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Archive for the ‘Religion, Myth, Magic and Mysticism’ Category

ImageI’ll never forget when US Airways flight 1549 had to do an emergency belly landing in the Hudson river and no one was injured. Shortly following the event, a whole lot of people started clamoring about how it was ‘a miracle’ or that God definitely played a role in getting all those people to safety. My inbox was no exception.

Such things tend to frustrate me because it shows the blatant confirmation bias of the religious thinker. No one questions that ‘God’ steps in to do the ‘good’ outcome but they do not also apply that similar thinking to the ‘bad’ outcomes any more than they think the same ‘God’ would have played a role in causing or should have played a role in preventing the situation in the first place.

For example, do you suppose that anyone on board was ‘cursing’ God when they thought they were going to die? Or what about passengers or witnesses to crashes where no one survives? Well, obviously, that is just part of God’s plan then right? It’s a mystery!

Such thinking is not only inconsistent and intellectually dishonest, it distracts from the real heroes doing real things — real people! — who are contributing to great outcomes. To more than one person who sent me the ‘miraculous’ assertion, I had but one response:

Yes, I am sure that God personally intervened to make sure that all of those passengers and crew as well as the people on the ground were not harmed.
I’m sure that the years of training and calm headed, quick thinking of the pilot and the flight crew played absolutely no role in keeping the jet from crashing.
And the air traffic controllers using the world’s most advanced and coordinated air traffic system, radar technology, two-way radio communications and direct lines to multiple airports across the northeast didn’t have anything to do with it.
Nor did the years of development and advancement in aircraft design, technology and safety measures contribute in any fashion.
The flight attendants, their years of training and their similar cool thinking keeping the passengers calm and following safety procedures that have been practiced and rehearsed had nothing to do with it.
Not to mention the passengers themselves for following instructions and remaining so calm and working together.
No one on the ground in New York city with a cell phone, similarly developed through years of technology utilizing one of the most advanced telephone systems in the world calling upon seeing the plane going down did anything to help.
The 911 operators utilizing their refined network of emergency resources and vast network of trained emergency response procedures obviously did not contribute.
Nor did the quick response of the harbor authority and their rescue vehicles that rushed to the aid of the plane once it was safely upon the water.
Obviously it was all God’s work.

Now I’m sure you’ll probably say ‘well, God created all those things’ or that he had a hand in carrying them out. But I’m just curious. If God really wanted to make sure all of those people were safe, wouldn’t it have been far easier and less trouble in the long run….

…. if he had just moved the goose 3′ to the left?”

WSIDAirplaneGeeseinFlight

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the-angry-mob

There are a number of folks who have disagreed with some of my statements and some of my methods. I treat the absurd with absurdity, I ridicule the ridiculous and whenever someone is being obtuse to the level of it being profane, I response with the acute use of profantity – e.g. ‘Fuck that shit!’

con-man4When debating particular ideas, concepts and the corresponding societal movements that all-too-often spring up as a result of them, I tend to be rather particular to not only attack the ideas themselves, but to then specifically condemn the people that ‘follow’ such ideas.

Whenever an idea exists, not based primarily on the self-evidence that is good or right, but instead leans upon consensus as a means to gain prominence, there is inevitably some charismatic figure making a good pitch leading the charge. It is the general practice of others when addressing such ideas being broadcast from a primary source of one or a small number of individuals, to attack the source. The problem is, the ideas don’t exist on evidence, they exist on consensus. The slickest con-man in existence is entirely irrelevant if no one swallows his magic elixir!

More specifically, whenever anyone is making a claim that will not stand on it’s own, it can only stand as a result of others supporting it. It can only resonate in society if a ‘mob’ gets behind it and forces it to become an actionable reality. Thus whenever anyone claims to support the idea, they aren’t simply supporting the assertions of the charismatic figure, they are taking on those assertions and becoming the means by which they achieve relevance.

Furthermore, were there not so many willing idiots, there wouldn’t be a market for the snake oil salesmen to begin with!

