Pharyngula

I think that metaphor is a bit stretched

So a wingnut gets a cartoonish version of religious history:

Ritualistic Baal worship, in sum, looked a little like this: Adults would gather around the altar of Baal. Infants would then be burned alive as a sacrificial offering to the deity. Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity by prompting Baal to bring rain for the fertility of “mother earth.”

And what do you think that reminds him of? I think I’m wrong: he’s not making a metaphor, he’s saying that modern-day liberals are the direct descendant of Baal worshippers.

Modern liberalism deviates little from its ancient predecessor. While its macabre rituals have been sanitized with flowery and euphemistic terms of art, its core tenets and practices remain eerily similar. The worship of “fertility” has been replaced with worship of “reproductive freedom” or “choice.” Child sacrifice via burnt offering has been updated, ever so slightly, to become child sacrifice by way of abortion. The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of both heterosexual and homosexual immorality and promiscuity have been carefully whitewashed – yet wholeheartedly embraced – by the cults of radical feminism, militant “gay rights” and “comprehensive sex education.” And, the pantheistic worship of “mother earth” has been substituted – in name only – for radical environmentalism.

Well, I think modern conservatism is descended from ritual cannibalism, so there.

Comments

  1. #1 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    December 19, 2008

    Man they’re really reaching now.

  2. #2 Jadehawk
    December 19, 2008

    oh wow. scientific, historical, mythological, political AND analogy fail. I’m impressed.

  3. #3 Zeno
    December 19, 2008

    Well, there are plenty of Catholics in the neocon leadership, so that ritual cannibalism is pretty much a given.

  4. #4 Jadehawk
    December 19, 2008

    hmmm… “analogy fail” ruined my sentence structure. is there an adjective for analogy?

  5. #5 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2008

    Damn, busted. And I was so looking forward to the big bisexual orgy amid the stench of charred human flesh at Obama’s inauguration.

  6. #6 octopod
    December 19, 2008

    Hey. I’m a bisexual atheist hippie paleontologist — how come I never get invited to that kind of parties?

    (Also: “congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies”. From the Dept. of Repetitive Redundance here.)

  7. #7 mothra
    December 19, 2008

    Cannibalism is the right analogy as long as they eat their brains first.

    OT Al Franken is now ahead by some 200 votes in the MN senate race. NPR at 5:33 CST.

  8. #8 Andy James
    December 19, 2008

    I agree only if they’re eating the rump and shank cuts neglecting the brains.

  9. #9 Scott
    December 19, 2008

    Actually Baal worshippers seem pleasant compared to the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament. Those were some mean motherfuckers.

  10. #10 Jadehawk
    December 19, 2008

    Al Franken is now ahead by some 200 votes

    oooohh…

  11. #11 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    Oh my. The stoopid…it hurts!

  12. #12 John Morales
    December 19, 2008

    “I think that metaphor is a bit stretched” is an understatement of gigantic proportion.

    What gets me is the naked and venomous intolerance evinced by that screed.

  13. #13 Frasque
    December 19, 2008

    I prefer my babies lightly sauteed.

  14. #14 Brian
    December 19, 2008

    Jadehawk: “analogical”.

  15. #15 Frasque
    December 19, 2008

    Wait wait wait . . . fertility = reproductive choice? I thought choice = killing babies, and fertility = “be fruitful and multiply”. They need to get their batshit straight.

  16. #16 Sastra
    December 19, 2008

    The writer wrote:

    But it’s not just self-styled “progressives” or secular humanists who have adopted the fundamental pillars of Baalism. In these postmodern times, we’ve also been graced, regrettably, by the advent of counter-biblical “emergent Christianity” or “quasi-Christianity,” as I prefer to call it.

    Yay! He’s attacking liberal Christians too! We’ve got allies!

    Because emergent Christianity fails the authenticity test whenever subjected to even the most perfunctory biblical scrutiny, I suspect it will eventually go – for the most part – the way of the pet rock or the Macarena.

    No, no, no — Dawkins took care of Christian Fundamentalism, but he couldn’t touch the liberal versions, because they have a deeper understanding of God. Sheesh.

  17. #17 SASnSA
    December 19, 2008

    Oh no! not the evil comprehensive sex education! Heaven forbid that children should know when the priests are doing something they shouldn’t with them, or worse know how to protect themselves from a pregnancy they might have to abort or a deadly disease meant to punish them for the evil of succumbing to the pleasures of the flesh! And where does evolution fall in this hedonistic orgy of satanic liberals?

  18. #18 Charles Minus
    December 19, 2008

    I’ve always been interested in ancient Mesopptamian religions. I would sure like to know where he go this information about Baal worship.

    I like the part in the Bible where the Hebrews and tha Baalites have a god contest to see who can start a fire. It’s pretty funny and you can see through the sleight of hand from 3000 years away.

  19. #19 Janine, Vile Bitch
    December 19, 2008

    Kind of gives new meaning to Marvin Gaye’s You Sure Love To Baal.

  20. #20 Capital Dan
    December 19, 2008

    Damn. I thought he was talking about my Saturday evening bowling league.

  21. #21 Richard
    December 19, 2008

    I like the part in the Bible where the Hebrews and tha Baalites have a god contest to see who can start a fire. It’s pretty funny and you can see through the sleight of hand from 3000 years away.

    That sounds awesome. Can you please provide a chapter and verse? :D

  22. #22 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    That piece was a flailing, feeble, foray, founded on fear, fornication, and fundamentalist fucktard fantasy.

  23. #23 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    As opposed to the all male bisexual orgies…
    Rick Warren probably got a little chub on when he described the Baal bashes.

  24. #24 Seiberwing
    December 19, 2008

    I really fail to see how fertility = offering the option to not bear children. They’re sort of opposites, really.

    I also fail to see how the actual worship of the earth can be correlated with wanting to make sure we don’t harm the earth so much that we can’t actually live on it.

    …or maybe it’s this guy who fails.

    Anyway, if anyone knows where these liberal bisexual orgies are going to be next week, I’m totally free.

  25. #25 cousinavi
    December 19, 2008

    Well, I think modern conservatism is descended from ritual cannibalism, so there.

    Perhaps you meant to say that modern conservatism EVOLVED from ritual cannibalism.
    Although…one wonders how they differ sufficiently to account for the premise…

  26. #26 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    Oh no! not the evil comprehensive sex education!

    Ah yes, learning is evil! Knowledge is evil! Information is evil! Evil! Evil! Evil!

    Pretending is good. Believing without evidence is good. Absolute certitude is very good! Especially if it’s about things not paralleled in reality!

  27. #27 Jadehawk
    December 19, 2008

    thanks Brian. so that makes it:
    logical, scientific, historical, mythological, political AND analogical fail.

    so basically the guy is a humanity fail.

  28. #28 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    I like the part in the Bible where the Hebrews and tha Baalites have a god contest to see who can start a fire. It’s pretty funny and you can see through the sleight of hand from 3000 years away.

    Sure. No way. You weren’t there. There’s no way you can say it was sleight of hand. You can’t prove it. Therefore god exists.

  29. #29 TSC
    December 19, 2008

    I thought we were the direct descendants of a Happy Monkey!? What gives?

  30. #30 Hank Fox
    December 19, 2008

    Speaking only for myself …

    How I miss the bisexual orgies and the smell of burning infants.

    Christianity ruins all the fun stuff.

  31. #31 MPG
    December 19, 2008

    so basically the guy is a humanity fail.

    In other words, he’s fractally wrong. Never was there a more appropriate target for the phrase.

  32. #32 K. E. Taylor
    December 19, 2008

    Wow, all I can ask is, how does Mr. Barber remember to breath?

    Not one reference to an historical study. Not one reference to an anthropological study. In fact, not one reference anywhere except to some myth following preacher.

    I can only imagine that Mr. Barber has a huge rectum, after pulling that much crap out of it.

  33. #33 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    As I remember, Baal is very ambiguous in the KJV as a god and a demon. Mendelssohn’s Elijah references Baalists, with Baal as a sham god. C’mon EVERYBODY: “Baaaaaaal we cry to theeeeeee! “Baaaaaaal we cry to theeeeeee! Heeeeed the saaaacrifice weeee ooooffeeeer!” Ahem.
    So just where is Brother Warren getting his sick little orgy/sacrifice accounts? (other than just making it up as he damn well pleases).

  34. #34 TSC
    December 19, 2008

    Albert Fish works for Rupert Murdoch.

  35. #35 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    Sorry, I didn’t go to the clickback. A friend related that Rick Warren repeated Barbers claims. I just assumed Warren was the one who dreamed them up. My bad.

  36. #36 Anon
    December 19, 2008

    Human sacrifice is only ok when God does it… you know, like impregnating a virgin so that the boy can grow up to be nailed to a plank to die slowly? Do you know how difficult that is for mortals to do?

    If you can’t do something right, don’t do it at all…

  37. #37 Missus Gumby
    December 19, 2008

    The person who wrote that bunch of mongoose offal needs precisely the following:

    a) A small, windowless room.
    b) Several rolls of rubber wallpaper.

  38. #38 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    I just loved it when God punked Abraham. “You say he’s your only boy? Tough break. I require a sacrifice. Okay now Abe, get set . On three. 1… 2… – PSYCH!! Just kidding!
    What a rotten bastard.

  39. #39 dalida44
    December 19, 2008

    Thanksn for the interesting blog.The education sites aren’t enough. ?t is necessory to be developed.
    Thanks for education.

  40. #40 allison
    December 19, 2008

    The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of both heterosexual and homosexual immorality and promiscuity have been carefully whitewashed

    Has anybody else noticed that, if you re-arrange the letters in “Myers’ Pharyngula”, you can spell “Hurry – Slap Gay Men”?

  41. #41 Richard
    December 19, 2008

    These accounts of Baalism are probably “sourced” from the anti-Carthaginian propaganda written in Rome after they got a bit ashamed at killing everyone in the city in the Third Punic War.

  42. #42 strangest brew
    December 19, 2008

    The hysterical seems strong in the retards recently …what has poked their nest?
    Is it the approaching Monkey festivities that are dinging their bell or rattling their bars or whatever?

    This seeming upsurge in religious tom foolery and basic gibbering seems to be approaching a crisis…maybe the rapture is finally here and like dogs with sensitive hearing these cretins are a sensing the end times galloping up on their ass…or more likely there is going to be a synchronized festival of exploding apoplectic christo-fascist craniums…and them’s being for the most part hollow… it might be a tad noisy?….well we can all live in hope!

  43. #43 raven
    December 19, 2008

    I’ve always been interested in ancient Mesopptamian religions. I would sure like to know where he go this information about Baal worship.

    Is this even true? Given the source and general fruitbat crazy tone of the article, sounds like something made up. Doubtless the Baalists had similar stories about the Yahwehists. But history is written by the victors.

    What’s this about conservatives practicing ritual cannibalism? More like real cannibalism. Right now they have been eating the savings, retirement 201K plants, and jobs of the American people and spitting out a pointless war with piles of bodies, dismal headlines about the failing world economy, and leaving a huge national debt of 11 trillion USD. The losses in wealth of the US people are estimated at around $6 trillion bucks.

  44. #44 Michael X
    December 19, 2008

    So, I’m working on this at home presently and I’m wondering if the writer mentioned if I’m supposed to have an orgy while babies are screaming or after the babies have screamed. Any particular positions mentioned for the bisexual orgies?

    I only ask because the ever so saintly christian seems to know a striking amount about the vile things he wishes to eradicate. Like the censor who must read all the smut in order to know what to ban, I think the writer is probably always the most debauched person in the room.

  45. #45 Rev. BigDumbChimp,
    December 19, 2008

    Matt Barber is director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action and associate dean with Liberty University School of Law.

    well there’s a shock

    These are the people educating the people who populated the last administrations horde of underlings.

  46. #46 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    Has anybody else noticed that, if you re-arrange the letters in “Myers’ Pharyngula”, you can spell “Hurry – Slap Gay Men”?

    Allison, very clever. But srsly girl, way too much time on your hands!

  47. #47 arachnophilia
    December 19, 2008

    …can i just start with the premise?

    “baal” is a misnomer. it’s simply a title that means “lord” and could equally be applied to the hebrew deity. it’s like elohim, without the proper name of the god, it could be any god. though this idea was somewhat lost in the bible due to the monotheistic nature of the authors: they could say “god” and everyone would know they meant yahweh. why wouldn’t “baal” work the same way?

    as a curious aside, baal means “lord” in the way a husband rules over his wife (in the biblical hebrew tradition). as a verb, it means “marry.”

    in any case, i’m not aware of any levantine or sumerian customs that involved human sacrifice. the only such reference i know of is in the bible, and even that references is very arguable. and if it is in sacrifice to a god, that god is molech.

    the ritualistic bisexual orgies also were not in worship of baal but asherah. the levite priests had a damned hard time shutting down this cult, considering that for the more polytheistically inclined, asherah was yahweh’s wife.

    @Seiberwing: (#24)

    I really fail to see how fertility = offering the option to not bear children. They’re sort of opposites, really.

    yes, but no. there’s a common notion that sacrifices were designed from a basic appeasing-the-predators model. meaning that if you kill a sheep and leave it outside your pasture, the wolves are more likely to take that one than kill all your sheep inside the fence. though i’m really not sure fertility cults worked on that principle.

    @Anon: (#36)

    Human sacrifice is only ok when God does it… you know, like impregnating a virgin so that the boy can grow up to be nailed to a plank to die slowly?

    it’s quite arguable that for the jewish god, human sacrifice was very abhorent, even when god himself commanded it of abraham. god, afterall, stops abraham before he actually commits the act. one is forced to wonder why god changed his mind on this topic when the new testament authors sat down to write their books?

  48. #48 Patricia, OM
    December 19, 2008

    Richard – 1 Kings 18 – 19:18. It’s an ugly story.

    The best part is that Yahweh’s Mrs. is out with Baal’s fans. No wonder he torched the meat, alter and the ground under it. Jealous god indeed.

  49. #49 John Morales
    December 19, 2008

    arachnophilia @47, I like your erudition.

  50. #50 El Herring
    December 19, 2008

    P.Z. Myers Pharyngula =

    GRUMPY NASAL ZEPHYR
    HAZY PURPLY ENGRAMS
    HYMN PAPYRUS GLAZER
    MANGY ZEPHYR PULSAR
    NYMPH PARALYZES RUG
    NYMPH PLAZA SURGERY
    PANZA LYMPH SURGERY
    ZANY MUSHY GRAPPLER
    ZANY PHYLUM SPARGER
    ZANY PHYLUM GRASPER

  51. #51 akshelby
    December 19, 2008

    Speaking of Abraham and Isaac – Here is a good youtube video on how that would play out in today’s Office World. It’s very clever.

    I don’t know how to shorten links.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHGEELdSHHc&feature=channel_page

  52. #52 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    Patricia, isn’t there more about Baal in 2Kings? I refuse to search, I can’t bring myself to look at that ridiculous waste of trees anymore.

  53. #53 Neil B ?
    December 19, 2008

    There is an irony there as some have noted: pretending that liberals are descended from ancient fertility rituals, when it’s the Right that likes to promote birth, suppress birth control, give big tax breaks for families and dependents etc. (For all their complaining about “welfare” and “subsidies” they are the strongest supporters of the child tax credit etc.) Yes I want to see the population control happen at the early stage not later stages of pregnancy, but I do want to see it. Maximize per capita land area, that’s “wealth” too.

  54. #54 Paper Hand
    December 19, 2008

    god, afterall, stops abraham before he actually commits the act. one is forced to wonder why god changed his mind on this topic when the new testament authors sat down to write their books?

    But he doesn’t do it for Jephthah

    30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”

  55. #55 AnthonyK
    December 19, 2008

    This is indeed a flattering picture of liberalism but Mr Barber should have added that it’s not that good for most of us. Hmmph. Bet PZ gets to go to zillions of baby-sacrificing, bisexual orgies. Pout

  56. #56 El Herring
    December 19, 2008

    Those are some of the best 3-word anagrams. I can’t be bothered sifting through the 4-word ones, there are thousands and it’s nearly 1AM here.

  57. #57 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    ZANY PHYLUM GRASPER

    (in best Charlie Brown voice) THAT’S IT!

  58. #58 Patricia, OM
    December 19, 2008

    E.V. – There are 14 listings for verses & chapters for Baal in the bible.
    To the great relief of us all, I won’t quote them unless challenged by a True Christian.

  59. #59 El Herring
    December 19, 2008

    I always find it fascinating that anagrams nearly always seem to be pertinent to the subject: note the religious, scientific and biological words that came up there: HYMN, PAPYRUS, SURGERY, LYMPH, PHYLUM etc. All P.Z. to a T.

