A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible
Hunc tu caveto.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

If the Commandments were in order of importance, this would be the second most immoral thing you could do.

Deuteronomy, Chapter 4 - once again Yahweh brings up the Second Commandment. "When thou ... make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and do evil in the sight of the Lord, you shall perish upon the land and be utterly destroyed."

I'm trying to understand this irrational paranoia about the graven image. While I'm convinced the punishment is ridiculous, I kind of understand what the authors were trying to get at. A graven image isn't the thing itself, or the 'ding an sich'. It's merely a representation of something.

So, a drawing of a bird, for example, is nothing more than a manmade representation of a bird. It's obviously not the real thing. Apparently, to the ancient Hebrews, this was a problem.

Since they were the descendents of Sumerians and Canaanites, it's quite likely that a lot of Israelites still held on to the beliefs in other gods within the Sumerian/Canaanite pantheon. And they probably had a lot of idols to represent each of these gods. The Israelite priesthood, who was really trying to get this Yahweh thing off the ground, decided that the best way to deal with this was to ban graven images entirely.

The Catholic Church, a 1000 years later, approached the subject with a different strategy. Instead of banning idols, they simply incorporated their own images to substitute the idols of various barbarian tribes. The Catholic saints are usually the replacement of various pagan gods. For example, St. Nicholas replaces the Greek god Poseidon.

I'm inclined to believe that the Catholic Church's tactic was a little more successful. It incorporated more people, and it didn't alienate them at all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Deuteronomy, Chapter 3, Moses and his band of Israelites take on yet ANOTHER giant! This time, he's the king of the Bashanites; a man named Og.

While his name sounds like he's nothing more than a primitive caveman, and his nation sounds like a violent gang (the Bashingites?), Og is apparently the last of the race of giants. I think that's the Israelite priests' gimmick; portray Moses as the Giant Slayer.

Sure enough, we get another wonderful pearl of wisdom in Chapter 3: "And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city. And we utterly destroyed them ... utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city. But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves."

Now, since Og was a giant, he was obviously no pushover. According to the narrator, Og was 9 cubits high! That's like 13 feet high! Shaq ain't got nothin' on him. Og's bed along was 13.5 feet long and six feet wide!

Moses later comforts Joshua with a little pep talk. He essentially says, "You saw how we breezed through those two kingdoms so easily. You serve an awesome God. What OTHER god is there that could kill so many people?!?"

Next time, God promises to utterly destroy anyone who creates ANY graven image!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Above: A giant from Greek mythology, the Cyclops. Isn't it likely that giants were a regular subject in ALL ancient mythology?

Well, let me just say that I'm very excited to be finishing up the Pentateuch. As I started reading the first two chapters of Deuteronomy I noticed that this book seems to be written more as a letter to the Israelite people, from Moses, and basically just recounting what they did.

In Chapters 1 and 2, it almost seems like there's a lot of repetition going on. In Chapter 1, Moses talks about killing the Amorites and their king, a group of giants called the Anakims, and about the faithless cowardice of the Israelite people.

I find the talk of giants to be interesting. There were quite a few tribes apparently. There was of course the Nephilim, whom we learned of previously. But there was also the Anakim, the Emim, the Avims, and the Caphtorims - all of which lived in different areas.

For some reason, Moses talks about the strange arbitrary choice to let the Moabites and Ammonites live in peace, but kill off people like the Amorites, which we learned of in Numbers. He even "hardened the heart" of the King of Sihon, just so the king would come out and fight the Israelites and give the Israelites a good reason to kill of his people. That's crazy talk!

To quote the author of Deuteronomy, ""And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I'm finally going to finish Numbers here. I've been at this book for what seems like months. After all the huffing and puffing, animal sacrifices and censuses, the Israelites send 12,000 men to battle against the Midianites. The Midianites are obliterated, and every Midianite male is killed.

The Israelites take the Midianites' livestock and goods, and bring the surviving women and children to Moses. Moses is shocked, and says, "Why did you bring back ALL the women alive?!? Kill every male child, and kill every women who has had sex with a man! But all the female children that haven't had sex, keep them for yourselves!"

If you don't believe me, that's Numbers, Chapter 31:17-18.

After this proclamation, the Israelites inventory all the goods they've pillaged. It comes to:

- 675,000 sheep
- Threescore (a "score" is 20, so I'm guessing the total amount here is 72,000) and 12,000 "beeves"
- Threescore and 1,000 donkeys
- 32,000 virgin women.

And I'm not sure where these came from, but they also received an additional:
- 330,500 sheep (of which over 600 were sacrificed)
- 36,000 beeves (sacrificed threescore and 12)
- 30,500 donkeys (sacrificed 61)
- 16,000 persons (It reads as if they may have sacrificed 32 people here.)

This is the main event, but the next few chapters have a few interesting things as well, aside from the constant recordkeeping of where the Israelites move to and set up. It's also good to know that the journey from Egypt to Canaan (where the Israelites eventually wind up), for some reason they were lost for 40 years, when it would've taken a few weeks even back then. Yahweh apparently curses them to wander because the Israelites were discouraged at the sight of the land He had promised them.

In Chapter 33:50, Yahweh tells Moses to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan and make sure to destroy all their religious symbols - melt their statues and take down their 'high places'. High places is probably a reference to the Asherah's, or groves, in which the Canaanite people worshipped Asherah - who in Canaanite and Sumerian mythology is the wife of El. And El, the chief sky god of the Canaanite and Sumerian pantheon, is who Yahweh was originally (in Genesis). Pretty crazy stuff, eh?

"Yahweh" tells the Israelites to kill ALL the Canaanites, or otherwise He will make the Canaanites a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Yahweh my ass. The political leaders of Israel are using Yahweh to justify the killing of the Canaanites. This crap has been going on for thousands of years!

The rest of the chapters are just a bunch of divvying up of the spoils of war, a few begats, and a few extra rules. And that's pretty much it for Numbers - a truly horrific, and horribly written, book of the Bible.

I will close with this interesting rule from Numbers 35:16-28, which I will sum up: "If you kill a person with malice, you shall be put to death. But if it is an accident, you will be safe within the haven of the city. But if you are caught outside the city walls, it is okay for the closest relative of the victim to kill you."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Phoenician statue of one of the Ba'al's. Looks kind of dorky.

Numbers, Chapter 25: Right off the bat, 24,000 Israelites die of a horrible plague. And all this after we've been talking about talking donkeys and the conquests of other nations! What happened?

Well, if you've been following this blog or are familiar with the Old Testament, we all know how Yahweh is. He's jealous, He's psychotic, and He's kind of anal. He almost reminds me of Kim Jong Il.

In a nutshell, the Israelites started hanging out with the wrong crowd; the Moabs and the Midianites. The Israelites even partook of some of the worship ceremonies of the Moabs, who worshiped a god (or Baal) named Peor. Peor is the name of the mountain where they were, so it's likely that Baal Peor was a local god of that particular mountain. Apparently, the Israelite men were getting busy with the Midianite women as well.

Yahweh witnesses this and just goes off the handle. He says to Moses, "Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel."

As a further affront, an Israelite man brings a "Midianitish" woman before the congregation, and takes her into a tent. The grandson of the recently deceased Aaron sees this, grabs a spear, and pursues the two into the tent, and runs both of them through. In fact, the woman is stabbed through the belly.

Yahweh sees this and is greatly pleased, and prevents the entire population of Israelites from contracting the plague He had sent out. Unfortunately, 24,000 do die before this happens. Yahweh tells Moses that the man who killed the two will be blessed for his zealousness. And then the Sumerian god who nowadays Christians revere as the omnipotent creator of the universe turns to Moses again and says, "Vex the Midianites, and kill them all."

I am happy to report that the next few chapters I can pretty much skip, because they repeat things that have already been said. They go through another census as they prepare to make war on the Midianites (numbers are probably inflated), they go through some more rituals about animal sacrifice, there is another reference to the practice of scapegoating, etc. The only thing to add is that in Chapter 30 we find out that women are not really responsible for anything - it's the men who oversee them that are responsible for them. And if she is responsible for something, it's only because her father or husband allows her too.

Next time, the Midianites gets smited!!!

Above: Heavy metal culture has brought back Ba'al into something completely different.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last time, we discussed the Israelites conquest of the Amorites - which was more like bloody massacre. Numbers, Chapter 22 is about the Moabites.

After witnessing the aftermath of what the Israelites have done, the Moabites are understandably afraid of these new people who have come from Egypt. In response, the Moabites sent a delegation of princes to the nearby land of Pethor, to enlist the help of a wizard. It doesn't actually say "wizard", but I guess that's what he is.