Let me give an example to get to the heart of what I mean. Someone comes up to me supporting some statist idea that the government should be empowered to collect taxes from me under threat of force. Those who disagree with my methods are making an assumption that the individual is simply enabling the use of force by not standing in the way of it being carried out. They aren’t the ones directly responsible because it is someone in a statehouse somewhere that proposed it, and it’s someone in a police force somewhere that will enforce it and make it actionable.

But in reality, especially in any society with representative governance, such ideas will never ever exist unless a significant enough number of people – individuals – either support it or allow it. Whether it be authoritarian concepts of statist politicians or similar principles being stated from pulpits by evangelical preachers, the ideas themselves are irrelevant until individuals make them actionable.

philosoraptor-choose-not-to-decide

To quote RUSH from the song ‘Free Will’,

“If I choose not to decide, I still have made a choice”

In other words, as the passive thinker stands there and tells you “I think this politician is right when he says you must be forced to help others” or “I think this preacher is right when he says you should not be selfish and sacrifice for the needy”, the most important part of either of those sentences is the first two words, “I think”. They are in essence telling you “You need to be forced to comply with what ‘I think'” – supporting the third party is simply a convenience to that individual in that someone else is energetically telling them ‘I’ll happily force them on your behalf!’

Thus, I don’t play nice with such people. If you say you support someone else doing me harm – you, in my mind, are saying harm should be done to me. If you help propel ideas to prominence that only propel to prominence because people like you help them get that way, you are the one making the concept actionable.

I still hold the statist or the theist responsible for promoting bad ideas and will challenge them regularly on the falsity, absurdity and profaneness of those ideas, but it is the individual that ‘believes’ the bullshit that I hold the MOST responsible for it’s existence!

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These are a couple of short parables (and a true stories) depicting a brief history of the nature of religion(s)

Homeless God(s)

When early man first conceived of God he saw him in the beasts and the trees and the rocks.

But soon man learned to make hammers break open the rocks, weapons and tools to hunt and carve the flesh of the beasts and still other tools to harvest the plants and trees for food, fuel and building materials.
He found no gods inside them.

So man decided that the Gods must obviously be in the distant lands and across vast the oceans.

But as man spread out he learned to build ships to cross wide the oceans and vehicles to travel to the distant lands.
And again he found no gods there.

So man stated that the Gods must therefore be under the seas and exist in the skies and even out in the heavens among the stars.

But again, man learned to devise capsules to venture under the seas and built machines to soar the skies and eventually made devices to peer into the heavens to see the distant stars and even rockets to visit the nearby planets.
And still he found no gods.

Now man has evicted his god(s) to a place outside of all reality itself, to a supernatural realm where no one can ever go unless the god(s) let them in. An imagined place in an alleged mystical realm outside of all that we know to exist.

I can’t help but wonder when we finally realize there is in fact nothing outside of reality, where we will send poor God to next?

The Religion that is Subjectivism

Way back at the dawn of man, some men who were older, perceived as wiser and smart enough to sound important would wander off into a mountain somewhere to think to themselves. They would ponder long and dream up many great sounding ideas then come back and speak to the masses in big sounding words and spew out complex theories about man and creation and the nature of the universe. And all the common folk who were too busy trying to please their slave drivers and maintain their meager lives to ponder such things would bow down to them saying ‘oh oh great wise one, tell us how to think, tell us how to behave, tell us more of the truths you have received through revelation!

Yet more amazing still is that 4000 or so years later, similar men who are older, perceived as wiser and smart enough to sound important now go off into the ivory towers of their universities to think to themselves. They also ponder long and dream up many great sounding ideas then come into the public and speak to the masses in big sounding words and spew out complex theories about man and creation and the nature of the universe. And the common folk who are too busy trying to please their employers and maintain their meager lives to ponder such things still bow down to them saying “oh oh great wise ones …..

