Saturday, July 10, 2010

308: In the Beginning Was the Word

John 1-2
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." - John 1:1

The beginning of John marks the fourth (and hopefully last) retelling of the story of the life of Jesus. And because it's the fourth telling, nothing terribly new happens.

The first part of chapter 1 is (like in the other gospels) about John the Baptist. John is the one that is to come before Jesus and prepare the way. When John is asked if he is Jesus ("the Christ") he says no. More interestingly, though, is that he also denies being Elijah. If you'll recall, at least one of the gospels (that I remember) claims that John is, in fact, the reincarnation of Elijah. I guess John didn't get the memo.

Jesus then calls the first of his disciples. Interestingly, one of his new disciples (Nathaniel) is convinced that Jesus is the Messiah because Jesus saw him sitting under a fig tree:
"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked.

Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."

Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."
Surely I'm missing something here. Even Jesus seems surprised that's all it took. "You shall see greater things than that." Yes, one would hope.

In the beginning of chapter 2 we have a famous story that we've yet to see. Jesus turning water into wine. This, like most of the other stories of Jesus I'd heard before I read the bible, seems much less exciting than when I was told them by someone else. In fact, there's no explicit indication that Jesus does anything.

Jesus's mother tells Jesus (while they are at a wedding banquet) that the host has run out of wine. Jesus responds by saying (paraphrasing) "why should I care?". His mom responds by saying "do whatever he tells you". Who is "he"? Jesus sees six large jars used for holding water. He tells the host's servants to fill them to the brim with water. He then tells the servants to draw out a cup of water and give it to the host. Somewhere between the water being drawn out of the jar, and it reaching the lips of the host, it somehow becomes wine.

John (or whoever is writing this book) immediately jumps to the conclusion that Jesus did it, and calls it his first miraculous sign. Where is there any indication that Jesus actually did anything? Maybe there are magic jar pixies that turn water into wine. In the meantime, I'll conclude that the "Jesus did it" conclusion (made up by John) is just as likely as the "magic jar pixies did it" conclusion (made up by me).

We then (already) have the story of Jesus going to Jerusalem and clearing out the temple. This is terribly anachronistic in comparison with the other gospels. In this retelling, Jesus carries around a whip to drive out people and cattle alike. We also (for the first time that I recall) actually have a direct quote of Jesus saying that the temple will be destroyed and raised (by him) in three days. We've heard him accused of saying that in the other gospels, but we never actually saw him saying it. So much for "false testimony".

We have yet another Billy Graham Q&A, they never seem to fail to produce fundie illogic. The question is a good one this time:
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: Does anybody really believe in the devil anymore? You wrote something in your column recently that made me think you did, but I thought that kind of thinking went out with the Middle Ages. — R.C.L.
Oh, how I wish the answer to this question was a simple "no". Unfortunately, Billy indeed believes that Satan is after him (and you, and me).
It has been said that one of Satan’s most successful strategies is to convince people that he doesn’t even exist.
Does God employ this strategy too? I don't think there's any more evidence for God than there is Satan.
...for Satan is real, and he is very powerful. In fact, some would say he’s the strongest force in the universe, except for God. His goal is to block God’s purposes in every way he possibly can, because he wants to take God’s place as the all-powerful ruler of the universe.
What kind of magic fantasy land does Billy Graham live in? God isn't very omniscient or all powerful if he can't eliminate one measly Satan. If one tries to "block" something that's all powerful, the only conclusion is that you fail. If you don't fail at blocking this all powerful force (it would seem that Satan doesn't fail, because bad things happen) then it would follow that said being is not very all powerful. And the bit about Satan taking God's place as the ruler of the universe seems like it's straight out of a bad sci-fi novel.
Yes, Satan is real, and we see evidence of his evil workings every day. How else can you explain the irrational acts of violence and terrorism that ravage our world? How else can you explain the way we fall for his temptations, although we know they’ll only bring us disaster?
Right, how can irrational violence be explained by anything other than an all-evil super being?Once we figure that out, maybe we should address the problem of irrationally attributing every day events to super beings.
But the most important fact about Satan is this: He is a defeated foe. Yes, the battle continues, but the final outcome isn’t in doubt, because by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ defeated death and hell and Satan.
I'm getting this image of Jesus with a "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him. How is Satan a defeated foe if, by Billy Graham's definition, he is winning with every act of terrorism?Everything bad that happens in the world (again by Billy's definition) is evidence of how not defeated Satan is.