"Balaam, please come to Moab and lay a curse on the Israelites. Those guys are friggin' crazy! They just slaughtered off the Amorites!!!" said the messengers. Oh yea, don't go looking for those exact words in the Bible - I'm just adding a little spice.

Balaam apparently also worships Yahweh, and tells the delegation to spend the night while he consults Yahweh's opinion on the matter. Yahweh, who modern-day worshippers insist is all-knowing, asks Balaam, "Who are these guys that are with you tonight?"

Balaam explains the situation, and Yahweh tells him that he shouldn't curse the Israelites, because they are blessed. The next morning Balaam explains to the princes why he can't go with them.

In response, the Moabites send even higher ranking princes with gold and silver to purchase Balaam's skills. He invites the delegation to spend the night while he consults Yahweh again. This time, Yahweh says, "Look, go ahead and go with them if they call on you. Just do what I tell you to do."

So, the next morning Balaam gets on his donkey and follows the princes back to the land of Moab. But for some reason, this gets Yahweh angry! "And God's anger was kindled when he left ..." That's what it actually says! Yahweh just told him to go with them, and then gets pissed when Balaam does just that!

An angry Yahweh sends an angel to block his path (apparently the princes were not with him on the road to Moab). Yahweh does this three times, and three times Balaam strikes the donkey for trying to go around the angel. It would seem that the donkey is more reasonable then Balaam, unless you realize that only the donkey can see the angel. And the angel doesn't seem to intent on stopping them, either. He just stands in the path, and Balaam and the donkey goes around him.

On the third time, the angel is standing between two walls and there's no way past. So, the donkey lays down and Balaam strikes the donkey for the third time. The donkey looks back at Balaam, open his buck-toothed mouth, and says, "Why the hell do you keep hitting me, man? Can't you see I'm trying to avoid running into one of the Almighty's soldiers?"

And finally, Balaam sees the angel.

Anyways, Balaam finally gets to Moab, where Yahweh apparently "puts a word in his mouth".

Balaam tells the Moabite royalty basically that Yahweh's on the side of the Israelites, and that He sent him to bless the Israelites; not curse them. "Yahweh's not just some man, he's a god, and He brought the Israelites out of Egypt," said Balaam. "Yahweh's got the strength of a unicorn."

A unicorn?!? Unicorns are pretty strong, I'd imagine; but omnipotent? Or is Yahweh just pretty strong? If that's the case, that explains why Jacob was able to beat Yahweh in a wrestling match.

Balaam continues, "Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain."

So now the Moabites realize that not even their precious magician Balaam is on their side, so they try one last negotiating trick. "Well, how about if you neither curse them or bless them?"

Balaam probably threw his hands up and said, "Hey, Yahweh wants me to do it. What can I do?"

And so, in Chapter 24, Balaam blesses the people of Israel. He concludes the blessing, "God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows. He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee."

The Moabites are pissed, but the deed has been done.

Next time, Yahweh kills 24,000 Israelites!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Massacres and maladies in the service of the Lord. That's what Numbers Chapter 21 is all about. An apologist might argue that this chapter is about the great things that can happen if you put your trust in Yahweh.

In a nutshell, what happens is the Aradites find out that the Israelites are coming. An ancient Paul Revere must have ridden through the town, saying, "The Israelites are coming! The Israelites are coming!"

The Israelites must have had a pretty bad reputation by this point, but they haven't done much massacring - yet - except to their own people of course. But we're talking about Bronze Age desert tribes - they were all pretty damn barbaric. We could hypothetically judge them by our modern morality, but we'd just be missing the point.

After learning about the Israelites march on Arad, the Aradites pull a "Dubya" and opt to act "unilaterally" against the Israelites with a preemptive strike. They are initially successful, and even take a few prisoners.

Man, that pissed off the Israelites! They pleaded to Yahweh, "Hey Lordy, if you deliver these people (the Aradites) to us, we will utterly destroy their cities." (Numbers 21:2)

Of course, Yahweh loves that kind of talk, and did just as they asked! "He delivered up the Canaanites, and the Israelites utterly destroyed them and their cities." (Numbers 21:3)

Now, the Isrealites have also had a history of whiners (check out some of my previous posts). After taking out the Aradites, they go back to their wandering ways, trying to find their "Promised Land". Naturally (for them), they start whining. These guys don't get it, do they? And it's the usual complaints that anyone would have - no food, no water, blah blah blah.

In response, Yahweh sends poisonous "fiery serpents" against the Israelites, and many of them die. As usual, Moses beseeches Yahweh to stop this violence.

Yahweh then does something that contradicts the Second Commandment. He tells Moses to build a bronze serpent and put it on a pole. "Everyone who looks upon this serpent will live," says Yahweh.

Remember the Second Commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath." (Exodus 20:4) Well anyways, by breaking the Second Commandment, the surviving snake bitten Israelites live.

An apologist might defend this by saying that Yahweh's making the order, so it's okay. And everyone else in the world would say that's a lame argument for morality.

A little later, at Numbers 21:14, we come across one of the lost books of the Bible. It mentions The Book of the Wars of the Lord; which is basically an account of all the Israelites battles, from the Red Sea up to the point that Numbers was written. Hey, that's pretty cool if you're a War Nerd like me (or Gary Brecher)!

After this, the Israelites just go on a string of massacres; this time against the Amorites. It roughly the same formula -the non-Israelites try to do a preemptive strike, and they lose against the Israelites - suffering a massacre and the destruction of their cities; and the subsequent occupation of these cities and their outlying villages by the Israelites.

Finally, after all that excitement, the Israelites massacre one last nation before we put Chapter 21 to rest; the Bashanites. Yahweh tells the Israelites not even to worry about these pushovers. "I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon." (Numbers 21:34)

So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.

Next time, we discover Mr. Ed's ancient precursor. But this time, it's a talking donkey!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Israelites discover an interesting way to qwell a rebellion: give 'em what they want.

A few significant things happen in Numbers, Chapter 20. Miriam dies, Aaron dies, another rebellion occurs, and the Kingdom of Edom refuse to give the Israelites passage through their kingdom.

To sum it up, on the way to the land of milk and honey (aka "the Promised Land"), the Israelites have pass through the desert of Zin. There is no water, and so the people begin complaining again. This time, they know what's going to happen, but in their words, they'd rather die by Yahweh's hand then to die of thirst.

After consulting with Yahweh, Moses comes back with an interesting tactic to qwell the rebellion; give 'em what they want. Yahweh told him to gather the congregation and basically impress them by making water come from a rock.

Moses gathers the congregation and yells out, " Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?" And then he taps the rock twice and a fountain of water shoots out. Everyone is happy; except Yahweh. Yahweh is pissed! You see, Yahweh told Moses to simply speak to the rock; not hit it.

And for this transgression, Yahweh tells Moses and Aaron that they won't be able to see the promised land. Sucks for them. But still, the people didn't get slaughtered off, and that's a good thing.

Well, they continue on their journey and find they have to cross the kingdom of Edom. Edom does not allow them to pass, even after some reasonable bartering on the part of the Israelites. In fact, Edom sends out his army to make sure the Israelites don't pass. And so the Israelites have to go around.

The Israelites come across Mount Hor. At this mountain, Yahweh says that Aaron will die here. He tells Aaron to go up the mountain a ways, and Moses is to take off Aaron's clothing, and put the clothing on Aaron's son. They take off Aaron's clothes, put them on his son, and Aaron dies, presumably butt naked, on the mountain.

As we can see, this is starting to sound like Greek mythology, of sorts. Yahweh is acts like a Greek god or goddess. Sure, He's one god, as opposed to many. But in this one god, we have the traits that stand out in any god at that period of time. Yahweh isn't a vague mysterious deity; He's personal and He's very emotional, and He's definitely got some MAJOR character flaws. Talk about touchy!

Next time, the Israelites massacre two cities and have yet another rebellion, and this time Yahweh qwells the rebellion with snakes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I'm going to skip Chapter 17, it's basically about rules, rods and magic tricks. In fact, I'm starting to get a sneaky suspicion that's what the the Bible's really all about, if you take into account all the possible puns and implications. One interesting thing about Chapter 17 - God threatens to kill people who murmer.

In Chapter 18, the most important thing is that God says that only the Levites can sacrifice animals, and that Israelites must give a tenth of everything they have to Yahweh, and then any leftovers from that will go to the Levites.

