Saturday, June 30, 2012

What do you mean by 'create'?

Yesterday I was poking around youtube and stumbled across this video which prompted a blog post. There are some apologetics which refer to things being created and it addresses mundane things being created as well as the universe being created. As pointed out by the video, the creation of something like a table, and the creation of the universe are very different things, and not just because of the scale.

Let's look at what happens when you create a table? At first, there is no table, but you have a pile of materials, you have wood, glue, screws, or whatever. When you put the materials together you have 'created' the table. There was no table and now there is. What you have really done is reorganize some matter that was already there and we have a particular name for the configuration that you ended with. This is true for everything that we can create, be it a car, a house, or a person. With a person you don't have a 'pile of materials', but you are reorganizing materials just the same.

Now, consider the creation of the universe. The claim is that there was nothing, then God created the universe. God created all of the matter that there is out of nothing. He did not take some stuff and turn it into the universe, he started with no stuff, and then blinked the universe into existence.

Notice that we are really using the word 'create' in 2 very different ways. In one way, we are taking matter and rearranging it, in the other way, God is starting with nothing and making matter appear. These are very different things and we probably shouldn't even be using the same word for it. At the very least, I would argue that any intuition we have about things that we can create should have no bearing on the creation of the universe from nothing.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Romans 5

Peace with God Through Faith

We have peace with God through Jesus who has died for us and given us the holy spirit. Jesus died for the ungodly, which is amazing because it is hard enough to die for a good man, let alone a bad one.

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

Adam sinned and then sin spread to everyone, even before there were the laws of Moses. Then Jesus did his thing and we were all forgiven.

I don't have much to say here, I guess I'm not finding the book of Romans terribly interesting so far. They seem to be saying a lot of the things I used to hear in church, I guess that aspect of it is a bit interesting, but I haven't seen a lot of surprises.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Romans 4

Abraham Justified by Faith

Works are good, something to boast about, but not before God. "To the one who works, wages are not gifts but his due." What about the one who does not work but believes? His faith is counted as righteousness.

This also doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Belief in God is all that matters. If you do good works, that's nice, but it is just what it expected so don't expect any praise. If you believe and don't do anything though, you are still good.

The Promise Realized Through Faith

Abraham was promised that his offspring would be heir of the world not because of the law but because of faith. Even when Abraham's body was failing he had faith.

So faith is good, I get it.

v15:"For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression."

I'm not really sure what to make of this verse. It seems to be saying laws are bad because they bring wrath. All I can figure is that since we are talking about faith, the point is to focus on faith instead of focusing on the law. It doesn't seem to be saying that you should disobey the law or anything (although I could imagine people reading it that way). Anyone have a good idea what this verse is getting at?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Romans 3

God's Righteousness Upheld

"The Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God, what if some of them were unfaithful, does that nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar"

I think this means that it is possible that some of the scribes were lacking in faith and therefore might have not done a great job of writing down the word of God. He then asks if that shows we can't trust the Bible, and then he declares that the answer is no. That sound like an acceptable interpretation of this passage?

He then asks if our unrighteousness can ultimately glorify God do we still get punished for it, then declares that yes, you will.

This makes sense to me. If you do something with bad intentions and something good comes of it I think that should still count as bad.

No One Is Righteous

Both Jews and Greeks are under the law and everyone under the law is a sinner.

This is a message I hear fairly often, that everyone is a sinner. I can't help it, I just find the idea disgusting.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

God died for our sins and paid out debt, because we are all sinner and fallen short of the glory of God, but we are redeemed through Jesus.

This message is one that people seem to really latch on to. I'm not sure it makes a whole lot of sense. I guess in a culture where sacrifices of livestock and such are common it might make some kind of sense, but as far as justice goes I don't think it does. If you get the death penalty no one can sit in the electric chair for you.

I know this is something Christians are going to disagree with, this idea is central to their faith. But that is part of the problem in my opinion. A central tenant of your religion is that everyone is evil, and the redemption story doesn't seem to make sense.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Romans 2

God's Righteous Judgment

You can't judge others because you are also guilty.