Friday, July 9, 2010

307: Contradiction upon Contradiction & Luke: In Review

Luke 23-24
"...but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them." - Luke 24:3-4

The story picks up with Jesus being sent to Pilate. The Pilate of Luke seems even more reluctant to execute Jesus. In fact, he announces to the crowd that he's found no reason to have Jesus executed. As in the other gospels the only thing the Israelites seem to be able to say is "crucify him".

Pilate then asks Jesus if he is a Galilean. Jesus says yes (Nazareth is a city in Galilee). Pilate then sends Jesus to Herod, because Galilee is out of his jurisdiction. What? This didn't happen in the other gospels. Herod tries to get Jesus to perform a miracle. When he figures out that Jesus isn't game, he dresses him up in a red robe (Pilate's guards did this in the other gospels) and sends him back to Pilate.

Pilate again confronts the crowd, saying that not even Herod found any reason to have Jesus executed. Then the crowd demands that Pilate release Barabbas. Wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense. The point of Barabbas being released was Pilate trying to get out of executing Jesus. He thought they would surely choose to release a murderer over Jesus. It doesn't make any sense if it's the crowd's idea to release Barabbas. It almost seems like Luke expects us to have read the other gospels to understand what he's talking about.

The crucifixion proceeds without too much contradiction. However, once Jesus is crucified, he has an interesting interaction with the two criminals crucified with him. The first criminal joins in the mocking of Jesus (like the other gospels). However, the second criminal says that Jesus doesn't deserve to be crucified. He even goes on to plead with Jesus to remember him when he enters the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by saying that he will be with the criminal in the kingdom of heaven by the end of the day. The other gospels specify that both criminals mock Jesus on the cross. So obviously this interaction never happens in the other gospels.

Jesus then dies, and is buried, in a similar fashion to the other gospels.

Starting with chapter 24, the gospel of Luke departs from the other gospels (and any reasonable definition of sanity). Before I get started with this craziness, I'd like to mention that (like Mark) there are no guards outside of Jesus's tomb. So the disciples (or anyone else) had plenty of opportunity to do any body stealing they wanted to.

Ok, down the rabbit hole we go. First of all, two women come to the tomb (these women are not explicitly said to be the two Marys) on the first day of the week. Like in Mark, this contradicts Jesus being in the tomb for three days and three nights (as mentioned in Matthew).

These women find the stone in front of the tomb rolled away, and no body. While they are standing there, two glowing men appear and ask the women why they are looking for the living in the place of the dead. This isn't like either of the other gospels (in Matthew the women find a single angel, in Mark the woman find a young man). We now have three markedly different accounts of how Jesus is found.

The angels (or glowy men, if you prefer) repeat the words of Jesus that nobody understood, "The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again". The women remember the words, but still apparently don't understand.

The women (who are only now named as the two Marys) tell the disciples about what they saw, but the disciples say they are speaking nonsense.

This is the best part. Later that day, two of the disciples are walking along the road. Jesus comes up and walks with them. However, they are "kept from recognizing him". First of all, kept by who, and why? Second, being "kept from recognizing" and plain old not recognizing seem a whole lot alike. So, if I understand this right, we're meant to believe that Jesus was resurrected. But he was resurrected in a form that not even his closest friends could recognize. By this definition, anyone could be resurrected at any time, all you need is a group of 11 faithful people willing to go around and convince everyone.

This Jesus (that doesn't look anything like Jesus) walks with the disciples and talks with them about Jesus. Faux-Jesus calls them fools (maybe it really is him) for not believing the words of the prophets. Jesus seems to overlook the fact that the disciples didn't understand the words of the prophets. It wasn't a question of belief.

Jesus has dinner with the disciples. As he is breaking the bread at the table, the disciples suddenly recognize him as Jesus. These two disciples run back to the eleven and tell them that Jesus really was resurrected. Did they not even bother to say hi to Jesus before running off?

