. What was the point of getting these visions if they're irrelevant to him?

In chapter 9 Daniel prays for the forgiveness of Israel's many sins. As soon as he is done praying the angel Gabriel returns and gives him some "insight". Gabriel lays out seventy "sevens" (aka weeks) to atone for Israel's wickedness. There will be seven weeks between God issuing the order to rebuild Jerusalem and the anointed one coming. Sixty-two weeks later Jerusalem will be completed. In the final week the anointed one will be cut off from the people. This will precipitate the "end". The end of the world? The bible never explains who the "anointed one" is.

A high school tennis player from Middletown, OH has been disqualified from the tournament for refusing to play on Saturday. What could have prevented this high schooler from fulfilling his dream and seeking success? Religion!
But, because of his faith — he’s a Seventh-day Adventist — Franklin High School junior Stefan Mangroo and his doubles partner, senior Cody Buffenbarger, were disqualified from the semifinals. They refused to play on Saturday, Mangroo’s Sabbath, thus ending their postseason dreams.
Not only did this prevent him from competing, but his partner also had to drop out. His partner was supportive of this decision. That's certainly not the reaction I would have. Surely they could have figured out when the tournament would be held and avoided this whole fiasco. I hope they didn't expect the entire league to reschedule the event just because God would be offended if he had fun on the sabbath.
Mangroo said his religion restricts his activities between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday. That means no Friday night football games, no Saturday afternoon matinees.
I can't help but feel sorry for people who are born into this brand of Christianity. I thought only having two weekend days was bad. As a side note, I thought only work was forbidden on the sabbath. You're not allowed to play sports or watch movies either? Are they making themselves miserable on purpose?


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