I guess if you equate all crimes and things like envy are crimes deserving death, then it is true that we are all guilty.

Those who seek glory, honor, and immortality will get eternal life. But those who are self-seeking and who are unrighteous will get wrath and fury.

Isn't seeking immortality also "self-seeking"? This doesn't make much sense to me.

God's Judgement and the Law

If you don't follow the law you have never heard of you will just perish. If you have sinned under the law you will be judged by it. If you have never heard the law and follow it anyway you are a law to yourself. (I'm not sure what that means) The law is written on your heart.

Sounds like you can be judged good even if you don't know about Jesus. How does that sync with the idea that if you don't know about Jesus you'll go to hell?

Don't teach the law and then also break the law.

Sounds good

There is a lot of talk about circumcision.

Why is God so interested in this?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview on Deity Shmeity

Grundy of Deity Shmeity recently decided to do a series of posts of interviews of fellow bloggers. You should pop over to his blog and see my interview with him.

Romans 1


Romans is a letter from Paul to the Romans telling them about Jesus. In the greeting he says that Jesus is the lord and he tells them that Jesus loves them and they should follow Christ.

Longing to Go to Rome

Paul really wants to go to Rome to preach to them because he loves them. He has tried to go that way but he has been prevented up to now.

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes"

Why would he be ashamed? It is interesting that he says that. The message I see here is "You might think I should be ashamed, but I am not"

God's Wrath on Unrighteousness

The wrath of God is revealed to all unrighteous men who suppress the truth. For God's "eternal power and divine nature" have been clear since the creation of the world. "Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God"

That's interesting. It is a condemnation of people who know God but don't honor him. What about people who genuinely don't believe?

These people gave up the glory of God for mortal lusts. They were gay. They were also filled with evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God says these things deserve death but they do them anyway.

As usual, when there is a list like this it always seems strange what goes together. Murder and gossip both deserve the same punishment of death? Also, for the random comment that the bible isn't actually antigay, look at v. 26-27.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It Takes Religion to Make a Good Man Do Bad Things

This is something that I have seen thrown around a lot on atheist blogs, I think the original was from Dawkins, and my best guess is it was out of The God Delusion. I don't have the exact quote, but the idea is that good people will do good things and bad people will do bad things, but for good people to do bad things it takes religion.

When I first heard this idea, I was totally on board. Religion inspires people to do some terrible things, and worse, it gives them this righteousness that is hard to combat. How do you convince someone they are wrong when they think they have God on their side?

However, when I hear this idea thrown around now, I always think "there are other things that can make good people do bad things also". This became clear to me after the riot following the Sandusky child molestation scandal going public. Tons of students were supporting their coaches even though one of them molested countless children and the other knew about it and did nothing. I remember thinking those protesters were horrible people, but then I quickly decided that most of them were probably good people, they just happened to be doing a terrible thing. I thought to myself "what could motivate them to do that?" There is no religion involved here, yet these good people are doing bad things, so what is going on?

After having this sit on the back of my mind for a few months, I have come to the conclusion that there are a lot of things that can make good people do bad things: sports, politics, poverty, religion, any ideology really. I would argue though, that religion is the worst offender. It really comes back to having God on your side. If we return to those students rioting after the Sandusky thing, I would bet that with a little reflection, most of them have decided that they were out of line. At the very least, this idea could potentially get argued and many of them could be convinced. On the other hand, consider matters that involve God. God can't be reasoned with, there is no room for compromise. By definition, God can't even be wrong, no matter what he does. Add to that the fact that many religious people value faith and have a persecution complex, changing anyone's mind is going to be nearly impossible.

So back to the quote that started this post, do I disagree with it? Yes, but really only in a technical sort of way. Religion is not the only thing that makes good people do bad things, but it is the worst offender. It still seems like a valuable enough meme to spread around, but I have to admit, every time I see it I am irked just a little bit.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Million Dollar Challenge

After a recent discussion, I have been thinking about the million dollar challenge offered at the JREF. For those of you who don't know about it, James Randi has a million dollar prize available for anyone who can prove any supernatural claim under scientific conditions. If memory serves, the idea originated as a challenge specifically to Sylvia Brown, a popular psychic and pretty obvious fraud in my opinion. At some point, he opened the challenge up to anyone making supernatural claims. 

