A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Duet Before an Assassination (Judges, Chapter 5) - Okay, five chapters into Judges and I've concluded that it is just a horribly written book.  Chapter 5 seems like a slightly different version then Chapter 4.

First, Deborah and Barak (not the President, of course) sing a praise to Yahweh.  They totally hype him up, talking about He marched on the fields of Edom, and about how mountains melted before Him.  It's holds true to the expectations that we might have toward Bronze Age desert tribesman singing about their favorite war god.  In fact, I urge you, please check it out.  It's like a bad musical, and with Deborah's heartfelt support for the governors of Israel, you'd even think that she was inspired by the Soviets' own propaganda machine.

Then this musical starts to contradict the story.  Well, it contradicts reality when it says that the stars were against Sisera (if you remember, Sisera was just assassinated by a woman named Jael).  This seems to indicate that astrology was predominant back then.  Of course it was!  This is before science and astronomy and astrophysics.

Anyways, the contradiction is in the account of Sisera's death.  In the previous chapter, Jael hammered a tent stake through Sisera's skull while he was sleeping.  In Chapter 5, it says Sisera was standing up while she hammered the tent stake through his temples, and then "smote off his head."  After doing this, Sisera bowed and then fell at Jael's feet.

And for this behavior, Jael is exalted as being "blessed above all women in the tent."  For killing a man in his sleep, or who was at the very least exhausted from running away from battle.

In a very fitting manner, the chapter ends with a taunting thought of Sisera's poor mother, crying for her lost son.

After reading this song of Deborah, I can only say this.  THESE PEOPLE ARE NUTS!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

God's Kryptonite - An Iron Chariot!

God Can't Stop Iron Chariots! (Judges, Chapter 4) -  These early chapters seem to be more about deception then judges.  When last we left off, Yahweh (aka God) had allowed the Israelites to be sold as slaves, and in chapter 1:19 God apparently was unable to stop iron chariots. 

The story changes though and Yahweh is now able to cope with these iron chariots, with an army under the command of a man named Barak (not to be confused with Barack!).  The Almighty Himself wields a sword and whips the Israelites' Canaanite captors and sends them running away on foot, including their general, a man named Sisera.  That would be a cool sight, wouldn't it?  The Creator of the Universe wielding a sword against 900 iron chariots.  Sisera manages to escape, but God slays everyone else.

There's also another intriguing assassination story in here, too.  A young woman named Jael came up on the beaten Sisera, who begged her for help.  She tucks him into a nice cozy bed, gives him something to drink, and then, when he falls asleep, DRIVES A TENT STAKE THROUGH HIS HEAD!!!

Wow!  This is some sadistic stuff.  I can't find "morality" in it anywhere, but it's pretty cool.  At best, these are just glorified war stories chronicling Israelite battles.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baal, one of many gods and goddesses that the Israelites "struggled" with.

God Uses His Own Failure to Set Up the Israelites (Judges, Chapter 3) - Just finished Chapter 3, and it was nothing more than a repeat of Chapter 2.  If we remember Chapter 2, the Israelite's God fails to drive out all the inhabitants of the area, and instead chooses to let the Israelites dwell among the people and have them be tempted by their gods.  And then, when people DO get tempted, God (aka Yahweh) gets pissed.

So, in Chapter 3 people start worshiping various gods, in particular Baalim (or Baal) and this prompts more anger from the Lordy.  God even strengthens the neighboring Moabites to go against Israel, because God is pissed that the Israelites fell for His own trick and started worshiping other gods!!!  It gets so bad for the Israelites that they actually wind up in the service of the Moabite king.

And so now, with their own god literally against them, the Israelites begin to weep.  Finally, crazy ol' Yahweh starts to feel sorry for them and brings them "a messenger".  This "messenger" is actually just an assassin - a very flashy, action hero type of assassin named Ehub. 

He goes to the Moabite's King Eglon, who apparently is very fat, and drops one of those action hero one-liners.  "I have a message for you - from God."

With that, Ehub quickly unsheaths a dagger from its hiding place on his thigh, and then stabs the king so deep into Eglon's fat - to the hilt - that Ehub is unable to retrieve the knife.

After that, it's just a repeat of previous books and chapters.  The Israelites basically annihilate (for now) the Moabites and kill about 10,000 of them!

Finally, the chapter ends on an unrelated point.  Some other hotshot Israelite named Shamgar apparently kills 600 Philistines with an ox goad.  An ox goad is basically a cattle prod, a long stick with a point at the end.  Presumably, he used it as a spear.  But still, SIX HUNDRED!?!   Spartans, beware.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Admiring a golden calf idol, Image from www.gerardnedal.com

Why Most People Can't Read the Bible (Judges, Chapter 2) - As soon as I opened up Chapter 2, I was hit by an rather interesting story about Yahweh (aka God) purposely tricking Israelites to not believe in Him, so that He wouldn't have to live up to His promises.

Yahweh is such a trickster, isn't He?  Basically, He sent an angel down to deliver a message, which was essentially, "You Israelites are too tolerant of other religions.  As punishment, I will not drive them away as promised, I will instead leave them there so that some of you will believe in their false gods."

Isn't that a summavabitch?  And of course, everyone cried after hearing the message.  I probably would too, knowing that the god I'm worshiping has some sick vendetta against me.

Even though at this time, no one believed in hell, the punishments from "on high" were still severe.  Yahweh would vent His holy rage on the people just as He did as they were on their way out of Egypt (supposedly). 

And then, Chapter 2 refers to the death of Joshua - AGAIN!  Only one chapter later!!!

Have any of you started reading the Bible and for some reason couldn't read it?  When I was Christian, my church told me its the devil trying to make me not read it.

But that's not the reason.  It's because the Bible is horribly written.  It repeats itself, contradicts itself, and talks about subjects that leave you scratching your head.  I've mentioned it before, but this phenomena is best explained by the 'documentary hypotheses', which says that the Old Testament is largely written by four different authors, each of which expounded on the last, or wrote simultaneously, and some future editor combined them.

Now that I don't believe in the Bible and understand its history, well - it's actually enjoyable to read this little piece of history.  It's frustrating that there are people out there that believe it word for word (and vote on their beliefs), but I'm convinced now that their beliefs are not as much based on the Bible, as they are based off of their pastors or favorite Christian authors, pundits, etc.

And of course, Chapter 2 continues with the Israelites falling for Yahweh's trap and worshiping other gods.  Yahweh then gets pissed because they fell for His trick, and causes them to lose a bunch of battles, and some of them even become slaves.