    Maybe it’s a kind of “word pareidolia” – we see what we expect to see. Somebody might be able to spot some good 4-word ones.

    (One anagram of my real name is HIM SPUN WAIL ATONALLY – which sums up my musical abilities in a nutshell!)

  60. #60 Patricia, OM
    December 19, 2008

    Matt Barber writes,…”today’s liberalism is largely a sanitized retread of an antiquated mythology – one that significantly predates the only truly progressive movement: biblical christianity.” Well, well that admission must have cost his poor little chrisian heart dearly. Significantly predates, so man was here worshiping Baal before gawd showed up? Nice one Matt.
    Going on to twist this to slam Obama just looks desperate.

  61. #61 Ryan Cunningham
    December 19, 2008

    ‘The worship of “fertility” has been replaced with worship of “reproductive freedom” or “choice.” ‘

    He knows “choice” is about NOT having the baby, right?

  62. #62 littlejohn
    December 19, 2008

    Except for the burning babies, sounds like a lot of fun.

  63. #63 Erp
    December 19, 2008

    1 Kings 18 has the dueling sacrifices.

    Also Abraham actually had two sons at the time he was told to sacrifice Isaac. A tricky question is to ask how many sons Abraham had. The answer is 8. Ishmael by his concubine Hagar. Isaac by his wife Sarah. Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Mid’ian, Ishbak, and Shuah by his concubine Keturah after Sarah’s death (though there is a Jewish Midrash that says Keturah is Hagar who has presumably come back to Abraham after he kicked her and her child out in the wilderness to probably die).

  64. #64 dean
    December 19, 2008

    “congregants – men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies”

    Ah yes, the good ol’ days from my undergraduate dating years. Of course, the “engaging in bisexual orgies” was always $100 extra, but still…

  65. #65 raven
    December 19, 2008

    The hysterical seems strong in the retards recently …what has poked their nest?

    They are always hysterical, all part of being on the lunatic fringe.

    This is just a tribal ritual the fundies have. They make up lists of demons to hate….and then hate them and occasionally kill them.

    This guy undoubtedly hates liberals, blacks, browns, the Pope, the gays, the Moslems, and Catholics. They tend to have minds fossilized in mud and don’t update their lists very often, maybe once or twice in a century. He may also hate Tories, the British, commies, Jews, Irish, Italians, Yankees, Slavs, the free silverists, Canaanites, and Amelikanites.

    I don’t think it matters too much who their demons are as long as they get over 50% of the world’s population in there somewhere.

  66. #66 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    (though there is a Jewish Midrash that says Keturah is Hagar who has presumably come back to Abraham after he kicked her and her child out in the wilderness to probably die).

    Ahh yes, good old fashioned family values.

  67. #67 doug
    December 19, 2008

    Oh God said to abraham kill me a son
    Abe said man you must be puttin me on
    God said no, abe said what
    God say you can do what you wanna but
    The next time you see me comin you better run
    Well abe said where dyou want this killin done
    God said out on highway 61

    Well not quite the exact biblical text but you get the idea right ?

    God asks for ritual sacrifice of a child and his are happy believers obey !

  68. #68 John Morales
    December 19, 2008

    akshelby @51, that’s pretty good!

  69. #69 akshelby
    December 19, 2008

    E.V said:

    “Ahh yes, good old fashioned family values.”

    Not just “gold old fashioned family values” but good old fashioned BIBLICAL family values. There’s nothing like throwing your wife and child out into the wilderness to die to keep a family together.

  70. #70 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 19, 2008

    I refuse to search, I can’t bring myself to look at that ridiculous waste of trees anymore.

    Let him that hath a finger to click on the search function search!

    (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)

  71. #71 akshelby
    December 19, 2008

    #68 John Morales

    NonStampCollector has a lot of really good videos taking apart biblical morality and christianity in general.

  72. #72 Phoesune
    December 19, 2008

    Woohoo!!! this time the atheist didn’t do it!

    It’s those religious people that’s the problem!! Silly Baal worshipers trying to mess with those silly Horus worshipers. Next thing you know they both might give up the whole religion thing altogether and then we could argue over whose logic is more pure!!

  73. #73 Jimminy Christmas
    December 19, 2008

    Wingnut Christians prove yet again that they know nothing about the origins and history of their own religion.

  74. #74 doug
    December 19, 2008

    ooops I forgot just how many babies have been burned to death by Proud US right wing liberal christian napalm and bombs since the end of WW2?

    Sacrificed on the altar of capitalism.

  75. #75 Twin-Skies
    December 19, 2008

    Dumbest (and worst) analogy I’ve heard for the week.

    Are these guys even trying?

  76. #76 druidbros
    December 19, 2008

    And whats wrong with rituals?…..

    http://www.psych.nyu.edu/amodiolab/Amodio%20et%20al.%20(2007)%20Nature%20Neuro.pdf

    Political scientists and psychologists have noted that, on
    average, conservatives show more structured and persistent
    cognitive styles, whereas liberals are more responsive to
    informational complexity, ambiguity and novelty. We tested the hypothesis that these profiles relate to differences in general neurocognitive functioning using event-related potentials, and found that greater liberalism was associated with stronger conflict-related anterior cingulate activity, suggesting greater neurocognitive sensitivity to cues for altering a habitual
    response pattern.

    how nice of Mr Barber to prove the point.

  77. #77 John Morales
    December 19, 2008

    Twin-Skies, I wonder what you think of the Abraham story. Since you’re a believer and reasonable.

  78. #78 Matt
    December 19, 2008

    Anyone heard about the problems at CFI?

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/support/all_things_are_possible

  79. #79 Jimminy Christmas
    December 19, 2008

    I for one am looking forward to some orgies this holiday season amidst the delicious aroma of honey-baked ham.

  80. #80 Rowen
    December 19, 2008

    El,

    I dunno. when I put in my full name, I got a lot of results with the words “cervix” or “vixen” in them. Unfortunately, I’m not a vixen, and don’t own or have interest in a cervix.

  81. #81 Twin-Skies
    December 19, 2008

    I’m not too keen on the details of the story of Abraham (It’s been a while since anybody brought this up). I do recall that as a Catholic, I’m expected to adhere more to the New Testament writings, given Jesus Christ’s proclamation as Israel’s new covenant with their God.

    As a result, we – at least the brand of Catholicism I’m part of – study the Old Testament more from an academic standpoint, much in the same way an anthropologist might study an indigenous tribe. There is a degree of detachment that’s needed for the process – to take the old laws and teachings at face value and apply them to today would be putting them way out of context.

    As for the story of creation, it’s just that – an ancient legend that was an attempt at explaining how the world began, before the advent of science.

    It has much significance within the modern Catholic theology, though that matter’s better left to another discussion :)

  82. #82 Badger3k
    December 19, 2008

    Charles #18 – as far as I know, Baal (“Lord”) was a Canaanite/etc deity and had no relation to the Babylonians, Sumerians, etc. I might be wrong, but I have not seen Baal in relation to Mesopotamia. There is a lot of material out there now on Ugaritic, the Hittites, Canaanites, etc, but I suspect his reenactment is more in line with a B-movie he saw once. You know how they confuse things with reality, like the Flintstones as a documentary.

  83. #83 Twin-Skies
    December 19, 2008

    Almost forgot – that last post was meant for John Morales.

    Well, I’ll be heading out – got arnis training for the rest of the day.

  84. #84 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    The Dark Bible

    …for the things not usually covered in church.

  85. #85 Arnold Facepalmer
    December 19, 2008

    “The gods of liberalism have a new high priest in Barack Obama, and enjoy many devout followers in the Democratic-controlled Congress, liberal media and halls of academia”

    Obama, liberalism’s High Priest? Then he hardly needs Rick Warren for the inaugural invocation

  86. #86 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    Facepalmer…lol. You owe me a drink. My last one got knocked over when I read your handle.

  87. #87 Ann
    December 19, 2008

    I’m still stuck on the phrase “ritual of convenience.” Are baby sacrifices and bisexual orgies really that convenient?? ‘Cause sometimes I just want to order a pizza and watch Stargate reruns.

  88. #88 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    Are baby sacrifices…convenient??

    If there’s some around, and you’re hankerin’ for some baby-back ribs….mmmmmmmm. Now that’s convenient.

  89. #89 Patricia, OM
    December 19, 2008

    Leviticus 5:17 – And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet he is guilty, and shall bear his iniquity.
    That sounds real progressive to me. Now you know where the saying, Ignorance of the law is no excuse, came from. Gawd is love!

  90. #90 fiermancarl
    December 19, 2008

    Well, I happen to be a quasi expert on bisexual ories. I had a long term girlfriend that was bisexual. And um, er , if the party at Baals’ place was anything near the parties we had then…….wowza! Party on dudes! ( and dudettes ! )

  91. #91 John Morales
    December 19, 2008

    Twin-Skies, I really appreciate your response. I know I’ve put you on the spot, but reasonable theists here are almost like hen’s teeth.

    I’d like to say that I, too, was raised a Catholic, and as with you, the obvious ramifications of the morality implied in that story (the focus was on the admirable blind obedience of Abraham) were artfully avoided when I was being indoctrinated. Even as a child, it was obvious to me that it implied God was not omniscient – a direct contradiction of dogma- yet it was not honestly addressed.

    I can’t help but feel you’ve not addressed the thrust of my question, however. My only answer so far is “I’m not too keen on the details of the story of Abraham”, which tells me your feeling about it, not what you think about it.

    Strange how such as this* led me to atheism in my youth, yet you cling to belief despite the obvious contradictions.

    * I always think of Job when Abraham comes up. Dunno why ;)

  92. #92 AlanWCan
    December 19, 2008

    Jadehawk | December 19, 2008 6:32 PM

    hmmm… “analogy fail” ruined my sentence structure. is there an adjective for analogy?

    analogical

  93. #93 donna
    December 19, 2008

    Pish, all that crap about orgies. I think they are just jealous of what they imagine liberals actually do. ;^)

  94. #94 Bjørn Østman
    December 19, 2008

    Seems to me the rise of the interwebs has had the rather unfortunate consequence that loonies like this one has found a forum where they can spew their cooked-up “metaphors” without having to stand by their words in front of real people they can’t ignore.

    It’s like the pent-up incoherent anger of a misunderstood teenager spilling over.

  95. #95 hexatron
    December 19, 2008

    David Marjanovi?’s search on Baal+fire pops up Elijah and his magic trick.

    The ‘you can spot the trick from 3000 years away’ is: “cut the bullock in pieces, and laid [him] on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour [it] on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood.”

    After that, the fire came and burnt the sacrifice. Maybe that ‘water’ wasn’t exactly H2O?

    Anyway, it all ends happily. On Elijah’s recommendation, all the priests of Baal are killed.

    Anyway, it’s all in 1Kings18:20 and forward, there for anyone to read or to use as a base for next Sunday’s sermon.

  96. #96 Alex
    December 19, 2008

    Maybe that ‘water’ wasn’t exactly H2O?

    But were you there? You don’t know! You CAN’T know! Therefore god exists.

  97. #97 Dr. Matthew
    December 19, 2008

    Ahh, the ol’ bisexual tendencies of male liberals…. alive only in the imaginings of Christians and the plots of bad gay porn.

  98. #98 Not that Louis
    December 19, 2008

    I think he’s jealous.

  99. #99 mayhempix
    December 19, 2008

    It takes Baals to be a Conservative cannibal.
    It’s their red meat du jour.

  100. #100 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    Bisexual orgies -just imagine the geometric possibilities. Obviously math is a sin.

  101. #101 Sven DiMilo
    December 19, 2008

    Bisexual orgy pix!!!! Woot!

  102. #102 Ichthyic
    December 19, 2008

    …everyone inside happily mating the day away

    can we make that a tradition for Happy Monkey?

  103. #103 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    Sven,
    That link must be really good – it crashed my browser. Happy Monkey.

  104. #104 Ichthyic
    December 19, 2008

    That link must be really good

    Aplysia mating chain.

    just fyi.

  105. #105 E. V.
    December 19, 2008

    Thanks Ichthyic. Good thing I couldn’t load it, obviously it’s too hawt for me. *blush* ;p

  106. #106 Ichthyic
    December 19, 2008

    well, there’s lots of fluid and soft, squishy parts involved, for what it’s worth.
    ;)

  107. #107 Ichthyic
    December 19, 2008

    might try a direct link to the photo, in case there’s a script your browser doesn’t like:

    http://www.digalist.com/up/0723/022604.jpg

  108. #108 Caveat
    December 19, 2008

    What’s funny is that these trogs think that what they are doing is original, logical and unassailable.

    btw PZ, I love your little troll figure – it’s perfect and always funny.

  109. #109 BC
    December 19, 2008

    And yet – despite all their best efforts, the Yahwists were never successful in stamping out the Baal cults nor the other fertility cults. Must be a lesson there somewhere -

  110. #110 tresmal
    December 19, 2008

    I think I know what their real agenda is. Siiiighh… OK wingnuts you can come to the bisexual orgies, but you gotta bring your own babies and you gotta try not to embarrass us, OK?
    Oh I loves me the seahare pron.
    Spellcheck has no problem with “gotta”, But it does dislike “spellcheck”.

  111. #111 H.H.
    December 19, 2008

    I do recall that as a Catholic, I’m expected to adhere more to the New Testament writings, given Jesus Christ’s proclamation as Israel’s new covenant with their God.

    Yes, we know how they instruct you think about it. We’re suggesting that you actually think about it.

  112. #112 John Morales
    December 20, 2008

    Caveat @108, Gumbys.

  113. #113 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    “But reasonable theists here are almost like hen’s teeth.”- John Morales

    Is that to say they are embryonic? Twin skies is, by all accounts, a much higher form of life than the average Joe-Sunday- Shoes. Well Done, Twin-Skies!

    Now, since Baal/ Yahweh is the topic tonight:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pecmp-pUEpA&

    Note: Accuracy in not guaranteed! His speech is plodding, and his pronunciations often frustrating. But great fodder nonetheless. Part one discusses the names of God also.

  114. #114 Chuck S.
    December 20, 2008

    Fundie fucknuttery at it’s finest.

  115. #115 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llCm3gLU6tM&NR=1

    Ugaritic(sp), Canaanite, Sumerian God parallels. Also fodder. I Expect error and inaccuracy, but we have many resident Biblical Scholors, as it were. Happy Monkey!

  116. #116 John Morales
    December 20, 2008

    RickrOll,

    I got the apostrophe placement wrong initially (typo).

    Good take on it, R. Yeah, if they go on to develop, they will achieve freethought, and cease to be a reasonable theist.

  117. #117 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    “RickrOll, I got the apostrophe placement wrong initially (typo).”- Mr. Morales

    Ummmm, so? I didn’t even notice. :P

    There is another thing about hens’ teeth which may be given as well- most become Christians in the search for answers, but are quickly re-absorbed into the toothless inanity that is organized religion *bows*
    /perfect jokes for pharyngula

  118. #118 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    “Joe-Sunday-Shoes”
    Hmmmph, the joke was supposed to be Joe-Sunday-Vest, but Joe sunday shoes meme staged a coup it would seem, quietly and with deadly efficiency.
    The Lesson:
    Don’t trust your brains people! Keep your thinking in the fore-brain, and Maintain Vigilance, lest pun and gaff be the death of you!
    /semi-serious meta-joke
    *takes a break*

  119. #119 Chris mankey
    December 20, 2008

    “Speaking of Abraham and Isaac – Here is a good youtube video on how that would play out in today’s Office World. It’s very clever.

    I don’t know how to shorten links.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHGEELdSHHc&feature=channel_page

    Unfortunately I think It would probably be more like this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhqB9kf-vAk&

    Chilling

  120. #120 JJR
    December 20, 2008

    “Amid horrific screams and the stench of charred human flesh, congregants – men and women alike – would…”

    That sentence fragment could also be plopped down in a historical description of the Holy Inquisition, y’know? All that “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” crap?

    Just sayin’.

    It also cracks me up when Christians denounce Islam for being “spread by way of the sword”; *cough* So was Christianity *cough*, from Constantine on down…

    I remember reading about a Chinese ideology once (I forget which one) whose adherents were known for being 1) well armed and 2) professing universal love and I said to myself, gee, now why does that sound awfully familiar…?

    King Arthur: “Patsy, I didn’t know your mother was Jewish!”
    Patsy: “Begging your pardon, sire, it’s not the sort of thing you tell a well-armed Christian…”
    (Spamalot)

  121. #121 Eric Paulsen
    December 20, 2008

    I ate my saviour in a religious ritual and all I got were these stupid prions!