When I first heard about this challenge, I thought it was amazing, any time I am in a debate with someone who claims something supernatural, I can just say "If you are correct, why not just go get your million bucks?" Of course, it doesn't really work this way. People will always just retort that he is cheating, or that he will never give up the money, some people even claim that he is psychic and is blocking their powers.

Then there is the young earth creationist version of this challenge, when I heard this I obviously had a host of reasons why that challenge is bogus, and of course, anyone on the other side of things will just say the same thing about Randi's challenge. 

The whole thing is a bit of a bummer, but it leaves me wondering what good the million dollar challenge really is. Does it have any real power to convince anyone of anything? Or will most of the people it is designed to convince be able to ignore it? It seems to me that it's really only good as a rallying cry for skeptics, which is nice I guess, but I had hoped for it to be so much more.

This is a huge bummer, anyone feel like convincing me I'm wrong? That would be awesome!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Acts Overview

As I have explained in the past, one of the reasons I am doing this blog is I am curious to see what kind of messages one might get from reading the bible. What might one learn as a take-away. Here is my quick summary of the good and bad from Acts as well as some random thoughts I had while reading.

The Good

2:45 Help others when they are in need

12:7 You should fight against unjust laws

21:13 Be willing to go to prison or even die for principles

The Bad

5:4-5 Death penalty for lying (or for saving money)

9:17 God blinds Saul to make him follow

9:22 poor definition of proof

10:44 get holy spirit just for attendance

12:23 death penalty for not "giving glory to God"

18:17 ignore it if someone gets beat up in front of you

19:11-20 ridiculous spirit stuff

20:24 Your life is worthless except for spreading the word of God

21:4,13 God can't make up his mind

Random thoughts

This is a little embarrassing, but I was honestly surprised that Jesus wasn't in this book. I know he died in the gospels, but I just figured the rest of the new testament would take place during that time. Now I'm wondering if the rest of the new testament is after Jesus is dead or if some books take place during the time period of the gospels. The fact that I was a Christian for years and don't know the answer to that is a little sad.

Why do so many people have multiple names? There was a whole lot of "John called Mark" and such, why not just say Mark?

I must admit, most of this book I found pretty uninteresting. Not good or bad, just boring. Not a lot happened. I wonder if Christians see things here as inspirational or anything. How would an average Christian respond to reading this book?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Acts 28

Paul on Malta

They soon learned that the island they landed on was called Malta. The natives were very helpful and they built a fire together. Paul got bit by a snake and the natives figured that meant he was guilty and the gods weren't going to let him get away. But when he didn't die from the snake bite they changed their minds and decided he was a God.

Is this verse the reason snake handlers do what they do? Looks like it is one verse among a few. Ridiculous. 

Paul healed the chief of the island and anyone else on the island who had diseases. They were grateful and gave them a bunch of supplies when they were ready to set sail.

Naturally, after someone heals all of your sick I imagine you will give them whatever they need.

Paul Arrives at Rome

There was some more sailing and they got to Rome. Paul was allowed to stay in the room by himself with the soldier that guarded him.

Paul in Rome

Paul got to Rome and told the people the story of how he was in prison unfairly. They didn't seem interested in this as he clearly should be free, but asked his thoughts on their sect. He lived there for 2 years and preached.

Again, not terribly interesting. There were no real charges against him, so surprise, he is let free. Hey, what happened to those guys who committed to a hunger strike until Paul was dead. Did they starve to death? :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Acts 27

Paul Sails for Rome

They went sailing. There was a lot of detail given about the route, but the point was, it took a long time. After a while they were in danger of getting caught some place which was not suitable to stay in the winter. Paul said the voyage from there would be dangerous, but everyone else went forward anyway.

It seems to me that they are setting Paul up to know that the way forward would be hazardous. But it seems that this is just true based on the situation. Yes, sailing from here will be dangerous, but apparently staying is not an option, so what else is there to do?