While they are still discussing this, Jesus appears among them. Jesus asks them why they doubt (apparently reading their minds). Jesus then tells his disciples to touch him to see that he's real. Luke still says that the disciples do not believe what they see.

Jesus then "opens their eyes" to the truth of biblical prophecy, and tells them that they are the ones that are going to spread the message across the land. However, they are not to spread the word until they are "clothed with power from on high", whatever that means. Jesus then promptly leads his disciples to Bethany, where he is lifted into heaven (never to be seen again).

Luke: In Review
The most striking feature of Luke is a much nicer Jesus. Of course, he still calls people fools and says they have little faith. But this is much better than Matthew's Jesus where he seems to only address his disciples with the title of "you fools".

We also have a Jesus that seems much more in control of his magical powers. This is very different from Mark's Jesus who has to spit in people's faces and shout incantations. However, he still seems to only be selectively omniscient.

Luke is just another testament to the joke of "biblical inerrancy". The New Testament, so far, has been filled with countless different retellings/blatant contractions. The bible can't even decide on what the Marys found when they visited the tomb of Jesus. Isn't that one of the most important parts?

Oh, Indiana, how I don't miss you at all sometimes:
Mellinger: Is there part of you that is bothered by the aggressive atheism of a [Sam] Harris, a [Christopher] Hitchens, a [Richard] Dawkins? And what I mean is... this atheism is a little different than atheism has been in the past because it does seek to convert people.

Daniels [Governor of Indiana]: I'm not sure it's all that new. People who reject the idea of a God -who think that we're just accidental protoplasm- have always been with us. What bothers me is the implications -which not all such folks have thought through- because really, if we are just accidental, if this life is all there is, if there is no eternal standard of right and wrong, then all that matters is power.
This is a pretty standard (ignorant) argument. The problem is that this "external standard" (God) is made up by man, therefore not external. Before you run off calling me a heathen (assuming you're a Christian), keep in mind that Molech (a god mentioned in the bible) was an "external" creator of morals that called for human sacrifice. The question then becomes, what makes your external morals any different than anyone else's external morals? Religious morals are starting to sound a lot like the dreaded "moral relativism" of atheists.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, ""I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." [Stephen Roberts]

Unfortunately Mitch isn't done spouting overused arguments:
And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists -Stalin and Hitler and Mao and so forth- because it flows very naturally from an idea that there is no judgment and there is nothing other than the brief time we spend on this Earth.
Aside from this being untrue, the same thing can be said (more accurately) of religion. The idea that there is no judgement for killing infidels (that, in fact, there is reward) flows directly from the scriptures of most major religions.

The real fallacy of this argument, however, is that there is judgement for crimes. Saying there is no justice for criminals is completely overlooking the American (and international) justice system. If this argument accurately described the world, then only a small percentage of Christians would kill people, and a large percentage of atheists would be on the streets slaughtering people. Needless to say, this isn't an accurate depiction of reality.

The sad thing about this whole episode is that Daniels's bashing of atheists will probably help to advance his political goals in Indiana.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

306: Satan Did What?

Luke 21-22
"Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve." - Luke 22:3

The chapter starts with Jesus praising the widow for giving all she had to live on to the church. I guess she has to get properly miserable so she can get into heaven.

The rest of the chapter is the same signs of the end of the world that we've seen in Matthew and Mark. This includes the exact same assertion by Jesus that all this end of the world business will happen within the disciples' generation.

Chapter 22 begins with Satan "entering" Judas (whatever that means). Only then does Judas go to the priests and offer to give Jesus's location (I'm still not sure why this is necessary considering he seems to make daily appearances). Not only did someone have to betray Jesus (therefore making the person that actually does betray him relatively blameless), but the person that did it seems to have been under the direct control of Satan. This doesn't really make any sense either, though, because I don't think Satan is in the business of saving mankind (aka killing Jesus).

This doesn't stop Jesus, who certainly knows about Judas's abduction by Satan (being omnipotent), from saying "woe" to the man that betrays him. This has just added another level of incomprehensible to this whole situation. Jesus's death, in the (very) short term, is a bad thing. But in the long term (which Jesus should know about) it's a great thing. Jesus's reluctance to "save" all of humanity doesn't seem very Jesus-like.