I don't remember Judges much from my first reading, but I'm going to guess that they somehow redeem themselves later.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Israelites cut off the thumbs and big toes of Adoni Bezek.  
Image from boomerinthepew.com

Book of Judges Opens Up With Some Intense Bloodshed, Torture (Judges Chapter 1) - With the Book of Joshua behind me, I thought I'd have a fresh new outlook.  But who am I kidding?  This is the Old Testament.

As soon as Joshua dies, the people of Israel ask "How are we going to get the Canaanites we DIDN'T already kill!?! (not verbatim)."  And so Yahweh, aka God Almighty, nominates the young warlord Judah. So right off the bat, Chapter 1 mentions the transition of power from Joshua to Judah. And Judah is one crazy mofo.  

In Bezek, they slaughter 10,000 Perizzites and Canaanites - they find Adoni Bezek (above image) and cut off his big toes and thumbs.  Adoni says something odd.  He says, "After having their toes and thumbs cut off, I fed 70 kings from under my table."
I'm not sure what that means, and the picture in my head is ridiculous, but that's what it says (Judges 1:7).

The Israelites then attacked Jerusalem (remember, this is before Jerusalem was their's) and killed everyone in the city and set the city ablaze.  And the list grows.  The Israelites slay people "in the mountain", "in the valley", "in the south", a town called Kirjaphsepher (which was taken on a dare), another town called Zephath, the Gaza coast, the Askelon coast, the Ekron coast, the city of Bethel, and on an on.  You get the idea.  There's lots of carnage.

But remember, this carnage is because Yahweh (aka God) promised to drive everyone out for the Israelites.  But wait, even God is having a bit of problem with the people "in the valley".  Not even Yahweh could drive them out because they have "iron chariots".  In fact, the rest of the chapter from 1:26 on, is just a list of towns that couldn't be taken. 

I like a good war story every once and a while, but this is ridiculous.  And, that was just Chapter 1!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The ancient god Molech was a contemporary of Yahweh.

Joshua's Final Message (Joshua 23 & 24) - Reading the Old Testament is kind of cool, because we can really get a picture of the mindset of the people who founded a religion that would eventually evolve into Christianity, Islam, and even Mormonism.

In this story, Joshua is about 110 years old and he knows he's about to kick the bucket.  Oddly enough, it doesn't seem like he thinks he's going anywhere except into the ground.  To Joshua, it seems, there is no afterlife.  And the only purpose in worshipping Yahweh is so that He doesn't smite you in this life.

His final message is for the Israelites to not worship any other gods, nor to mention their names.  And this really illuminates the thoughts that were going through the minds of the people who actually wrote these stories down.  Today, we live in a society that is tolerant toward different religions and even tolerant to those with no religion.  But back then, these people were trying to establish a new religion and so they had to deal rather harshly with any competition.

So, no wonder they were so worried about people worshipping other gods.  The way the writers wrote about the subject made it seem like it was one of the greatest problems of their age.

Another subject that is brought up is the question of free will.  Joshua, speaking for Yahweh, says to "Choose who you will serve ..."  Choose one of these other gods and Yahweh will smite you, but choose Yahweh and you will be blessed.  Isn't that kind of like saying to your child (to steal an example from nonstampcollector), "You can choose whatever ice cream you want, but if you don't choose vanilla I'm going to take away all your toys, you can't watch cartoons, and you're going to be grounded for a week."

Is that what free will has come to?

At the end of the book, Joshua dies and there's a contradiction too.  Joshua 24:32 says that Joshua bought a parcel of land in which to lay to rest the bones of Joseph.  But in Acts 7:16, it says Abraham bought the parcel of land.  So, we have ourselves a nice little contradiction between the Old and New Testaments.

Next time we start reading the Book of Judges.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Yet Even MORE Bickering On How to Divide the Spoils!!!  Joshua Ch. 21 and 22 - Alright, I've read two more chapters and the Israelite tribes are still trying divide the spoils. 

Chapter 21, especially is all about that.

So, rather than get into the specifics about Chapter 21, it would be more useful (and fun) to point out the contradictions, false prophecies, and fun stuff within it. 

In Joshua 21:23-24, it reads that Aijalon (which means "the place of gazelles, hence the picture) is for the tribe of Dans.  However, in I Chronicles 6:66 (uh oh!) and 69 (yay!), the Bible says that Aijalon is for the tribe of Ephraim.

In 21:43-45, the Bible says that Yahweh delivered on His promise to secure all the land which He promised to the Israelite patriarchs.  However, as we just read last week and the week before, and in numerous locations throughout the Bible, it's just not the case.

In Chapter 22 however, we return to the plague of the ancient Israelites - their tendency to worship many gods and the desperate need to expunge this inconvenience.

The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manassah (two and a half tribes!), after accepting their spoils, go back to their land and build an altar.  Apparently, it was a really cool alter, too.  The only problem is that when the other tribes heard about this altar, they went apeshit!

Apparently, this whole ordeal was a misunderstanding, and after some explanation that I'm not sure I completely understand, the priests of the 2.5 tribes convinced the other tribes that this altar was really just a monument between the tribes that Yahweh is their god.

That's cool, I guess.  It's just so weird that the other tribes made such a big deal about it in the first place.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Joshua divides the Israelites' inheritance by lot.  www.freebibleillustrations.com

More Dividing the Spoils (Joshua 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20) - Damn!  A large chunk of the Book of Joshua is just dividing up the spoils of war to the various Israelite tribes.

Chapter 16 through 19 are basically the same thing.  "These guys get this lot of land, those guys get that lot of land."  The only thing notable about these chapters is that in 16 and 17, we see that Yahweh yet again failed on His promises to drive out everyone the Israelites encounter.  Apparently, there was a little bit of difficulty with the Canaanites (and the Jebusites earlier, remember?).

Another interesting development happens in 18 and 19, where the last seven tribes who still need their inheritance draw lots for the land - thereby gambling.  Fortunately, it isn't until later in the Bible that gambling is seen in a bad light.  In their defense though, there had to be some method in which to designate who gets what.

It isn't until Chapter 20 that the story changes.  I was starting to get a little worried that the Book of Joshua was just going to be one long story of dividing up lots of land to the different tribes.  Chapter 20 brings up the "avenger of the blood" again.  If you don't remember, the avenger of the blood is a relative of a murder victim who is seeking to kill the murderer. 

Chapter 20 designates refuge cities where the alleged murderer can run to and not be expected to be killed by the avenger of the blood.  The alleged murderer essentially has something akin to probation here.  It's an interesting idea for their time, but still the murderer is basically free.  All they've done is give him refuge from the "avenger of the blood".