The Storm at Sea

There was a terrible storm and they were all in danger. Paul said that they should have listened to him. He also said that God talked to him and they would all survive but the ship would run aground on an island. There was also something about them fasting. Apparently they haven't eaten for 14 days and Paul says they should start eating again.

I wasn't quite sure how the fasting worked in to the story, but doing hard work and also not eating seems like a real bad idea. 14 days also seems very excessive, is that the point?

The Shipwreck

They hit a reef and the ship was basically destroyed. The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn't escape, but the centurion wanted to save Paul so stopped their plan. Everyone survived.

Seems pretty crazy to just kill the prisoners like that. I suppose it is not terribly surprising in such a primitive time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Acts 26

Paul's Defense Before Agrippa

Paul tells his story of how he grew up a Pharisee and acted against the "saints" following Jesus.

I'm not exactly sure how this is a defense, it seems like he is just telling his life story. Although I guess since the charges against him are not well defined either, what else is he going to do but tell his story.

Paul Tells of His Conversion

Paul tells about the blinding light and Jesus talking to him that converted him to follow Jesus. The king asks if Paul is trying to persuade him to be a Christian and he replies that he would like anyone that hears his voice to become a Christian. The king says that Paul has done nothing wrong and that he should be set free.

That seemed a bit anticlimactic for all the buildup. Oh well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Acts 25

Paul Appeals to Caesar

The chief priests try to get Paul transferred to Jerusalem because they were planning to kill him in transit. They try to charge him with a bunch of crimes but nothing will stick because they don't have proof of anything. Paul is asked if he wants to stand trial in Jerusalem, but he says he should stay where he is and be tried by Caesar's tribunal.

Paul Before Agrippa and Bernice

Festus described the situation to Agrippa and Bernice, basically saying he wasn't sure how to handle things. They said they want to talk to him directly. So Paul is brought before king Agrippa and tells the story. Basically a bunch of people want to kill Paul, but as far as Festus can tell there is no good reason for it.

Not much in this chapter. I'll say this though, I'm interested in seeing how this will play out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Everybody Is Stupid Except Me

When we are engaged in debate with someone, it is easy to think that the other side is stupid. Especially when you have thought about something a lot, possibly over the course of years. When you have so many reasons to think you are correct, so many corroborating pieces of evidence, how could anyone look at all of that stuff and not agree with you? They must be stupid!

Remember, the other side has likely done the same thing as you, they haven't come to their opinions in a snap decision, they have analyzed a bunch of stuff too (I guess not always, but let's consider a debate where both sides are knowledgeable). In fact, a lot of the time we have looked at the same evidence and come to opposite conclusions. This, to me, is where it gets really interesting. If we disagree on what a piece of evidence means, I like to really dig into it and figure out why. Where do we disagree, what are we interpreting differently, what assumptions are each of us making? What better way to change someone's mind than to really make them understand where you are coming from? Also, you should always be prepared to be the person whose mind gets changed. If someone has a really good reason that you never considered you should reevaluate. We should all be looking for the truth, no matter where it leads us.

One final thing I will end with, if you used to think one thing and now you think the opposite and call your opponents idiots, you are calling your former self an idiot. This should be enough to make you reconsider the insult. I'm looking at you /r/atheism

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Do We Concede the Ground on Death Too Easily?

So I read a post by Greta Christina which I also stole this title from. (If you don't read her stuff you should start, she is pretty awesome). In this post she was responding to the claim made by some atheists that religion will always win on the topic of death. That atheism will never be able to comfort people in the same way that religion does. She then spent the post talking about how heaven is really only comforting if you don't think about it very hard.

I thought this was a really good angle, and she made some very good points, but when I read her title my thoughts went in the opposite direction. Not only can we win this argument by pointing out that heaven isn't so great as she does, but we don't have to worry about the possibility of hell.

One of my uncles died about ten years ago and it turned out that he had killed himself. I was sad when he died, but when I got the new information that he had killed himself it didn't really make much of a difference. I had already been dealing with his death for a week or so, the fact that he had felt the need to kill himself was sad, but for me it was so overshadowed by the simple fact that he was gone that it didn't have much of an impact. I remember my mom being upset at the doctors who did the toxicology report saying that it was impossible. I also remember being shocked at her reaction as he had dealt with depression for years and he was pretty down on his luck at the time. At some point I realized that for my mother, my uncle died twice. Once the toxicology report came back and we learned he had killed himself, there was no longer the possibility that he was in heaven. He killed himself, he is in hell.