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No doubt we’ve all see the zombie Jesus by now

but seriously folks – same concept if done without the sardonicism:

  • that out of this huge, trillions of years old, trillions of trillions of miles across universe full of literally countless numbers of galaxies each of those full of countless stars – many with dozens or even hundreds of planets, some with surrounding moons….
  • that it was all created by a single God (and here’s the good part):
    • who looks just like us!
    • who built it all just for us!
    • and just because of us.
  • and that despite the absolute immensity in both size and age of the universe, it all is here just so a little ape that learned to walk upright and come up with a few thousand word vocabulary can eventually die in a few short decades and go to some magic place (outside this immense universe mind you) where nothing ever goes wrong.
  • and of course, on this little rock alone, there are over 5000 different versions of that particular type of story – and the vast majority of any group believing any partilcular story, each thinks they are the only one(s) that have it right and thus the only one(s) going to the ‘magic place’.

uh, yeah. riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight

(and to think I’ve been called arrogant and self-righteous by the religious.)

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In the aftermath of the Catholic-condom scandal, I think I’ve come upon a clue as to how things work in America. So I have an idea. If you can put sufficient pressure on the government simply because you belong to a religion (in spite of the 1st amendment establishment clause) then perhaps instead of fighting religions we should follow the “if you can’t beat them, join them!” creedo.

It’s about time those of us that seek to understand reality by way of rational and objective observation of fact, find a way to get equal protection under the laws that seem to be becoming more and more inclined to pander to religious pressure.

Since religions always seem to have pretentious, hoity-toity names, thus I bring you….

Independent ManThe Manifest Cognizance of the Evident Percipience

As members of the MCEP, we believe that it is essential to our spiritual wholeness that each man or woman should be held accountable for meeting his or her own responsibilities. Each one of us accumulates a sum of these invisible, non-corporeal things known as ‘concepts’. And among these includes a special sub-sect known as OESWs. (objective evidence of self-worthiness)

These OESWs are essential to the mental condition of humans as spiritual beings. They improve one’s mood and increase motivation, help overcome depression and inspire achievement. A low quantity of OESWs tends to leave individuals susceptible to hoaxes, lies, misrepresentations, frauds and can lead to dependency, drug use, suicide, alcoholism, violent behavior and many other social maladies.

The view of the MCEP is that there is no greater moral sin than to willfully act in a manner or to participate in any action that will lead to a decrease of OESWs in themselves or in other human beings.  Therefore, it is strongly against our conceptual belief system to support, participate or otherwise contribute to any government programs (such as welfare, medicare, medicaid, social security, unemployment programs, foreign aid, minority endowments, social redistribution, public housing, public education, etc.) that will only serve to decrease the quantity of these OESWs in other human beings and therefore do them harm!

(feel free to suggest your own tenets of MCEP in comments)

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I heard some woman say the other day that if she could ask the candidates one question, she would ask them:

“Would you [willingly] die for your country?”

All I could think at the time was ‘what an idiotic question!’  Here this clearly – it takes an irrational person to say they willingly die for a country, a religion, a cause or any other reason.  There is, of course, the possibility that they mean something else. But it is important to pay attention to what words are actually used because words ‘mean things’!

I can think of a great number of causes that I would risk my life willingly to uphold, protect or defend. Certain ideas or ideologies are worthy of assuming risk to self for the purpose of defending. But NOT ONE of those ideas would I ‘willingly’ die for. As in, I am going to do everything in my power to avoid dying even if I am willing to risk my life.

Take a quote posted by someone on facebook today:

“The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.” – Eric Hoffer

I have often asserted that those who follow a ‘belief’, be it religion or statism or some other kind of subjective reasoning, supplants part of their self-esteem for the sake of the ideal. If their notion of what is good constitutes satisfying the constructs of a ‘belief’ that is not based on fact, then the notion of what is good for themselves is dependent upon adhering to the ideal. And if the ideal is one asserted by others and relies upon faith and not proof, then that person’s self-esteem is subject to the whims of the person claiming to speak for the ideal.

I would like to suggest that anyone who says “I would die for my country” just save us all time. Go to your kitchen, find a nice big butcher knife. Place the tip of it between the 4th and 5th ribs slightly to the left of your scapula, shout out whatever pro-state slogans you desire and have at it!

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Three young kids are being asked what they did on Christmas. One is a protestant, one is a catholic and one is an objectivist.