It's starting to get repetitive, too. We're begin repeating a lot of stuff that was mentioned in all the other books: sacrifices smell good to Yahweh, non-Levites approaching the Tabernacle will be killed by Yahweh, etc. The verse in particular that says that is "strangers that come nigh", which could mean that any stranger will die, but in context it sounds like non-Levites.

Chapter 19 is more stuff about animal sacrifice. It talks about the proper purification ritual to prepare sacrificing a red heifer.

Actually, a lot of Jews and Christians are looking forward to the day that a red heifer is born. Apparently, red heifers are very rare. Well - a red heifer has been born fairly recently and both Jews and Christians are longing for the day it can be sacrificed. Somehow, the sacrifice of this red bovine will bring on the end of the world.

If it does, it's because of a bunch of crazies are out there actually pushing for the end of the world.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Religion is a failed science. It is, depending on the religion, either a 1300-year-old conversation explaining the universe (Islam), or a 2000-year-old conversation (Christianity), or even older (every other major religion). Judeo-Christian religion in particular is a scientific claim about the natural world (it was created in six days), and about morality (i.e. we get morality from the Bible).

I am taking up a challenge by a friend of mine, to prove my claim that while we can not prove or disprove whether God exists; we can disprove with relative ease, specific religions. I am going to focus on Judeo-Christian religion because Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the most influential religions in the U.S., and the west. They dominate politics, the news, and our lives. In the case of Judaism, which isn't as influential, it is none the less the father of both of the latter religions.

Today, religion has very little impact on modern-day science’s facts and theories. In fact, it's losing on a thousand fronts against science. It does have an impact on public policies that ultimately affect how we go about our scientific discourse. This is because of the sheer amount of people who still believe, unjustly, that their religion is the one and only, Capital-T “Truth”. That's why a critique like this one is necessary.

As a disclaimer, let me assure you three things: 1) We nonbelievers are not trying to outlaw religion. 2) By criticizing religion, we're not persecuting religious people. I should remind believers that persecution has been carried out in far more heinous ways then constructive criticism. 3) We're also not demonizing spirituality, as no one can argue that spiritual experiences do not happen. I have them. You have them. Those who have had them, can agree that they're very important. All we're doing is bringing religion into the political spotlight, where we can discuss it like rational men and women. We should do this because it affects the politics that govern all of us. In fact, I'd argue that it is our duty as citizens to have these kinds of discussions.

I will admit that our goal is to reduce religion's influence on politics, and be recognized as something akin to astrology in how seriously it is to be taken.


Most believers will find they have no basis for their beliefs at all. When the critique comes, they will first fall back from specific claims about Jesus or Mohammed, to a more general and vague 'deist' god. This god is not compatible with the personal God that they call Yahweh or Allah. After this point about incompatibility is made, believers will generally fall back to the foggy and shady adage: "You just have to have faith." This is poor reasoning, as it is the same argument that can be used for Santa Clause, leprechauns, or unicorns.

Then there are those few who ground their beliefs in rhetoric and mental gymnastics. These latter people are what we usually call “apologists.” It is to the apologists that I write the rest of this, as I believe they're the only ones who can appreciate the claims I am making about what is true and false.


At the root of Islam and Christianity lies Judaism. If Judaism is proven wrong, then Islam and Christianity are wrong by extension. There are numerous claims about the Old Testament that we can say are wrong; historically, scientifically, and ethically. I could mention the Old Testament's mention of four-legged insects, bats that are referred to as “birds”, and all sorts of interesting phenomena described in the Bible that science has proven untrue. I’ll describe just one of these in the interest of readership.

For instance, in the Book of Genesis, in Chapter 1, the author(s) of Genesis wrote that God created a firmament to separate the higher waters from the lower waters. Essentially, this is stating that prior to the creation of the Earth there was nothing but a huge blob of water. The Sumerian myths from which the Genesis myth is influenced call this blob of water “the waters of chaos.” The waters of chaos is a formless, deep, void of water. Genesis 1:6 "And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters."

The firmament is an invisible, physical barrier that made a separation, almost like a bubble, within the waters of chaos. Except this “bubble” was half spherical, with the Earth being its bottom border. The purpose of the firmament was to allow a space for God to create mountains, and trees and animals.

Here is my point. The firmament is a scientific claim. It is falsifiable.

It’s a scientific claim because it was a theory that these Bronze Age, desert priests who lived 3 to 4,000 years ago, made by observing nature. Looking up at the sky on a clear day one can’t help but observe that the sky is blue. Like water. From horizon to horizon, the view appears circular. When it rains, water comes from the sky. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find water. All of these phenomena are explained with the firmament.

That was 3,000 years ago.

Today, thanks to the scientific method, we know that on the other side of the Earth’s atmosphere there is a void of empty space, there are no boundless amounts of water. We know that the Earth is round, that it revolves around the sun, and that we are on the edge of a galaxy comprised of millions of other stars. We know from our studies in meteorology why it rains; that water vapors condense in huge cumulonimbus clouds and when the condensed water gets too heavy, it falls to the ground. We know from geology that water naturally collects underground in water tables, or simply “groundwater.”

That is the power of science to relinquish the claims of religions. Imagine if scientific progress was forced to stop at Isaac Newton’s discoveries just a few hundred years ago. We would have no trains, automobiles, telephones, satellites, nuclear power, or anything like that. We wouldn’t know about the theory of relativity or about evolution.

For billions of people, it is kind of like that, except instead of 300 years they are incorporating a belief that stopped progressing anywhere from 1300 to 2000 years ago.


Another study that has shown that the religion of Judaism to be wrong is ethics. For millennia Judeo-Christian religions have claimed that their religion instills moral principles into people. While there are plenty of great things that are said in these traditions, and even more so in the Eastern religions, it should be noted that morality doesn’t come from religion. It comes from our own intuitions. Since the Bronze Age, our vision of morality has changed drastically. Heck, our moral intuitions have changed immensely since the 1950s!

But I digress; the Old Testament goes into detail on how we should keep, or punish, slaves. The Old Testament also goes into detail on how we should beat our children or kill them if they talk back to us, whether we should sell our daughters into slavery, or whether we should kill nonbelievers and homosexuals. We in modern Western society no longer do any of that, and we have rightfully decided that these are disgusting and immoral acts.

Instead, we choose to focus (rightfully) on passages about loving our neighbors, being tolerant, and similar moral claims that have withstood the test of time.It isn’t the Bible that gave us morality. Rather, it is our our desire to relieve suffering, both in ourselves and in others, that makes us moral. Empathy and compassion, which are Christian characteristics, are also characteristics shared by many other religions, like Buddhists and Jainism.

Many folks insist that we get our morality from the Bible and religion. But they are obviously mistaken. We do not get our morality from Bronze Age texts. All we have ever done is choose what is moral and what to ignore.

As an example, let us consider the 10 Commandments. The 2nd Commandment says that we “shall not create graven images …” As a statement of morality, this doesn’t seem like it should be listed as the second most important commandment, or simply on any list of 10 moral precepts. We can place anything we want as the 2nd Commandment and it will almost be guaranteed to be more moral. “Thou shalt not kill animals needlessly” is a much more moral commandment then the one we are familiar with. Or, as Sam Harris says, “Thou shalt not fry all of your foods.”


In conclusion, I have shown that Judaism and the Old Testament are filled with scientific (the firmament) and moral (slavery, wife-killing) untruths. Judaism is the foundation of all Judeo-Christian religions, and so by extension all Judeo-Christian religions aren't 'true'. This is because the Bronze Age scientific explanations set forth by those desert tribes have been proven false by modern-day science. Furthermore, the dialogue on morality has evolved so much over the millennia that the Old Testament morality is completely alien to us, as anyone who has read the Old Testament can agree. It is through this ongoing human conversation that employs philosophical reasoning, the passage of time, and just regular old fashioned conversation, that morality itself has diverged from our ancient religious texts. However, I would suggest that the two, morality and religion, do come from the same place. The human mind.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Imagine that you're part of a society where one small group of people enjoys special privileges over the vast majority. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you had the balls to stand up to them, saying that everyone should enjoy the same political equality and everyone should be able to think for themselves. This might sound familiar, because those are essentially what democracy is all about.

This is what's happening in Numbers, Chapter 16. Except in Numbers, the folks with the democratic mentality are portrayed as the bad guys.

It's kind of like the American Revolution, from the perspective of the British. The simple fact of the matter is any human being can recognize when people are being treated unfairly, and when that happens, people get pissed off.