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Contradictions in Joshua Ch. 15? - First of all, I think one planning to read the Bible can skip this chapter.  It's just more dividing up conquered lands to people.  But, if you're interested in contradictions there's some in here.

The first one comes up in Joshua 15:20, 33.  It says "this is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah ... in the valley, Eshataol and Zoreah.  But then, if we skip ahead to Ch. 19:40-41, it says those cities were given to the children of Dan.

The second contradiction is actually a false prophecy.  In Ex.33:2; Dt.7:17:24, 9:4-631:3-7; Jos.1:1-53:10, 17:17-1821:41-43, Yahweh tells the Israelites that He will drive ALL the inhabitants out of the land for the Israelites.  However, Yahweh and the Israelites can not, for the life of them, drive out those damned Jebusites!  (Josh. 15:63).

And of course there's a little bit of good old fashioned Old Testament cruelty and family values.  In Josh. 15:16-17, a man named Caleb offers his daughter to the person who conquers a city called Kirjathsepher.  A man named Othniel, son of Kenaz, conquers the strangely named city, and so Caleb gives his daughter to him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joshua Divides Conquered Territories Amongst Israelite Tribes (Joshua Chapter 13) - Joshua is getting pretty old now, and now he is given the task of dividing the conquered lands and appropriating them to the various Israelite tribes.

There's not much else to it, so I don't want to bore you, except that there seems to be a confusion of names.  It starts off with Joshua being old and told my Yahweh that he must divide the remaining land amongst the tribes; and then suddenly it's Moses dividing the land.  And, I get a feeling this is a repetition or some sort of reiteration from Numbers. 

Also noteworthy is that tribe of Levites do not get any inheritance (because they are the priestly tribe), for their inheritance is Yahweh Himself. 

So anyways, this chapter is a little bit confusing

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Just a few leftover giants from the time of Moses.  From theholychao.atorium.net
A List of Kings Killed?  (Joshua 12) - Okay, so after the havoc wrought in the previous chapters, it appears that Chapter 12 is an inventory of dead kings.  I read it three or four times, and I admit I can't make much sense of it, so if anyone knows what it means, please tell me.  But, my impression is that Chapter 12 is basically a list of the kings were summarily executed upon the Israelites' victory.

Also interesting is the mention of the remnants of giants, whom are mentioned during a recap of the amount of territory that Moses had conquered.  Gotta love those giants! 

I know a Christian guy that is all about these giants, aka the Nephilim, and really believes they existed.  After all, it's right there in the Bible. And he even has some cool Photoshopped pictures to prove it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Israelites Under Joshua Continue Their War (Joshua 11) - So, it's not over.  Apparently, there's still a few more people still alive in the surrounding regions, and they've decided to retaliate against the Israelites.  Haven't these people learned their lesson?  I guess it's hard to learn when the Creator of the Universe tricks you into dying.

King Jabin of Hazor called on many different kingdoms comprising of Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, and Jebusites.  The Book of Joshua says, "And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many."

But Joshua, of course, is comforted by Yahweh, who apparently "hardened the hearts"  (Josh. 11:20) of all these people with the explicit intent that the Israelites, and Him, will completely annihilate them.

And they do.  It is such a slaughter that it is described in Josh. 11:11 like this, "they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire."

Only Hazor was burnt with a fire, though.  Because it was Hazor who started this attack, after Yahweh hardened their hearts, which lead them to go to battle against the Israelites.  The other cities were looted.

"And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe." (Josh. 11:14)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Israelites Go On a Rampage!  (Joshua 10) - Wow, so now the storytellers who wrote Joshua have turned up the volume on their maniacal war tales!

Joshua 10 is basically a tale of the Israelites defending their ally in Gibeon from five Amorite armies.  "Quick, Joshua!  Hurry and bring your army, because we need help badly!"  That was basically the message from the Gibeons to Joshua.

And Joshua went up to the city of Gibeon with his army, and with the help of Yahweh throwing heavy hailstones at the soldiers, OBLITERATE all the of Amorite armies.  Joshua actually told the Gibeons that the slaughter would be finished before nightfall.  However, because not even Yahweh can kill the armies in all five kingdoms in the time allotted, Yahweh does what can only be described as a cosmic Daylight Savings!

After this, perhaps just to prove a point, the Israelite armies go to each of the five Amorite kingdoms and wreak havoc on their cities, killing EVERYONE!!!  Literally, he "utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord commanded."

So, what do you think?  Do you think it's a good idea to completely annihilate entire populations (young and old, men and women, children, livestock, etc.) if God says it's okay to do so?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Israelites Gain More Slaves (Joshua Ch. 9) - After the slaughter of the people of Ai, and the lynching of their king, masses of people start showing up to ally themselves with the Israelites.  Of course, this is all according to the Bible, there is no archaeological evidence to support this. 

Among these people are the Hivites (the stone carving above depicts a Hivite), who - like the others - asked if they can be included among the tribes of Israel.  The leaders of the tribe were against this, and suggested to Joshua that they take these people as slaves.  In their words, "hewers of wood and carriers of water", meaning "Let's keep these guys to do all the dirty work."  And that's what Joshua decided to do.

Imagine.  A lot of these people traveled a long, long, looooooooooongg time.  One of the travelers said they left with clean clothes and now there clothes are falling apart, they had wine and now the wine is rank, they had bread and now it was moldy; he offered this as evidence for their long trek.  So, these people traveled long and far under the hopes they could be in the good graces of the Israelites, and then they become their slaves.

Whether or not this is true, the mere fact that someone would write this down is proof of how alien a world these people lived in.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Destruction of Ai and the Lynching of a King (Joshua 8):  What started out as an intriguing spy story is becoming a tale of genocide, written by its perpetrators.  Chapter 8 is about how the Israelites ambushed the Ai army; slaughtered them; slaughtered the inhabitants of the city; hung their king on a tree; and then killed a bunch of livestock as an animal sacrifice.

I remember seeing a Facebook page, now long deleted by FB, of a Hispanic group of teens and young adults that mutilated dogs and cats just for the heck of it.  They'd pose with the dismembered carcasses of dogs and cats in the background.  The Book of Joshua reminds me of that.  Except, I don't think the Israelites were responsible for the demise of Ai.

Most archaeologists would say that Ai was a pile of ruins even before the Israelites existed.  So, that would make this horrific tale only the yarns spun from the imaginations of a group desert barbarians in the Bronze Age, which makes sense.  When the Israelites did arise as an actual distinguishable society, they were using stories like this one, the Exodus, and Genesis to make sense of the world around them.  It was the science of the day.  Of course, it was bad science but it did serve the same function - an explanation of phenomena.

"Why is there an abandoned city over there?" 