The first kid gets all excited when it’s his turn and says:

Oh oh oh, …we got up in da mornin, we has our brekfests – then the hole famiwee goes down to da church and we prays really hard to thank God for our presents. then we hurry home and we opens our presents and we play with all our presents all day!

The second kid is all excited too and says:

We got up an has our brekfastes too! Then we gots to opan all our presentes, then we go to da church and has da Christmas mass and we tank Jesus for our presents. Then we hurried home and we played with our presents all day!

Finally they ask the objectivist kid what he did on Christmas. He nonchalantly said:

“oh we got up and had a nice continental breakfast. Then dad said ‘It is time to celebrate!
So we got in the limosine, and he took me down to the toy warehouse and we looked at all the empty shelves.”

(all due homage to Dave Allen, R.I.P. for the original joke, slightly reworded for my O’ist friends)

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I have decided to seek evidence to support a new theory that suggests religion and collectivism have a common source…

I wanted to write these down before I lost track of the verses so I thought I might as well do so in a facebook note.  I got involved in a couple of discussions where I brought up a common [trick] question I ask of many Christians, mainly:

     Where in the bible does the following quote come from?:

The good lord helps those that help themselves

It’s a trick question because it’s not in the bible, but like so many other things believers believe, the fact of that eludes them and they presume that it does.  The sentiment shows up in various writings going back thousands of years and the first similar reference to it shows up way back pre-BC in Aesop’s fables in a story about a man with a cart that gets stuck in the mud.  He prays to Hercules for the help of his strength and Hercules actually shows up and tells him that his cart will not go free if he just sits and prays all day.  (it’s also where the phrase, ‘put your shoulder to the wheel’ comes from Hercules and the Wagoneer)

The reason I find this question pertinent is because the Christian bible and the Judea old testament that it springs from don’t say this.  In fact, they tell quite a different story entirely.  Namely that you are not supposed to help, do or think for yourself but simply obey and serve.  The message(s) repeated throughout suggest that one is not supposed to think for themselves, not supposed to do for themselves, one is told that judgment is not theirs to make, greed and want are sins, self-motivation or self-determination are the acts of a fool and the ability to ‘know’ is the original sin.

So I’ve started collecting the various verses that pertain to this type of thinking and I will add more later as I find them.  If you know of any other good verses in this vane, please feel free to let me know and I’ll check them out and add them to the list:

Old Testament

proverbs 3:5

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart  and lean not on your own understanding

proverbs 3:7

“Do not be wise in your own eyes”

proverbs 21:30

“No wisdom, insight, or counsel can prevail against the LORD”

proverbs 28:26

“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom [of God] are kept safe.”

Psalm 53:1

“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Jerimiah 9:23-24

“This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows [God]”

Jerimiah 10:23

“LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.”

Jerimiah 17:9

“[Man’s] heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”

Isaiah 5:21

“Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”

Isaiah 44:25

“[I am the Lord]  who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense”

Isaiah 47:10

You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’”

New Testament

John 15:5

“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

1st Corinthians 1:19

For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

1st Corinthians 1:20

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

1st Corinthians 1:25

“[the] foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”

1st Corinthians 8:2

“Those who think they know something don’t really know very much.”

1st Corinthians 3:18-19

“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”

1st Corinthians 13:8

[with the coming of God’s ‘perfection’] ” if there is knowledge, it will be done away.”

2nd Corinthians 3:5

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”

original sin in the Old Testament

Genesis

2:17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

3:4-5 “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

(amazing that right there in the beginning of it all, we not only learn our greatest sin is our own sentience and daring to exercise free will, but in the process we meet the so-called evil Satan through the serpent – by way of God telling a lie and the serpent telling the objective truth and being the cause of man gaining knowledge and exercising free will.  That should tell you something right there about the ‘true’ nature of Judea mythology.  If that doesn’t convince you, try counting just how many people the ‘good guy’ God kills in both books some time and compare it to the number killed by the ‘evil guy’.

Who killed more people in the bible?

