A nonbeliever's SECOND reading of the Bible

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

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.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
""Dennis said: "My point is that the initial choice, to accept that standard, is arbitrary."

As I put it, it's exactly the type of concern all humans have. All sane humans, at least. Being that we are conscious, and we acknowledge consciousness in others, all we have to acknowledge is there's a difference between a Good Life and a Bad Life."

Since you have not responded to my previous posts, I'll be brief. I agree that our Judeo-Christian culture has been extremely successful. One would think that everyone would like to enjoy it, but that is not the case. There are many people within our own culture, who are determined to destroy it, including many highly intelligent, sane, professors who lead cushy lives within our most prestigious universities. I have already presented you with some alternative moral systems which many Westerners embrace.

Continued below

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Imagine a truly horrible situation where many people are suffering for long periods of time. A good example might be the Congo, where many people's moment-to-moment concerns are about survival and dodging drug-addled soldiers.

Now picture the situation of those of us in the West. We live in relative peace, can focus our attention on building on our intellectual capacities, or not, without excessive fear of sudden death. We're likely to live long lives."

I don't have to “picture” it, I have been there. When I was a child, my father was a medical missionary in Rwanda. Much of what I've posted here comes from first hand experience. People are not naturally kind, or "altruistic," as you would like to believe.

Christian missionaries have spent several generations, trying to bring healing to Africa, but it is a slow process. David Livingston, acted on those Christian moral principles, which you claim don't exist, and spent most of his life, trying to end the slave trade which had decimated Africa. Christians and Jews in England brought the English slaver traders down, but the Arabs still dominated much of Africa. They used Africa as an easy source of slaves for hundreds or perhaps a thousand years. They showed no mercy or compassion to their victims. There is no way, that the slave trade in Africa would have been stopped, without the efforts of dedicated Christian men like David Livingston, and Dr. John Kirk.

Congo is a particularly tragic case, since it was taken over by Leopold II from Belgium, who looted the country shamelessly. He showed no interest in the spiritual or temporal welfare of the people. When the Belgians pulled out of the Congo, the place was left in chaos. One of the reason England took African colonies was to block the avarice of people like Leopold, and to stop the Arab slave traders.

Much of the recent damage to Africa has been caused by the anti-Christian secularists from the West. The more intellectual Africans went to Western Universities where they were taught that the Christian missionaries are evil, and that Christianity is non-sense. Instead of Christian morality, they were taught atheism and Marxism. A well know example, of this type of African intellectual, is president Obama's father, who was an atheist Marxist. Marxism led to a new wave of devastation which swept from one newly independent country to the next.

Now, Africa is again under siege by the Muslims, with the support of the anti-Christian secularists from the West. Christians and Animists, men and women, are being persecuted and killed for their faith. African slavery has become common once again.

In order to do good, in a place like Africa, people have to be willing to risk their lives. Within the last few years, many African Christians have been killed, standing for what they believe, motivated by love and courage from God. Take the Christian God away, and Africa will again become the "dark continent", much as David Livingston found it.

As I promised, I have been brief. I realize that you are going to reject everything I’ve said. That is your prerogative. Since I have shared what I have experienced, I’m done. Andrew, it has been nice talking to you. I wish you the best.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I left one loose thread. You claim that everyone would like to live in a society which gives the Good Life. To an extent, you are correct. Very few people, even people like Noam Chomsky, who constantly scheme to destroy our society from within, want to give up their cushy lives within our society. People who are completely egoistic, do not think that they, themselves, will be negatively affected by their egoism. Obviously, even selfish people, who are completely unconcerned about the welfare of other people, like to be surrounded by unselfish people, just like a pack of wolves likes to live in among a herd of sheep.

Let me give another concrete example. Mao Tse-tung was one of the greatest mass murderers in human history, yet he, himself, was completely unaffected by his egoism. He lived a long life, with access to all the food and material possessions he wished, and with a constant supply of young women to entertain him. Mao was sane and intelligent, but he was not interested in the welfare of other people. He was happy, even when his own people were starving.

Tyrants, like Mao, who are very smart and sane, create their own moral systems, and impose them on other people. They don't buy into our moral system. Instead, they create their own morality, which fulfills their own needs, at the expense of other people. If they are successful, they can force everyone else to live according to their dictates, at first out of fear, and later because the fear has been internalized, and becomes a new moral system.