  122. #122 Rey Fox
    December 20, 2008

    Shorter version of that column: BOOGEYMEN! BOOGEYMEN! BOOOOOOOOGEYMENNNNNN!

    Can we please consign these people and their primitive fearmongering to the dustbin of history already?

    “The hysterical seems strong in the retards recently …what has poked their nest?”

    The fact that a black man will be occupying the Oval Office in a month. And one who most of them still think worships one of the other Abrahamic religions.

  123. #123 Twin-Skies
    December 20, 2008

    @John Morales

    To clarify: If found a lot of the pre-NT stories and parables to be pretty f***d up, as did most of theology professors. That’s exactly why we’re not expected to take them literally.

    Abraham’s willingess to sacrifice his son seemed counter-intuitive to the tenets of Catholicism, all the more that we’re talking about a god willing to take an innocent child’s life. I remember one occasion where we spent an entire session deconstructing Samson and Delilah, and why he is NOT a good example of what a man should be.

    As I said earlier, this is why Catholic theology focuses more on NT…though that’s not to say it’s not chock-full of contradictions that need to be studied properly to be put in proper perspective.

    Don’t worry about putting me on the spot – this is a good opportunity to review my theology. Nothing like adversity to sharpen one’s wits and broaden one’s knowledge, eh? :)

  124. #124 Twin-Skies
    December 20, 2008

    @RickrOll

    What’s a Joe-Sunday-Shoes?

  125. #125 Ichthyic
    December 20, 2008

    I ate my saviour in a religious ritual and all I got were these stupid prions!

    Jesus was my co-pilot, but the plane crashed and I had to eat him.

  126. #126 Paper Hand
    December 20, 2008

    To clarify: If found a lot of the pre-NT stories and parables to be pretty f***d up, as did most of theology professors. That’s exactly why we’re not expected to take them literally.

    But here’s the thing – parables are symbolic. A parable, while not containing literal truth, is expected to convey a message through the symblic elements of the story. What’s the message conveyed in the story of Abraham and Isaac? That loyalty to God should come before family loyalties? That, if necessary, one should be willing to kill ones own child if needed?

    Sorry, that kind of message is not one I can accept.

  127. #127 Rick R
    December 20, 2008

    Icthyic, thanks for reminding me!! I’ve got rugby player steaks in the freezer I have to thaw out…

  128. #128 Twin-Skies
    December 20, 2008

    What’s the message conveyed in the story of Abraham and Isaac? That loyalty to God should come before family loyalties? That, if necessary, one should be willing to kill ones own child if needed?

    In the old Hebrew tradition, that’s what it meant. That’s exactly why I said it sounded f***d up.

    Modern Catholic theology dictates that grace begins with the family – a family that shows genuine love and devotion to one another is already one form of professing your faith.

  129. #129 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    Posted by: Twin-Skies:

    @RickrOll

    “What’s a Joe-Sunday-Shoes?”

    No idea lol. It was a mistake. My brain was hacked, like i said. I wanted to put “Joe-Sunday-vest”, but the shoes got
    in there. Ah well.

    About Sampson and Delilah, Sampson didn’t have any choice in the matter.

    For one, he was a Nazirite.
    For another-Judges 14:3and4:

    “His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?”
    But Sampson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (His parents did not know that this was from YHWH [not the LORD], who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at this time they were ruling over Israel.)

    This is an NIV Zondervan Study Bible, but works well enough. And there are many scriptural references to God’s requiring evil to glorify himself in the end. I think that’s rather despicable. But, you may have a good defense. We shall see.

  130. #130 Stephen Couchman
    December 20, 2008

    1. In case it needs to be said: every upstart religion in ancient civilization had to face these sorts of charges. Early Christians in Rome were accused of much the same, plus rampant incest, and of course the pogroms were founded on similar smears in addition to the whole “Jews murdered Precious Baby Jesus” thing.

    2. I can’t speak for this ritual existing in ancient Mediterranean or Mesopotamian religion, but a practice of the ancient Gaels was, in the early Middle Ages, misrepresented as barbaric infant burnt sacrifice. “Passing through the fire” of both cattle and children was a rite of purification by procession between two balefires at Midsummer. Somebody who actually knows something about Baal worship would have to confirm or deny whether that cult did anything similar.

  131. #131 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    “plus rampant incest”

    In regards to the Slave class? That seems unlikely. We are talking about the base of the pyramid scheme that was iconic of nearly all societies. Up until modern times, and even then, only in select countries.

    It was the aristocracy that has always upheld such the tradition of incest. Just sayin’

  132. #132 John Morales
    December 20, 2008

    Twin-Skies,

    I found a lot of the pre-NT stories and parables to be pretty f***d up, as did most of theology professors. That’s exactly why we’re not expected to take them literally. [...] this is why Catholic theology focuses more on NT…though that’s not to say it’s not chock-full of contradictions that need to be studied properly to be put in proper perspective.

    Again, that sounds familiar. You remind me of Walton with this acknowledgement of contradictions and dismissal of a lot of the Bible as allegorical.

    Don’t worry about putting me on the spot – this is a good opportunity to review my theology. Nothing like adversity to sharpen one’s wits and broaden one’s knowledge, eh? :)

    I’m quite impressed by your attitude. Thanks for the response.

  133. #133 jagannath
    December 20, 2008

    Blessed is the mind too small for doubt.

  134. #134 John Morales
    December 20, 2008

    RickrOll, Stephen @130 has it right.

    On a more social, practical level, Christians were distrusted in part because of the secret and misunderstood nature of their worship. Words like “love feast” and talk of “eating Christ’s flesh” sounded understandably suspicious to the pagans, and Christians were suspected of cannibalism, incest, orgies, and all sorts of immorality.

  135. #135 Feynmaniac
    December 20, 2008

    The most interesting interpretation of the Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac I read was in Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. He explains it was actually Abraham testing God. If God indeed let him kill Isaac then he wasn’t a god worth worshiping.

    Interesting, but I don’t buy this for a second. It kinda ignores the cases where the sacrifices to God weren’t as lucky. For an interesting estimate on the number of people killed in the bible by God see here . My personal favourite was the 42 kids mauled by bears for making fun of Elisha for being bald.

  136. #136 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    Oh i’m sure that Christians were accused, but did they commit incest?

    However, if they were segregated even in the slave class, it becomes understandable. Anything is possible, after all.

  137. #137 Derek
    December 20, 2008

    Awesome.

    Alright, ladies… who wants to make the choice to have my abortion in the back of a Prius? Any takers?

  138. #138 Jadehawk
    December 20, 2008

    What’s the message conveyed in the story of Abraham and Isaac? That loyalty to God should come before family loyalties? That, if necessary, one should be willing to kill ones own child if needed?

    actually, I’ve always gotten the impression that these kind of stories (there’s another one, in Exodus right after the escape from egypt, where god commands the firstborn of everything to be sacrificed to him, but the firstborn of men were to be replaced with animal sacrifice) were supposed to show a stepping away from human sacrifice to symbolical human sacrifice, kind of like the burning man festival.

    but I’m severely underinformed on whether there actually were any human sacrifices in Babylon at the time of Abraham, or in Egypt at the time of Ramses. If not, then it’s just a really odd story element, and it makes no sense why it would show up repeatedly… maybe it seeped in from something else? maybe the tribes practiced excessive human sacrifice, and the leaders decided they didn’t feel like wasting anymore potential breeders? they seem to have been pretty keen on more breeding…

  139. #139 Pimientita
    December 20, 2008

    What happened to the Ba’al worshippers, you ask?

    Oh…um…maybe it’s better if you don’t ask.

    Then you won’t get dreams of genocide dancing through your heads.

  140. #140 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    Feynmaniac, too bad that doesn’t include the Apocrypha as well. Still, jolly good read.

    All in all, i was very surprised that it was only that much, and that only about 1/11 of the total amount killed after the flood. The 42 kids is by far the easiest point to make that YHWH is a monster, and i seriously wonder what kind of message that’s even supposed to have.

    Twin-Skies, sorry bud, your work is cut out for you.

    Still think you are a good one though. ;)

  141. #141 John Morales
    December 20, 2008

    Stephen @130 and others: there’s mention of this in The Golden Bough, Ch62, §4:

    In the parish of Callander, a beautiful district of Western Perthshire, the Beltane custom was still in vogue towards the end of the eighteenth century. It has been described as follows by the parish minister of the time: “Upon the first day of May, which is called Beltan, or Baltein day, all the boys in a township or hamlet, meet in the moors. They cut a table in the green sod, of a round figure, by casting a trench in the ground, of such circumference as to hold the whole company. They kindle a fire, and dress a repast of eggs and milk in the consistence of a custard. They knead a cake of oatmeal, which is toasted at the embers against a stone. After the custard is eaten up, they divide the cake into so many portions, as similar as possible to one another in size and shape, as there are persons in the company. They daub one of these portions all over with charcoal, until it be perfectly black. They put all the bits of the cake into a bonnet. Every one, blindfold, draws out a portion. He who holds the bonnet, is entitled to the last bit. Whoever draws the black bit, is the devoted person who is to be sacrificed to Baal, whose favour they mean to implore, in rendering the year productive of the sustenance of man and beast. There is little doubt of these inhuman sacrifices having been once offered in this country, as well as in the east, although they now pass from the act of sacrificing, and only compel the devoted person to leap three times through the flames; with which the ceremonies of this festival are closed.”

    Quite an interesting book, that, and freely available for download.

  142. #142 RickrOll
    December 20, 2008

    Wow. Speaking of interesting books, i think Christians have been totally ripped off! where’s all of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_apocrypha

    Is there no such thing as an uncut edition? you know, 3000 pages of deleted scenes, something? It just doesn’t seem right, especially since, while disputable, these books are a huge part of the Biblical geography, as it were.

    Like it states over and over again, simply label them as such- “Apocrypha” and let people read them and form their own opinions. Hell, it would certainly give preachers a lot more to be wrong about, in addition to the usual stuff. It’s duplicitous- to hide these things away. ;)

    All joking aside, it is a shame.

  143. #143 Lotharloo
    December 20, 2008

    I can only say how do they come up with this stuff?

  144. #144 Samantha Vimes
    December 20, 2008

    As I understand it, a true pro-choice stance not only supports birth control and the option of abortion, but also recognizes the government should not do forced sterilizations, take away children simply because the mother is unwed or the parents are the wrong religion, or any of the other ways choice is taken away from people who want to be parents but don’t meet society’s arbitrary points of approval. (protecting a child’s safety is not arbitrary). Nor do we tell people who want fertility treatments they are circumventing nature or gawd. Nor should responsible would-be parents be blocked from adopting.

    So yes, one could be pro-choice, and also wish fertility for people with problems conceiving or carrying to term.

  145. #145 strangest brew
    December 20, 2008

    *136

    ‘Oh i’m sure that Christians were accused, but did they commit incest?’

    Well methinks thoughts of playing the begetting game for all the family must have struck a resounding note in Noah’s plans after he had dried his socks….!

    …unless it was a classic…

    ‘shazzbat t’was a great whim to delouse me creation but I forgot about repopulating it…okay plan B… Noah must do his bit to dig me outta this embarrassing faux pas and make like Josef Fritzl…stat!…I will never hear the end of this down at the ‘wheeltappers and deity club’…I will be the laughing stock….’Noah’ got a job for ya kidda…and bring ya daughters with ya!’…

    So it would seem that the fact, according to the bible which apparently is literal, is that quite a few of the hysterical jeebus fan club fanatics apparently descended from the obvious orgy that was part of God’s plan B.

    And they do indeed display signs of rampant inbreeding to a rather alarming extent, one can tell these things by their innate inability to detect irony and often mistake rapture for a resounding match of ‘smiting of thine enemies’.

    And when no enemies present an easy target i.e. the atheist/liberal/secular hydra of contemporary society…they keep their swords arms limber and claws sharpened by gripping and slashing the oesophagi of other members of the same delusion…

    Definitely exacerbated cognitive dissonance there…the rest of us were probably progeny of a few unrelated deities, like Baal, that ‘kept it simple stupid…’

  146. #146 Miguel
    December 20, 2008

    Matt Barber: Baalshit artist extraordinaire.

  147. #147 Nick Gotts
    December 20, 2008

    Has anybody else noticed that, if you re-arrange the letters in “Myers’ Pharyngula”, you can spell “Hurry – Slap Gay Men”?

    But alternatively: “Hurry – gay men pals”!

  148. #148 Andreas Johansson
    December 20, 2008

    “plus rampant incest”

    In regards to the Slave class? That seems unlikely.

    Unlikely or not, that rampant incest was a stock accusation against early Christians is a fact. Early Christian writers, such as a Tertullian and Tatian, found it necessary to deny it at length.

    Of course, far from all early Christians were slaves, or even lower-class. Another aspect of the alleged Christian orgies that pagan commentators found objectionable was noble ladies having sex with slaves.

  149. #149 Greg Laden
    December 20, 2008

    This makes it sound like we are having more fun than we actually are.

  150. #150 DrFrank
    December 20, 2008

    In fact, today’s liberalism is largely a sanitized retread of an antiquated mythology – one that significantly predates the only truly progressive movement: biblical Christianity.
    The irony-meter factory is going to be doing good business this Christmas.

  151. #151 60613
    December 20, 2008

    I’m truly very sorry that I’ve failed in my Secular / Liberal lifestyle. I didn’t know I was REQUIRED to burn small children alive! I didn’t know I was REQUIRED to participate in bisexual orgies! (Do homosexual orgies qualify?)
    I’m aghast at the hatred and evil that hides behind the first amendment and calls itself “religion”.
    What utter bullshit.

  152. #152 PK
    December 20, 2008

    Well, it seems this is yet another fundament-talking Fundie embarking on a creative writing exercise (and I use the term loosely, since much of what they write is dreadfully repetitious). It’s probably about the only way the poor dears get any excitement in their lives, fantasizing about infant sacrifice and bisexual orgies and such. Must be hard to live all psychologically bottled up like that.

    Hey, PZ, why don’t you invite your readers to turn their inner Bulwer-Lyttons loose with an invitation to be similarly creative WRT to religious fanatics? I’m sure we could pen some vivid tales of how the Fundies just wish they could indulge in some of the acts committed by their philosophical forebears.

  153. #153 Nick Gotts
    December 20, 2008

    Catholic theology focuses more on NT…though that’s not to say it’s not chock-full of contradictions that need to be studied properly to be put in proper perspective.

    Don’t worry about putting me on the spot – this is a good opportunity to review my theology. – Twin-Skies

    OK, somewhat OT, but let me try you on the one Piltdown Man ignored. IIRC, Jesus is supposed to have been both “wholly God” and “wholly man”. However, this is logically impossible, since the Abrahamic god (omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, immortal) has properties which are wholly incompatible with those of a man (spatio-temporally limited, limited in knowledge and power, mortal). Hence doctrinally orthodox Christianity (as opposed to Arianism, Unitarianism, Jehovah’s Witnessism, Islam, Judaism) is, not just false, but necessarily false. What’s the Catholic theological get-out?

  154. #154 strangest brew
    December 20, 2008

    ‘What’s the Catholic theological get-out?’

    God moves in mysterious ways?

    The greatest cop out the religious and not just of the Jesuit delusion!

  155. #155 John Phillips, FCD
    December 20, 2008

    Whenever I read rants like this creotard’s I can never quite decide whether they are complaining about the acts themselves or simply whining because they weren’t invited. You know, a bit like the kid who doesn’t get invited to the cool kids party and moans that it was a rubbish party and they didn’t want to go anyway.

  156. #156 conelrad
    December 20, 2008

    “My ways are mysterious
    Sometimes even to Myself.”
    –Randy Newman’s Faust

  157. #157 Levi in NY
    December 20, 2008

    “Militant” gay rights? Seriously? Do the gays have a militia now? Are they fighting militarily to assert basic civil rights for themselves? Where are the militant gay rights people?

    If anything, it’s the sexual bigots who have been militant. Just look at how many non-heterosexuals were murdered for their non-heterosexuality throughout the history of religion.

  158. #158 paleotn
    December 20, 2008

    Kind of funny that a fundy would use Baal as an analogy to insult the more secular among us, given that his favorite myth is based upon the ancient Baal cult of the Canaanites. Jebus, Baal, Yahweh, El, different century, same basic mythology. Not only are Christians delusional, they’re not terribly original either.