The rebels approach Moses and Aaron with the same gripe the last few people had, except with a much more indepth speech.

Two rebels named Abiram and Dathan say, "Isn't it enough that you us took out of Egypt to die here in this desert? Now, you want to make yourselves rulers over the people? You have not even brought us to this promised land of milk and honey. Do you think you can hoodwink us?"

In response, Moses talks to Yahweh, and then tells the rebels to meet him tomorrow at the Tabernacle with incense. Whoa, incense!?! Remember what happened to Aaron's sons? I smell a trap.

Sure enough, God has arranged to smite all these rebels, by having the Earth swallow them up and send them alive to "Sheol". Because of their courage (since they should've known what happens to complainers), and also because of their well-reasoned argument, the Skeptics Annotated Bible has called them the first "Freethought Martyrs".

Monday, October 19, 2009

"And they stoned him with stones until he was dead, as Yahweh had ordered them." - Numbers 15:36

Imagine you're out gathering firewood for the family on a Sunday morning, and then your neighbors see you, apprehend you, and then bring you to your church pastor, who sentences you to death. Would that suck?

Well, that's how people rolled back then, and they were only following the 4th Commandment: "Keep the Sabbath holy."

Back then, the Israelites had their Sabbath on Saturdays (Jews still do), but it's the same concept - one mandatory day off. Have you noticed that no one follows this anymore? Plenty of people work on Sundays - lawn maintenance, shopping, working, auto care, gardening, etc. If the 10 Commandments were still in effect, there's be a lot of killin'. Christians say it's because Jesus nullified the Old Testament law. Then why the big fuss about the 10 Commandments?

Well, Jesus didn't. In fact, he said that not one jot or scribble of the law shall pass until he returns. Is it moral to follow the 4th Commandment?

There's two responses that usually arise when questioning the 10 Commandments. First, "It was okay in that time and that cultural context," and "Come on, Andy. A guy getting executed for picking up sticks is a little bit extreme."

Well, Numbers Chapter 15, Verses 32 through 36 has an interesting story about a young man who was picking up sticks one fine Sabbath day.

They "caught" him, which kind of sounds like the guy even took off and ran, and then brought him before Moses, Aaron, and the rest of the community. They put him into custody, while Moses talked with the Almighty (Yahweh), asking Him what to do with the evil stick-gatherer.

Yahweh Himself says, "The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp."

And so they took the guy outside the camp, and the entire community threw stones at him until he died.

Again, I ask: Is it moral to follow the 4th Commandment?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Above: A favorite piece of 'evidence' from conspiracy theorists. A Photoshopped picture of an alleged giant, whom are supposed to have been descended from the Nephilim.

Remember in Start Trek, or Star Wars for that matter, when the captain and all of his highest ranking officers would be the FIRST people to explore a new planet? Well, that's what the Israelites kinda did with Canaan, as of Numbers, Chapter 13.

Of course, in Star Trek, Captain Kirk joined them. Moses, a little wiser then Kirk, stayed behind. He lined up the chiefs of the 12 tribes of Israel, and told them to go and explore the land of Canaan which lies just beyond.

"Go south, and up the mountain. Scout out what type of people live there, what sorts of cities they live in, whether the land is good, and bring back the fruits of the land," said Moses to the chiefs.

And so they went. Deep into the wilderness, and they found a huge cluster of grapes, so big it took two men to carry it.

After 40 days, they returned to Moses, with an interesting report.

One of the chiefs said, "Yea, the land definitely flows with milk and honey, but the people are strong there."

Another chief, a man named Caleb, quieted down the excitement at the news, and like any good opportunist, said, "Let's go there right now and take the land. It'll be easy for us kick their butts!"

But Caleb was quickly rebutted. "We can't fight the people there. They're friggin' humongous! We are like grasshoppers compared to them."

At this news, the Israelites suddenly start crying. Maybe they were scared? They start getting angry at Moses again. What a bunch of whiners these people are!

"Why did we follow Moses out of Egypt? Now we're going to die by a bunch of humongous giants!" they'd yell. "Maybe we should find a new leader to return to Egypt."

Didn't these motherf**kers learn? Yahweh lit a bunch of these whining maggots on fire, and then besot them with plagues just for whining. That should've been the first commandment. "No f**king whining!"

Sure enough, Yahweh gets wind of these complaints and once more must show these guys who's boss. Right before the Israelites decide to stone Joshua (one of Moses' supporters), Yahweh shows up at the Tabernacle, all smoke and fire. Yahweh threatens to kill every single Israelite and make an even greater nation from their ashes.

Moses, who is apparently much more reasonable then Yahweh, who is supposedly the all-knowing Creator of the Universe, according to most religionists. He actually persuades Yahweh.

"Don't kill them," said Moses. "If you do that, then the Egyptians will hear about it and laugh because You weren't able to lead them successfully."

And so they strike a deal. Yahweh compromises and agrees not to kill everyone. The key word, of course, is 'everyone'. Instead, He's just going to kill everyone over the age of 20. "The carcasses of the rest will fall in the wilderness," He said.

In addition, Yahweh makes it so that the Israelites will be forced to wander the wilderness for 40 years! Imagine that, a trip that would probably only take a few weeks - and they have to do it for 40 years!

Yahweh even killed the men who went scouting the land, apparently because it was their report that started this rebellion. Numbers 14:36 says they 'slandered' the land, and that leads me to think that maybe there were no giants.

Next time, the Israelites stone a man who was collecting sticks on the Sabbath!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Numbers, Chapter 12 proves that Moses did not author the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament), as many Christian fundamentalists would suggest. It also shows Yahweh's obvious sexism and favoritism.

First, those who say that Moses authored the Pentateuch are dismayed when they read this verse: "Now the man Moses was very meek; above all the men which were on the face of the Earth."

Moses, had he authored the Pentateuch, would be at pains to explain how any meek man could write such arrogant words about himself. It's bad enough that he was referring to himself in the third person. Unlike Christian fundies, I don't think Moses authored these books. Actually, I question whether Moses even existed. The things Moses does reads more like Hercules or some superhero. And, recent Biblical scholarship is lending support to what is called the 'documentary hypothesis', which is a school of thought that thinks there were at least four authors of the Pentateuch.

The documentary hypothesis is probably the best explanation why the Pentateuch is so full of contradictions. The Book of Genesis, as I've mentioned when I first started this journal (obviously), is the most problematic. That's because the authors were at pains to explain things that happened before they decided to start writing stuff down. So, they used elements of stories that they knew from their old cultures, the Sumerians and Canaanites. That's why the Sumerian stories of the Enuma elish and the Epic of Gilgamesh resemble the creation story, and the flood, respectively.

As for Yahweh's sexism, in Chapter 12, Moses marries an Ethiopian woman. Aaron (Moses' homeboy) and Miriam (Moses's older sister), complain and then criticize Moses for his choice in women (it had something to do with marrying outsiders). Yahweh became angry that they would criticize Moses (who was God's homeboy), and punished them, by giving leprosy to Miriam.

That sucks! Two people complain about God's BFF and ONE person (the chick) gets punished - with LEPROSY no less!

Next time, we're going to meet the favorite characters of Christian conspiracy theorists; a race of giants called the Nephilim.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Chapter 9 is interesting, because it describes the presence of Yahweh in relation to the Tabernacle. When the Tabernacle was set up, Yahweh appeared as a cloud covering the Tabernacle during the day, and as appeared as fire at night. And when the cloud left, the people journeyed, with the to the spot where the cloud lay.

I also think the language of the Bible is too strong. It reads that individuals are "cut off" from the people, and it implies a kind of permanence. But I'm getting the sense that those who were cut off were usually just temporarily so, because of some perceived uncleanliness of the individual. And I'm not turning into an apologist here, far from it. If we can parallel our own society with their's, we can see that their perceptions of 'uncleanliness', and any subsequent punishments, are based purely on superstition.

Chapter 10 is all about how large the Israelite population is. It gives instructions on using two silver trumpets, to get everyone moving. And Chapter 10 also talks about how great the Israelite army is. So, Chapter 10 is all 'huff and puff', so to speak.

After moving and setting up camp, moving and setting up camp, over and over, SOME people started complaining. The all-knowing Creator of the Universe (or so say modern day religious people) got angry at the complaining and just ripped into the tail end of the procession, sending fire down and basically just mangling and burning all sorts of people. SOME of whom, I presume, were not complaining. But still, what's the big deal about complaining?

Moses says a prayer and Yahweh stops the tirade.