And no, this is not a ‘pro-Satan’ sentiment. Both notions – the existence of an all powerful God and the existence of an evil adversary that the all powerful God allows to wreak havoc on the so-called beings he created and loves – are equally absurd! I point it out merely to show the idiocy of bible doctrine. It might make for good fiction but for a way of life that you are told to follow blindly and never question? Are you serious????)

Additions:

I was driving behind a pickup today with a bumper sticker that read ‘pride kills’ then referred to this proverb:

Proverbs 16:18

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

This is not quite as immediately obvious in relation to the others until you look up ‘pride’ in the dictionary. Although it acknowledges modern connotations of an inordinate self-evaluation, it also refers to “pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself”

This translates to a condemnation by religion in any self acknowledgement of doing things well, or taking joy or pleasure in your achievements and the possessions you earn as a result of it. Thus it is in fact the same principle – you should only be ‘glad’ according to the church, if you ‘glorify God’. And since only God can judge your adherence to these things – well, I guess you are SoL, you just can’t be glad! Your only joy is the joy of the obedient, non-thinking moron!

Further comment: [2/22/2013]
This list is specific to those verses that describe man’s pursuit of knowledge and use of his brain as being ‘foolish’ or otherwise discouraged and worthy of condemnation. If I get time, I will try to put another one together that spells out all the instances in both books of the bible that depict man as worthless, deceitful and otherwise gutter trash without the almighty revelations of ‘God’ and these unsubstantiated mythologies. I say ‘if I get time’ because I can see already that any post of that sort is probably going to be at least 10 times as long as this one due to the number of times it occurs.

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Some time ago I stumbled upon a picture on the internet of a sign in front of a church somewhere.  Below is the picture of the sign:

I posted a copy of this sign to a folder dedicated to such things on my Facebook profile to show an example of the absurdity sometimes exhibited by religious logic.  I saw it as an example of such absurdity due to the inherent flaws in this kind of a statement.

Well, this morning as I was on my way to the grocery store I saw that one of the local Churches along the way has apparently found it admirable to emulate this sign and now bears a similar message.  (I will try to get a photo of it tomorrow to replace this one in my facebook as well as possibly to add to this blog post – first hand evidence is always superior to the anecdotal kind)

I figured as long as I am going to be going by that way to take the photo anyway, it might be worthwhile to drop a quick note to the pastor to let him know that his posting of the message may not have the desired effect(s) he intended.  The following is the text I am considering sending in such a letter if I do decide to leave one behind:

To whom it may concern,

  I couldn't help but notice that the marquis sign
in front of  your Church is emulating a message
that has been making the rounds of the internet
by way of a similar sign seen in front of a
small Presbyterian church in eastern Ontario.

  I think it may be of value to inform you that this
message may not have the intended result you desire
for a couple of reasons, not the least of which are
two inherent flaws in the statement itself.  Flaws
that any reasonable person should quickly realize.
  To address the flaws first, let me begin with
the obvious one of the two.  Google is not an
'answer' engine, Google a search engine.
  Although I understand the intent of the message,
the way it is worded immediately jumps out to me
as inaccurate. I realize the intention is to
say that there are some things that can't be
answered by 'using' google, but then why not
instead have the sign read:

 "SOME QUESTIONS EVEN USING Google CAN'T ANSWER" ?

The second flaw in the statement is a fallacy
that is implied when putting such a message out
in front of a Church like yours.  The implication
being that the Bible and the Church 'can' answer
such questions.
  I will not speak to my own opinion as to whether
or how well notions of faith and belief in God
may or may not answer such questions, but I
shall address the fallacy of this implication.
  This is a typical "Because Not A, therefore B"
type argument and is a fallacy.  Using such
reasoning, one could just as easily imply:
"because you cannot find all the answers on
 Google, therefore you 'can' by way of Astrology"
  or "...asking a stranger on the street"
  or "...flipping to a random page in the nearest book"
  Because you cannot find all the answers using
Google does not automatically equate that you
can through any suggested alternative.  Any such
alternative still needs to establish that it is
not only a consistent and valid source of such
answers, but by way of that wording, that it is
an all inclusive source of such answers as well.