Instead of a good God as the law giver, like we have in Christian society, tyrants like Mao become the law givers. Mao's thoughts were written down in a Little Red Book and common people were forced to live by his principles. The purpose of brain washing, is to remove the old morals from the preexisting society, and to instill the new morals into adults. People who are brain washed are forced to undergo a conversion process, in which they admitted that they are evil, to renounce their past beliefs, and to internalize the new moral system. Even today, after many of his policies have been discarded, the Chinese people still revere Mao. In China, their morality flows from the mind of a mass murderer, who had no interest in “human flourishing.”

When we examine what has happened in our discussion, it is clear that you, Andrew, intend to be the new law giver. Because you are a philosopher, you think that your ideas are, somehow, universal truths, which everyone else, if they are sane and intelligent like you, must accept. That is just not the case. Because you think that you have discovered universal truth, all I have to do, to disprove your truth, is to offer one counter example. I have offered many. Someone is going to set the morality for everyone else. We can either let other humans, acting in their own self interest, create the moral system, or we can let the good God be our moral guide. I am unaware of any other option.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I left one loose thread. You claim that everyone would like to live in a society which gives the Good Life. To an extent, you are correct. Very few people, even people like Noam Chomsky, who constantly scheme to destroy our society from within, want to give up their cushy lives within our society. People who are completely egoistic, do not think that they, themselves, will be negatively affected by their egoism. Obviously, even selfish people, who are completely unconcerned about the welfare of other people, like to be surrounded by unselfish people, just like a pack of wolves likes to live in among a herd of sheep.

Let me give another concrete example. Mao Tse-tung was one of the greatest mass murderers in human history, yet he, himself, was completely unaffected by his egoism. He lived a long life, with access to all the food and material possessions he wished, and with a constant supply of young women to entertain him. Mao was sane and intelligent, but he was not interested in the welfare of other people. He was happy, even when his own people were starving.

Tyrants, like Mao, who are very smart and sane, create their own moral systems, and impose them on other people. They don't buy into our moral system. Instead, they create their own morality, which fulfills their own needs, at the expense of other people. If they are successful, they can force everyone else to live according to their dictates, at first out of fear, and later because the fear has been internalized, and becomes a new moral system.

Instead of a good God as the law giver, like we have in Christian society, tyrants like Mao become the law givers. Mao's thoughts were written down in a Little Red Book and common people were forced to live by his principles. The purpose of brain washing, is to remove the old morals from the preexisting society, and to instill the new morals into adults. People who are brain washed are forced to undergo a conversion process, in which they admitted that they are evil, to renounce their past beliefs, and to internalize the new moral system. Even today, after many of his policies have been discarded, the Chinese people still revere Mao. In China, their morality flows from the mind of a mass murderer, who had no interest in “human flourishing.”

When we examine what has happened in our discussion, it is clear that you, Andrew, intend to be the new law giver. Because you are a philosopher, you think that your ideas are, somehow, universal truths, which everyone else, if they are sane and intelligent like you, must accept. That is just not the case. Because you think that you have discovered universal truth, all I have to do, to disprove your truth, is to offer one counter example. I have offered many. Someone is going to set the morality for everyone else. We can either let other humans, acting in their own self interest, create the moral system, or we can let the good God be our moral guide. I am unaware of any other option.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew,
I left one loose thread.

You claim that everyone would like to live in a society which gives the Good Life, as we define it. For most people, you are probably correct. Even people like Noam Chomsky, who constantly scheme to destroy our society from within, intend to keep their cushy lives. People who are completely egoistic, do not think that they, themselves, will be negatively affected by their behavior.

Even selfish people, or sociopaths, who are completely unconcerned about the welfare of other people, like to be surrounded by unselfish people; just like a pack of wolves likes to live in among a herd of sheep.

Let me give another concrete example. Mao Tse-tung was one of the greatest mass murderers in human history, yet he, himself, was completely unaffected by his egoism. He lived a long life, with access to all the food and material possessions he wished, and with a constant supply of young women to entertain him. Mao was sane and intelligent, but he was not interested in the welfare of other people. He was happy, even when his own people were starving.

Tyrants, like Mao, who are very smart and sane, create their own moral systems, and impose them on other people. They don't buy into our moral system. Instead, they create their own morality, which fulfills their own needs, at the expense of other people. If they are successful, they can force everyone else to live according to their dictates, at first out of fear, and later because the fear has been internalized, and becomes a new moral system.