At the end of the last supper, Jesus tells his disciples to get swords. This is very different from the Jesus that asks his disciples why they have swords upon his arrest (as in Matthew and Mark). The disciples are able to get two swords, and Jesus says "that is enough". Enough for what?

Jesus prays on the Mount of Olives. This time he only returns to his disciples once to find them sleeping, and he doesn't rebuke them.

Jesus's arrest also has some striking differences. When Judas comes to kiss Jesus, Jesus asks him if he is betraying him with a kiss. Doesn't he know? The Jesus of Luke seems to be as ignorant of the details of his arrest as his disciples. One of the followers of Jesus chops off the priests servants ear (undoubtedly with the sword that Jesus told them to buy). Instead of a long speech about those who live by the sword dying by the sword, Jesus simply says "No more of this!" He then heals the ear of the servant. Where is this ear healing in the other gospels? This is another thing that it seems like Luke made up.

Peter then denies he knows Jesus (as in the other gospels). The guards mock Jesus (as in the other gospels). And Jesus is put before the Jewish elders and found guilty (as in the other gospels). The chapter abruptly ends as Jesus is led by the elders to Pilate.

Is Jesus sentenced to death? Does he kick some ass and escape? Tune in tomorrow for the shocking conclusion (there, you can't say I didn't try to make it interesting).

This video is too good not to share:

That was a little short, so have some bonus Tim Minchin:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

305: The Tax Collector

Luke 19-20
"So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.' So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly." - Luke 19:4-6

The chapter starts with a strange story that isn't told in any of the other gospels. Jesus is passing through Jericho. In Jericho there is a tax collector that really wants to see Jesus (for some reason), but he's too short so he can't see over the crowd. The only solution, obviously, is to climb a tree. After he's climbed the tree, Jesus somehow sneaks up on him and tells him (by name) to come down from the tree because he wants to stay at his house. This is one of those "so stupid it's funny" moments.

This transitions into the same old story about Jesus eating dinner with tax collectors. The tax collector goes on to say that he gives half his possessions to the poor, and pays back four times the things he steals from people. Jesus then says the tax collector is saved. That's it? The guy is still rich even though he gives away half his things. Isn't he supposed to be poor before he can be saved? Not to mention the fact that he does steal things. Giving back four times what you've stolen doesn't exonerate you from your crime.

Next is a morphed version of the parable of the talents (from Matthew). This time, it's minas (~50 shekels, says google) instead of talents (~3000 shekels). This time the main character of the parable is a king, instead of a man going on a journey. This time there are 10 servants instead of 3. And this time all the servants are given 10 mina, instead of the three servants being given progressively less. You may wonder why, then, I think they're the same story. It's because the parable plays out almost exactly the same.

The king goes on a journey and, like I said, gives all 10 servants 10 mina each. When the king returns, he only talks to three of his ten servants (sounding familiar?). Of the three servants he talks to, they have each earned progressively less return on the king's investment (sounding even more familiar). The first gained 10 minas (on top of the 10 he was given), the second gained 5, and the final servant gains nothing. The king immediately orders that the man that earned nothing have his 10 minas taken away and given to the man that earned 10 (exactly as in Matthew). The moral is also the same, those who have more will be given more, and those who have less will have everything taken away. I'm still not sure if God/Jesus is saying this is a good thing or not.

We're then back to Jesus stealing a colt (or more accurately, he tells his lackeys to do it). This time the servants are confronted by the owners of the colt. The owners ask why they are taking the colt. The disciples obediently respond by saying "the Lord needs it". The bible switches directly to the disciples bringing the colt to Jesus. What happened? What did the owner say in response? We'll never know. I guess speaking to the owner directly makes it all ok in Luke's mind. They still took the colt without asking (which still fits my definition of stealing).

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, his followers praise him. The Pharisees tell Jesus to shut the people up, and Jesus asserts that if they are quiet the rocks will cry out. I wasn't aware that Jesus had a large number of stone followers. I guess they're big fans.

Jesus doesn't do any table flipping when he gets to the temple. He just drives the people out. Luke is again remiss in giving us any details.