Again, it is not my desire to hash out whether or not
the Bible or a Church does this.  But with both of
these flaws addressed, I would like to point out one
other possible 'effect' that you might not have
considered.
  As I stated, any reasonable person can quickly
see one if not both of these flaws.  Any reasonably
connected person (on the internet) may well have
seen this sign's message and thus realize your's
is not original, but flattery through imitation.
But have you also considered that it might be seen
as 'self-righteousness' on the part of the religious
or your particular parish?  (if I am not correct,
self-righteousness is discouraged in Christian
doctrine as a form of vanity, is it not?)

What do I mean by this?  If you examine the two
flaws, and if you consider it plausible for people to
discern them, then it is not a leap to consider
that only people who already believe
'God and the Bible 'do' have all the answers'
will be the most likely people to agree with such
a statement on face value.
  In other words, the wording will likely not 'convince'
anyone that is not already convinced.  If it's not
there to convince anyone (or, if convincing them
was an intention but is one that will not be likely
to achieve such a desired purpose) then what other
purpose can the message serve other than to
'brag' or 'boast' about the about religion/church's
self-perceived ability to be the sole source of
answers to such questions?

In other words, for a reasonable person capable of
critical thinking, your sign might actually turn
people away from the idea of turning to the
church for answers.
  Just some thoughts for you to consider.

Sincerely,

one of your friendly neighborhood atheists...

P.S.  I thought it might also be of interest to
  you to know that I have a copy of this sign that
  I post as an example of the flaws of religious
  logic - due to very the two things I mentioned.

And I don’t think it’s a leap to consider that the two reasons I mentioned are also part of the reason the original version from Ontario has gotten such circulation on the internet.

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There was an old sinner in the eighteenth century who declared that, if there were no God, he would have to be invented.
– Fyodor Dostoyevski from Brother’s Karamazov

Often misattributed as “”If God does not exist, everything is permitted,” this is a contention that is either stated or implied in a lot of pro-religion arguments. Namely, that without religion as a source of positive moral values — or at least without the unseen hand of God influencing the acts of men — good things and good behavior is not possible.  That in the absence of religion, society would be incapable of doing the right thing and existence would be downright intolerable.

Despite the fact that many periods in history seem to demonstrate that under one religiously influenced or empowered regime after another life has been quite intolerable indeed, you could still make a reasonable argument that in some primitive societies, religious values have served as a moral compass to help maintain order and improve behavior in such societies.  But what about modern society?

Argumentum ad Nauseum

If you have ever had the misfortune to get into a semantic debate on specific verses of the bible, you will often run into the various ‘interpretation’ arguments.

  • Was Jonah really swallowed by a fish?
  • Did Noah really have 2 of EVERY animal on earth on his ark as the ENTIRE planet was flooded?
  • Were there really giants living in Jericho?

Any semi-reasonable Christian or Hebrew will say ‘of course not!’ and point out that such lessons are allegorical or parables.

You also run into the anochronistic-relevancy type argument when addressing various rules or verses.  “Well that applied to tribal societies in the desert, not to modern life in a technological age.

The general answer that you get from people who admit to not taking the ‘entire’ bible as rote is that the stories told in the bible are often times symbolic or serve as period-specific lessons that can be related to real life, even present day scenarios.  (yet, the same people will often rely on ‘certain’ verses to the letter when addressing specific things they do not like and want to demonize or change)

But Jesus re-wrote the book!

Even if you buy into the argument that Jesus brought forth a new age via the New Testament, there are still many verses of that testament which people do not take literally or follow as absolute rules governing their behavior.

For example, you will not find many modern Christian women that abide by the verses in 1st Peter chapter 3 that tell them to be submissive to their husbands and not wear adornments such as jewelry and make-up or to style their hair.

Another example is the focus on ‘family values’ predominant in western Christianity which seems to disregard the message of Jesus to a gathering crowd in Luke 14:25-33.  He tells them that if you are to truly be a disciple of Christ, you must hate everyone else in comparison — even your own family and even your own life.