The desert priests did not know the answer, so they made it up.  After all, to them and to the Israelites the ruins had to have something to do with the great mythic heroes of their own past.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Joshua Ch. 7: Entire Family Executed Because Dad Looted Jericho - After taking Jericho, Yahweh gets pissed off.  Achan, son of Zerah, apparently did a little looting after Jericho.  Shortly thereafter, Israelites lose a battle against the men of Ai.

So, Joshua gets paranoid and asks Yahweh, "What's the big deal?"  Yahweh says that Achan, son of Zerah, took "the accursed thing" and that he should be killed.  Joshua investigates the matter and questions Achan; who confesses.  He apparently stole some clothing and some money.

For this crime, Joshua rounds Achan, his sons and daughters, his livestock, and the loot together.  When they were all huddled together, the Israelites threw large stones at them, effectively killing them all because old Achan decided to partake of the spoils of war.

So, what do you think?  Do you think Achan and his entire family deserved to die because of his actions?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yahweh's Strategy for Taking Down Jericho - Jericho was allegedly a city that was surrounded by great walls.  Back in the Bronze Age, the usual method of taking down walled cities was a long and drawn out siege.  Fortunately, the Israelites had the Creator of the Universe to help them take out the town of Jericho.

His strategy?  Seven Israelite priests will blow into ram's horns seven times a day and march around Jericho carrying the Ark of the Covenant, for seven days.  During the entire seven days, the Israelites are instructed to remain silent.  On the seventh day, after the last ram's horn was blown into, and the final lap around the city was made, every Israelite was to shout.  The walls would fall, and the Israelite army was instructed to descend upon the town and kill everyone. 

Everyone except for Rahab, of course. Remember her?  The hooker who hid the Israelite scouts?

How did the strategy work?  Well, according to the Book of Joshua, after seven days they sounded the horn, shouted, and sure enough, the walls fell and the Israelite army "utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." (Joshua 6:21)

But hey.  That's politics, right?  It's about who you know, and Rahab had the hookups.

One interesting thing about Jericho is that it is a living contradiction.  Joshua said that anyone who tries to rebuild Jericho (Why?  What did they do that was so bad that they killed innocent people, too?) would pay for it with their eldest and youngest child and their descendents will be considered to be cursed by God.  But, Jericho is still around today, and considered to be the longest continuously occupied city. 

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Yahweh Demands that Israelites be Circumcised a SECOND Time!!! Ouch!  (Joshua, Chapter 5) - Imagine that you're a soldier in Iraq a few years ago.  You're lined up with a few hundred other men, crouched down behind a ditch and ready to move into Fallujah.  It's expected to be a vicious firefight.  And, for the sake of argument let's pretend that you've already been circumcised at birth.

Then word comes down the line that you're commanding officer requires that all soldiers, even those already circumcised, must get a second circumcision before the battle.  This is basically what happens to the Israelites before they mount their assault on Jericho.  And, I'd imagine that's when some young Israelite soldier coined the term, "WTF?!?"

What's worse is that the Israelites were so numerous that they actually created a "hill of foreskins".  I tried to find an image of a "hill of foreskins", and unfortunately the only image I came up with was the one pictured above, and a bunch of homosexual photos and some weird reference to "docking", which I won't get into here.  Let's just say that some people have way too much time on their hands!

After the men healed, the Captain of Yahweh's angelic host came down to visit Joshua, with a message from the Big Man Himself.  "Take off your shoes, Bub, for you are on Holy Ground."

And that's where Joshua, Chapter 5 ends.  The Book of Joshua is turning into a rather odd tale, with tales of intrigue, spies, supernatural beings, and a hill of foreskins.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Above: The Gilgal Gardens in Salt Lake City.  Photo from 15 Bytes

Joshua Builds a Monument to the Israelites Crossing of the Jordan River - At the time that Joshua was written, there must have been some sort of monument, or a peculiar grouping of stones, in the Jordan River and also another set on the banks of it (or not too far from shore).

Those who saw the stones probably wondered where they came from.  I say this because the author writes that the stones "are still there unto this day."  (Joshua 4:4)  This suggests that the book was written well after the fact, and the chapter serves as an explanation for these peculiar stones.  By the way, the stones are no longer there.

But according to Joshua, the stones acted as a monument to the Israelites 'miraculous' crossing of the Jordan River.  The author even writes that this is the story that should be told to children who come later, asking pesky questions.

After this unusual ceremony and the Jordan River filled back up with water, 40,000 Israelite warriors assembled on the plains of Jericho.  Another monument was erected with 12 stones Joshua had taken with him.

Perhaps one interesting correlation with this story, is the story of Moses crossing the Red Sea.  Twice Yahweh assisted the Israelites with crossing a difficult body of water.  But the situations were completely opposite.  In Moses' time, the Israelites crossed a large sea and were fleeing an oppressing army; this time the Israelites were the ones on the warpath.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yahweh Lies to Joshua (Chapter 3) - Chapter 3 is very similar in wording to the last chapters.  Yahweh once again promises Joshua, and Joshua reports in 3:10, "He (Yahweh, or God) will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites"

In essence, this is a lie that will become obvious a few chapters later in the book. 

There is one miracle that occurs where the Israelites were able to cross the Jordan River without getting their feet wet.  This occurred during their march toward Jericho.

The Israelite priests holding the Ark of the Covenant to lead the column, until they got to the Jordan River.  the Israelites would then have to stand 2,000 cubits behind the ark, and make sure they had been properly cleaned prior to their march, etc.  As the water receded the priests holding the Ark stood in what was once the middle of the river, while the Israelites continued to the other side of the bank.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

There sure are a lot of prostitutes in the Bible (Joshua, Chapter 2) - It's no secret that prostitution is one of the oldest professions.  There will always be a demand for sex, no matter what legal restrictions are put on it. 

In this case, the prostitute becomes a central character in the story, and there's a little foreshadowing to show that she's going to play a part later on as well.

Joshua sent out two scouts to survey the land, and especially Jericho, the walled city.  While in Jericho, the scouts went into a harlot named Rahab's house, where they "came in unto her".  I'm not sure if this means they had sex with her, or if they just stayed the night.  But, it is worded as sex has been worded in previous books, especially with the phrase "came in unto her".

Well Rahab took kindly to these two gentlemen, whether it's because they were good lovers or she really bought into the notion of their god, I can't say.  But she did mention that she has heard of their god Yahweh, and that the people in the region fear the Israelites.  So, maybe she was betting that Jericho would lose the coming invasion.