So for me, my uncle died and I had to deal with the fact that I would never see him again. It sucked. For my mom, she had to deal with the fact that she would see him again, but was comforted by the fact that she would see him again after she died. Then after the tox report came back, this minor comfort was stripped away and was replaced with the idea that not only would she never see him again, but he will be tortured forever.

So I ask, whose belief system has the edge here?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Acts 24

Paul Before Felix at Caesarea

The High Priest Ananias came down with some elders and accused Paul of stirring up trouble. Paul basically responded saying that he hasn't been stirring up trouble but that he has been simply spreading the word of God. He says that he is really on trial because he has been talking about the resurrection of the dead.

Sounds like a fair summary from both sides. I can't help but feel there is a bunch of subtext I am just missing.

Paul Kept in Custody

Felix kept Paul in prison but said that his friends should be allowed to tend to his needs. Felix talked to Paul and was told about the resurrection of Jesus. Felix hoped that Paul would bribe him, but I guess he didn't. Two years went by and Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus who left Paul in prison.

Seems like a long time to be in prison without a proper trial. I can't believe that still happens. :(

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Is God Just a Human Invention - The End?

I've been doing these blog posts reading Is God Just a Human Invention shadowing along with another blog. Reading the book itself has been pretty damn painful, and there has been fairly little discussion, especially lately, on both blogs. That, along with the fact that I am moving soon and have been busy with other things, I am going to discontinue this series of posts.

If anyone has been enjoying these posts and would like me to continue, please speak up here (or through email) and I will start them back up in a few weeks once I get settled in my new place.

Acts 23

Paul Before the Council

Paul sees that the people he was around were part Pharisee and part Sadducee. The Sadducees say there was no resurrection and the Pharisees say there was, so he used that fact to stir up the crowd and the soldiers got him away from the crowd so he wouldn't get killed in the resulting melee. The following night the Lord stood by him and said he has done well, but he would have to do it again in Rome.

I guess we'll have to hear this story again from Rome.

A Plot to Kill Paul

A bunch of Jews ("more than forty") made a pact not to eat or drink until they kill Paul. They planned on asking the council to bring him to them, pretending that they wanted to learn some details of his case. In reality, they are going to ambush him on the way to that meeting. The son of Paul's sister found this out and along with Paul's guidance, told the tribune of the plans. They told him not to tell anyone that they were informed of these plans.

Interesting little back and forth. Not the kind of hunger strike I'm used to hearing about, although I guess it was 2000 years ago. Things have changed.

Paul Sent to Felix the Governor

They sent for Paul with a huge Entourage and a mount. The governor wanted to know why he was being imprisoned, as it seemed that his punishment was too extreme for whatever he was charged with. They said he wouldn't be tried until an accuser came forward.

Good way to stop such a plot I suppose.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Acts 22

Paul Speaks to the People

This first section was actually partly in Acts 21 but it was in both chapter, I guess I'll put it here.

 Paul asks to speak to the people, the tribunal asks if he can speak Greek but he speaks in Hebrew.

I don't really know why the language matters, but it was pointed out and it seemed like it might be important. Anyone have any insight here?

Paul tells about how he used to imprison followers of Christ until he converted. He told the story of being blinded and such. Then God tells him that he needs to leave the people that he spent so much time persecuting and that is why he is where he is.

This is a good demonstration of something I found in the bible that I wasn't expecting. There seems to be a lot of retelling of the same stories over and over. In Acts 9 we saw the story of Saul converting, and now here is Acts 22 Saul tells the story to someone else. I guess you get a slightly different perspective on it, but to me it winds up just making things a little bit boring. It also seems to open things up to a lot of potential contradictions. I'm not really sure I have a specific point here, I just find it surprising and strange.