  159. #159 Pierce R. Butler
    December 20, 2008

    Here’s another klassic konundrum for Twin Skies, as he(?) seems willing to defend the NT stories:

    What’s the rationale for God requiring a horrific human sacrifice to appease his own wrath at what his own creatures did in a situation he set up, even/especially if the sacrifice is his own self/son?

  160. #160 Stanton
    December 20, 2008

    I find this Matt Barber to be a sad and pathetic individual, though, I’m not sure whether it’s because he a) has that common Christian attitude of “those who don’t share my way of thinking are subhuman monsters that don’t even deserve scorn and pity,” or b) confuses “Baal” with the rituals described in the blood libels ascribed to the Phonecians in their worship of Moloch, c) doesn’t realize that “Baal” is a title, not a name, or d) assumes that all people were either Jews or evil devil-worshipers prior to the advent of Christianity.

  161. #161 johannes
    December 20, 2008

    > I remember reading about a Chinese ideology once
    > (I forget which one) whose adherents were known
    > for being 1) well armed and 2) professing universal
    > love and I said to myself, gee, now why does that sound
    > awfully familiar…?

    # 120,

    This was Mohism, or Moism, founded by Mo-Tzu, or Mozi (Micius in latinized form). It was one of the four great schools of ancient Chinese philosphy, the others are Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism. All those philosophies appeared at around the same time. It was, however, never adopted by a ruling dynasty and was therefore suppressed by the legalist Qin and the confucian Han.

  162. #162 Vic
    December 20, 2008

    men and women alike – would engage in bisexual orgies. The ritual of convenience was intended to produce economic prosperity

    Since when is a bisexual orgy “convenient”? It can be rather difficult.

  163. #163 woody
    December 20, 2008

    Posted by: Jadehawk | December 19, 2008 6:32 PM

    hmmm… “analogy fail” ruined my sentence structure. is there an adjective for analogy?

    Did somebody already mention “anal”?

  164. #164 XymbionicX
    December 20, 2008

    complete load of Baal’s if u ask me :o)

  165. #165 Robert Berger
    December 20, 2008

    Alert the fire department ! This dude has set up so many straw men here he’s going to be a fire hazard !

  166. #166 blf
    December 20, 2008

    Modern religion deviates little from its ancient predecessor. While its macabre rituals have been sanitised with flowery and euphemistic terms of art, its core tenets and practices remain eerily similar. The worship of “mother goddess” has been replaced with worship of “family values” or “unquestioning obedience”. Child sacrifice via burnt offering has been updated, ever so reluctantly, to become the sacrifice of child’s potential by way of ignorance. The ritualistic promotion, practice and celebration of naked greed have been carefully whitewashed–yet wholeheartedly embraced–by the cults of inequality, gay-bashing and megachurches. And, the pantheistic worship of “things that go bump in the night” has been substituted–in name only–for fundamentalism.

  167. #167 C. L. Hanson
    December 20, 2008

    That’s odd. According to Jack Chick, it’s the Mormons who are practicing modern baal worship.

  168. #168 raven
    December 20, 2008

    I’m sure we could pen some vivid tales of how the Fundies just wish they could indulge in some of the acts committed by their philosophical forebears.

    No doubt about that. The pinnacle of theocracy in America was the Puritans. They hung 25 witches at Salem and also hung some heretics, Quakers and Unitarians to prevent defections. Rhode Island was founded by refugees from their territory.

    Fundies are always drawing up lists of demons to hate and kill. The gibberish in this post is one, the guy has liberals at the top of what is a long list. He managed to work gays in there as well but couldn’t fit in Jews, blacks, Moslems, or atheists. Why would an atheist be worshipping Baal?

    They occasionally do kill people, a few MDs here, a few gays there, a few hundred thousand Moslems in the ME. What keeps them in check is the rest of us and the US government. We no longer allow religious sects to field armies with heavy weapons and tanks. Life is difficult today for religious fanatics with homicidal hate and brains the size of walnuts in the west.

  169. #169 clinteas
    December 20, 2008

    Note to self :

    Add “bisexual orgy envy” to list of christian projections.

    Like the troll yesterday said:I like booze and dope and sex,but I feel bad about it,or somesuch…..

  170. #170 Moses
    December 20, 2008

    I should point out that Baal is the son of El who is one of the founder deities of Judaism and was, until expunged from Judaism, in ancient times a very integral part of Judaism. I should also point out that the same worship practice (though I’m a bit doubtful about the “orgy” part) was conducted for the benefit of El.

    The only thing he got basically right was Baal was a fertility deity. But lots of deities had fertility aspects.

  171. #171 Moses
    December 20, 2008

    Posted by: allison | December 19, 2008 7:26 PM

    Has anybody else noticed that, if you re-arrange the letters in “Myers’ Pharyngula”, you can spell “Hurry – Slap Gay Men”?

    Do you know that there are gay men that will pay you for that particular service? Some because you’re a woman and it’s even more whatever-in-the-hell it is they want from that.

    And, they won’t want to have sex with you, so it’s a win-win.

    Man, I love sex. Humans are so creative when it comes to sex. Whether it’s dying in a spectacularly embarrassing way while in full double-wet-suit, dildo-up-the ass Fundamentalist sex. Or being a gay-bashing, intolerant father-of-four-evangelical preacher while doing lines of meth off a gay-hooker… There is a perversion for everyone…

  172. #172 Jeb, FCD
    December 20, 2008

    Is it just me, or have these people become even more unhinged since Obama was elected?

  173. #173 Candiru
    December 20, 2008

    30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    What did this guy have against fossil cephalopods? And why hasn’t PZ weighed in on it?

    P.S. What a stupid offer on Jephthah’s part! What was he expecting to come out of his house on his return? An ammonite?

  174. #174 raven
    December 20, 2008

    whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.”

    What a stupid offer on Jephthah’s part! What was he expecting to come out of his house on his return? An ammonite?

    Well, yeah it was a stupid offer. It was either going to be his dog, cat, a family member, or a friend. There are two possibilities here.

    1. Jephthah was just an older version of fundies, not very bright and not much for thinking.

    2. He was hoping it would be his mother-in-law, who he didn’t much care for.

  175. #175 giordano Bruno
    December 20, 2008

    Don’t know about the Liberals but he sure doesn’t know anything about Baal.

  176. #176 Erp
    December 20, 2008

    Jephthah was probably expecting a slave.

    It would be interesting to know how the original tellers of the tale judged it. It seems to be an old tale that was eventually written down. So how also did the writers view it. Later Judaism considers Jephthah to have made a foolish vow that he should have known was invalid and not carried out. Different midrash exist. One says the daughter wasn’t actually killed but only kept unmarried and devoted to God for the rest of her life. Another that Jephthah was punished by a painful death for carrying out an illegal vow.

    I’m left wondering why the children’s bible I had as a kid included it.

  177. #177 arachnophilia
    December 20, 2008

    @Paper Hand: (#54)

    god, afterall, stops abraham before he actually commits the act

    But he doesn’t do it for Jephthah

    moral of the story? don’t make stupid promises. it’s one of those particularly logic-bending etiologies for some custom that existed when the authors wrote. they had to come up with a backstory, and those backstories rarely make good sense…

    @Erp: (#63)

    Also Abraham actually had two sons at the time he was told to sacrifice Isaac.

    ishmael, for whatever reason, doesn’t count. hagar seems to have a lesser status as a second wife. this standard curiously does not apply to jacob’s two wives, or even the children by his wives’ handmaidens. but for abraham, the promise god made seems to hinge on children from sarah.

    A tricky question is to ask how many sons Abraham had. The answer is 8. Ishmael by his concubine Hagar. Isaac by his wife Sarah. Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Mid’ian, Ishbak, and Shuah by his concubine Keturah after Sarah’s death

    but he only had two at the time of the akedah, and one had disappeared into the wilderness never to be heard from again.

    (though there is a Jewish Midrash that says Keturah is Hagar who has presumably come back to Abraham after he kicked her and her child out in the wilderness to probably die).

    there’s a midrash to say just about anything you could possibly imagine.

    @Badger3k: (#82)

    Charles #18 – as far as I know, Baal (“Lord”) was a Canaanite/etc deity and had no relation to the Babylonians, Sumerians, etc. I might be wrong, but I have not seen Baal in relation to Mesopotamia.

    there’s a lot of cross-cultural exchange. the fertility goddess i mentioned above (fertility deities are pretty universally female, not male), asherah, can be related to astarte or ishtar. it’s not a direct comparison in terms of worship and belief, but linguistically they’re cognates. people have also suggested similarities between ea and yah(weh).

    baal, on the other hand, could mean just about anything. it’s been suggested that “baal” in the bible is hadad, which can also be identified with an akkadian god linguistically. though i doubt you’ll see the word “baal” associated with any gods in sumeria — it’s a semitic word.

    There is a lot of material out there now on Ugaritic, the Hittites, Canaanites, etc, but I suspect his reenactment is more in line with a B-movie he saw once. You know how they confuse things with reality, like the Flintstones as a documentary.

    i strongly suspect that b-movie was the bible. it does about as well reporting on the surrounding cultures.

    @John Morales: (#91)

    the obvious ramifications of the morality implied in that story (the focus was on the admirable blind obedience of Abraham) were artfully avoided when I was being indoctrinated…

    those are the obvious ramifications, yes. but there are less obvious ones as well. abraham in specific had a rather special relationship with god. look back a few chapters, and when god has a crisis of consience, he turns to abraham for advice. and abraham argues (probably on behalf of his nephew lot) that god should not destroy sodom for the sake of the innocent god would kill along with the wicked. why does abraham not similarly argue for his own innocent son?

    the god of genesis seems to like to test his creations with lose-lose situations, where there are no “right” answers. do we trust the god that we know lies, or the serpent who leads us astray with the truth? do we follow god when he orders atrocities, or follow our consience against god? the jewish tradition seems to be one of arguing with god at every step, and god seems to appreciate this aspect of his chosen people in at least some instances. …and he also seems to be a little more human, and kind of making it up as he goes along.

    Strange how such as this* led me to atheism in my youth, yet you cling to belief despite the obvious contradictions. * I always think of Job when Abraham comes up. Dunno why ;)

    because in every instance except the akedah, the story of abraham has the antithetical moral to the story of job. job says “shut up and trust god” at the end, abraham says “argue every step.”

    also, the association of job and atheism is no accident. there’s one reading that says that job has become an atheist because he cannot believe in a god that allows bad things to happen to good people, and it’s only his cultural context that prevents him from blaspheming god openly. instead, he essentially dares god to prove his existence.

    @donna: (#93)

    Pish, all that crap about orgies. I think they are just jealous of what they imagine liberals actually do. ;^)

    from all that i’ve read in the news the last few years, i’m pretty sure it’s simple deflection, and the conservatives are bigger freaks.

    @Sven DiMilo: (#101)

    Bisexual orgy pix!!!! Woot!

    +5 for a bio joke.

  178. #178 ndt
    December 20, 2008

    I’m a liberal. Where do I sign up for the orgies?

  179. #179 'Tis Himself
    December 20, 2008

    Is it just me, or have these people become even more unhinged since Obama was elected?

    The fundies are seeing power slipping from their hands. They had hoped that with Bush as Maximum Leader and Congress with a Republican majority, their dream of establishing the American Theocracy might become reality. Now there’s a liburl going to the White House, the liburls have control of Congress and, what’s worse, a large number of Republicans are getting tired of supporting the Religious Right agenda. The Thousand Year Reich didn’t even last eight years.

    The fundies are reduced to whining (something they do very well). Matt Barber is one of the more articulate whiners, but he’s still a whiner. Incidentally, Barber is the official whiner Director of Concerned Women for America. No, I don’t know why the Concerned Women for America don’t have a woman in the spokescritter position.

  180. #180 fred c dobbs
    December 20, 2008

    ow lord we beseech thee, et cetera et cetera…

  181. #181 Owlmirror
    December 20, 2008

    I’ve been reading about the Documentary Hypothesis (Who Wrote the Bible, Friedman 1987), and as this table breaks it down, Abraham bargaining with Yahweh for Sodom and Gomorrah was a J story, while the binding of Issac was an E story. J portrays Yahweh as being personable and hands-on (Yahweh walks in the garden and talks directly to Adam and Eve; in the J portion of the Noah narrative, Yahweh closes the ark himself, etc). E portrays Elohim as more authoritative; when Elohim says “sacrifice your son whom you love”, there is no arguing with him.

    Hm. Interestingly, I note from the table that verses 22:11-22:16a are attributed to the Redactor; they are pretty critical ones, which have the angel calling out and telling Abraham not to kill Isaac, and that there’s this nice ram to sacrifice instead.

    George Leonard suggests that Yahweh was originally conceived of as a boy; an interesting additional hypothesis.

  182. #182 arachnophilia
    December 20, 2008

    owl, yes, that would make sense too. it is sort of an error to think of the book as a cohesive unified entity.

    often, “what the author meant” and “how we should read it today” are slightly different. partially because the stories went through redaction phases. they were included together for potentially different reasons than they were written.

  183. #183 BC
    December 20, 2008

    After all these years of atheism & progressivism, i find I’m actually a card-carrying member of an ancient religious order. How ironic.

    I have to admit, there is one thing rightwingers have over progressives: They have the ability to create associations of ideas where absolutely none exist. In fact, the greater the leap and the less tenable, then better.

    Well, my Baal devotion is now in the open. So umm.. When & where is the next baby burning/bisexual orgy/church meet?

  184. #184 Longtime Lurker
    December 20, 2008

    Poor Barber is in a snit because he can’t do as the Israelites did and put us libruls to the sword.

    Twin Skies, the fact that you practice arnis is very, very cool. And, although I was raised Catholic (Ratzinger attaining the papacy is what changed me from being a really bad Catholic to being an apatheist), I am ignorant of one doctrinal question… can balut be eaten on days of abstinence? They’re eggs, but they’re also meat, so what gives?

  185. #185 Talented Chimp
    December 20, 2008

    Don’t know how to shorten links?

    Go to TinyURL

  186. #186 akshelby
    December 20, 2008

    Talented chimp,

    Thank you, I have it bookmarked now. It works! http://tinyurl.com/7qpl5c

    Well, I’m off to a baby BBQ, bisexual orgy now.

  187. #187 Feynmaniac
    December 20, 2008

    Owlmirror,

    George Leonard suggests that Yahweh was originally conceived of as a boy; an interesting additional hypothesis.

    I couldn’t but think of a Star Trek: The Original Series episode. Kirk and the Enterprise are harassed by a powerful being until its parents come and chastise it. I could just imagine how things would go for God,

    “Alright Yahweh, time for supp…..dear You! What have you been doing to these poor lesser beings?! You’ve drowned them, turned them into salt and destroyed several of their cities! This kind of anti-social behavior is why the other gods don’t invite you to their pantheons.”
    “But, Mom….”
    “What’s this? You impregnated a woman!”
    “I know what your thinking, but it was an immaculate concep…”
    “Oh, don’t give me that immaculate conception crap. What do you take me for, a human?
    That’s it. I’m revoking your World of Warcraft privileges for a millennium!”

  188. #188 Sven DiMilo
    December 20, 2008

    Clicking on a tinyurl is an invitation to get rickrolled.

  189. #189 Owlmirror
    December 20, 2008

    Any tinyurl encoding can be appended to http://preview.tinyurl.com/ so that you can see what you’re getting into.

  190. #190 Sven DiMilo
    December 20, 2008

    Owlmirror, that link in #181 was interesting–thanks for that and the tinyurl tip.

  191. #191 10channel
    December 20, 2008

    @#12 John Morales
    –It is a good litote, isn’t it?

    In my opinion, modern conservatism did not evolve from anything. Conservatism stems from ignorance, bigotry, chauvinism, &c. That is all there is to it, isn’t it? Those ignorant people gain speed when there is more ignorance, and die out when people become more educated.

    Of course, those fanatical about religion pay little attention to the religion itself. In fact, I would guess that they are really fanatical about other things (in their ignorance, of course), but are only using religion as an excuse – for the lack of a better excuse.

    When human beings stop being reasonable, it is futile to try to reason with them.

  192. #192 John Morales
    December 20, 2008

    10channel, PZ is a past master of the use of litotes, and has in the past directly acknowledged its deliberate use :)

    I’m not an American, but I’m a touch more sanguine about US conservatives than you seem to be. The linked article implies they seek certainty over ambiguity, regardless of the cost, and sums up how I understand that ideology:

    death anxiety, intolerance of ambiguity, lack of openness to experience, uncertainty avoidance, need for cognitive closure, need for personal structure, and threat of loss of position or self-esteem all contribute to the degree of one’s overall political conservatism.

    (I understand that to refer to a positive correlation).