Instead of a good God who gives us good laws, like we have in a Christian/Jewish society, in Godless societies, tyrants like Mao are often the law givers. Mao's thoughts were written down in a Little Red Book and common people were forced to live by his principles. The purpose of brain washing, is to remove the old morals from the preexisting society, and to instill the new morals into adults. People, who undergo brain washing, are forced to undergo a conversion process, in which they admitted that they are evil, they renounce their past beliefs, and they internalize the new moral system. Even today, after many of his policies have been discarded, the Chinese people still revere Mao. In China, the national morality still flows from the mind of a mass murderer, who had no interest in “human flourishing.”

In a democracy, the people become the law givers. The people who are the most vocal in their demands, have the opportunity to set the moral system. The resulting moral system is somewhat different from that created by a tyrant, but still flows from the minds of the dominant group, who always act to advance their own self interest over that of other people. Ultimately, democracy, without divine guidance, deteriorates into the tyranny of the majority.

From our discussion, it is clear that you, Andrew, intend to be a new law giver. I do not mean that to be a criticism. That idea, that philosophers should be the rulers, is as old as Plato. Because you are a philosopher, you think that your ideas are, somehow, universal truths, which everyone else, if they are sane and intelligent like you, must accept. Unfortunately, philosophers are just as prone to act in their own self interest as anyone else.

Because you think that you have discovered universal truth, all I have to do, to disprove your truth, is to offer one counter example. I have offered many.

Someone is going to set the morality for everyone else. We can either let other humans, acting in their own self interest, create the moral system, or we can let the good God be our moral guide. I am unaware of any other option.

Dennis

Anonymous said...

Andrew,
I left one loose thread.

You claim that everyone would like to live in a society which gives the Good Life, as we define it. For most people, you are probably correct. Even people like Noam Chomsky, who constantly scheme to destroy our society from within, intend to keep their cushy lives. People who are completely egoistic, do not think that they, themselves, will be negatively affected by their behavior.

Even selfish people, or sociopaths, who are completely unconcerned about the welfare of other people, like to be surrounded by unselfish people; just like a pack of wolves likes to live in among a herd of sheep.

Let me give another concrete example. Mao Tse-tung was one of the greatest mass murderers in human history, yet he, himself, was completely unaffected by his egoism. He lived a long life, with access to all the food and material possessions he wished, and with a constant supply of young women to entertain him. Mao was sane and intelligent, but he was not interested in the welfare of other people. He was happy, even when his own people were starving.

Tyrants, like Mao, who are very smart and sane, create their own moral systems, and impose them on other people. They don't buy into our moral system. Instead, they create their own morality, which fulfills their own needs, at the expense of other people. If they are successful, they can force everyone else to live according to their dictates, at first out of fear, and later because the fear has been internalized, and becomes a new moral system.

Instead of a good God who gives us good laws, like we have in a Christian/Jewish society, in Godless societies, tyrants like Mao are often the law givers. Mao's thoughts were written down in a Little Red Book and common people were forced to live by his principles. The purpose of brain washing, is to remove the old morals from the preexisting society, and to instill the new morals into adults. People, who undergo brain washing, are forced to undergo a conversion process, in which they admitted that they are evil, they renounce their past beliefs, and they internalize the new moral system. Even today, after many of his policies have been discarded, the Chinese people still revere Mao. In China, the national morality still flows from the mind of a mass murderer, who had no interest in “human flourishing.”

In a democracy, the people become the law givers. The people who are the most vocal in their demands, have the opportunity to set the moral system. The resulting moral system is somewhat different from that created by a tyrant, but still flows from the minds of the dominant group, who always act to advance their own self interest over that of other people. Ultimately, democracy, without divine guidance, deteriorates into the tyranny of the majority.

From our discussion, it is clear that you, Andrew, intend to be a new law giver. I do not mean that to be a criticism. That idea, that philosophers should be the rulers, is as old as Plato. Because you are a philosopher, you think that your ideas are, somehow, universal truths, which everyone else, if they are sane and intelligent like you, must accept. Unfortunately, philosophers are just as prone to act in their own self interest as anyone else.

Because you think that you have discovered universal truth, all I have to do, to disprove your truth, is to offer one counter example. I have offered many.

Someone is going to set the morality for everyone else. We can either let other humans, acting in their own self interest, create the moral system, or we can let the good God be our moral guide. I am unaware of any other option.

Dennis

Andrew P. said...

Dennis, I thought you had thrown in the towel, judging by the post you had sent last week. But, I am happy to see that you want to continue the conversation.

In response to your "counter-examples", none of them work.