Rahab's house was located on a part of the wall surrounding Jericho.  She let them rappel down the wall by a scarlet thread.  This thread was to remain on her window to warn the invading Israelites not to hurt anyone inside that house, as per an arrangement she made with the two scouts.

So, we got the making for a pretty interesting war story.  Scouts meeting with sympathizers inside the walls of Jericho, and the ominous fear being felt by its inhabitants, knowing about the coming invasion.  Too bad the authors of Joshua sucked, or perhaps it was the translators.  In any case, there are the elements for a halfway decent story to be told here, and whoever wrote it or translated blew it.  I wonder, does this mean that Shakespeare was a better author than Yahweh?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Joshua of Nun (Joshua 1:1) - Immediately after Moses's death, Yahweh looks to Joshua, the Son of Nun.  Yahweh (aka the Judeo-Christian God) says to Joshua that He will not fail him, and "every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, I will give unto you."

So, let's not bandy about here.  In order to be a fundamentalist Christian today, we have to believe the following:  the all-knowing, all-powerful Lord of the Universe, Yahweh Himself, is actively taking part of a tribe of desert barbarians wandering about the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern desert, promising them land in His role as an "omniscient real estate agent" (thank Sam Harris for that jewel).

Joshua isn't shy about this at all.  He gets right to it, and starts commanding the Israelite tribes.  And just like Moses in Deuteronomy, he falls into the same rhythm:  "Do as I say and you will get everything you ask for, but if you don't you will be put to death."

Next time, Joshua's spies hump a hooker.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Moses dies, couldn't have written Deuteronomy - Many religious people contend that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) by himself.  That can't be, because how could he have written Chapter 34, which is essentially his obituary?

It's a very short chapter, too.  Moses dies in Moab and is buried somewhere near Bethpeor, but no one knows where his tomb is (Deut. 34:6).

It says he lived to be 120 years old, and was sharp-witted and able-bodied as ever, which contradicts Chapter 31, which said he was unable to "go out and come in".  I'm not sure what Chapter 31 was referring to, but it sounded like it was a big problem for Moses.

The chapter also ends by saying that no prophet in Israel is like Moses, in that he knew Yahweh "face to face".  This, of course, contradicts many other verses in the Bible that describe people who actually have seen Yahweh, or the claim that Yahweh can be seen at all.  In fact, in Exodus 33:11, Yahweh Himself only shows his ass to Moses and tells him he will never be able to see his face because no man can see His Face and live.

And that ends my foray into the Book of Deuteronomy, and I'm proud to say, I finished reading the Pentateuch.  Finally!

Moses does a final shout to his boys - Before he dies, Moses does a shout out to his boys in the leadership caste of the Israelites in Chapter 33.  It's not too much really, just the glorious rantings of a dying old man who probably never existed.

One thing that's weird is that in the beginning it says that these are Moses's words, but Moses is mentioned in the list of people being praised.  In fact, he's the first one.

Some of the more interesting "props" given is for Levi, and a special compliment for his Urim and Thummim. The Urim and Thummim is kind of like a coin toss.  Flip it and it lands, you get heads (or Urim) or tails (Thummim), and that guides the decision.

Another interesting shout-out is to Joseph, who actually gets a lot of praise from Mo.  Aside from Joseph being blessed by Yahweh in successful agriculture and hunting his glory is like the first male son of a bull, and his horns are like a unicorn.  They really had a different concept for flattery back then, didn't they?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Deuteronomy 32: Is God Bipolar?- If Yahweh had a psychologist to evaluate Him, it's pretty clear that He'd be diagnosed with a severe case of bipolar disorder.  This is of course bad news to His followers.

Chapter 32 starts off nice, Moses talking about how great Yahweh is and how perfect His work is.  And then, with almost no transition, it sinks into the macabre.  Literally, here's the transition:

32:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
32:5 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

And it goes downhill from there - burning and starving for everyone, including elderly and children.

What I want to know is - where does perception of a loving God come from?  I mean I see that the Israelites loved Yahweh - well, some of them did.  And Yahweh sometimes shows love - but it's a love that's built on conditions.  It's not really "love" as we understand it.  And it's built on the most ridiculous of conditions - "Believe in me and follow my laws, or else!"

As Deuteronomy, and therefore the Pentateuch, come to a close, I yearn for the great wisdom of the Bible.  I haven't seen much evidence for it yet.  Deuteronomy especially is just the same thing, over and over:  "God is wonderful, but since you guys suck He's going to make your life really shitty!"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

 At 120 years old, Moses begins to worry about his legacy.

Moses prepares to die - In a man's waning years, he becomes worried, perhaps even paranoid, that all of the things that he worked for in this life will go to hell in a handbasket.  This is the image I get of the author of Deuteronomy, Chapter 31.

Moses, whom aside from the Bible there appears to be no evidence of being a real person, symbolizes the worries of the ancients who wrote collaborated in the writing of Deuteronomy.  They wrote it during a time of competition with other religions.  They wrote it as their new Yahwist religion was just getting afoot.  The religion had a strong base among the Israelite people, but many people still worshiped the gods of old Sumeria.  And so, as the founders of the religion began to get old, they worried.  And, they used Moses as the mouthpiece of this worry.

As his strength and vision was leaving him, Moses said he is no longer able to move around.  But he told the Israelite people he had a vision, and Yahweh told him that they will conquer the nations around them with the help of Joshua.  He brought Joshua before them and told him of the vision.

Yahweh had also wrote a song for Moses.  That was rather kind for an all-knowing, all-powerful deity to do, wasn't it?  The song further reflected the worries of these old men.  Apparently, to set up the need for the song, Yahweh told Moses that after he dies, his people will begin to worship the other gods in droves; and that He (Yahweh) will no longer bless them but curse them.

So, He made a song to teach the Israelites so that they will be ever reminded of Yahweh's love of the Israelites, what He did for them, and what they must do for Him in return.

So, in a nutshell.  Whatever this song was (it was unclear in the chapter what the song was), it was made because the Levites (or priesthood) were worried that people were on the verge of losing their religion, and taking on other ones.

What I want to know is if Yahweh was so prevalent back then, showing himself as a great pillar of fire and smoke upon the Tabernacle, making these great shows of display, destroying all their enemies, and even destroying a few Israelites in the process - why is it that so many Israelites had so much trouble believing in Yahweh?  Why was it such a prevalent problem that people were converting to other religions?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Did this gentleman choose to jump up and down at the beach, or is it the Will of God?

Deuteronomy 30 - The Lord thy God will circumcise your heart ..."  Thanks, Yahweh.  Having all that extra skin on there is a sure way for it to get dirty.