  193. #193 RickrOll
    December 21, 2008

    @ John:
    Peter Griffin said: “Look Lois, I have the symbols for the political parties! An elephant and a big fat white guy afraid of change.”

    Sums it up nicely lol

  194. #194 Cowcakes
    December 21, 2008

    Thankfully my Stupid Detectomatic kicked in temporarily rending me sightless thus preventing my brain from imploding. Seriously I think this bloke should be investigated by the DEA, he’s certainly on something.

  195. #195 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    @Nick Gotts #153

    IIRC, Jesus is supposed to have been both “wholly God” and “wholly man”. What’s the Catholic theological get-out?

    Admittedly, that was a tough question. It took me a while to scrounge up my old college theology textbooks to give a proper condensed answer to that one. I apologize in advance if this explanation gets preachy at times – I’m paraphrasing some of this from the textbooks:

    Regarding Jesus being wholly human: Like everybody else, Jesus was flesh-and-bone. He was born to a biological mother, and grew up very much like any Jew of his time. Like anybody else, he grew hungry (i.e. temptations in the desert), grew tired, and he felt all the emotions anybody else would feel (i.e., anger at the merchants in the temple, fear prior to his crucifixion).

    This aspect of Jesus enabled him to directly relate with the people around him, while enabling those around him to feel a very direct, personal connection with him.

    As for Jesus’ divinity, based on what I understand, it has much to do with his acts and teachings – the miracles (i.e. water-to-wine, casting out of demons) and healing acts were a large part of his ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection. Jesus’ life is essential to Catholic catechism in that it represents the fourth covenant God represented to his people: The first being with Adam in the garden of Eden, the second being with Noah after the flood, and the third with Moses.

    @Pierce R. Butler #159

    What’s the rationale for God requiring a horrific human sacrifice to appease his own wrath at what his own creatures did in a situation he set up, even/especially if the sacrifice is his own self/son?

    Part of the Catholic view on Jesus’ divinity will also answer your question. Jesus was a literal sacrifical lamb, willingly giving himself up to the cross to save the world from sin. His resurrection solidified this fourth covenant further by indicating that it would no longer be subject to conditioning by time and space – that God’s covenant with the people cannot be broken.

    Jesus’ humanity is important to note here, because it enables us to be able to stand on equal footing with him as a brother and, by relation, God as a Father.

    I’m not saying you have to agree with how the theology works, I’m just posting how it’s been explained within the Catholic ministry.

    Personally, I do find this explanation too exclusive, and and has often been used by conservatives as an excuse to bash other communities that they don’t agree with. Jaques Dupuis S.J., did discuss the need for religious plurality indepth, although that will need to be discussed at another time.

    @ Longtime Lurker #184
    Balut is essentially the half-developed fetus of a duck, so yes, eating it will constitute as eating meat. And like you, Pope Palpa – err – Ratzinger’s dogmatic stance on Catholicism has left me questioning much about the faith. I don’t have to agree with him, though I feel obligated to re-study the theology to know if we’re headed in the right direction.

  196. #196 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    @10channel

    If it helps any, a lot of these religious conservatives seem to have gained prominence shortly after the implementation of the Second Vatican Council in the late 60s, which attempted give relevance to the teachings of the Catholic Church in a comteporary setting.

    This required a massive revamp in the church’s philosophy about not just their role and their internal workings, but also how they needed to view other emerging beliefs.

    As you can imagine, a good deal of old stalwarts within the ranks were not too welcoming of the change, especially given there was a trend amongst the more liberal theologians to borrow concept from Karl Marx’s doctrine. You may have heard of this development as Liberation Theology.

  197. #197 Nick Gotts
    December 21, 2008

    As for Jesus’ divinity, based on what I understand, it has much to do with his acts and teachings – the miracles (i.e. water-to-wine, casting out of demons) and healing acts were a large part of his ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection. Jesus’ life is essential to Catholic catechism in that it represents the fourth covenant God represented to his people: The first being with Adam in the garden of Eden, the second being with Noah after the flood, and the third with Moses. – Twin-Skies

    None of this comes anywhere close to answering the point, which is a logical one. If I were to claim (to re-use my analogy) that I had discovered an organism that was at once “wholly a cabbage and wholly a cuttlefish”, I would rightly be dismissed as talking rubbish. Yet the characteristics of a man and the Christian god are far more obviously incompatible than those of a cabbage and a cuttlefish. Nothing can possibly be “wholly God and wholly man” – and if this is “essential to the Catholic catechism” – so much the worse for Catholicism, which is provably false.

    Incidentally (and I really don’t want to distract from the main point), neither Adam nor Noah existed, and very probably Moses didn’t either.

  198. #198 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    @Nick

    TBH, I’m having difficulty grasping the duality of Jesus’ identity as well. As I said, I don’t fully agree it – I was just attempting to explain how the basics had been taught to us.

    As I said before, Adam is seen in Catholic theology as a fictional figure – a character from an old Hebrew myth that was an attempt at explaining how the world and their civilization came to be, whose story would eventually become an important part of Catholic theology. He did not exist as a real flesh-and-blood human.

    As for Noah and Moses, well, I’m honestly not too sure, though I’d appreciate if if you could tell me where you got your information. It sounds like it’ll make for an interesting read.

  199. #199 Emmet Caulfield
    December 21, 2008

    If I were to claim (to re-use my analogy) that I had discovered an organism that was at once “wholly a cabbage and wholly a cuttlefish”, I would rightly be dismissed as talking rubbish.

    But you’d be relentlessly pursued by gastronomes wanting to sample such a tasty animal vegetable thing.

  200. #200 Nick Gotts
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies,
    To deal with the minor point first, surely Noah is as obviously a fictional character as Adam? There never was a universal flood, and the last common male ancestor of humanity almost certainly lived in Africa, a couple of hundred thousand years ago. Moreover Noah is said to have lived for several hundred years, and to have built a boat capable of carrying representatives of every species of land-living animal. The sign of the covenant with Noah is said to have been the rainbow – which will have appeared on Earth for the last several billion years. Since that’s pretty much all that Genesis says about him and it’s all ludicrous if treated as factual, what could possibly be meant by saying he existed?

    (By the way: no Adam, no original sin (which was originally called” ancestral sin”). No original sin, no need for a universal saviour. The fundamentalists are, fundamentally, right in arguing that once you abandon biblical literalism, Christianity collapses.)

    As to Moses, others here are far more knowledgeable than me on these issues, but modern archaeology has found no evidence whatsoever of any such event as the exodus from Egypt. Again, one has typical marks of a wonder-story: the abandonment as an infant and near-miraculous rescue, the plagues (which Egyptian records do not mention), the parting of the Red Sea and drowning of the Egyptian army (ditto), the manna in the wilderness, the tablets, etc. The only evidence for Moses’ existence is in the bible – which we know was written centuries after the events supposedly described in Exodus.

    Now to the major point. You say you are “having difficulty grasping the duality of Jesus’ identity as well. As I said, I don’t fully agree it”. There’s nothing difficult to understand there – it just cannot be true. Yet if you don’t accept it you are, according to your church, a heretic – and in previous centuries, would have been burned alive for your heresy. Why cling to a religion based on such nonsense?

  201. #201 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 195: Thanks for what I understand is a sincere effort at a reasonable answer to my question, but like Nick Gotts (I think) I feel that by accurately summarizing the Official Doctrine? your answer eludes the point.

    That the alleged Jesus gave “himself up to the cross to save the world from sin” does nothing more than introduce another undefined term (“sin”) into the word salad. Am I misunderstanding the OD? in thinking that the capital-c Crucifixion supposedly provided redemption for that Original Sin involving the untouchable fruit and the “Daddy Spank!” that ensued?

  202. #202 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 198: … I’d appreciate if if you could tell me where you got your information.

    Dunno what Nick Gotts has been reading, but I take much of my limited understanding of Biblical history from Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman’s The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts and Richard Elliott Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible? – both highly recommended.

  203. #203 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies

    @Pierce R. Butler

    You are correct. Traditional Catholic theology indicates original sin as that of Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge.

    Contemporary theology, however, indicates that original sin isn’t a literal stigma we bear from Adam and Eve, but is rather a reflection of the potentially corrupting effect the world around us can have.

    To this extent, Jesus as the new covenant serves as a sanctifying effect on man – a means of us to recognize an inner divinity that enables us to strive to be something better. At least that’s how the Jesuits explained it, and even they were seen as radicals within the Vatican.

  204. #204 Iain Walker
    December 21, 2008

    Nick Gotts (#200):

    No original sin, no need for a universal saviour.

    Just to play devil’s advocate here …

    All Christianity really needs in order for Christ’s sacrifice to be meaningful is that human beings (a) have the potential or capacity for sin, and (b) tend to realise that potential on a fairly regular basis (statistically speaking). Consequently, the actual cause or origin of this propensity for sin isn’t really relevant, so one can junk the Genesis story without necessarily toppling the central core of Christianity. I.e., it’s the “fact” of human sinfulness that matters, not the particular myth of how it started. Just because one possible explanation of a phenomenon is wrong doesn’t mean that the phenomenon itself isn’t real. Or so the rationalisation might go.

    Of course, it’s probably not quite that simple, and a certain amount of rearranging of theological deckchairs may still be in order. But my own suspicion is that one can still get a recognisable (and indeed still fairly traditional) form of Christianity out of it at the end.

  205. #205 'Tis Himself
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies,

    I have a lot of trouble accepting Noah as being real. First, there’s no evidence of an Earth wide flood. Ambrose Bierce, writing in The Devil’s Dictionary, noted:

    Flood, n. A superior degree of dampness. Specifically, a great storm described by Berosus and Moses, when, according to the latter’s rain gauge, there was a precipitation of moisture to the depth of one-eighth of a mile in twenty-four hours for forty days. The former did not measure, apparently, for he simply explains (in pretty good Greek) that it rained cats and dogs. The learned author of the cuneiform inscriptions from the Mesopotamian mounds draws a number of carpet-tacks on a brick to signify that it was “quite a smart shower considering the season.”

    Using Bierce’s number of 1/8th mile of rain per day, we get 17.6 feet of rain per hour. That’s not something that would be geologically hidden.

    As Nick Gotts points out, there’s no evidence of a single human male progenitor in the past couple of hundred thousand years. Sorry, but the Noah story doesn’t work.

  206. #206 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    he Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts and Richard Elliott Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible?

    Looks like I found something for my X-mas shopping list. Thanks!

    Now to get back on the blog topic…

    What I find incredibly ironic about the WorldNetDaily post is that all it shows is the author’s own inner paranoia, and their utter detachment from or total denial of reality. The author tries to paint all those he/she does not fully grasp as monsters, and yet all I see is one demented little mind trying to postulate how he sees the world.

    It’s almost as if I’ve just peered into their true self.

    Anybody else find it fascinating that these so-called followers of Christ always seem to act like the very Pharisees that Jesus constantly infuriated?

  207. #207 Nick Gotts
    December 21, 2008

    All Christianity really needs in order for Christ’s sacrifice to be meaningful is that human beings (a) have the potential or capacity for sin, and (b) tend to realise that potential on a fairly regular basis (statistically speaking). – Iain Walker

    Surely not: Jesus is supposed to be a universal saviour, and the rationale for this is that we all inherit “sin” from Adam, whose own sin of disobedience condemned all his progeny to hell – so God sent his only begotten son etc. etc.. (The fact that both inherited sin and vicarious atonement are both ridiculous and morally repulsive is neither here nor there for the purposes of the current argument: we know that if the Abrahamic god exists, he’s a right sod and completely loopy – so he might have come up with these ideas.)

    Anybody else find it fascinating that these so-called followers of Christ always seem to act like the very Pharisees that Jesus constantly infuriated? – Twin-Skies

    Not really: it’s just how the majority of them have always behaved; there are exceptions, of course, but they are very much in the minority.

  208. #208 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 206: I don’t have time to reply to your # 203, but couldn’t let this one slide:

    Anybody else find it fascinating that these so-called followers of Christ always seem to act like the very Pharisees that Jesus constantly infuriated?

    Matthew 6:7-8 – But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

    But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

    That’s always fun to throw at a fundie.

    Even better is that it’s not a slur against the Pharisees per se – something I, in my politically correct way, try to avoid after learning that the Pharisees were the rootstock for what we now call rabbis.

  209. #209 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Hey, an unexpected reprieve for a couple of minutes.

    Twin-Skies @ # 203: … original sin isn’t a literal stigma we bear from Adam and Eve, but is rather a reflection of the potentially corrupting effect the world around us can have. … Jesus as the new covenant serves as a sanctifying effect on man – a means of us to recognize an inner divinity that enables us to strive to be something better.

    A Jesuitical interpretation indeed. None of which seems to pretend to offer any explanation of either why a human sacrifice was called for or why no identifiable change in the human condition can be perceived before and after that gratuitously gruesome incident on the Hill of Skulls.

  210. #210 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    @Pierce R. Butler

    Not to offend, but the more I hear of how the U.S. perception of Catholicism works, the more I wonder…

    What the hell are they teaching over there? That does not sound like the theology I grew up with.

  211. #211 Nick Gotts
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies,

    Not to offend, but just about all of what you’ve come out with on this thread in explanation of Catholicism sounds to me, and I imagine many others, like a combination of sophistry and meaningless verbiage. And I still have no idea why you cling to a religion whose fundamental tenets cannot be true.

  212. #212 davepete
    December 21, 2008

    The dude’s from “Liberty University”.

    Say no more…

  213. #213 Nick Gotts
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies,

    Not to offend, but just about all of what you’ve come out with on this thread in explanation of Catholicism sounds to me, and I imagine many others, like a combination of sophistry and meaningless verbiage. And I still have no idea why you cling to a religion whose fundamental tenets cannot be true.

  214. #214 Nick Gotts
    December 21, 2008

    Sorry about the double post – just my home web-connection doing something weird.

  215. #215 Iain Walker
    December 21, 2008

    Nick Gotts (#207):

    Surely not: Jesus is supposed to be a universal saviour, and the rationale for this is that we all inherit “sin” from Adam, whose own sin of disobedience condemned all his progeny to hell – so God sent his only begotten son etc. etc.

    Well, just because the biblical tale of the Fall constitutes a rationale for this doesn’t mean that this is the only possible rationale a Christian can come up with. If one emphasises the universality of the need for redemption from sin, then one needs to rationalise it in terms of something that is common to all humans. A tad ironically perhaps, evolution can come to the rescue here. Human beings share a common evolutionary heritage as social animals, such that said heritage can be interpreted as including a capacity for sin (crudely speaking, the less edifying of our “animal instincts”). Since we also have an evolved capacity for self-reflection, we can be held morally culpable for indulging in those instincts, in a way that other animals cannot (or at least not to anything like the same extent).

    (I may be misremembering here, but I seem to recall that at least some theologians like to treat the story of the Fall as an allegory for the evolution of self-awareness.)

    Anyway, on this view, we are all born with an inherited capacity for sin, although not with inherited sin per se. One doesn’t pop out of the womb with a pre-assigned batch of sin-points – one still has to earn them. The problem is that given one’s inherited dispositions, it is very, very difficult indeed to avoid earning at least a few – so much so that to all intents and purposes the need for redemption is universal.

    Thus might a liberal Christian argue …

    (The fact that both inherited sin and vicarious atonement are both ridiculous and morally repulsive is neither here nor there for the purposes of the current argument: we know that if the Abrahamic god exists, he’s a right sod and completely loopy – so he might have come up with these ideas.)

    Indeed.

  216. #216 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 210: What the hell are they teaching over there? That does not sound like the theology I grew up with.

    Well, it wouldn’t be, unless your teachers were essentially hostile to Catholicism ideologically and institutionally.

    The only way you could count me as a Catholic would be to take seriously a mock self-baptism I conducted as a teenage tourist with a little bowl of Holy Water? found in the nave of St Peter’s. Since those who do accept said rite can be counted on the fingers of one foot, we’re still a few acolytes short of a worthwhile schism.

    So, you might fairly consider my question a variation on that of Nick Gotts – why would an intelligent person support such doctrines? The difference seems mainly that he’s asking by the conflict with Catholic assertions and reality, while I’m focusing on one specific internal incoherence common to (sfaik) all forms of Christianism.

  217. #217 Leigh Williams
    December 21, 2008

    Iain said: “(I may be misremembering here, but I seem to recall that at least some theologians like to treat the story of the Fall as an allegory for the evolution of self-awareness.)”

    Yes, that is the teaching of my Methodist church, and my personal belief.

    It’s also important to note that the theory of Penal-substitution (Christ died as a sacrifice to divine justice) is by no means the only, or even the first, understanding of Christ’s mission on earth.