Paul and the Roman Tribune

After the tribune listened to him they said he should not be allowed to live and they bound him. He asked the centurion if it was lawful to flog a roman citizen who isn't condemned. Once everyone found out he was a Roman citizen they decided they shouldn't do what they were about to do. Also, he said he bought the citizenship and he was also a citizen by birth.

Not really sure what to make of this. I don't understand the significance of the Roman citizenship. I also don't understand the significance of purchasing the citizenship and why he would do that if he was also a citizen by birth. Anyone know what is going on here? I'm just confused.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Acts 21

Paul Goes to Jerusalem

Pauls plans to go to Jerusalem and all of the other disciples tell him he shouldn't go. They told him not to go through the spirit. But Paul says he is not afraid of going to Jerusalem, he is willing to go and even die if that is what the lord wants.

So basically, Paul wants to go to Jerusalem because God wants him to go there, and the other disciples don't want him to go because God doesn't want him to go. So which is it? Does God want him to go or not? Why would he tell different people opposite things? Perhaps when people say things "through the spirit" it is simply that they feel something deeply and they think God must be telling them. This kind of thing seems to be common now, but I am surprised to see it in the bible itself.

Paul Visits James

James tells Paul that people are saying he is not following the rules of Moses since he is spending time talking to Gentiles. So Paul goes with some guys and does some purification ritual.

Paul Arrested in the Temple

The local people were upset about what Paul was teaching and that he had defiled their temple by letting in Greeks and they arrested him.

I guess the early Christians wanted a more inclusive religion and the Jews of the time wanted a more exclusive religion. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Acts 20

Paul in Macedonia and Greece

Paul traveled around some and while he was in Greece there was a plot against him by the Jews, but he got away.

Eutychus Raised from the Dead

Paul was talking and he extended his speech until past midnight. A young man named Eutychus was watching from a 3rd floor window and fell asleep and out the window. He died, but Paul revived him.

It seems like all of Acts could be summarized as "the disciples spread the word of God and do the same miracles as Jesus did"

Paul Speaks to the Ephesian Elders

Paul basically tells them that he is leaving them to go preach to Jerusalem. He says that imprisonment and afflictions await him wherever he goes but he will do it anyway. "But I do not account my life of any value nor as previous to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I receive from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

So basically, your life is worthless except for the part where you are spreading the word of god. Pascals wager comes to mind, which says that there is no cost in believing. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

That's in the Bible but Jesus Didn't Say It

After rewriting this post a few times, I realized the main point I am trying to get at here is consistency. If you say that X is not important because it has property Y, then if I can show that Z also has property Y, then by your logic, Z must also not be important.

I saw this come up recently when an atheist said that there is a lot of violence in the bible. The Christian then replied that Jesus never advocated violence, implying that we have no biblical reason to be violent. I found this defense very interesting, especially since I have seen various versions of it come up quite a few times lately. What exactly is being said here? It sounds to me like they are saying if Jesus didn't say it, it's not important. If that is the case then we can skip all of the stuff that doesn't matter and save a bunch of time. (BTW, I would dispute that claim that Jesus didn't advocate violence, but that is not the point of this particular post)

Of course, this is not really what they are trying to say, I don't think they are trying to claim that only what Jesus said matters. I think they saw something in the bible that they didn't like and they are looking for an excuse to dismiss it. If something else comes up that they like from the Bible that Jesus did not say, they will probably not hesitate to use it. "It doesn't matter if Jesus said it or not, it's in the bible and it is good."

This is very similar to people who dismiss so many horrible things from the Bible because they are from the old testament. Those people will often turn right around and say how amazing the Bible is because of the ten commandments. The two ideas just don't make any sense together. Either the old testament is valuable or it isn't. Either the stuff not directly advocated by Jesus can be dismissed wholesale or it can't.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Does It Mean to Be Good?

I've recently had a few discussion about morality (some on Grundy's blog, some elsewhere) and it got me thinking. As atheists, we are often told that is impossible to be moral without God. If I point out that Atheists are often good people, a common answer I get is that without God you can do good things, but you can't be good. I would like to know what it means to be good if it is something other than doing good things.