Fortunately, Deuteronomy is quick, dirty, and mercifully short. It's basically the same format as the last few chapters.  "If you do what Yahweh says, He'll be happy and bless you.  If not ... well, we ought to know by now what that entails."  Murder, death, cursing, blah blah.

Long after this book was written, a gentleman named Paul living in the Roman Empire misquoted a part of this chapter to serve his own ends.  Deuteronomy 30:14 says, "... the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou may do it."

Basically, Deuteronomy 30:14 says that though Yahweh's Law is professed and in our heart, we have the ability to choose to do it.

In the Book of Roman 10:8, Paul wrote: "The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach."  Paul leaves out "that thou may do it" and replaces it with "that is, the word of faith, which we preach."

By doing so, this passage is turned on its head.  Now, instead of faith and choosing to do the right thing; Paul is now supporting salvation by faith alone.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Meet Maniac, from the Israeli band Mayhem. Photo from BlabberPhotos2 on Photo Bucket.

Briefly, Deuteronomy 29 brings us back to sanity.  And it's not sanity like we think of it, it's like when a raging maniac calms down to rest after hacking 30 people into pieces. 

Gone are the explicit and descriptive curses that were part of chapter 28.  Now, it's more of a yearning.  A pleading.  Moses says to the Israelites, "You've seen all the great miracles, you're clothes haven't fallen apart after 40 years in the wilderness (yes, it says that), we took the land of so many people for ourselves, and as long as you don't follow other gods, none of the curses in this book will fall on you."

Deuteronomy, which is coming to a close, is a diabolical book.  It just is.  But I think the author, or authors, got most of the angst out in the last chapter (Chapter 28).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

One of the worst punishments for not following Yahweh and the Levite priests' advice: You'll eat your own children!  Family value meals!  (Deuteronomy 28:53-55)

Deuteronomy 28 is a descent into madness.  Here's a basic rundown.

It starts off innocent enough.  If you follow Yahweh and listen to the advice of the priests, you (meaning 'the Israelites') will:
  1. Be blessed in the city and in the field
  2. be blessed in body, crops, livestock, and family
  3. have your basket and store blessed
  4. be blessed when you "come in and when you go out" - not sure what that means
  5. find that Yahweh will defeat your enemies before you face them (they'll come against you one way and flee seven)
  6. find that your storehouses have been blessed
  7. be considered a holy person unto Yahweh Himself
  8. AGAIN be blessed in body, crops, livestock, and family.
  9. Have abundant crops due to good weather, other people will borrow from and owe you (not the other way around)
  10. Be the head and not the tail.
But ... if you don't follow Yahweh and you actually go after "other gods" (insinuating of course that the Israelites believed in other gods!), then:

  1. You will be cursed in the city and in the field
  2. Your basket and store will be cursed
  3. Your body, crops, livestock, and family will be cursed
  4. You will be cursed when  you "come in and go out." - still have no idea what that means!
  5. You will be sent in cursing, vexation, and rebuke in everything you do until you are dead
  6. You'll get very sick with pestilence
  7. You'll be smited with consumption, fever, inflammation, "an extreme burning", by sword, "the blasting", MILDEW, and Yahweh will pursue you until you die!!!
  8. Heaven above will be brass, while the earth below is iron. (On top of all the other stuff, you get crappy weather too!)
  9. Instead of rain, your crops will get powder and dust.
  10. Your corpse will be eaten by vultures and other scavengers
  11.  You'll get the botch of Egypt, hemorrhoids, scabs and itches that can't be healed, madness, blindness, and "astonishment of heart" (if numbers 6 and 7 weren't bad enough!)
  12. You'll grope around during day and night, won't be prosperous (no shit!)
  13. When you marry, other men will sleep with your wife
  14. Your ox will be slain before your eyes, your donkeys will be "violently taken away before your eyes", your sheep will be given to your enemies
  15. Your sons and daughters will be given away to other people; you'll look everywhere for them, but will not find them
  16. You will not be prosperous at all (how many times do the priests threaten this?), and you will be oppressed by others
  17. You'll go mad just at the sight of the things going on around you
  18.  Your knees will be smited and you'll get a huge sore botch from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head.
  19. You'll be ruled by a strange nation and worship their gods, wood, and stone.
  20. You'll become a joke to your neighbors
  21. Locusts will consume your crops; worms shall eat your vineyards
  22. You'll have fruitless olive trees
  23. You'll have sons and daughters but won't enjoy them because they'll go into captivity.
  24. The strangers among you will rise up and rule
  25. You'll serve your enemies hungry, thirsty, and naked, under a yoke of iron, until your dead.
  26. Yahweh will send a fierce nation from the end of the earth, and this nation will eat your cattle, take the fruit of your land, he'll besiege your city and easily overtake it, and you'll BE FORCED TO EAT YOUR OWN FLESH AND YOUR OWN CHILDREN'S FLESH
  27. Pretty women around you will turn an evil eye toward husband and eat her children
  28. Mass plagues will destroy your people
  29. The Israelites will be scattered around the world and follow other gods
  30. The Israelites will be sold back to Egypt as slaves.
Wow!  The Levite priests went out of their way on this one.  I admit, the first time I read the Bible this chapter didn't stick.  Now it's the craziest chapter I've read, and I've read some crazy ones so far! You'd think that since so people listen to the advice of these ancient Bronze Age people today, that this stuff would be prevalent in society. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

 Don't uncover your father's skirt!

Deuteronomy Chapter 27 is another quick chapter.  Here's the basic message:

  1. When you're passing Jordan and going into the land of milk and honey, build an altar of whole stones on Mount Ebal.
  2. After burning offerings at the altar, write on the stones the following commandments.
  3. First, Seimeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin should stand on Mt. Gerizim to bless the people.
  4. Then Rueben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali should stand on Mt. Ebal to curse.  Who do they curse?  I don't know.
  5. Don't make molten images, or display the works of craftsmen, or put such works in secret places.
  6. Those who set light by their parents will be cursed.
  7. Those who remove their neighbor's landmark shall be cursed.
  8. People who make blind people wander out of the way shall be cursed.
  9. Anyone who perverts a stranger's judgment shall be cursed.
  10. Anyone who has sex with their father's wife will be cursed because he "uncovered his father's skirt??".
  11. Anyone who has sex with an animal ... you guessed it.  Cursed!
  12. Sex with sister, the daughter of his father, or the daughter of his mother.  Cursed!
  13. Anyone who has sex with his mother-in-law shall be cursed.
  14. Anyone who "secretly smites his neighbor" shall be cursed.
  15. Anyone who does not confirm these laws is also cursed.
Okay, big problems here.  What a incoherent group of laws!  And why carve it into some rocks at an altar on top of a mountain?