Yet another example is the complete disregard of the lessons of selflessness and altruism repeated throughout the preachings of Christ, but especially repeated in Acts and 2nd Corinthians.  Multiple passages implore the followers (of Christ) to sell all their belongings to give to the poor, often times based specifically on ‘need’.  You don’t see too many people on the religious right repeating these verses as they condemn the social redistribution policies of their political opponents on the left.

This differentiation between old testament vs. new testament dogma is just further support of the kind of thing that I am referring to.  Determining which verses are relevant and should be taken literally and which are symbolic or dated and should only serve as a metaphorical lesson are ‘choices’ — either of the individual believer or of the particular denomination or theologian.

It’s all a matter a choice

So what does this mean amidst a culture that often uses religion as a justification for banning gay marriage or effecting the healthcare decisions between a woman and her doctor?  What does it say for a society that still fights with pockets of antisemitism and a growing xenophobia toward followers of Islam? [1]  What does it say for a culture that still struggles between views of creationism and theories of evolution and natural selection?

The reality is that most people ‘will‘ tell you that verses in the bible are often symbolic or open to interpretation.  They ‘will‘ say many are allegorical in nature or speak of only references to philosophical or moral and ethical lessons and truths.  Yet, as mentioned, the religious will still cite specific references to support their arguments on various topics. Often when challenged on those topics.  And generally such notions are challenged due to a question as to the moral right or ethical good of a given behavior or philosophical view.

What I am getting at is, that when it comes to some choices regarding what the bible seems to regard as being a ‘good Christian’ — such as selling all of your possessions, disowning your family and humbling yourself before God — the ‘believer’ makes a choice to disregard those parts of the Bible that do not suit them or the culture and age in which they live. They choose to see such concepts as metaphorical.  The same person then abdicates their choice in reference to other passages, deferring to ‘the will of God’ in support of that which might not be as acceptable outside of the context of the religion.

When such a person skims through the Old Testament they choose to see the instructions to stone the infidels or to cut the throats of adulterers as ‘dated’ concepts but then call upon the lines in Deuteronomy to condemn same-sex relationships or rules in Leviticus to demonize abortion procedures and those that participate in their practice.

By their fruits you shall know them…

History is full of examples where religious ideals or specific biblical passages have been and still are used to justify genocide, slavery, segregation, rape, barbarism, sexual and racial discrimination and many other concepts that are no longer considered [chosen] to be acceptable today by the majority of civilized society.

The word ‘chosen‘ is the important thing here.  People choose what they seek to identify with as as good moral behavior or good ethical decision making.  And the religious choose to see a verse as a referential lesson rather than a firm law from God.  And when they do so, they choose to instead include observations of reality as a means to determine what really is truly good and what should be deemed bad.

The important thing to observe, which is why I keep repeating it, is that the same religious people will willingly quote from their book verbatim to justify that which they do not consider to be a choice — as justification for that which might be subject to challenge by the others in the society in which they live. They defer to the bible rather than exercise the responsibility to prove their case for those questions which are most likely to be seen by others in our society as questionable.

The ‘Good’ stems from choice, the bad relies on dogma

As someone who uses reality as a compass for my moral code, I am of course going to assert that when you utilize your senses and your capacity for reason that you will arrive at more accurate premises and conclusions when it comes to moral and ethical decisions. People can and should question anything presented to them ‘as fact’, seeking proof of said fact for themselves. (especially when such things come without a basis of evidence to support them)

Thus I think it is a reasonable thing to assert, religion is not a source of good moral behavior or sound ethical lessons.  Even the Christians demonstrate that they choose what is ‘good’ for themselves.  But when it comes to ‘bad’ behavior, what better source than the Bible (or the Torah, Koran, book of the Dead, etc.) to rationalize it, justify it and make it ‘seem’ reasonable.

In other words, people ‘choose’ what they see as good, they use the ‘bible’ to justify what others know is bad.

[1] Yes, I am aware that there are sound reasons to be critical of fundamentalist Islam and even Islam as a whole for not condemning the extremists under their fold.  But what I refer to specifically is, given the history of both Christianity and Judaism, do people speaking from either of those religious perspectives have the integrity to criticize Islam for fundamentalist extremes?

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