At the beginning of chapter 20 Jesus is asked (again) by who's authority he performs his acts. This turns out just like the other gospels (with Jesus avoiding the question). I don't get it. Why is he shy all the sudden? He seems to tell everyone else that he does his miracles with the authority of God. And he's obviously not afraid of being executed.

The other three parables are similar accounts of parables we've already heard: The parable of the tenants (minus the servants being killed), paying taxes to Caesar (because money has Caesar's face on it), and Jesus being the son of God (instead of the son of David).

Jesus is the son of God, of course, because of some obscure reference to David saying something in the Old Testament. This somehow means that David calls Jesus "Lord", therefore couldn't possibly be his father. Even if David had directly said that Jesus was the Lord, I'm not sure how that would affect his paternity.

Billy Graham never fails to spout fundie illogic:
The Bible is actually a library of books, written by different people over many centuries. They believed God's Spirit was guiding them as they wrote, and that He was the real author. Over time, their books were brought together to form our Bible, because people were convinced they were indeed the Word of God. The Bible says, "Prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
What if people hadn't been convinced? Would that affect the truth/untruth of the bible being written by God? I hear this argument in a different context all the time. "90% of Americans are Christians. QED: Christianity must be true because everyone thinks it is." Thinking it's true doesn't make it so.
The real question, however, is this: Why did God give us the Bible? The main reason was so we could know him -- not just know some facts about him, but come to know him personally. One of the Bible's major themes is God's love for us -- and the proof is that he came down to earth in the person of his son, Jesus Christ, to bring us back to himself.
I constantly wonder if I've somehow mistakenly read the wrong bible. What is this "theme of love" that you speak of? God's "love" was mentioned only a few times in the Old Testament, between him killing off large portions of the population and saying how much he abhors people that break the sabbath law. I certainly wouldn't call that a "theme of love". In the New Testament so far, Jesus (the evidence of God's love) has come and told us that we should hate ourselves and our family in exchange for everlasting happiness. He's also called the disciples/foreigners derogatory names, that's far from "I love you guys, dad loves you too". Where's the love?
I invite you to discover the Bible for yourself. Begin with one of the Gospels (such as John), asking God to speak to you and show you its truth. When you do, you'll not only discover that God loves you, but you'll find the new direction you seek by giving your life to Jesus Christ.
Right, pick a book and take it out of context. Isn't that what I'm rudely told not to do every time I quote anything from the bible? I guess taking a book of the bible out of context is ok when you're trying to give someone a dishonest good impression. But try to give someone a perfectly honest bad impression of even the smallest bit of the bible and you're a dirty heathen.

This is your Wednesday public service announcement: Don't start the bible from the middle. Read it honestly and (at least) start from the beginning of the New Testament. And if you're a sadist, start from the beginning of the Old Testament. That torture is surely worse than whips and chains.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

304: Persistence

Luke 17-18
"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" - Luke 18:7-8

Jesus starts off with some things we've already heard. Namely that sins are going to be brought into this world, but the people who bring the sin would be better off drowning themselves. What a lovely message.

He then tells his disciples a parable about servants. He says that if they had a servant plow their field, they would also tell the servant to prepare their dinner. As opposed to letting the servant eat dinner after they'd worked all day. Jesus says this is how God feels, and that we should all feel like unworthy servants who have not served God his dinner. I guess this will help us feel like shit all the time so we can get into heaven.

Jesus then heals 10 people with leprosy by doing nothing. He tells the leprous men to go see the priests, and on their way to see the priests they are somehow healed. What happened to the Jesus that had to spit in people's faces to get his magic to work? Now he can offhandedly dismiss someone and that somehow heals them? Also, when did Jesus heal 10 leprous men in the other gospels? Did Luke just make this one up?

Anyway, the point of the story is that only one of the ten men cured of leprosy returns to Jesus to thank God for healing him. Jesus asks the crowd where the other nine men are, and why only this one "foreigner" has returned to thank God. First of all, the obvious implication here is that a "foreigner's" thanks is worth less than an Israelite's. Second, how are they supposed to know who healed them? They were walking away and they were somehow healed. Are they supposed to magically know that Jesus/God healed them?