Next, the people start bitching about the manna that has been provided to them. "We remember all the good stuff we ate as slaves in Egypt, now all we have is this manna crap," they would say.

Moses too, is upset. But not at Yahweh. He's upset at these damned soft Israelites. So upset, he even says something kind of funny. "Why do I have to be in charge of these people? Why can't you, God, take them into your bosom, as a nursing father bears the sucking child?"

Nursing father?

And then, the craziest thing has yet to happen. The people want meat. So Moses and God talk it over, and decide on a rather devious plan. "Oh, they want meat, huh? I'll show them! I'll give them so much meat that it'll come out their noses," sayeth the Almighty.

Yahweh then brings a wind that sends countless multitudes of quail dropping like flies onto the camp of the Israelites. And they, who are now happy that their prayers (and complaints) have been answered, start collecting the quail and cooking and eating them.

But they were tricked! While they were chewing on the tasty quail, Yahweh sent a "great plague" upon the people, and smote many of them. (Numbers 11:33).

What's the moral of the story here? Don't complain. Don't ask Yahweh for anything. If you do, He might send TOO MUCH, and He may very well kill you!

What the f*ck!?!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Numbers, Chapter 8 is about the Levites (pictured above). The Levites were the priestly class, designated by Yahweh to run the day-to-day activities of the Tabernacle. If the Israelites are Yahweh's favorite people, then the Levites are the favorites of the Israelites.

They had to be clean-shaven (except for the face), and that means they had to shave their pubes too! They (the males) went into the service of The Tabernacle at the age of 25 until 50 years old, when they were relieved of service.

They also had a lot of work cut out for them. As mentioned in a previous entry, the Levites were fairly busy people. They tore down and built up their portable temple (aka The Tabernacle), protected its holy relics, performed executions for breaking certain laws (or at least sentenced people to execution), performed animal sacrifices, purified the Israelites of their sins in elaborate rituals, followed very strict laws, and interpreted their scriptures, wrote them down, and ministered to the Israelites.

One might argue, from hindsight of course, that they weren't necessary to the function of society. But they were hardworking individuals, and they did serve some sort of function. They were kind of like the social glue that kept their tribes together.

Plus, without them, we wouldn't have these interesting historical documents from a 1000-plus years BCE to tell us about how weird and wacky and how utterly alien their culture was.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Above: Just before sacrificing a lamb at the Grand Opening of the new Third Tabernacle Church!

We should do Grand Openings this way

Chapter 7, if I'm not mistaken, is about the Grand Opening of the Tabernacle. Rather than the usual tame ribbon-cutting affair practiced by modern folks, representatives of the 12 tribes got together and sacrifces bulls, rams, lambs, baby goats, and oxen. Approximately 240 animal sacrifices were done on that day.

Y'know, we should bring that back! Imagine a steakhouse's grand opening with 240 animal sacrifices! Or, better yet, a bank! Or a preschool! Or even just a church. A church is probably the closest thing to a Tabernacle, anyways. And so what if PETA gets angry. Eff' PETA!
Being a Nazarite
Let's imagine that you are a Nazarite, or Nazirite. A Nazarite is a person who set himself aside in devotion to Yahweh, in order to live an ascetic life - a mystic, if you will. That's what Chapter 6: 1-21 is about.

It's similar to a Buddhist monk, too. Sorta. Except I imagine these guys are a lot hairier than your average Buddhist monk.

Anyways, no drinking liquor or wine, or grapejuice. He can't even eat grapes. Presumably, the Israelites must have thought grapes had some sort of alcohol content in it, because grapes are the main ingredient in wine. There could be other reasons, but because grapes are grouped in with alcohol, I'm just going to guess that's their reasoning.

Here's where it gets silly. Nazarites have to let their hair grow out, BUT if he comes into contact with a dead person - if someone dies right next to him, for example - the Nazarite will be unclean for seven days, and on the seventh day he must shave his head. On the eighth day, the Nazarite must bring two turtles and two pigeons to the priest

When the Nazarite fulfills his vow (usually after a 30 day period), the Nazarite must bring:
An unblemished lamb as a burnt offering
  • A ewe lamb as a sin offering
  • One ram as a peace offering
  • A basket of unleavened bread
  • Cakes of fine flour mingled with oil
  • unleavened bread wafers
  • meat offering
  • drink offering

Being a priest must have been very lucrative. And so, after a lot of hocus pocus, waving various offerings in the air, shaving the Nazarite's hair, etc. Finally, finally, the Nazarite may drink wine (Numbers 6:20).

I'm all for being a mystic, as long as the attempt is both rational and reasonable. Which means, the experience can be had by anyone, but we don't need to have all the extra, irrational baggage that religion adds to the mix.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Above: Woman with leprosy in Nepal

"Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and everyone that has an issue, and whoever has been defiled by the dead." In other words, abandon the sick to suffer and die alone. Shouldn't the Creator have just introduced rifampicin and dapsone, the drugs used today to effectively treat leprosy?

I probably hyped up God's crusade against lepers. That's actually the extent of it. But Numbers does continue on in true Leviticus fashion.

There's very little transitional material in the Bible, and in this chapter we jump from lepers to adultery - which is one of the accepted reasons to have an abortion. Yahweh, who is undoubtedly male, gives the Israelites a special magical ritual to discern who is an adulterer and who is not.

If a man suspects his wife is cheating, he approaches a priest. The priest gives her "bitter water" (Numbers 5:18). If she cheated on her husband, this bitter water will make her "thighs rot" and her "belly swell." If this happens, the woman is then excommunicated from the community. If nothing happens, well - I guess the man just has to throw his hands up in the air and say, "Oh, my bad!"

More than likely, this is actually a reference to abortion - a morning after pill.

The message to take from this is, obviously, if a woman becomes pregnant by cheating on her husband - by all means, abort it! And you know what? I have no problem with abortion (within the first trimester), but I do have a problem with this scenario. This is basically a priest conducting an abortion on the husband's whim, with the woman having no choice in the matter.

The whole procedure is called the "Law of Jealousies".

What about men? In this particular chapter, Yahweh is silent.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Above: an artist's depiction of Moses.

In the Book of Numbers, we start getting into the logistics of the Israelites' stay in the Sinai Desert.

Most scholars suspect their numbers to have been fudged, but the book is about how more than a million people (their census counted only males, which numbered 600,000) managed to live and wander about in the desert. But think about this, in the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites numbered 70, and in the course of 400 years, their population increased to well over a million people (based on a census of 600,000 males).

There are other censuses taken, like of all male children, or of all males 30 to 50 years old. These were done for different administrative purposes.

The tribe of the Levites, however, were not included in this census. They were the designated holy tribe who would supervise the building up and tearing down of the Tabernacle, and also see to its security, maintenance, and of course the teachings of Yahweh.

Remember Aaron's sons, the ones who God killed because they offered an unauthorized incense to Him? Well, Numbers Chapter 3 mentions them again, but it's basically a shortened version of the same story.

An interesting development in Chapter 4, God determines that Gershonite and Merari males, ages 30 to 50 years old shall do all the hard labor. The Gershonites and Merari are families within the Levite tribe, who had just been designated to oversee the Tabernacle.

Imagine being determined to do all the backbreaking hard labor of building up and tearing down the Tabernacle every day? They had to worry about special curtains, pillars, setting up the building and sacrificial altar correctly, covering certain holy items, building and rebuilding the fence around the Tabernacle, setting up offering plates, cleaning up any mess from sacrifices, etc.
Next time, God starts yet another crusade against - you guessed it - lepers!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Image from Christa Wimmers

I imagine that any reasonable and rational Israelite, after reading the last chapters of Leviticus, would have said something like, "Whoa God, what is up with you?!?" And of course, he would've been met by silence, because it wasn't really God who wrote this stuff, but the priests and Israelite elites.

The last chapters of Leviticus, 25 through 27, paint God as if he's a sociopathic control freak, with a tinge of multiple personality disorder, and paranoid delusion. In Chapter 25, God's kind of a good guy. In Chapter 26, he morphs into a monster. And finally, in Chapter 27, He calms down - a little bit, but gives some rather awkward bits of information regarding the cash value of human life.

As I said, in Chapter 25, God's a half-decent guy. He gives a little bit of advice on real estate, how to treat your slaves, how to purchase your brother as a slave, and he even says some nice, though ironic, things. God almost sounds like Thomas Jefferson when he said, ""Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

And like Thomas Jefferson, whom I admire, He was in the odd position of having to justify slavery.