And, isn't a person who causes blind people to wander out of the way simply "an asshole"?  Cursing people doesn't do anything. 

And how is having sex with the father's wife "uncovering the father's skirt"?  Is it because the father's wife is actually the father's property?  More than likely!

Rule 15 is the clincher.  It hermetically seals the deal.  But I would argue that anyone who does not confirm these laws is actually wise. 

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Don't feed dead people. - Deuteronomy 26:14

Deuteronomy 26 is nice and short, and like the other chapters it's a list of arbitrary rules.  Here's basically what it says:

  1. Give the first fruit of your crops to Yahweh (actually the priesthood).  The justification for this: Yahweh brought them out of Egypt.
  2. Every three years, give more to the poor, the strangers, the priesthood, orphans, and widows.
  3. Don't eat while in mourning, don't eat for unclean reasons, and don't offer food for the dead.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Deuteronomy, Chapter 25 is another list of arbitrary rules that leave me wondering what situation created a need for them in the first place?

Rule 1.  If a judge convicts someone as guilty in a dispute, the judge can issue no more than 40 lashes by a whip.  Anymore than that would be publicly humiliating.

Rule 2.  Don't muzzle an ox while he's working; in other words, let the ox eat while it works.

Rule 3.  When one brother dies, his wife must marry his brother (whether she likes him or not?).  It says, "If brethren dwell together, and one of them die, and have no child, the wife of the dead shall not marry ... her husband's brother shall go in unto her, and take her to him to wife, and perform the duty of a husband's brother unto her."  A husband's duty, according to this passage, was just to have sex with his wife.

Rule 4.  If the MAN doesn't want to have sex with his brother's wife, then the wife should go to the elders, remove the man's shoe, and spit in his face.  Huh?

Rule 5.  When two men are fighting, and a wife helps her husband by grabbing the other man's balls, then she should have her hand chopped off.  What?!?

Rule 6.  Be honest when doing business with others.

Rule 7.  Hate the Amelekites. 

Okay, so in Deuteronomy Chapter 25 the rules are all over the map, and they're all arbitrary.  The one rule that is actually halfway decent is the sixth one I list above, which is Deuteronomy 25:13-15, about not cheating when doing business with others.  Letting an ox eat while it works is nice, but I'd be inclined to say its unimportant.  And the other stuff, stopping at 40 lashes, hating the Amelikites, chopping a woman's hand off for protecting her husband, is just wrong.  And weird! 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Deuteronomy 24 is fun, because it is weird.  There is no unifying message behind this chapter, except maybe advice on how to resolve disputes.  I think.

1.  The first lesson is about divorce and remarriage.  If the man doesn't like her for some "unclean" reason, he can divorce her and then she can remarry.  But if the second husband doesn't like her for some "unclean" reason, then the first husband CANNOT take her back.  I wonder what situation occurred where such a rule should ever even be addressed?

2.  The second lesson is that a newly wed man can not go to war or be bothered with business matters.  He has to spend the whole year trying to make his wife happy.

3.  Anyone who steals slaves should be executed.

4.  Do what the priests tell you to do, or you'll get leprosy.  That's an awesome rule, and such a guilt trip!

5.  Don't oppress the poor, whether they be slaves or just poor.  That's actually a decent rule!

6.  You shouldn't kill the father for the crimes of the child, and vice versa.  This is such a good rule, but it contradicts other Biblical teachings that the criminal's progeny should be punished.  That's the whole concept of original sin, isn't it?

7.  Finally, the last rule is to treat kindly strangers, orphans, and widows; and share whatever you have with them.  Another nice thing to practice.

In summary, we went from divorce and marriage; to treating strangers kindly.  And there isn't a real thread of unity between the two subjects.  I think that this document was an attempt to legislate random occurrences that just happened.  But the solutions are so arbitrary and don't really solve the problem, or are just completely ignorant.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Deuteronomy, Chapter 23 has more sets of obscure rules.  Here they are:

Preserving the Male Genetic Line

1. A man whose testicles are injured must not be admitted into the congregation of Yahweh.
2. Bastards (male children without fathers) cannot be admitted into the congregation of Yahweh.
3. Moabites and Ammonites may never be admitted into the congregation of Yahweh, even later generations.
4. But the third generation of Edomites and Egyptians can be admitted into the congregation of Yahweh.
5. Any male who has a wet dream is unclean until the evening (and after he's washed himself).

These four rules seem to be geared toward assuring that the male Israelite genetic line is preserved. Men with injured testicles cannot reproduce and bastards can not carry their family line.  Wet dreams, I'm not sure but I suppose they thought it was 'unclean', which I suppose it is.  But to wait until nighttime to come back to the camp?

The Moabites and Ammonites dared to go to resist the Israelites, but the Edomites are the descendents of Esau, who was the brother of Jacob, one of the founders of the Israelite people.  So, the logic is that the Edomites are technically related to the Israelites.

The mercy to the Egyptians follows different reasons, though.  It is because the Israelites, even though they were in captivity by the Egyptians, were "strangers in their land."  Maybe someone else can explain the reasons in that one.


So that Yahweh doesn't step in human feces, it is advised in Deut. 23:12-14 to carry a shovel with you and poop outside of the camp.  Some people call this Doodooronomy.  This raises an interesting question, did the Israelites think Yahweh has a physical body that can actually step on crap?

Freeing the Slaves

Here's a nice rule.  Deuteronomy 23:15-16 says that if a slave runs away from his master, the Israelite shouldn't return the slave, but rather let him stay with him in his house.

Intolerance in the Bible
Whores, Dogs, and Sodomites shouldn't be allowed inside the house.  Whores and Sodomites I understand; but dogs?  Dogs is the Israelites' derogatory word for homosexual.  Essentially, it's like saying, "Don't let those flaming faggots live in your house!"

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Here are some more rules as laid out in Deuteronomy, Chapter 22.  Notice how they get more morbid as they progress.

  1. Look out for your brother's animals and keep them harm.
  2. Transvestites are an abomination.
  3. If you come across a birds nest, you can take the eggs and the chicks, but not the mother.
  4. When you build a house, make sure the roof is strong.
  5. Don't wear garments of mixed fabrics (i.e. cotton and linen).
  6. Don't plow with an ox and a donkey together.
  7. You should put fringes on your clothes.
  8. If your wife isn't a virgin on her wedding day, take her to her father's doorstep and kill her.
  9. Adulterers should be executed.
  10. If a woman is raped in the city, and doesn't cry for help loud enough, she should be executed.
I wonder, what events happened in order for the author to even come up with these rules?  Whoever it was, he had to be really uptight, and a little eccentric.  Kill women who don't scream loud enough, don't plow with an ox and a donkey together, but do wear fringes on your outfit!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Deuteronomy's Chapters 19 through 21 deal with what sort of killing is okay in the eyes of Yahweh.