    For the first thousand years of Christianity, the Ransom theory, now called Christus Victor, was central to this understanding. Christus Victor emphasizes the incarnation and is viewed by many who hold it (as I do) as a rescue of humanity from evil, misery, and death. It’s commonly summed up as “Jesus became as we are so that we can become as he is.”

    The Orthodox churches have always held to this view, and many liberal denominations have rejected Penal-substitution in its favor. It is of particular importance to Universalists like me.

  218. #218 Owlmirror
    December 21, 2008

    If one emphasises the universality of the need for redemption from sin, then one needs to rationalise it in terms of something that is common to all humans. A tad ironically perhaps, evolution can come to the rescue here. Human beings share a common evolutionary heritage as social animals, such that said heritage can be interpreted as including a capacity for sin (crudely speaking, the less edifying of our “animal instincts”). Since we also have an evolved capacity for self-reflection, we can be held morally culpable for indulging in those instincts, in a way that other animals cannot (or at least not to anything like the same extent).

    See also Francisco Ayala’s contention that evolution is the explanation of theodicy

    Still, placing all of these theological interpretations onto evolution doesn’t really help theology much. Theology works best when it is as divorced from reality as much as possible. As soon as you try and reconcile the way the world actually works with that which is claimed about God, the contradictions and inconsistencies become glaring.

  219. #219 John Morales
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies @203,

    Contemporary theology, however, indicates that original sin isn’t a literal stigma we bear from Adam and Eve, but is rather a reflection of the potentially corrupting effect the world around us can have.

    That’s not what the Catechism of the Catholic Church at the Vatican says.
    How to read the account of the fall
    390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.” [...]
    “397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

    398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully “divinized” by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to “be like God”, but “without God, before God, and not in accordance with God”.

    399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

    400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject “to its bondage to decay”. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will “return to the ground”, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history”
    Note my bolding. Doctrine says not that the world corrupts us, but that we corrupted the world – the opposite of what you claim.

  220. #220 'Tis Himself
    December 21, 2008

    They [Adam and Eve] become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image – that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.

    A distorted image? No hardly.

    I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, Deut 5:9, echoed in Ex 20:5, NRSV

    Does that look like the idea of a God jealous of his prerogatives is distorted? Incidentally, this verse reinforces the idea that God has the emotional maturity of a spoiled five year old bully. “Piss me off and I’ll not only kick your ass but your great-grandchildrens’ asses.”

  221. #221 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    @Nick Gotts, Pierce R. Butler

    I find myself asking the same thing now.

    *Sigh* Honestly, this exercise has left me with more questions about why I still consider myself Catholic (aside from sentimental reasons), despite the gaping holes and dogmatic stances in the doctrine.

    @davepete
    As shocking as it may sound, no. I’m not from Liberty University. I wouldn’t be polite if I were, seeing just how retarted the letters from its students can be.

    Hell, I’m not even from the U.S.

  222. #222 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 221: As in previous cases where it seems the anti-theistic arguments I’d presented had rattled someone’s faith (who hadn’t been belligerent or otherwise obnoxious) to the point of causing distress, I’m torn between wanting to apologize and to crow I-told-ya-so’s.

    Hang in there: the unraveling of one’s security blanket at least has the compensation of allowing one to face the world with both hands free.

    Oh, and I think davepete @ # 212 was talking about Matt Barber.

  223. #223 Twin-Skies
    December 21, 2008

    @Pierce R. Butler

    There is nothing to apologize for.

    Tbh, these doubts have been lingering years before I posted here, and the recent exchange only pushed me towards what now seems to be the inevitable.

    Shaken? Yes, but as my old professors used to say, a growth in your personal horizons will always come with birth pains.

  224. #224 Owlmirror
    December 21, 2008

    Following up on my @#181, I had not noticed before that the notes appearing after the table in Who Wrote the Bible? had more about Gen. 22:11-16a:

    The story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac is traced to E. It refers to the deity as Elohim in vv. 1, 3, 8, and 9. But, just as Abraham’s hand is raised with the knife to sacrifice Isaac, the text says that the angel of Yahweh stops him (v. 11). The verses in which Isaac is spared refer to the deity as Yahweh (vv. 11-14). These verses are followed by a report that the angel speaks a second time and says ” … because you did not withhold your son from me …” Thus the four verses which report that Isaac was not sacrificed involve both a contradiction and a change of the name of the deity. As extraordinary as it may seem, it has been suggested that in the original version of this story Isaac was actually sacrificed, and that the intervening verses were added subsequently, when the notion of human sacrifice was rejected (perhaps by the person who combined J and E). Of course the words “you did not withhold your son” might mean only that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice his son. But still it must be noted that the text concludes (v. 19) “And Abraham returned to his servants.” Isaac is not mentioned. Moreover, Isaac never appears again as a character in E. Interestingly, a later midrashic tradition developed this notion, that Isaac had actually been sacrificed. This tradition is discussed in S. Spiegel’s The Last Trial (New York: Schocken, 1969, Hebrew edition 1950).

  225. #225 Pierce R. Butler
    December 21, 2008

    Twin-Skies – If it’s acceptable to speak of your belief in the past tense, then – (while it’s fresh) what motivated your allegiance?

    Would it be an intrusion to ask about the “sentimental reasons” you now seem to consider secondary?

    I should mention that, though I respect your integrity and privacy as you seem to be moving through a transition toward an unknown philosophical destination, I also, as a faceless yet loyal spear-carrier aspiring to Minion First Class rank in the Evil Atheist Horde, am obligated to conduct as complete a field interrogation as is possible to further our Glorious March.

    IOW – welcome to Pharyngula!

  226. #226 Twin-Skies
    December 22, 2008

    @Pierce R. Butler

    Both the high school and college I’m from are Jesuit run, meaning a good portion of my childhood up to adulthood involved a good deal of religious indoctrination. Then there’s the religious organizations I signed up for (YCLC), and the priests I’ve personally had as professors, counselors, and friends. That’s the short version of the sentimental values implied earlier.

    Btw, I’m losing faith in the established religion, not the spirituality.

  227. #227 RickrOll
    December 22, 2008

    Twin-Skies, i feel so left out! :(

    What about Sampson and Delilah (way back at #129)? I was seriously wondering…

    Anyway, it’s good to see calm thoughtful response as opposed to “IT”S NOT TRUE! ATHIESTS ARE CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL!!1.” I’m actually rooting for you, considering the circumstances lol.

  228. #228 Pierce R. Butler
    December 22, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 226 – Well, that’s a lot of indoctrination to overcome – congratulations on achieving the detachment to regard it independently. Many believers seem to end up with so much of their social network being other believers that changing their minds means alienating themselves from friends and support: combined with the us-vs-them mentality apparently instinctive to humans and vigorously reinforced by religious institutions, leaving “the fold” can become practically unthinkable.

    “Spirituality” is (for me, anyhow) an extremely vague term. Nick Gotts & I were challenging you regarding intellectual foundations of christianism – if you’re moving away from those, just what is it that remains?

  229. #229 Ignorant Gamer
    December 22, 2008

    Isn’t Baal a D&D god?

  230. #230 Nick Gotts
    December 22, 2008

    So, you might fairly consider my question a variation on that of Nick Gotts – why would an intelligent person support such doctrines? The difference seems mainly that he’s asking by the conflict with Catholic assertions and reality, while I’m focusing on one specific internal incoherence common to (sfaik) all forms of Christianism. – Pierce R. Butler

    No, my objection is specifically that doctrinally orthodox Christianity is self-contradictory, as it insists Jesus was both “wholly God” and “wholly man”.

  231. #231 Twin-Skies
    December 22, 2008

    @Pierce R. Butler

    At this point, I honestly don’t know. It will take serious reflection on my part before coming up with a straight answer. And btw, the proper term is Catholicism :)

  232. #232 Nick Gotts
    December 22, 2008

    Twin-Skies,
    Well, all the best in your continuing struggle. I was brought up as a Christian, but in a fairly milk-and-water C-of-E sense (and my brothers and I played a part in my mother’s gradual shift to atheism!), so I can’t really appreciate from personal experience the kind of grip the Jesuits are clearly able to exert on the growing mind.

    Leigh Williams,
    The “Christus Victor” looks, on a brief inspection at least, far less morally repulsive than the vicarious atonement view, but no more intellectually coherent. In particular, it does not deal with the self-contradiction inherent in the doctrine of the incarnation. Nor does it appear to explain why the incarnation should be either necessary or sufficient to free us from “the slavery of sin”.

  233. #233 windy
    December 22, 2008

    As Nick Gotts points out, there’s no evidence of a single human male progenitor in the past couple of hundred thousand years.

    Actually, Y-chromosome Adam lived less than 100k years ago (but there’s a good chance he wasn’t single :)

  234. #234 Twin-Skies
    December 22, 2008

    @Nick Gotts

    Theology aside, they encouraged critical analysis and study, logical debates, as well as providing a foundation for Greek philosophy ( they’re big Aristotle fans apparently).

    While I realize I don’t fully agree with their stance on religion, I still have much respect for their academic at least.

  235. #235 Nick Gotts
    December 22, 2008

    Twin-Skies,
    Yes, I wouldn’t deny the Jesuits’ reputation for scholarship, most notably in early contacts with non-European cultures, but also including aspects of science, is justified. Possibly that’s why they were often regarded with suspicion by Popes and other top brass in the Catholic Church!

  236. #236 TheEnigma32
    December 22, 2008

    @#7

    Implying they eat brains mean they HAVE them first.

  237. #237 Chas
    December 23, 2008

    I especially enjoyed this tidbit, “Baal, the half-bull, half-man god of fertility, was the focal point of pagan idolatry in Semitic Israel until God revealed His monotheistic nature to Judaism’s forebears.” Those humans ignorant back then because god didn’t reveal himself. Just as he has revealed himself to us atheists and just as those gods of the past revealed themselves to the people of that era.

  238. #238 Leigh Williams
    December 23, 2008

    Nick, thanks for the comment. Liberal Christians like me don’t spend much time discussing doctrinal point such as “fully human, fully divine,” largely because we regard such issues as beside the point of the incarnation. If you’d like to discuss it further, I’m certainly willing, so just let me know; but I’m assuming that my burblings are not of general interest here.

  239. #239 Pierce R. Butler
    December 23, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 231: … the proper term is Catholicism :)…

    Now ya really got me confused, since that’s the only type of christianism that J. Ratzinger recognizes also.

    Are you more appropriately described as emerging apostate or pontifical candidate? ;-)

  240. #240 Twin-Skies
    December 23, 2008

    TBH, Screw Ratzinger.

    I used to try to at least respect him, but the more hardline he became, the more I realized there wasn’t much reason for me to defend his dogma.

    The very same criticism the Jesuits levelled at the Vatican in the 80s comes back to haunt Benedict’s time: That the church has become a proverbial ivory tower that fails to understand – and as a result is unable to provide for proper catechism – the ever-growing world.

    In other words: Out of touch with the real needs of its flock.

  241. #241 arachnophilia
    December 23, 2008

    @Owlmirror: (#224)

    THAT is fascinating. i really need to read that book. i think i’ll put it on my reading list for when i’m done with The Genesis of Justice by Alan M. Dershowitz. which is also pretty interesting.

  242. #242 John Morales
    December 23, 2008

    Leigh Williams @238,

    Liberal Christians like me don’t spend much time discussing doctrinal point such as “fully human, fully divine,” largely because we regard such issues as beside the point of the incarnation. If you’d like to discuss it further, I’m certainly willing, so just let me know; but I’m assuming that my burblings are not of general interest here.

    Only one way to find out, Leigh! :)
    How can doctrinal issues be “beside the point”? By definition, they’re your doctrine!

  243. #243 Leigh Williams
    December 23, 2008

    Beside the point in this sense: doctrines are made by humans in an attempt to make sense of the actions of God. They are constructs born out of the human proclivity for pattern-making, and like all our activities, they are invariably colored by the expectations and prejudices of the human beings who formulate them.

    Take, for example, the elaborate doctrine of hell, constructed pretty much out of whole cloth by the Catholic church. Jesus himself had very little to say about hell, at least in the way it’s modernly conceived. He used the word Gehenna, or trash dump. This reminds me irresistably about Krushchev’s UN speech on consigning the U.S. to the ash heap of history; and in fact, Jesus uses the expression much the same way to predict a national loss of power and influence because his fellow Jews would not turn aside from legalism they were so proud of, but which perverted the spirit of the Law. The Law was supposed to promulgate justice; but there was precious little justice for the poor and helpless to be found.

    The notion of eternal hell, into which individuals would suffer forever, is an accretion formulated by the Church, presumably as an incentive to embrace Christianity. Jesus never said that anybody would go there forever. For that matter, the “hell” he went to after the crucifixion was Sheol/Hades, better translated “the grave”.

    In a similar way, the endless debate on the nature of Christ undertaken by the early Church Fathers . . . was his body human, was it separate from his soul, was it made of the same material as God is made of . . . are all more sophistry they used to try to put God in a box and label his component parts. Nothing Jesus said or did required this futile and often violent arguing. It was born out of human beings’ intense desire to name and categorize that which was beyond their comprehension — and their insistence on complicating something that was intended to be pretty damn simple.

    Modern liberal Christians view all this pin-head dancing as mere human vanity. For us, the central message of the incarnation is, as Jesus said, a very simple one: God with us, an immediate and tangible example of the kind of behavior God wanted modeled to his creation. When challenged about his views on the elaborate and somewhat rickety erector set of the Law, Jesus basically said, look, folks, KISS this thing. 1st, love God. 2nd, love your neighbor. Everything else is just commentary.

    In his ministry, he went on to give example after example of how to do that, ministering to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the marginalized, and the outcast. He went out and dragged up all the street people and spent time with them. He healed the sick and provided for the hungry. He instructed the apostles: “That which you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

    That’s a plenty big enough mission for Christians to tackle. This world is full of people who need help, food, medical attention, and the sense that somebody cares about them. In my opinion, tending to what Jesus told me to take care of doesn’t leave me a whole lot of time to amuse myself with logical impossibilities and frills like the doctrine of transubstantiation.

    And anyway, as the prophet Micah informs us,
    “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    And what does the Lord require of you
    But to do justice, to love kindness,
    And to walk humbly with your God?”
    (Micah 6:8)

    I don’t see anything in there about voting Republican or fighting in the culture wars. Or about wasting a bunch of time on theology, either. Christians are supposed to be active in the world as SERVANTS, as the kind of servant Jesus was, doing tangible good for people in need and advancing the cause of social justice. That’s what Jesus cared about, and that’s what we’re supposed to care about too.

  244. #244 John Morales
    December 23, 2008

    Leigh,

    JM: How can doctrinal issues be “beside the point”?
    Beside the point in this sense: doctrines are made by humans in an attempt to make sense of the actions of God.

    But we don’t know the actions of God – we only know what humans claim are the actions of God. As I understand it, Christians believe in Revelation, which becomes doctrine.

    They [doctrines] are constructs born out of the human proclivity for pattern-making [...]

    But God isn’t? ;) God once “explained” life and death, storms and lightning, floods and plagues, dreams and longings… What does God now explain?

    Take, for example, the elaborate doctrine of hell, constructed pretty much out of whole cloth by the Catholic church. Jesus himself had very little to say about hell, at least in the way it’s modernly conceived. He used the word Gehenna, or trash dump.

    I’m no Bible scholar, but I know that we only know what Jesus is said to have said, via the Gospels, such as Matthew 5:22 (re the fires of hell). I’ve certainly interacted with non-Catholics who buy into this hell (eternal punishment for the “unsaved”) business; I really don’t think it’s a Catholic thing. Though, to be fair, before the Reformation and other schisms, the Church and Catholicism were basically synonymous in Western religious tradition.

    In a similar way, the endless debate on the nature of Christ undertaken by the early Church Fathers . . . was his body human, was it separate from his soul, was it made of the same material as God is made of . . . are all more sophistry they used to try to put God in a box and label his component parts.

    Well, we agree on that. However, you’d think the closer to the, um, incarnation (avatar?) of God, the more accurate the perception, no? I mean, you’re claiming God himself came down and was incarnated and spread a message, but the early Church was less accurate than later developments after centuries of schisms.
    More to the point, if all that can be known about God is what you’re told about it, what makes you think there’s anything other than imagination at work?

    And anyway, as the prophet Micah informs us, [be nice]

    Um. Micah is an old testament prophet, and true to type. What about the rest of it (Micah 6:9-16), where judgement is passed? The message is not just “be nice”, it’s “be nice, or else!”.
    Same old, same old – do what God says or be punished.