Chapter 26 is where his personality sudden changes. He tells the Israelites, through the scribes who wrote this down, that if they follow his laws (stone nonbelievers, don't boil a kid in its mother's milk, don't eat crustaceans, etc.), then God will give them success. He promises to give them rain when rain is due, to be on their side when the Israelites go to war, to drive away "evil beasts", and to have bountiful harvests.


But if the Israelites don't do this, if they have the audacity to go against Him and His covenant, God lists all the punishments He will put upon them. They be forced to under such hardship that they will have to eat their kids (Leviticus 26:29), at least the ones left over after their enemies and animals get to them first.

While this is going on, God will appoint over the Israelites terror, consumption, the burning ague that will consume their eyes and cause sorrow of heart.

Oh yea, my favorite threat is that 10 women will cook my bread. Hey, as long as they're hot chicks that would be awesome. But even if they were humongous 500 pounders and ugly - how is that a punishment? The men who wrote Leviticus must really hate it when women congregate in groups. Yea, they can be loud and they giggle alot, and say weird girly things - but it would seem to me that 10 women cooking my bread would be the least of my worries.

In Chapter 27, God discusses the value of a human life in terms of cash value. Any healthy male 20 to 60 years old is worth 50 shekels. Women are worth 30 shekels. Males aged 5 to 20 are worth 20 shekels, and females in the same age range are worth 10. Under 5, males are 5 shekels and females are 3. Over 60, males are 15 shekels, and women are 10. Absent are fetuses, which are worth nothing in Leviticus.

But there you have it, folks. Men are worth more than women. And in the words of a bumper sticker I often see, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it."
Just kidding, I don't believe this stuff at all. In fact, re-reading the Bible is making me REALLY not believe any of this stuff even more than I didn't believe it before. Does that make sense? But I wonder if my religious friends believe, at the very least, that men are worth more shekels than women. Do you?

Woohoo! I'm done with Leviticus!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm just going to plow through 22 and 23. They cover subjects already discussed, with a few minor alterations. Basically, if you're a slave-owner, a priest, a priest's daughter or slave, and you're routinely sacrificing TONS of animals - you have nothing to worry about. If you're a leper, a guy with a "running issue", or had a wet dream - uh oh.

Chapter 24 is a slight change of pace. There's actually a descriptive story about a stoning. Some lady's half-Egyptian son gets into a fight with an Israelite and curses the Israelite's god. He probably said something like, "F*&% yo God, my God's waaaaay better."

God says, "You know what? This guy got me pissed off, and I order the entire community throw a bunch of heavy stones at him until he's a pile of mush and bone."

Maybe He didn't say it like that, but He basically told Moses, and Moses told the Israelites. Yahweh really does sound like a Roman god or goddess - quick to anger, jealous, and very moody.

A famous quote also comes out of Chapter 24: Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. The chapter suddenly jumps subject to justice. Isn't that ironic? They're talking about equal punishment here, RIGHT AFTER they killed a guy who said a few choice words against their schizophrenic invisible friend.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Leviticus Chapter 20, God is concerned about the worship of Molech. Back when this was written, sometime around 1440-1400 BCE, the Yahweh cult was actually in competition with many different gods, one of which was Molech. As we will see, the Old Testament is a record of how the Yahwehists wrested power over the tribe and literally forced the Israelites to follow their god Yahweh, exclusively.

To be fair, Molech isn't exactly a good god to be worshipping. In its most extreme form, worshipping Molech required child sacrifice. Yahweh was a "step up" because he only required animal sacrifice (except for a few instances where there were human sacrifices), and Yahweh's laws were very strict and punishment was usually more than the crime itself.

Molech takes on various forms, a bull (like the Golden Calf), or even an owl (which is a more modern conception). But basically, they're symbols of the same deity.

God then proscribes a few more laws to follow. Yea, He's not very good at transitional material:

1. Kids that curse their parents shall be put to death.
2. Adulterers (and adulteresses) shall be put to death.
3. Men who have sex with their daughter-in-laws - both will be put to death.
4. Men who have sex with men, you too shall die. (Leviticus 20:13)
5. If a man has sex with a woman and her daughter - all of them shall be put to death.
6. Sex with animals - both the human AND the animal must die.
7. If a man sees a female family member's nakedness - he shall be cut off from his people.
8. Worse, if a man sees a female family member's period blood (the Bible calls it 'fountain'), BOTH shall be cut off from the people.
9. Anyone that practices magic should also be put to death.

This sounds familiar, doesn't it? It's because God already covered this in the previous chapters!!!

I skip ahead to Chapter 21, and it's the same. Yahweh repeats His concern about men shaving. And the only new thing is that God also admits that He hates disabled and/or different people, like retarded people, blind, dwarves, people with funny blemishes on their skin, or funny noses, men with damaged testicles, crooked backs, broken hands or feet, and on and on.

Now THAT'S petty!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Leviticus, Chapter 19 goes on to show how nutty the Israelites concept of Yahweh is. On the one hand He's threatening them with death for using idols, and on the other he's telling them to leave extra grapes out for travelers. He might as well tell them to pick cherries.
He also brings up a lot of stuff that He mentioned before, like in the 10 Commandments. He tells them don't use My name in vain, don't steal, don't lie, etc.

You'd think there would be a point where the Israelites would look up to God and say, "Hey buddy, you've said that before. Um, can we cover some new ground please? I mean, why is the sky blue?"
Of course, anyone who asked that would probably die immediately.

Back then, the Israelites believed the sky was blue because there was an infinite amount of water being held up behind an invisible wall called the firmament (see Genesis Chapter 1). Yahweh, being a Sumerian sky god, should've told these people what's up, literally what's up?

"No, the sky is blue because of light from the sun bouncing off of molecules in the atmosphere. And there's an infinite vacuum punctuated by humongous balls of nuclear power, of which the sun is just one of them."

If the Bible had something like that written down, scientists today would all be at least deists.

Well anyways, Chapter 19 is at the very least a nice change of pace from Chapter 18. But it still has its problems.

Another problem is that when the Israelites finally get to where they're going, they're supposed to plant fruit trees, BUT the fruit from trees that are less then 3 years old are "uncircumcised". What the hell?

And then it starts talking about magic and astrology, both are things that I think are bunk and so does Yahweh apparently. But should we put to death those who do try to practice things? I don't think so. I think laughing at them is sufficient enough.

God also has a problem with guys who round out the corners of their head or beards, presumably He's talking about haircuts.

Since there are people out there using the Bible for morality, they're going to have to pick and choose. A lot of the most devout followers of the Bible that I know are clean-shaven, but they'll readily point to a chapter like this one to say why astrology is evil. The truth is that everyone who follows Judaism or Christianity are cherry-pickers.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Leviticus, Chapter 18 is all about sex. And it's not just about regular old hetero-sexual male-female sex - Chapter 18 covers all the OTHER stuff - the taboo stuff. It lumps homosexuality right in there with bestiality and incest.

First on the list is seeing relatives naked. It doesn't say anything about sex, it says you can't "uncover their nekkedness." I support that, it would be kind of awkward to see Uncle Billy's willy or Aunt Gina's 'gina; but is it necessary to even write this down in the Holy Bible? This is common sense stuff that should be applied to all people in casual polite society. But yea, there's crazy, gross and disgusting people out there that God created, and I guess He thought it would be a good idea to remind them not to do what He apparently knew what they'd do anyway.

The reasoning behind not uncovering the nakedness of relatives is that they are all of the same flesh. How's that even a reason? It should've said that sex with relatives has a higher chance of creating retarded offspring, or that sex with relatives is a breach of trust, or even "That's disgusting, man."

Second of all, don't even LOOK at a menstruating woman -that's just disgusting! (18:19) Bestiality (sex with animals) is also covered in Chapter 18.

Out of the blue, there is a reference saying not to pass your offspring to the fires to Molech. Basically, don't sacrifice your kid to Molech (who is a Sumerian god).

And then finally, we get to the rallying cry of the religious right. Leviticus 18:22: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. "

That's one third of their party platform, which can be summed up as follows: "God, guns, and gays."

Take note that the religious right regularly break all those other laws (keeping slaves, killing a non-virgin on her wedding night, looking at menstruating women, etc.), but they sure like to focus on this one! That's just goes to show that following the Bible literally is impossible - we all pick and choose, no matter how fundamentalist we are.