If someone can do all of the things that (they think) God wants everyone to do, they why does it matter if they don't worship God? If you can have the same effect, why does it matter if the source is God or just your own personal morality? I think that Christians just think this is impossible. They are so brainwashed into thinking that we are all evil and deserve hell they they blind themselves to the reality that atheists can be just as good as anyone else. The more I write and the more I think about this, the more I find that particular bit of dogma disgusting.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Acts 19

Paul in Ephesus

Paul went to Ephesus and found some disciples who has been baptized by John and hadn't heard of the holy spirit. Paul told them about Jesus and then re-baptized them. They preached for 2 years so that all of asia would hear the word of the Lord.

All of Asia? That must be some weird translation issue or something.

The Sons of Sceva

Paul was so successful that people were taking handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched his skin and used them for exorcisms, and it worked. There were 7 sons of a Jewish high priest who were exorcists. They tried to evoke the name of Jesus to exorcise an evil spirit and the evil spirit said they knew Paul and Jesus but not them, the spirit then overpowered them and they ran out into the street naked. The story was spread and the name of Jesus was extolled.

I know this whole book is about magic and spirits and stuff, but really? Do people of the modern day honestly read this and think it is real?

A Riot at Ephesus

The guys who make the idols were upset at the teachings of Christianity, and they didn't like Paul for spreading it. For they made a bunch of money off of it. They were ready to do something bad to Paul, but word got around and he was warned.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Is God Just a Human Invention - Chapter 11 Does God Intend for Us to Keep Slaves?

As mentioned previously, I am following a book club type format for this book over on another blog (as I'm writing this that blog seems to be down, I hope it is just a temporary outage). I was going to just participate over there but I have a lot more to say than I want to shove into their comments, so I figured I'd do a normal long form post over here and then just talk about 1 or 2 main points over there. I'm sticking to my normal format of bold for section heading, regular text for summary, and italics for my commentary.



New Atheists such as Dawkins and Harris say that the God of the bible expects us to keep slaves? We explore this idea and naturally come to the conclusion that God does not, in fact, want us to keep slaves. We will take a step back and explore the context in which these ideas are discussed in the bible.

This sounds good to me. I often hear the complaint that I am taking things out of context. I have read a number of verses that certainly seem to condone slavery, I'm curious what possible context could have that as being okay. I'm skeptical here but I will definitely have an open mind.

The New Atheists are far more interested in building up ammunition against Christianity than really learning about it.

Of course they have to throw in an ad hominem attack against the atheists. I'm really tired of this bullshit. If you think our arguments are so poor, then why not attack them directly. When you attack the person all you do is show how poor your arguments really are. If Dawkins criticizes something from the bible (in this case slavery) and your main response is "Dawkins is being a dick", does that mean that you don't have a real answer? It certainly looks that way.

Christianity Did Not Invent Slavery

The author of the book says he remembers a history class where the teacher went off on the bible and christianity for having slavery in the bible. "The unspoken implication was that if there had been no bible there would have been no slavery."

That seems fairly ridiculous. Either the message was misunderstood (you did say it was unspoken) or the teacher was just wrong. I haven't come across this idea (that slavery came from the bible) and I hope it is incredibly rare.

Slavery was just assumed in the world the bible entered in to. There were no critics at the time, and the bible was actual countercultural at the time.

I don't particularly care for where this seems to be going, but I will not get ahead of things here.

We Must Put the Biblical Discussion in its Cultural Context

Slavery was very different in biblical times compared to how american slavery was. This is not to excuse it, but it must be noted that it was different.

I'm not really sure what the point is here. It might have not been exactly the same, but it was still one person owning another.

Israel in the old testament was not God's ideal society. "God began the process of restoration and redemption through the people of Israel." There were laws in the OT books that regulated slavery, the fact  that it was regulated at all is striking given the time and situation.

*sigh* This kind of argument would work if it was just people. If there was a lot of slavery in a country, and the society worked to be nicer to their slaves over time and eventually abandoned slavery altogether the people who started it off were visionaries. If it was an all powerful God, why not just end slavery outright, or tell your people how to get to a place where they don't have slaves.  