Dealing with the Difference Between Murder and ManSlaughter

Chapter 19 is a sort of amendment to the Sixth Commandment: Thou shalt not murder.

First, anyone that kills his neighbor should be executed. Specifically, he ought to be killed by the victim's closest relative, whom the ancient Hebrews called 'the avenger of the blood'.

If he accidentally kills someone, then the accidental killer must flee to another city. But, if he returns to the city where the victim lived, then the 'avenger of the blood' may kill the guy.

However, before determining this there should also be three witnesses.

Killing in the Context of War

Deuteronomy, Chapter 20, if I can sum it up, says that first of all the Hebrews should not be afraid in battle because Yahweh has their back.

The chapter makes a distinction between two types of foes: distant enemies that are too far to be conquered, and nearby enemies that can be incorporated into the Israelite nation. Upon defeating distant opponents, Israelites should slay all the males but take for themselves all the cattle, children, and women for themselves.

But closeby cities, which Yahweh has essentially given to the Israelites, are to be utterly destroyed. Yahweh instructs the Israelites to kill all the lame, sickly, and elderly people; but to take young women and children.

In fact, as Chapter 21 explicitly says, if you find a beautiful woman among the captives, take her into your house, shave her head, let her mourn her dead parents, and then "go in unto her".

An ancient Israelite can even have two wives: "one loved, and one hated."

When Punishment Deserves Death

Chapter 21 even talks about what sort of infractions deserve death.

In particular, any child who is disobedient, and I mean thoroughly disobedient, then he should be taken to outskirts of the village and stoned to death by the villagers.

And if the punishment is hanging, the advice given by the author of Deuteronomy is that the person should be taken down before the end of the day. Apparently, the criminal who was hung is so vile that if he remained on the tree for more than one day, his vileness would contaminate the land.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sam Harris talks about how science can, and should, be an important factor of morality.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

In my many conversations with apologists, Bible thumpers, and the extremely pious; I've found that the most effective way to "win" starts off by showing that the argument for a) the existence of god, and b) the god they believe in, require completely different proofs. Former apologist John Loftus writes about it in his blog 'Debunking Christianity' as well. Numerous nonbelievers, like Sam Harris, successfully use the same strategy.

The Proof for Deism

Arguing for the existence of god is called "natural theology", or deism. This god relies on gaps in scientific knowledge. We should have no problem on a practical level with this. Until those gaps are filled, this god will always exist. So, arguing against deism is basically useless because either way it won't matter.

The Proof for Christianity

But Christianity is something completely different. Christianity does not rely on gaps in scientific knowledge. It relies specifically on whether the Gospel accounts of miracle stories attributed to Jesus are true. Just establish this obvious distinction first.

Soon, I will place another post up for the next step, which is simply the basic argument for why we should reject Christianity. But if you want to watch a short version of it, here's how Sam Harris did it at the La Ciudad de las Ideas debate earlier this year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I just read Deuteronomy, Chapters 17 and 18. Again, we are covering ground that has already been covered. And in some cases, we're covering ground that I'm not sure should be covered.

The lessons I've learned in Chapter 17 are:

  1. Kill people who deconvert or follow other gods.
  2. Don't sacrifice animals with blemishes.
  3. When being judged by a priest, I must follow his judgment and if not I will be executed.
  4. When under the power of the king, the king should not have multiple wives.
  5. The king should also not have too much money.
In Chapter 18, I learn the following:

  1. The Levite priests can't own land, and must live off the offerings of the other tribes.
  2. Sacrifice the firstfruit of my crops and my livestock.
  3. Anyone that practices witchcraft (unless it's magic from Yahweh, of course) is an abomination to Yahweh.
Chapter 18 is also interesting in that there is a prophecy in there: Yahweh says, "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him."

So, Yahweh plans on sending prophets. He also warns against false prophets. Unfortunately, the only way to tell the difference is if their words come true. And if they don't, they are to be executed.

Being a Prophet is serious business for the ancient Israelites.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Deuteronomy Chapter 16 - In this chapter we are reminded about some of the special holy days set aside by the ancient Israelites. In particular, there are three great festivals in which Jews and Israelites should meet at the temple and celebrate.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread is celebrated during the month of Abib, which is a month in the Hebrew calendar. It's to remind the Israelites about their escape from Egypt. In 16:3 it says that you must eat unleavened bread for seven days; and in 16:8 it says six days, so I'm not sure what that's about.

The Feast of Weeks is meant for the entire community of ancient Israelites, and it is to remind them that their people were once bondsmen of Egypt.

In this chapter, it's not clear what The Feast of Tabernacles is about, but elsewhere on the web it says it's agricultural in origin.

During these festivals, or holidays, the males of the tribe must present themselves before Yahweh, and give a generous donation to the priesthood.

I'm not sure why it's in there, but at the end of the chapter (16:16), it almost sounds like judges and officers are picked during these festivals as well.

It's an interesting chapter and there's nothing too controversial. It's actually interesting to learn about the holidays of other cultures as well.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Deuteronomy Chapter 15 tackles the troubling issue of poverty and slavery. I think it has some nice things to say about poverty.

15:7 says, "If there be among you a poor man ... thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother."

And 15:11 says, (15:11)"Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy."

Yes. That's great advice! It still sounds good to this very day. Would you agree?

And then there's slavery.

15:12-17 says, "If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee.
and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day. And it shall be, if he say unto thee, I will not go away from thee; because he loveth thee and thine house, because he is well with thee. Then thou shalt take an aul, and thrust it through his ear unto the door, and he shall be thy servant for ever."

Basically, after a slave's seven year term, hook him up and be generous to him as he parts ways. If he/she wants to stay with you, drill a hole through his ear into a door and he'll be your servant for life.

Judging from a modern-day perspective, more than 2,000 years later, a perspective with the hindsight of the Civil Rights era, the American Civil War, and the various practices of slavery before then; slavery has been a big moral issue for humanity. It's still a big issue today; and the arguments even delve into what is called wage slavery - which is basically what everyone calls "working". Anytime another human's labor is owned, and not purchased in any way, that raises the question of slavery and whether it is moral.

But 3,000 years ago when Deuteronomy was written, nobody in ancient Israelite society had these conversations (or at least published them).

So I ask you, the reader, this: What is it that makes it possible for people today to pick up the Bible, read Deuteronomy Chapter 15, and see that one set of passages are moral, and another set isn't?