In fact, I'd argue that fundamentalists are the worst because while they do their fair share of cherry-picking, they can't even justify the reasons to favor one verse over another. Liberal and moderate Christians and Jews are at least reasonable enough to recognize there's a problem, but they'll still believe (albeit in a wishy-washy way).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Christians tell us that God created people so imperfect that He blamed them for their imperfections, and therefore sent His Son down to be tortured and executed by these imperfect people, to make up for how imperfect they are and how imperfect they inevitably will be. It's crazy, but that's essentially what it's all about. Jesus is kind of like the Ultimate Scapegoat.

Leviticus Chapter 16 talks about the 'scapegoat', a ritual where all the sins of the tribe are placed on a goat and then the goat is taken out to the wilderness. I'm going to skip the ritual, as it seems pretty damn superstitious to me, and extremely uninteresting. That's my secret so far. In order to read the Bible, make sure you skip the parts that are boring.

Chapter 17 is just more regulation on sacrifices. These priests are not you average laissez faire capitalists; they want a complete monopoly. Chapter 17 is also significant because God says explicitly that it's the blood that atones for the sins in a sacrifice.

  • If a man kills an animal and DOESN'T bring it to the tabernacle as an offering, he shall be cut off from the people. Presumably, this is because the man was going to offer this to some other god.
  • Any person that eats blood will also be cut off from the people.
  • If you eat an animal that died of natural causes, or was torn apart by other animals; you'll be unclean until evening.
I'm going to stop here because I want Leviticus 18 to stand alone. That's where we get into some of the debate about homosexuality. Please keep in mind some of the arbitrary rules we've read about up to this point, and how random they are (like boiling a baby goat in its mother's milk).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I'll be honest with you. I'm not sure what the beginning of Leviticus Chapter 15 is talking about, but I think they're talking about men's ejaculation. They call it the "running issue". One thing's for sure, they're not talking about jogging magazines.

They might be talking about some sort of gonorrhea, too. But most of the resources I've looked up say it is about ejaculating; particularly 'wet dreams'.

Basically, if a guy gets a little bit of jizz on himself during the night, the bed he laid on is unclean and anything he sits on until evening. And, if someone touches his bed, then THAT person is unclean, too! And by unclean, I don't think they mean physically; the implication is spiritual uncleanliness, or sinful. During normal sexual intercourse, both are considered unclean until evening.

The Israelites sure are anal with their superstitions! But the basic message is right, if you dig past all the unnecessary rituals. Guys or girls, if you get cum on you - wash it off. It is pretty damn gross to be walking around with cumstains on your pants and hands.
I'm not sure what kind of commentary I can add to this. In reality, we can argue that a person with semen on them is physically dirty, but are they spiritually dirty? I guess if you feel guilty for doing it, you are. And if someone is touched, or touches someone that has semen on them, are they dirty? I'm not sure if I want to delve to deep into this topic, so I'll stop. But I'd be interested in your comments.

Women, according to Leviticus, you are filthy! When you are menstruating, you are unclean during your period (seven days), AND for seven days after that! And if a man should have the audacity to have sex with a woman on her period, he too is unclean for seven days. After the eighth day AFTER the period, a woman must go to the local priest and have him sacrifice two small birds.

Chapter 15 covers some disgusting and unnecessary topics. I don't want to continue this discussion, but here's an interesting quote:

Leviticus 15:8 - "And if he that hath the issue spit upon him that is clean; then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even."

Spit? Nah. They can't be talking about that. Can they?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Biologist Richard Dawkins gets chided a lot for his description of the God of the Bible. But when we read the Bible, we have to admit that his description is accurate. I think the conflict happens because people's spiritual experience do not square up with the Bible's description. In fact, that's probably why most people DON'T read the Bible!

Dawkins famously said that Yahweh is "a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." We've only gone into Leviticus, the third book of the Old Testament, and we can't deny any of it.

Well, after all the rules on sacrificing animals, God has a few more rules that He suggests following. That's right! The all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe does not want you to follow these rules:

You can:
  • Eat cloven-footed animals that eat their cud (i.e. cattle). Okay, I do this!
  • Eat animals that have scales or fins (aka fish). I love fish, and I especially love ceviche!
You must:
  • Circumcise your male children. I don't have a problem with this, but that's probably because I'm circumcised and I find chicks dig it.
  • Sacrifice a lamb AND a small bird on your child's first birthday. Hey, my mom and dad never did that!
  • Arrange to have a priest sacrifice a lamb and a small bird after giving birth.
  • Quarantine diseased individuals, and have a priest inspect him. Generally good advice! But thankfully we have doctors nowadays.
You can't:
  • eat divided-footed animals that chew their cud (i.e. camels).
  • eat rabbits or hares because their feet are divided. What's wrong with eating rabbits?
  • eat pork. As long as you cook pork, it's clean.
  • touch the corpses of the above animals. So did they just left the corpses lying around, or did they have infidels dispose of them?
  • eat rodents or tortoises (not sure why they're grouped like that).
  • eat lizards or snakes. I heard lizards and snakes are good eatin'.
  • get leprosy or you'll be considered 'unclean! That sucks. First you get leprosy; and then you become ostracized by the community.
He also wants you to know the following unscientific "facts":

  • sea creatures without fins or scales are ABOMINATIONS. No, they're not. They're perfectly natural.
  • rabbits chew their cud. They actually chew their food, crap it out, and THEN eat their crap!
  • bats are birds. Bats are actually mammals!
  • some insects have four legs. There are no insects with only four legs.
  • some birds have four legs. There are no birds with four legs.
  • women are dirty and sinful after childbirth. Physically dirty (more like bloody) maybe; but sinful (aka 'spiritually dirty')?
  • Women are dirty when they're on their period. Really?
  • Women who give birth to a male child are unclean for one week; two weeks if it's a female! That's just messed up.

God's also got an interesting cure, or maybe just a ritual, for lepers. Check it out:

  1. Get two birds; kill one.
  2. Dip the live one in the blood and sprinkle or smear the blood on the leper, using the live bird as a brush.
  3. Then let the blood-soaked bird fly away.
  4. Next, find a lamb and kill it.
  5. Wipe some blood on the leper's right ear, right thumb, and right big toe.
  6. Sprinkle oil on the leper and rub some of the oil on the leper's right ear, right thumb, and right big toe.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6.
  8. Find another pair of birds. Repeat steps 1 through 3.
  9. Sprinkle the house with blood.

Next time, I'll discuss yet more crazy stuff from Leviticus, including what to do if you accidentally jizz on yourself!

Friday, August 28, 2009

From the previous chapters in Leviticus I learned that there was a particular way to perform a sacrifice (unblemished male, kill it, cut it up, burn it). Christians like to say that Jesus was the "ultimate sacrifice." But Jesus's sacrifice left out two important steps, the cutting up and burning, and wasn't ritualistic at all. Did we just catch Christianity on a technicality? To be honest, I think all the Judeo-Christian religions are full of technicalities and are embarassingly easy to disprove, IF you think logic is a reasonable criteria for belief.

IF you are against logic, and unreasonable, yea ... you'll probably maintain the belief. That is one of the great mysteries of human psychology: Why do we maintain false beliefs? Psychologists actually have an answer for that; confirmation bias. We find comfort and hope in these beliefs; we don't find comfort in not knowing. We also find meaning in everyday acts through hindsight bias.

In Chapter 8, Moses makes Aaron a priest and gives him the breastplate and all the special garments God told him about up on Mt. Sinai. He even hooks Aaron up with the Urim and the Thummim. The Urim and Thummim is just a coin they flip to make tough decisions.

Then, to purify Aaron, they sacrifice a ram. They 1) pick an unblemished male; 2) kill it and sprinkle and smear the blood on Aaron's ears, thumbs, and BIG TOES; 3) cut it up, and 4) burn it so God can smell it.

Chapter 9 is just more animal sacrifices. Well, that's an understatement. Moses calls for two calves, two rams, a baby goat, a lamb, and "a bullock" to be sacrificed. So what follows is what appears in my mind to be a massive animal blood orgy; a vegan's worst nightmare. They kill the animals, sprinkle their blood around, cut them up and wave the parts in the air, and then burn it. The worst thing about this is that no one eats these; they are a waste of food.

Chapter 9 ends with God consuming the animal parts with fire in such a way that the Israelites fall to the ground in awe.

Chapter 10 is tragic. Aaron's sons light an incense and offer it to God. But God doesn't authorize that kind of fire, and basically burns the two sons to death. Aaron puts on a poker face, but if I was in that situation I'd still be sad. Moses tells Aaron that he shouldn't mourn, or else God will kill him and the whole community, too. Yikes!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leviticus is another book of laws. A lot of Christians like to use the anti-homosexuality stuff, but completely ignore the crap about killing kids who talk back to their parents. The truth is no one is a fundamentalist; everyone cherry picks the Bible according to their own prejudices.