    Christians are supposed to be active in the world as SERVANTS, as the kind of servant Jesus was, doing tangible good for people in need and advancing the cause of social justice. That’s what Jesus cared about, and that’s what we’re supposed to care about too.

    I guess that’s kind of the message*; shame it’s utterly contradicted by Christianity’s history, starting with the persecution of heretics and pagans, working its way through the crusades and inquisitions, and most recently guiding George Bush into war.

    Also, there’s nearly 40,000 Christian sects, and their divergence always came down to points of doctrine – indicating its importance to them. So obviously the Christian message is hardly clear or disputable amongst adherents.

    Thanks for your response, by the way. I like to get different viewpoints from various theists.

    * SERVANTS, eh? Funny how I don’t notice that in any Christians I know.

  245. #245 Twin-Skies
    December 23, 2008

    @John Morales

    The servant aspect of Jesus’ teachings are exemplified in his washing of his apostle’s feet. Then there was his compassion for what were considered back then as social outcasts, the parables, and the healing of the sick (including the servant of a Roman Legionaire).

    His healing ministry broke the social norms and religious dogmatism of the time as Leigh pointed out.

  246. #246 Nick Gotts
    December 23, 2008

    Liberal Christians like me don’t spend much time discussing doctrinal point such as “fully human, fully divine,” largely because we regard such issues as beside the point of the incarnation.,/I> – Leigh Williams

    Isn’t discussing the point of something that never happened (and in the orthodox version, never could have happened) rather… pointless?

  247. #247 Pierce R. Butler
    December 23, 2008

    Twin-Skies @ # 240: … Screw Ratzinger.

    As a professed opponent of the Catholic Church, it made my day when he was selected Pontiff. From what little I knew of the leading candidates, he was the one I thought most likely to further damage the Vatican’s reputation and influence around the world. Though he hasn’t achieved the Dick Cheney level of revulsion I had hoped for, his moves in that direction are still encouraging.

    Out of touch with the real needs of its flock.

    I would argue that the last time the RC church was in touch that way was when they elevated poor little Mary to the status of a fertility goddess to please the struggling peasants of southern Europe. Clearly the process reached an epitome with Paul VI’s wholesale rejection of contraception, though every year that passes of opposing condoms in the age of AIDS makes the contradiction between dogma and “real needs” more painfully obvious.

    (# 245:) His healing ministry broke the social norms and religious dogmatism of the time…

    You may be interested in Burton Mack’s Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth, which states (without giving nearly enough detail for my interests) that much of the “revolutionary” perspective attributed to Jesus in the Gospels derives from the Cynic school of Greek philosophy (a rather different mindset from what we call cynicism today). Can anybody here point me towards further analyses of this viewpoint?

  248. #248 Leigh Williams
    December 23, 2008

    John: “Well, we agree on that. However, you’d think the closer to the, um, incarnation (avatar?) of God, the more accurate the perception, no? I mean, you’re claiming God himself came down and was incarnated and spread a message, but the early Church was less accurate than later developments after centuries of schisms. More to the point, if all that can be known about God is what you’re told about it, what makes you think there’s anything other than imagination at work? ”

    The Gospels, particularly the Gospel of John, were apparently written down in the generation after Jesus’s life. The letters of Paul were written even earlier than the Gospel of John (I’m thinking of the passage in Philippians, the “suffering servant” description of Jesus). The big-time organized arguing started later than that. So yes, the early Church WAS less accurate.

    And John, I didn’t say that all I can know about God is what I’ve been told; that’s your own interpretation. There are other, more personal and immediate, ways of knowing, though they are undoubtedly “through a glass, darkly.” I don’t introduce that knowledge into the discussion, however, because it’s not evidence, except to me, and there is no reason for you to take it seriously. In fact, I think you should reject it utterly . . . unless, of course, you run across someone whose behavior seems admirable to you, and you care to question that person to understand the ethos behind the behavior.

    It might surprise you to hear that I do think a lot of what I believe is imagination, in the sense that everything I think I personally know about God is an internal construct, framed in the terms I’ve been taught.

    The only evidence you should consider is the actions of Christians. On that score, I completely agree that Christianity fares very poorly.

    “SERVANTS, eh? Funny how I don’t notice that in any Christians I know.”

    Very true, more’s the pity. Gandhi summed it up best: “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

    Nick said: “Isn’t discussing the point of something that never happened (and in the orthodox version, never could have happened) rather… pointless?”

    I can see why you’d come to that conclusion. The evidence for it, in the form of lives transformed, is rather lacking, particularly if you look at the history of the organized church. I would argue that Jesus did not intend to create an organization. He intended to model behavior for individuals, and in fact took care to point out that his example had nothing to do with human institutions of government (render unto Caesar). I know individuals who follow Christ’s example closely and who do justice and love kindness. But to the extent that Christians diverge from Jesus’s example, and I’m thinking here of the present example of the political meddling of the Religious Right, the entire movement is pernicious.

    They forget that our witness to Christ was intended to be personal, transmitted from one individual to another, according to Jesus’s example.

  249. #249 Leigh Williams
    December 23, 2008

    And by the way, the judgment in Micah is on a corrupt society that oppressed the poor, not on individuals.

    Micah 7: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

  250. #250 CJO
    December 23, 2008

    You may be interested in Burton Mack’s Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth, which states (without giving nearly enough detail for my interests) that much of the “revolutionary” perspective attributed to Jesus in the Gospels derives from the Cynic school of Greek philosophy (a rather different mindset from what we call cynicism today). Can anybody here point me towards further analyses of this viewpoint?

    In my view, the cynic connection comes in via the authors of the synoptics who had them as the model of an itinerant teacher figure who gathered around them disciples and delighted in upending social norms and otherwise engaging in anti-social behavior. Note that this was a model for those writers, hellenized Jews in the diaspora; not a model of how a radical Palestinian Jewish messiah figure would have behaved in the time of Jesus’ ostensible ministry. They needed a plausible conceit that brought the 1st century apostles into the picture and invested them with the authority of being Jesus’ disciples. We’re talking about figures mentioned by Paul: Peter (Cephas), James and John. 1st century literature calls them exclusively “apostles” –missionaries, or emissaries, with no suggestion that they were directly associated with a historical figure. Their authority in the first century Church of God (a para-Essene splinter-group?) was too well known not to include them in the narratives of the Gospels, and the Cynic sage gave the authors the model.

    But a number of the wisdom sayings in both canonical and non-canonical sources bear a close resemblance to those attributed to Cynics as well. Bottom line, though, it says more about how the authors of the gospels thought such an itinerant philosopher or holy man ought to speak and act than it does about how a early 1st century Palestinian would-be messiah would have.

  251. #251 CJO
    December 23, 2008

    The Gospels, particularly the Gospel of John, were apparently written down in the generation after Jesus’s life.

    The Gospels have been optimistically dated much earlier than is reasonable based on the evidence by Christian scholars. John is generally considered last of the four canonical Gospels, and in its final form at least is almost certainly a 2nd century production. Mark can’t be earlier than the sack of Jerusalem c.70, but for some reason I’ve never been clear on people assume it was produced immediately thereupon, before the dust had even settled. Much more reasonable to date Mark around the end of the 1st century, and Matthew and Luke a generation after that, say c.120. Which gives us several generations since c.30, not one.

    Obviously a realistic dating makes it entirely unlikely that there’s a shred of history in them, so I understand why Christians like the unreasonably early dates. They’re still unreasonable though.

  252. #252 Pierce R. Butler
    December 23, 2008

    CJO @ # 250: Your scenario, and your chronology in # 251, seem very compatible with my (erratic) reading. Can you recommend sources?

    I can’t say this definitively, never having been an early 1st century Palestinian would-be messiah, but it would seem that script could be played in numerous ways – and probably was.

    Mashup the idealized life of one or more such martyrs and the trickster-teacher meme, and you’d have the makings for a post-Titus Palestinian bestseller…

  253. #253 Leigh Williams
    December 23, 2008

    CJO, you’re using some very late dates for the writing of the Gospels. The dates I’ve seen in the literature vary widely, but believe most scholars use 90-100 AD for John, which is almost universally agreed to be the last written.

    Do you have references for the dates you cite? I’d certainly be interested to look into that.

  254. #254 CJO
    December 24, 2008

    never having been an early 1st century Palestinian would-be messiah

    Hey, there’s always next Halloween!

  255. #255 John Morales
    December 24, 2008

    Leigh (and TS), thanks for the responses. I’ll address some of your points:

    And John, I didn’t say that all I can know about God is what I’ve been told; that’s your own interpretation. There are other, more personal and immediate, ways of knowing, though they are undoubtedly “through a glass, darkly.” I don’t introduce that knowledge into the discussion, however, because it’s not evidence, except to me, and there is no reason for you to take it seriously. In fact, I think you should reject it utterly . . . unless, of course, you run across someone whose behavior seems admirable to you, and you care to question that person to understand the ethos behind the behavior.

    Well, there’re admirable people of all beliefs, and of non-belief in duality. Their good behaviour needs no deity for its cause. I don’t know what you “know” about God, but if you believe it’s omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent etc, I very much doubt you came to believe it de novo and not from what you were told. And, of course, intuition is certainly a way to generate hypotheses – but empiricism is the only way to determine if they are knowledge, rather than wishful thinking.

    It might surprise you to hear that I do think a lot of what I believe is imagination, in the sense that everything I think I personally know about God is an internal construct, framed in the terms I’ve been taught

    It does, somewhat. My wife is at Mass (Catholic) even as I write this, and she agrees that’s it’s insupportable and irrational, but it’s her choice and we get on fine :)
    That acknowledgement does you credit, in my view.

    And by the way, the judgment in Micah is on a corrupt society that oppressed the poor, not on individuals.

    Yes, I know – he’s talking about Israel*. However, you brought Micah up, so I responded to that, and since Micah 6:8 in isolation is basically quote mining, I merely added the context of later verses to that.
    I take it (since you did not address it) you don’t dispute the message I got out of it: “be nice, or else!” – whether applied to Israel or to its people individually.
    Now, you bring up Micah 7, which talks about forgiveness though judgement had been passed and punishment meted! You don’t find that a touch contradictory?

    Anyway, to return to my main point, I do think you follow doctrines, though they are vaguely defined. If I understand you (and Twin Skies), you consider that Jesus was divine, that he taught a worthy/the only true** morality, and that following that morality will gain you favour in the afterlife. Am I wrong?

    * isn’t that like Jerry Falwell saying Katrina was punishment from God because abortion was not illegal?
    ** not sure on how you stand on that point.

  256. #256 John Morales
    December 24, 2008

    Leigh @253, Origin of the canonical Gospels:

    Estimates for the dates when the canonical Gospel accounts were written vary significantly; and the evidence for any of the dates is scanty. Because the earliest surviving complete copies of the Gospels date to the 4th century and because only fragments and quotations exist before that, scholars use higher criticism to propose likely ranges of dates for the original gospel autographs. Scholars variously assess the consensus or majority view as follows:
    Mark: c. 68-73,[11] c 65-70[2]
    Matthew: c. 70-100.[11] c 80-85.[2] Some conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, particularly those that do not accept Mark as the first gospel written.
    Luke: c. 80-100, with most arguing for somewhere around 85,[11], c 80-85[2]
    John: c 90-100,[2] c. 90-110,[12] The majority view is that it was written in stages, so there was no one date of composition.

    (numbers in brackets are references, my bold, and note the use of the word “consensus”!).

  257. #257 John Morales
    December 24, 2008

    Twin-Skies @245,

    The servant aspect of Jesus’ teachings are exemplified in his washing of his apostle’s feet.

    I’m not sure choosing foot-washing as an example of “The servant aspect of Jesus’ teachings” is apposite; it seems to have been religiouly ritualistic:

    The root of this practice appears to be found in the hospitality customs of ancient civilizations, especially where sandals were the chief footwear. A host would provide water for guests to wash their feet, serve the guests by washing their feet, or even provide a servant to wash the feet of the guests. This is mentioned in several places in the Old Testament of the Bible (e.g. Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32; 43:24; I Samuel 25:41; et al.), as well as other religious and historical documents.

    This is clearly ritualistic, not realistic.
    Did Jesus routinely attend to the menial service of others? I don’t recall him fetching and carrying, rather things were brought to him.

    Then there was his compassion for what were considered back then as social outcasts, the parables, and the healing of the sick (including the servant of a Roman Legionaire).

    I wonder if, since he was a peripatetic prophetic preaching faith-healer, compassion was part of his technique. Ghandi was compassionate too, by the way, but not to please the Biblical god. What’s the relevance of compassion as regards to it evidencing servility?
    More to the point, how does compassion show servitude?

    I don’t accept either of your examples as convincing.
    Care to try again?

  258. #258 CJO
    December 24, 2008

    Mark: c. 68-73,[11] c 65-70[2]
    Matthew: c. 70-100.[11] c 80-85.[2] Some conservative scholars argue for a pre-70 date, particularly those that do not accept Mark as the first gospel written.
    Luke: c. 80-100, with most arguing for somewhere around 85,[11], c 80-85[2]
    John: c 90-100,[2] c. 90-110,[12] The majority view is that it was written in stages, so there was no one date of composition.

    Leigh, and PR Butler,

    I meant to address this last night, but I got sidetracked and it got late.

    Leaving aside for the moment specific sources, I want simply to address the logic of these dates, as I do agree with this source to the extent that these are consensus dates. But I think that the dates are overly optimistic (early), and arrived at with undue deference to the belief that the synoptics must contain older traditions that could, in theory, be traced back to the words and deeds of a single historical figure active c.20′s CE.

    Here’s my reasoning:
    The consensus earliest dates for Mark are based on the specific reference to the destruction of the Temple and the sack of Jerusalem in the first Jewish War with Rome (“Let the reader understand”) and the obvious anxiety betrayed in the narrative regarding these events. I take those as given, but I simply do not see, nor have I read, a compelling reason to put the authorship of the gospel immediately following those events.
    Then, there’s the problem of the dissemination of texts. Both Matthew and Luke are writing, independently, with a copy of Mark. Let’s say a date around 80 is when the ink is still drying on the autograph of Mark. Realistically, how quickly is this text spread around enough for both of these authors to not only have a copy but to perceive an urgent need for a thorough redaction via incorporation with their other source(s)? Things to take into account here are literacy rates, the number and size of late 1st century Christian communities, and the diversity of same, considering that many may not have perceived a need for any such historicized version of what was for many (Paul) a cosmic myth. So I say at least a generation, and maybe two, before copies of Matthew and Luke are circulating, and subject to the same limiting factors in their diffusion. That puts Luke firmly in the 2nd century.

    Now, there’s a fair amount of controversy about John and its dependence or lack thereof on the Synoptics. But I think it’s a red herring. There’s no reason for John if the Synoptic tradition isn’t well-established, and, again, let’s remember that this means not ink dry on the autographs, but widely disseminated throughout at least the Eastern Empire. Because John is an effort to rescue Gnoticism in some form from the docetic heresy, which could never have come about if the synoptics weren’t established. To me, this puts John (in final form) mid 2nd century.

    I’m not a real expert, so I’m not claiming anything firm. This is my own argument, informed by many sources who don’t agree with it, and based on an attempt to resolve conflicts and insecurities I perceive in those sources. With that said, and with the understanding that nothing I can point to will follow my own perhaps ideosyncratic line of thought, I recommend the already mentioned book by Mack, another one called Who Wrote the Gospels, by Randel McCraw Helms, and the work of J.D. Crossan, particularly two big and admittedly (by me and him) difficult tomes, The Historical Jesus and The Birth of Christianity. Finally, for an even more radical revision of the consensus, check out the work of Neal Doherty, available in the main on the Web under the rubric “The Jesus Puzzle.” These sources’ bibliographies also are indispensable for further exploration. And see Doherty’s review of Crossan’s Birth.

  259. #259 Leigh Williams
    December 24, 2008

    John: “Yes, I know – he’s talking about Israel*. However, you brought Micah up, so I responded to that, and since Micah 6:8 in isolation is basically quote mining, I merely added the context of later verses to that. I take it (since you did not address it) you don’t dispute the message I got out of it: “be nice, or else!” – whether applied to Israel or to its people individually. Now, you bring up Micah 7, which talks about forgiveness though judgement had been passed and punishment meted! You don’t find that a touch contradictory?”