The rest of the chapter is a long rant about how we never know when Jesus will return. Except for we know that it will be within the disciples' generation, because Jesus has said that several times (though not in this gospel).

At the beginning of chapter 18 there is a parable about a persistent widow. This widow begs a Godless judge over and over to give her justice. I'm not sure why the judge is so anti-justice. The judge says even though he doesn't care about the lady, he will make sure she gets justice so that she will stop bugging him.

Jesus goes on to compare God to this un-Godly judge. Jesus says, like the judge, God will give justice to those who keep bugging him (by praying day and night). Really? Has Jesus just confirmed my suspicion that God doesn't give a shit about humanity? He really only answers our prayers (not) so we'll stop bugging him?

Jesus then tells another parable about humbling ourselves (yawn), says (like in Mark and Matthew) that he really likes to touch little children, and tells a rich ruler what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus again reiterates in this section that he is not "good" only God is (I think there are some Christians that disagree).

Wait, he's telling a rich ruler how to inherit eternal life? I thought it was a young man (like in Matthew and Mark). He again tells the ruler/young man, among other things, that he has to honor his father and mother in order to have eternal life. But remember, you have to also hate your father and mother in order to be a follower of Jesus.

Next, Jesus predicts his death again. He says that the gentiles will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him, and kill him. After three days he will rise again. For some reason, the disciples have no idea what he's talking about. How hard is this to understand? I guess it's hard to blame Jesus for calling them idiots all the time.

The final story is about a blind beggar. This blind man begs Jesus to have his sight back. Jesus agrees and simply says, "Receive your sight, your faith has healed you". The man is immediately able to heal. I'd really like the bible to give me a straight answer on how Jesus performs his miracles. Does he have to spit in people's faces and dance around? Or does he just have to make an offhand remark?

Is atheism (or, if you prefer, Atheism) a religion? Some think so:
Atheism is in the religion section because it is a religion. If it were an intellectual void of belief, it would not gravitate towards religion, and be the obsessive compulsive stalker religion that it is.

Here's a test. Go for a day without thinking about God or religion. If you can't, then you are more religious than most professed christians.
First of all, I know some atheists that are more than happy to run in the opposite direction of religion. I'm obviously not one of those, but that certainly doesn't make me more religious. Since when does thinking about God or religion make you believe in God or religion? If I think about how much Santa doesn't exist do I start believing in Santa?
Honestly, most of you godless heathen types are way more zealous than your average christian. You share more, even though you have nothing to share. You pray more(to your god, the government) to destroy other, more tolerant religions. Your inquisitions and holy wars are more deadly (Stalin and Mao killed millions trying to stomp out Christianity and what not, while fake christians killed less than ten thousand in the inquisition and quite a lot less during the crusades.
Yes, you caught us. Atheists secretly worship the government. Especially when 90%+ of government officials are Christians.

There are people that kill people who happen to be atheists. The more important question is do they kill people because they're an atheist. The answer is (in any case I've ever seen), no. Pose that same question to the inquisition. Did those Christians kill because they were Christians? Most certainly yes. Did the 9/11 attackers kill because they were Muslims? Yes. Does that mean all Christians/Muslims are bad? Of course not. But killing is definitely more a tenant of religion than it is non-religion (largely because non-religion has no tenants).
I personally believe in Christ, because his way is the way of peace and love, and freedom. If you're a miserable, hateful, sour, unhappy adherent to atheism, and you want some happiness in your life, I suggest you have a little talk with Jesus, and be free from atheism's oppression.
Right, because the writer of this article is obviously not miserable, hateful, sour, or unhappy. For being a follower of Jesus he sure doesn't turn the other cheek or love his enemy very much. Also, I think he may have missed the point when he read the bible. Doesn't much of the New Testament say you have to be unhappy in order to make it to heaven?

Monday, July 5, 2010

303: Hate Your Father and Mother

Luke 14-16
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." - Luke 14:16

Chapter 14 starts with Jesus again making a point about doing good on the sabbath (this is the third time in Luke). We get it, we're allowed to do good things on the sabbath. Jesus then immediately transitions into a parable about always taking the least important place at the table (whatever that is). The idea is that you can only move up if you take the least important place.