Chapter 1 starts off with a very detailed account on the best way to sacrifice to Yahweh. To sacrifice, it is necessary to follow these important rules. It can be summed up as follows:
  1. Pick an unblemished male from your livestock. No females, that's just gross.
  2. Kill the animal, let the blood sprinkle around the altar. You know - let it marinate!
  3. Cut the animal into little pieces.
  4. Light it on fire, because God loves the smell of burning meat. Wait ... don't we all? Barbecues, anyone?

If you're sacrificing a sheep, be sure to kill it on the north side of the altar.

And there is an explanation on how to sacrifice birds:

  1. Pick out a turtledove or a young pigeon. Don't show off and sacrifice an ostrich, guys.
  2. On the altar, rip off its head, and let the blood drip to the side of the altar.
  3. Pluck its feathers, and cast those darn feathers to the east of the altar! Cut up its wings.
  4. Finally, burn it.

Hey, Yahweh's a cool guy! He loves a good barbecue. It's a sloppy, bloody barbecue where no one eats; but you gotta hand it to Him for style. His rules on animal sacrifice make for an interesting form of entertainment. And He just wants to smell it! F*!& oxygen bars; that's for wimps! Yahweh's gotta love my house on the weekends, then. Too bad no one says grace there, though.

The rules on animal sacrifice go on until Chapter 7, and prescribe animal sacrifices for very specific 'sins', like 'sinning through ignorance', or 'lying about possessing someone else's property'. The prescription for the latter is to first return the property, plus a fifth more than its value. Then, the lying thief has to bring one of his flock and have a priest atone for his lying. Any leftover meat from the sacrifice goes to the priest (in this case the priest is Aaron) and his sons.

It's a very lucrative occupation to be a priest in Bronze Age Israelite culture.

Grassroots Skeptics is launching their website, http://grassrootsskeptics.org/, on Friday, September 4.

They're actually going to have an "online party," too. I guess it'll be BYOB.

You can find them on Facebook and Twitter, too.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Exodus ends with the building of the Tabernacle, a special, portable temple-ish structure that holds the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is where Moses will store the stone tablets.

The final chapters of Exodus are a very long and detailed account on how the temple, the ark, the altar, and all the regalia that comes with them (i.e. curtains, statues, etc.), were made. The Israelites building it were following instructions laid out when Moses was speaking with God up on Mt. Sinai.

"And they set in it four rows of stones: the first row was a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this was the first row." That's how detailed they are, for the last five chapters.

Other than the building of the Tabernacle and Ark, I should point out some inconsistencies, as that is my role as a nonbeliever to do so.

Verse 37:1 says that a man named Bezeel builds the Ark of the Covenant, but later in Deuteronomy Moses says that he's the one that built it. Not a big deal, BUT it's just one more thing to add to the long list of inerrancies within the Bible.

Verse 38:26 seem to indicate that the Israelites numbered at a few million people. Such a number is ridiculous. Even the City of Rome, a few hundred years later, would only have 1 million people living in it at its height. And that's a city with irrigation and aquaducts, etc. The people who wrote Exodus are claiming that several million people that were living in the desert! I'm not sure if we should take that claim seriously.

Don't get me wrong, though. The Tabernacle is very significant to the Israelites. And thought we don't realize it yet; the Ark is F***ing awesome!

In later books of the Old Testament, we'll see how the Ark is like the Israelite's secret weapon. It shoots this light out, called the Shekinah, which obliterates armies like they're nothing.

As for the Tabernacle, when Yahweh is in it in the daytime, He appears as a cloud. And when He's in it at night, He appears as a pillar of fire. When Yahweh is present, the Israelites can resume their traveling. When He isn't there, the Israelites stay where they are and wait for Him to come back.

So, let's put this in perspective. Exodus tells us that there was a group of several million Israelites wandering around the desert, carrying around the Ark of Covenant, which looked like an anvil, with two cherubim statues, on a stretcher. The Ark probably felt like an anvil, too, to the people carrying it. The cherubim are not cute little baby angels, either. They're a mythical creature with four legs and wings. At least, that's what the Sumerians believed. And the Israelites are basically the Sumerians with a slightly different religion.

Meanwhile, a huge dark cloud would follow them through the desert. When the group would stop, they'd build up this portable temple, the dark cloud would settle on it, and as night came a huge pillar of fire would rise up from the Tabernacle area, in full view of everyone, probably for miles around.

These were people you didn't want to mess with. And this is one heck of a tall tale!

Friday, August 21, 2009

So ... what's that about the 10 Commandments?

In a nutshell, this is what I discuss:
  • God gives Moses two stone tablets
  • Moses breaks the tablets when he sees the Israelites worshipping a Golden Calf.
  • There is no mention what these first tablets say
  • Moses gets a second copy of the first tablets
  • The commandments on the tablets are NOT what we claim is "The 10 Commandments"
  • Scroll to the bottom if you'd want to see what they say

I ofcourse encourage you to read the entire story.


Exodus Chapter 24 opens up with a little bit of some good old-fashioned animal sacrifice! Moses burns some oxen, sprinkles the blood on his fellow Israelites, and MAN does God love it! Well, despite its context, I'd imagine it smelled like a decent little barbecue.

A bit later, Moses, Aaron, and two other guys go up the mountain and they see God, and I guess they thought He was pretty awesome because they noticed that Almighty Creator was wearing some sapphire rocks under His feet! Interesting shoes, no doubt, but still odd that these rough men would be so keen on divine footwear! To be honest, I would probably look at God's feet, too. I'd imagine they would look strange.

Well, Mr. YHWH tells Moses and his friends that He's going to write something on stone, and that Moses must show it to the Israelites. God creates a cloud on top of Mt. Sinai, and Moses joins Him in the cloud. Moses and God hang out in the cloud for 40 days and 40 nights.

During this time, the Israelites get restless. They apparently NEED to worship SOMETHING! I must admit I have no idea what that must feel like. Or at least, I don't remember having that need. So, someone (Aaron of all people!) has the bright idea of making a golden calf.

In a nutshell, the Israelites pool all their gold jewelry and melt it down, and then they create an idol of a golden calf. Then they go off the deep end and start dancing, drinking, and having a rather crazy orgy-ish time.

Chapters 25 to 31 is just a list of instructions on how to create the Ark of the Covenant, of which Moses will later put the stone tablets that He will give; and it also talks about how to make a myriad of other things: candles, curtains made of goat hair, holy garments, a special breastplate for Aaron, special pants for the priests (if they don't wear them, they'll die!).

What? A breastplate for Aaron? Yea, it's a special one, too. Apparently, Aaron's breastplate will bear the names of the children of Israel, and also attached to the breastplaste is this weird coin thing-a-ma-jig called the Urim and the Thummim. The Urim and the Thummim is basically a coin that one flips to make decisions. "Should I kill this guy? Let me consult the Urim and Thummim. Oh, sorry. Urim, you lose."

Anyways, a lot of this stuff is obscure, but I invite you to read it. It doesn't really come across as a spiritual message, though, so I just sort of browsed through them. Anyways, as we all should know, God gives Moses the two stone tablets and tells Moses, "You better go back down, 'cause your peeps are going crazy!"

Notice that at this point, there is no mention about what is on the stone tablets!!!

When Moses sees the orgy going on, he throws the stone tablets down, thus destroying the only thing that the Israelite God had ever written down in His own hand, up to that point.

There's a huge argument, and Moses and his followers kill at least 3,000 people who still wanted to worship the Golden Calf.

Finally, after all the hubbub, Moses goes BACK up Mt. Sinai and God hooks Moses up with a second copy of the stone tablets. During their conversation up on Mt. Sinai, God is a little shy to show His face, and instead shows him "His Backside". This is known in some circles as "The Divine Mooning".

God says the stone tablets have the exact same wording as the first tablets (Exodus 34:1), and these second tablets say:

  1. Thou shalt worship no other god (For the Lord is a jealous god).
  2. Thou shalt make thee no molten gods.
  3. The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep in the month when the ear is on the corn.
  4. All the first-born are mine.
  5. Six days shalt thou work, but on the seventh thou shalt rest.
  6. Thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, even of the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year's end.
  7. Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread.
  8. The fat of my feast shall not remain all night until the morning.
  9. The first of the first fruits of thy ground thou shalt bring unto the house of the Lord thy God.
  10. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk.
THAT'S what's on the stone tablets, and that is what God Himself called the 10 Commandments!