    Well, perhaps I would if I thought of punishment as something God does. And yes, I realize that’s how the writer of Micah sees it, but in my experience, the bad consequences of unethical behavior flow quite inevitably from the behavior itself, with no divine intervention required. Here’s an example: the Religious Right is characterized by outrageous behavior. They lie, they’re arrogant, they take usurp judgments on others Jesus says is reserved to himself, they trample other people’s rights with arrogance and disrespect. The consequence of their actions is that they themselves bring their doctrine and all they hold to be holy and righteous into disrepute. The long-term result of their “sin” is that their viewpoint will be eclipsed by that of more enlightened people.

    That sin has personal results, too. I know many of these people, and their lives are tainted and warped by the evil they carry. It’s strapped to their backs and weighs them down, like a rock they don’t see, but can feel.

    Same with the Israelites in Micah. Their actions rotted their society from within until it collapsed.

    It’s the old stove analogy. You tell your child not to touch the stove. She does it anyway and gets burned. Did you punish her? No, the real world did.

    I suppose you could argue that a truly benevolent parent would have put the stove somewhere the child couldn’t reach it. That doesn’t seem to be the way the universe is structured, however. We human parents do try to create a safe environment for our children, but that’s really hard to create without also removing everything that might be of interest and restricting the kid’s need to explore and learn! Maybe God has a similar problem. Here’s where we get into issues of omnibenevolence (to which I’m wedded) and omnipotence (not so important to me).

    John: “Anyway, to return to my main point, I do think you follow doctrines, though they are vaguely defined. If I understand you (and Twin Skies), you consider that Jesus was divine, that he taught a worthy/the only true** morality, and that following that morality will gain you favour in the afterlife. Am I wrong?”

    Yes and no. Yes, Jesus was divine (and provides us, as dopted children of God, a way to join the divine family) and yes, he taught a worthy morality. The only true** morality? No. People of all religions, and no religion, struggle toward the light, reaching it by greater and lesser degrees individually. Who am I to dispute the paths God has provided to others of his children?

    I don’t think anything I do gains me favor in the afterlife. Jesus came to redeem the whole world, no exceptions. If I believed otherwise, I would have to reject God, because such a God would be a monster. You can’t condone in a deity behavior that you would unhesitatingly reject in your neighbor.

    Look, the central metaphor of Christianity is family. A parent loves all her children, even the ones that stray and do bad things, and always hopes and works to bring them all to full adulthood as ethical and decent people. Surely God does no less in the fullness of time, even when we can’t see the outcome here on earth.

  260. #260 Pierce R. Butler
    December 24, 2008

    CJO @ # 258: Thanks for the explication & book list.

    On second thought, I do have to pipe up about how your chronology, though not unreasonable, is at the later end of the plausible time range. We have lots of evidence, including those epistles of Paul considered authentic, that the scattered proto-christian communities of the eastern Mediterranean were in regular communication with each other, so a lag of decades in reconciling their accounts is not necessary in reconstructing their history.

    And, of course, there’s the notorious “Q document” (from which Matthew & Luke are thought to have copied various passages), the origin & timing of which we will probably never know, but which seems a strong hypothesis as to how the synoptic Gospels got that way.

    None of which either proves or disproves one of my favorite sayings about the basis of the Jesus story, whose exact wording and author I can’t remember at the moment: it seems quite possible that the author known as Mark wrote the most influential book of fiction in history.

  261. #261 Leigh Williams
    December 24, 2008

    CJO, that you for explaining your reasoning and giving your references. I’m familiar with Burton Mack and Crossan (though I haven’t read his books . . . yet); I’ll admit I’ve not been pursuing these studies for several years, mainly because I’ve been concentrating on saving science from the creationists. Since I’m in Texas, that’s kind of a full-time job.

    I see your argument, but I also think you underestimate both the degree of literacy in these communities and the extent to which the early Christians were in communication with each other. The Jews in particular are well-known to have prized literacy (still do), and the Greek influence, still profound in the Roman Empire, also worked to normalize a higher degree of education that we would generally expect to see. The Romans maintained an impressive infrastructure for the time, and the mail was pervasive and relatively trustworthy, even though delivery was often through private carriers.

    Another problem with assigning dates in the 2nd century to these documents is that they’re mentioned as being well-established by the end of the first half of that century. Marcion was excommunicated around 144, and he clearly knew of all four Gospels, plus the surviving letters of Paul.

    It’s unfortunate that we can’t nail down the exact contents of these Gospels or epistles, since we don’t have any copies earlier than the fourth century. I personally believe that they were undergoing some redaction; most scholars agree that Mark was extended, and I see considerable evidence of additions to some of the letters of Paul, for example.

    I do think it’s rather unlikely that Mark and the Q document were made up altogether, so that there was no Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Joseph at all. The letters of Paul were written within one generation after his death, after all, and surely someone in Jerusalem would have noticed if the character were entirely fictional, don’t you think?

    I’ll give you the syncretic details, though. It can’t be a coincidence that so many other traditions describe virgin births in the general area!

  262. #262 John Morales
    December 24, 2008

    Leigh @259,

    [1] Well, perhaps I would if I thought of punishment as something God does. And yes, I realize that’s how the writer of Micah sees it, [2] but in my experience, the bad consequences of unethical behavior flow quite inevitably from the behavior itself, with no divine intervention required.

    1. Wow, you are a really liberal Christian.
    2. That sounds awfully like the concept of Karma.

    Maybe God has a similar problem [as parents in regards to children, i.e. limited by circumstance in their ability to protect]. Here’s where we get into issues of omnibenevolence (to which I’m wedded) and omnipotence (not so important to me).

    Indeed, I consider those two attributes to be contradictory, given the existence of evil and suffering. I wonder if you’ve given this issue much consideration.

    Yes, Jesus was divine (and provides us, as dopted children of God, a way to join the divine family) and yes, he taught a worthy morality. [...] Who am I to dispute the paths God has provided to others of his children?
    I don’t think anything I do gains me favor in the afterlife. Jesus came to redeem the whole world, no exceptions.

    This all sounds warm and fuzzy, but I don’t see any specifics.
    It brings to mind questions such as: On what basis do you believe Jesus was divine? What is this redemption, if not the avoidance of a hell you disbelieve in? How is Jesus necessary for redemption (i.e. why would people’s own actions not be sufficient)?

    It all seems like some elaborate rationalisation to the effect that, to be a good person, one needs an outside source. If so, this is a claim the merits of which I do not see.

  263. #263 CJO
    December 24, 2008

    your chronology, though not unreasonable, is at the later end of the plausible time range.

    Guilty as charged. But hey, somebody’s got to hold up both ends of the string, right?

    I do think it’s rather unlikely that Mark and the Q document were made up altogether, so that there was no Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Joseph at all. The letters of Paul were written within one generation after his death, after all, and surely someone in Jerusalem would have noticed if the character were entirely fictional, don’t you think?

    The entire argument rests on the contention that both Paul and “the elect” (and etc.) of the Jerusalem group contemporary with him did not have a historical figure in mind, but a cosmic myth “according to the scriptures.” The synoptic tradition having the late dates I posit as well as an origin in the diaspora and not Palestine is exactly what is necessary for nobody being left alive in Jerusalem to have grounds to object to the switch, which remember, I am not suggesting happened overnight. The intervening turmoil –with persecutions! (that’s Mark)– following the Jewish War is the exact type of milieu in which we might expect just such a lapse of collective traditional memory alowing for, or even requiring, a new vision.

    Not quoting, sorry, but referring back to both of your comments re: literacy and other well-founded points regarding my proposed limiting factors for dissemination, Crossan is especially good on orality versus literacy and on anthropological matters in general. As I admit, I do not ultimately agree with his conclusions, but his work really is admirable, in all kinds of ways, not least how scrupulous he truly is in examining past and present Christian presuppositions. Speaking as an atheist about a practicing Roman Catholic, there are few scholars in the world in any field whose work I esteem more highly.

  264. #264 Leigh Williams
    December 24, 2008

    John: “1. Wow, you are a really liberal Christian.”

    Yes.

    John: “2. That sounds awfully like the concept of Karma.”

    Yes. It’s meant to.

    John: “Indeed, I consider those two attributes to be contradictory, given the existence of evil and suffering. I wonder if you’ve given this issue much consideration.”

    I also think they’re contradictory. All serious Christians, and indeed all people of faith, have given the problem of theodicy (evil) a great deal of consideration. I’ve never seen an answer that I find satisfactory. I hope to know the answer someday. In the meantime, I fall back on the principle of soldiering on, doing what I can to alleviate the suffering of others. On a purely emotional level, I remember how much I love my own children — and how impossible it is to shield them from the suffering they bring on themselves through bad choices, much less from the misfortunes of a capricious universe — and hope that God feels the same.

    John: “This all sounds warm and fuzzy, but I don’t see any specifics. It brings to mind questions such as: On what basis do you believe Jesus was divine? What is this redemption, if not the avoidance of a hell you disbelieve in? How is Jesus necessary for redemption (i.e. why would people’s own actions not be sufficient)? It all seems like some elaborate rationalisation to the effect that, to be a good person, one needs an outside source. If so, this is a claim the merits of which I do not see.”

    Starting at the end and working backwards: No, in fact quite the opposite. I believe morality comes from within, to the extent that we’re all a reflection of the divine nature, however dim and distorted we sometimes are. To say otherwise implies that atheists have no morality, whereas my experience tells me they tend to be more reflective and more ethical than most.

    Redemption is church talk. When liberal Christians use the word, we’re most often talking about healing; we tend to speak of this world as broken, in that evil exists in it. So we say that Jesus came to show us a way to fix our own brokenness, to show us a path for making right what is wrong, to give us an example of perfect love to which to aspire. To the extent that hell exists, I think we create for each other and for ourselves, here in this world.

    Paul said all this a lot more eloquently in Philippians 2.

    On what basis do I believe Jesus was divine? Wishful thinking. Joking aside, I think God periodically sends messengers to humanity for our comfort and assistance, whom we call prophets or enlightened ones. This is in fact a tenet of the Bahai faith. I once gave serious consideration to adopting it, but eventually decided to remain within the tradition I was born into, mainly because the metaphor of family appeals to me so profoundly.

  265. #265 Pierce R. Butler
    December 24, 2008

    Huh?

    Matthew 10:33-38:

    But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

    Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

    For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

    And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

    He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

    And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

  266. #266 Owlmirror
    December 24, 2008

    I suspect that many idealistic Christians conceive of Jesus as more of an abstract idea of sacrifice, kindness, and generosity, divorced from the rather harsh self-serving and cultic rhetoric that peppers the gospels.

    In that light, the unpleasant stuff isn’t meaningful, because those are part of the human distortion of Jesus, with all the inevitable cruelties and imperfections, not the words of the True Savior.

    Or something like that, anyway.

  267. #267 Leigh Williams
    December 25, 2008

    A challenging passage, Pierce. In Matthew, the most “Jewish” of the Gospels, we see a lot of Jesus as the rabbi, in this case using rabbinical hyperbole. His Jewish audience expected a messiah who would get rid of the Romans, unite the Jewish state under his monarchy, and establish peace in Judaea. It’s obvious now that’s not what they got with him. But to an audience expecting triumphalism, he announces that following him will bring violence (to them), strife (with their families), and death.

    There’s no doubt that a strain of this kind of martial imagery recurs in the writings of some of Jesus’s followers. In fact, it’s brought to its fullest and most repulsive flowering in the Revelation of John, an apocalyptic raving that bears poisonous fruit to this day.

    It might be worth asking yourself, however, if a surface or face-value reading of this passage matches the character of Jesus as he is portrayed in the rest of Matthew, or in the other Gospels.

    In any case, the Bible was written by human beings. It’s surely not astonishing that they skewed some things because of their own biases. We bring ourselves to the reading, as well, which goes far to explain some of the very odd and often wicked interpretations some Christians proof-text out of what is, after all, not the Word of God, which is the Christ, but a word about God.

    So yes, what Owl said, except that actually there’s far less of the “cultic rhetoric” than could reasonably be expected from religious writings of this period. (I obviously omit the Revelation from this judgment. In my opinion, it shouldn’t have been included in the canon to begin with.)

    But what the hell do I know. I’m so far to the left of Christianity that I’m barely hanging on by my toenails.

    Ah, well, time for bed. Mr. Science and I have just finished cleaning up the kitchen from tonight’s Christmas Eve party, and we’re expecting family in tomorrow. So let us adjourn for now and enjoy the midwinter festivities for a while.

    Thank you for your kind attention to my burblings.

    Merry Christmas, a joyous Solstice, and a very Happy Monkey to you all.

  268. #268 RickrOll
    December 25, 2008

    “Or something like that, anyway.”

    This guy (Neil- the same Neil B?) ain’t no idealist: http://mark834.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/hating-god/
    I even conceeded the Nice Guy Jesus

    ——-+—-
    The notion of eternal hell, into which individuals would suffer forever, is an accretion formulated by the Church, presumably as an incentive to embrace Christianity. Jesus never said that anybody would go there forever. For that matter, the “hell” he went to after the crucifixion was Sheol/Hades, better translated “the grave”.-Leigh Williams

    I was just thinking about this, and it would seem to me that you could take it as before Jesus, There Was No Afterlife. Fascinating way to spin it. And this was indeed the case theologically in Judaism, but here it would appear to be an affirmation that indeed, death was death. Until Christ came along. What i want to know is who the slimy bastard is that first made up the idea the Hell/Second Death (if you prefer, though The Lake of Fire is supposed to be the final destination really) was Eternal?! It seems to be mentioned in Revelations that the Lake of Fire is permanent, but even then, the Lake of Fire was something which seems to have been invented in that book. But i’m no pedant, feel free to correct me.

    And Twin Skies, what’s up?! Where’s my answer? *Pouts* Maybe Leigh could help eh? #129 if you would please. Oh, and Welcome Leigh! :)

  269. #269 John Morales
    December 25, 2008

    Leigh,

    Thank you for your kind attention to my burblings.

    You’re welcome, and thank you too.
    I think we both benefited from that exchange.

  270. #270 Pierce R. Butler
    December 25, 2008

    Leigh @ # 267: … rabbinical hyperbole.

    Maybe the Jewish and Greek teacher-trickster traditions had more in common than we usually think.

    His Jewish audience expected a messiah who would get rid of the Romans, unite the Jewish state under his monarchy, and establish peace in Judaea.

    Any such expectation would have been extinguished in all but a very small remnant of bitter-enders after the year 70, no?

    For me, Matthew 10:3x makes most sense as part of the propaganda of a rising cult, such a message being exactly what inductees into Scientology, FLDS, the Moonies, etc, must hear over and over (for good reason).

    As for John’s Revelation, allow me to recommend Jonathan Kirsch’s A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization, which is mostly about the effects (rather than the origins) of the craziest (with possible exception of Genesis) book in the Book.

    Happy Monkey!

  271. #271 RickrOll
    December 26, 2008

    Yep, Revelation was written in the days before a massive stroke/anurism killed whomever wrote it; surely. But i Do want to hear about the origins, sorry. Nonethelss peirce (do i smell a molly nominee? ;), i’ll be sure to keep that book in mind; thanks!

  272. #272 j
    December 26, 2008

    Pierce R. Butler is a name I’ve seen before. I find him mollyworthy.

  273. #273 RickrOll
    December 26, 2008

    j,

    wow. And to think that this isn’t even a nomination thread. Maybe i ought to be a lobbyist for molly hopefuls? haha ha ha Ha.

  274. #274 Pierce R. Butler
    December 26, 2008

    RickrOll @ # 271 – for the record, A History of the End of the World does offer a couple of chapters about “John the Revelator” and his ravings. Problem is, very little is known about the Madman of Patmos, so much of what can be told is taken from inference and parallel documents (Book o’ Daniel, various Apocrypha, etc).

    Aneurism? Maybe, but the tone of Johnny-boy’s “revelations” suggests psychotropic mushrooms to me, possibly flavored with alcoholism & serotonin disorders.

  275. #275 RickrOll
    December 27, 2008

    “Aneurism? Maybe, but the tone of Johnny-boy’s “revelations” suggests psychotropic mushrooms to me, possibly flavored with alcoholism & serotonin disorders.”

    Yes, P implies Q :)

    OK the book is on my birthday list of stuff. thanks.

    And Daniel is a pile of Horse Shit. 70 7′s and all that fucktardary. and the History is awful as well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5DrR-E0RBE&amp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZuulrAk-d0&amp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AXAJHPlVtM&amp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evElefNJTYo&amp

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1HpZkhDF5E&NR=1

    And that’s just the easy stuff. If i really looked, i can just imagine the stuff i would find.

  276. #276 Leigh Williams
    December 28, 2008

    All apocalyptic literature is for the birds, I think. Really, they sound like they all got into some bad ‘shrooms.

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