I'm interested in knowing, are people who scheme to destroy society from within good for the well-being of conscious creatures? Is the behavior of sociopaths good for human well-being? Is identifying and stopping their behavior good for human flourishing? There are right answers to this question, and you know them, too.

Mao Tse-Tung, when he committed mass murder and starved people, was he doing good things for human flourishing? The answer is obviously no, and we can see it by their results. We can see empirically the results of certain actions and how they relate to the well-being of conscious creatures.

Your point about "Christian morality" being superior was already shot down when you first brought it up many months ago, but you like to keep dredging it up.

How many times must it be said? When Jesus says turn the other cheek, sell ALL of your possessions, and the Old Testament says it's okay to kill your wife if she isn't a virgin on her wedding night - we say that's bad, or at the very least insane. But, when Jesus says "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you", and the Old Testament says, "Love your neighbor" - we say that is good. This is an example of how we, not a good God, are the ones choosing what parts of the Bible are moral.

Think about "health". Back in the Dark Ages, reaching the age of 40 might be considered a long and healthy life. Today, it's around 80. Who knows? With enough breakthroughs in genetics, not being able to run a marathon at age 500 will be considered a serious health problem. The point is that the word "health" is like "morality". Over time, the specifics of health change because of science. Certain procedures will become outdated; better cures will be discovered; but we will always know the difference between health and sickness.

Your arguments and counterexamples are basically the same thing as saying, upon seeing someone suffering from smallpox, "Well, he's not really diseased. Smallpox is just another way of being healthy."

Ultimately, your argument is akin to saying there's no way to determine health without a good God guiding what health is.

As you might have already guessed, that's ludicrous. I can't take the argument seriously, and I can't take your argument for morality seriously either. Just give it up, Dennis. Admit it. The god argument for morality is a poor one, and that leaves it wide open for morality to become a subject of human inquiry, aka science.

Anonymous said...

Andrew said:
"Dennis, I thought you had thrown in the towel, judging by the post you had sent last week. But, I am happy to see that you want to continue the conversation."

I am also enjoying the conversation. Talking to someone who has a different viewpoint is valuable experience. I would like to continue the conversation, as long as we both are enjoying it.

Andrew said:
"In response to your "counter-examples", none of them work.

I'm interested in knowing, are people who scheme to destroy society from within good for the well-being of conscious creatures? Is the behavior of sociopaths good for human well-being? Is identifying and stopping their behavior good for human flourishing? There are right answers to this question, and you know them, too."

O.K. At least we agree that there are people who want to change society, who are not concerned about "human flourishing." That point of agreement is a good start. I think the case of Mao is quite well documented. Can we agree that there are individuals like Mao, who had no concern for the well being of other people, who are interested in setting up alternative moral systems which support their own proclivities? If we agree, that people like Mao exist, can we also agree that these people, are rational and sane?

If we agree that there are people who are sane and rational who do not accept your principle that morality must contribute to "human flourishing", then we will have to look further afield to find a basis for your principle. It can't be based on human nature, since human nature often expresses tendencies which are directly contradictory to your principles.

If you are not basing your premise on human nature, how do you establish that your principle is universal truth? If your position is that anything which causes human flourishing is moral because it causes human flourishing, then I can agree. That statement is self sustaining. It is essentially a tautology. Obviously it would be impossible to offer counter examples to that statement. The problem with a tautology is that other sane rational people may arbitrarily choose another principle.

Although I believe that Dawkins is a anti-Christian bigot, he is intelligent. His books, which lay out the social and psychological consequences of Evolution, are well written and logical. I believe Dawkins has hard science to back up his premises. Any moral theory has to take the "selfish gene," into consideration. Anyone who wants a scientific, evidence based, morality, would do well to take Dawkins' books into consideration.

Andrew said:
"Your point about "Christian morality" being superior was already shot down when you first brought it up many months ago, but you like to keep dredging it up.

Continued below

Anonymous said...

Continued from above:

How many times must it be said? When Jesus says turn the other cheek, sell ALL of your possessions, and the Old Testament says it's okay to kill your wife if she isn't a virgin on her wedding night - we say that's bad, or at the very least insane. But, when Jesus says "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you", and the Old Testament says, "Love your neighbor" - we say that is good. This is an example of how we, not a good God, are the ones choosing what parts of the Bible are moral."

If Christian morality was "shot down" I missed it. Anyone who wants to understand the Bible has to take into consideration the problem statements you have brought up. For a strict fundamentalist, those problem statements might be a serious problem. I do not play the games strict fundamentalists play in order to avoid the implications of those statements. In my experience, the majority of Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God, but is shaped by human culture and human limitations. To prove that Christian morality is a myth, you would have to show that Christian morality has no unifying core principles which transcend the incidental statements which you have brought up.