We then have a twisted version of the parable of the wedding banquet (from Matthew). This time it's a "great banquet" as opposed to a wedding banquet. The servants the banquet host sends out to bring in the invited guests are not killed (as in Matthew), but just given excuses by the invitees as to why they can't come. Like in Matthew's story, the host sends out the servants again to invite the poor instead of the original invitees. The host makes sure that the banquet is full so that none of the original invitees can get in. They didn't want to come in the first place. Why would they have changed their minds?

Jesus then gives us a few requirements to be one of his disciples. We must hate our father and mother, our wife and children, our brother and sisters, and finally we must hate ourselves. Otherwise we cannot be a disciple of Jesus. Isn't this going to make the "respect your father and mother" commandment considerably harder? It's difficult to respect someone when you have to hate them. Worst of all is hating yourself. Why does Jesus want a bunch of self-hating disciples?

All of chapter 15 is three parables that say the same thing. It's the "lost sheep" parable from Matthew. The parable basically says that God celebrates more for one converted non-believer than he does for all of his followers. The last of these parables is about a father who splits his estate between his two sons.

One of the sons runs wild and spends all the money. The other son stays and works for his father. When the wild son returns his father greets him merrily and slaughters a fattened calf as celebration. The other son is obviously pissed. I can understand forgiving the wild son, but this is taking it a bit far. Shouldn't you make sure the son has changed his ways before you start throwing celebrations?

The first part of the last chapter of the day is about a rich man's manager who is about to be fired. So that he has a place to stay after he is fired, the manager goes through the rich man's list of clients and starts lowering their debts. Instead of being angry, the rich man commends his manager (why?). Jesus tells us to use money like this to gain friends in this life so that, when we run out of money, we will gain eternal life. We should steal our boss's money to gain eternal life? Is that really what Jesus is saying here?

Right after this story, in a section called "additional teachings", Jesus reiterates that it's easier for heaven and earth to pass away than it is for a single stroke of the pen to be removed from the law. Didn't he just change a sabbath law earlier today?

The final story of the day is about a rich man and a poor man that lives outside his house. They both die from unknown causes. The rich man is sent to hell, and the poor man is sent to live by Abraham's side in heaven. The rich man calls up to Abraham from hell and asks him for mercy. Abraham says that he received all his good things in life, while the poor man didn't receive good in life, so he has it in death. I have to feel shitty now so I can feel good when I'm dead? How does this make sense? How is this moral? What bad thing did the rich man do that makes him deserve hell? His only crime mentioned in the bible is the fact that he had money.

Once the rich man is denied, he asks Abraham to send the poor man to warn his father about this eternal hellfire. Abraham again says no, and tells the rich man to trust the prophets. The rich man says that if they see someone rise from the dead they will believe. Abraham says that not even a man rising from the dead will convince the Israelites (what does this say about Jesus?). Maybe not, but if a few dead people came and hung out with me for awhile I'd be considerably more inclined to believe in the afterlife (that is, right after I visited the psychologist).

Why does everyone in the bible seem perfectly content with condemning people to eternal hellfire for pretty much nothing?

Christopher Hitchens has recently announced that he will be undergoing treatment for throat cancer. Francis Phillips (a Catholic) has some interesting theories:
It would be impertinent for me to feign great sorrow at this news, as I only know Hitchens from hearsay, reputation and his writings. Nonetheless, if my own doctor had broken similar news to me I would have been shocked, so he has my sympathy; prayers as well – a more practical remedy.
Right, nothing is more practical than a good ole' talking to yourself. This delusion is how children die when their parents pray instead of giving them medical treatment.
I just wish he could stick to his brief of being the scourge of injustice and pomposity rather than thinking he has to do Attila’s job too. Mother Teresa and Pope Benedict are the kind of soft targets who will always turn the other cheek at Hitchens’s critical jibes.
First of all, I'm sure Mother Teresa doesn't mind Hitchens's jibes, considering she's dead. Second, I wouldn't consider the Pope a "soft target". Maybe if the Pope did a little less turning the other cheek to child molesters he wouldn't be such a target.
Some years ago, I happened to mention to a saintly Irish priest (his one small vanity was to think he looked like the actor Robert Mitchum) that the scientist Francis Crick – of Crick & Watson, the well-known firm of DNA supplies – had just died. “He didn’t believe in God,” I added. “He does now,” replied my Irish friend.