As a Christian, the standard I use to evaluate statements like, "it's okay to kill your wife if she isn't a virgin on her wedding night" is Christian morality itself. I take the core principles and apply them to those statements. An example of how this works in practice is the debate over slavery. The Bible contains provisions for slavery, yet the majority of Christians reject slavery on moral grounds. They believe that although slavery was permitted in the past, it violates core principles of Christian morality, and is immoral.

Because I was interested in discovering how you defend your own moral platform, I let another assertion of yours slide. I believe you implied that if I can not prove God's existence, then basing morality on God fails. I disagree with that assertion.

I believe that there is enough evidence to support God's existence, but I believe that we can only know God, if he reveals himself to us. Because God transcends creation, trying to reason from the creation to the creator is limited. We can know a great deal about him, based on his works, but we can't know his essential nature, unless he reveals himself to us.

If a moral God exists, then God is the standard by which all morality is measured. It doesn’t matter whether you or I acknowledge his existence, His morality is real. In other words, if there is a moral God, then, morality is an objective truth beyond ourselves, which we can discover, but can not invent. This principle applies to other intellectual endeavors. For example, many mathematicians believe that they are searching for truth, which already exists, waiting to be discovered. The mathematicians are not creating facts, they are discovering them. In the same way, in a universe created by a moral God, morality flows from God’s essence, and can be discovered, but can not be invented.

You, or anyone else, is free to deny God's existence, and can thus reject theistic morality, but that leaves you with a moral void. If God is not the source of universal moral truth, then who or what is the source? From the materialistic paradigm, is there really such a thing as objective morality? I believe I have already demonstrated that the answer is NO.

Continued below

Anonymous said...

Continued from above

Andrew said:
"The point is that the word "health" is like "morality". Over time, the specifics of health change because of science. Certain procedures will become outdated; better cures will be discovered; but we will always know the difference between health and sickness."

Your example explains Christian morality beautifully. Christian morality is the product of evolution, just like our understanding of illness has evolved. Because of our human limitations, we have not always used very effective means to achieve the core values which define Christian morality, but those core values have been there from the beginning.

Without God, I don't see how your analogy applies. I agree that health and illness are real because I have experienced them both. In other words, illness is part of the physical world, and is definable from the materialistic paradigm. I don't see how your analogy applies to morality. I have never found morality in the physical universe. That is the answer I'm searching for. If you can not find morality in the physical universe, then, without God, it seems that morality is nothing but a personal preference, much like chocolate ice-cream.

Andrew said:
"As you might have already guessed, that's ludicrous. I can't take the argument seriously, and I can't take your argument for morality seriously either. Just give it up, Dennis. Admit it. The god argument for morality is a poor one, and that leaves it wide open for morality to become a subject of human inquiry, aka science."

I believe I have already demonstrated how God, if he exists, is the arbiter of morality. If you reject the existence of creator God, then the argument obviously will not strike you as good, but it is still valid. If God really does exist, whether or not you are convinced does not matter. I believe God exists, therefore, I believe that morality is a preexisting truth, which we can discover. Since I believe that science is the study of God’s creation, I believe that science also has a great deal to contribute in our search for God’s truth. That is why I have been asking you, to explain how you establish your morality from science?

One approach you have brought up is neuroanatomy. I don't see how neuroanatomy can be of much help. Neuroanatomy can tell us which brain tracts are involved with which experiences. But, we already know what the brain is capable of producing. The capabilities, and proclivities, of the brain are a matter of history. When people use the scientific data to decide that some behaviors, which are hardwired into the brain, are moral, and sine are immoral, they have moved beyond the scientific evidence.

The reason I keep redirecting you back to Dawkins, is because his theory seems to be as close to universal truth as science can ever come. Therefore, it is a good place to start, in looking for a scientific basis for morality. From evolutionary science, we can deduce that the purpose of life, is to keep the selfish genes in existence. Whether other people flourish is irrelevant to our selfish genes unless the other people can contribute positively to the survival of our own selfish genes. From that standpoint, morality is nothing but the attempt by one set of selfish genes to exploit other individuals for their own benefit. In other words, morality is nothing but a strategy for one set of selfish genes to gain a survival advantage. Whether other sets of genes flourish is irrelevant unless it contributes to the survival of my own genes.

Dennis