Perhaps visiting his doctor will be a wake-up call for Hitchens?
A wake up call for what? The God he doesn't believe in gave him cancer, so now he's going to believe? Or maybe he's suddenly going to buy Pascal's wager? I think the only way we're going to get a death bed conversion out of Hitchens is if the cancer moves to his brain.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

302: Counting Hairs

Luke 12-13
"Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." - Luke 12:7

Chapter 12 starts out with Jesus telling his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. Unlike the other gospels, Jesus immediately explains that this is a metaphor for the Pharisees' hypocrisy. Why does Luke's Jesus avoid this perfectly good opportunity to call his disciples faithless idiots?

Next, Jesus tells us not to fear those who can merely kill us, but to fear those who can kill us and send us to hell. I can only assume that he's talking about God. Are we supposed to love God or fear God? I'm not sure how you could do both at the same time.

Jesus then goes on a strange tangent about how we are more important than sparrows to God (one would hope so). In fact, Jesus says, we are so important that God counts every hair on everyone's head. Maybe that's what's wrong with the world. God is too busy counting hairs to cure cancer and prevent natural disasters.

Jesus then says a lot of things we've already heard. Don't worry, God will take care of you even if you have nothing, be ready for God's return at all times, and that Jesus hasn't come to bring peace but division.

The chapter ends with Jesus chastising his crowd of followers for being able to predict the weather, but not the signs of the times. I'm not sure what Jesus expects of them. Is the common man supposed to be able to predict the future?

Jesus starts chapter 13 by saying that if anyone doesn't repent they will perish. Needless to say, this isn't true. There are a lot of unrepentant people that go right on living.

Next is what seems to be a metaphor for getting into heaven. Jesus tells us to work hard to try to get into the "narrow door". Jesus says that many who try to enter this narrow door will not be able to, and once the door is closed nobody else will get in. Assuming Jesus is talking about heaven, isn't this contrary to the idea that you need to just accept Jesus and you'll be let into heaven?

The chapter ends with Jesus being warned by the Pharisees to leave because Herod is going to kill him. Jesus says that he is going to stay in Jerusalem because all the prophets die in Jerusalem.

You've probably heard about the opposition to the mosque near ground zero (if you've been reading this blog you definitely have). But that's not the only place where a mosque is being opposed:
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Opponents plan to march this month to protest construction of a new Islamic mosque in this Middle Tennessee town.

"The people have spoken clearly that they don't want this mosque proposal that is before them," march organizer Kevin Fisher said Friday.
This is all after the town planning commission already approved the building of the new 52,000+ square foot community center (why wouldn't they?). I'll give these people the benefit of the doubt and assume they have a perfectly good reason for their opposition of a community center. Let's see what the article says:
"We are petitioning (the county) to have another meeting to give people a chance to air their concerns," Fisher said. "It's to stop the process and go through it the proper way and give people a chance to be heard."

Some opponents have said that Islam is a political movement, not a religion, and that the mosque could also be used as a training center for terrorists.

"Most people don't understand what they are dealing with," said Rutherford County resident Bob Hayes, who was among the speakers to voice opposition before the county commission last month. "You are dealing with a terrorist organization. They want to rule the world."
First of all, there is no indication that they didn't go through the proper channels the first time. These people probably don't attend city counsel meetings (who does?), but that doesn't mean city officials in some way slipped this Islamic center under their noses.

More importantly, these people are taking fundie to a whole new level. I've heard people imply that we should be weary of Muslims because of terrorist attacks, but to openly say that every follower of Islam is a de facto terrorist is a level of ignorance that, until now, I hadn't seen. I would imagine that these are the kind of people that tout racial epithets as fact.

From what I read in this article the only reason these people oppose this mosque is their baseless fears about terrorists. That's like opposing a black cultural center because all black people commit crimes. I fear that a similar sentiment is behind the opposition to the New York mosque. But they're just not stupid enough to say it out loud.

(via USA Today)

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