War and poverty were the biggest producers of slaves. War produces winners and losers, and the winners had to do something to protect themselves from future retaliation by those they conquered.

So they are justified in making them slaves? What is being said here?

Many people sold themselves into slavery for their families, in Job he acknowledged that slaves are also made in God's image.

That's nice I guess.

God can't just eradicate slavery since he is working with agents who have free will.

Okay, but couldn't he actually tell his people that slavery is no good? He gave all kinds of other commandments that not everyone keeps, why not mention that slavery is a bad thing?

Christianity Tolerated Slavery Until it Could be Abolished

Biblical writers planted the seeds of slavery going away. Paul said "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." Also, Paul said that Onesimus should be viewed "no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother."

So what, I can't take things out of context but you can? The first quote is only advocating getting rid of slavery if it is also advocating getting rid of gender. The second one is about a specific person, a person that Paul got to know and didn't want to be a slave anymore. It is a pretty big stretch to say that these are the bible trying to get rid of slavery. (BTW, if you think I'm wrong here please speak up)

Why Was Jesus Silent on the Issue of Slavery?

Sam Harris says that Jesus never objects to slavery, but he skipped physical slavery and jumped to the root of the problem with the following passage "The spirit of the lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed."

Are you kidding me? I thought your position was that taking things out of context was bad. 

Does Atheism Naturally Lead to Human Dignity and Equality?

Atheism only rose after the groundwork was done by Christianity. Some argue that without the bible slavery wouldn't have happened. "Perhaps. But by this line of reasoning, we would also have to say that if there were no physics-if E didn't equal MC^2-then there would have been no atomic bomb."

What. The. Fuck. Does anyone know what they are even saying here? "if there were no physics" is the same to these people as "if there were no bible"? I'm honestly trying my best (it's hard) to be as open minded as possible. Can the authors of this book say the same? They are so wrapped up in their worldview they can't even imagine it being wrong. The bible never being written is the same to them as physics not working? Really?

And to answer the question of the section title, no. Atheist does not lead to human dignity and equality. It isn't supposed to. Christianity is supposed to, and it doesn't. That is the point of saying that slavery is in the bible. Not that atheism would do it better, but to say that Christianity failed at stopping slavery. Which is something you would expect it would do if it was run by and all knowing all loving all powerful God.

Acts 18

Paul in Corinth

They tried preaching to the Jews there, but they were reviled so they instead went to preach to the gentiles. The lord told Paul not to be afraid, no one will attack you here. He stayed a year and a half teaching the word of God. The Jews tried to make a united attack on Paul, but Gallo convinced them not to, so they seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue and beat him up. Gallo paid no attention to any of this.

What is the message here? Rile up a crowd, divert them toward someone else, and then ignore the fallout?

Paul Returns to Antioch

Paul did some travelling and preached along the way.

Apollos Speaks Boldly in Ephesus

Apollos was speaking in the synagogue but only knew of John. The disciples taught him about Jesus and then he started spreading the word.

I don't have much commentary, it's pretty much the same story over and over.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Acts 17

Paul and Silas in Thessalonica

They spread the word, many people believed, some didn't and caused a ruckus.

Seems like the same basic story over and over.

Paul and Silas in Berea

They went to Berea and preached. The Jews there were much more civil, but the guys from Thessalonica heard about it and came to Berea to stir them up.

Thessalonicans are dicks, got it

Paul in Athens

Paul is in Athens and is upset that he sees so many idols. He preaches and is brought to the areopagus. They ask him to share his teachings.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

He told the story of Jesus and did some more preaching. When he talked of the resurrection some mocked but some became followers.

That actually sounds pretty believable. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Acts 16

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

Timothy was a good man and a disciple but his father was Greek. He wanted to join Paul and Silas so they circumcised him "because of the Jews who were in those places" then they let him join them.

Are the Jews going to check that he is circumcised? Society sure has changed in 2000 years.

The Macedonian Call

They went through a bunch of places that the holy spirit forbid them from preaching at, they were forbidden from speaking the word in Asia. Then the holy spirit told them to go to Macedonia.

Is this perhaps a justification of the authors of the Bible for why Christianity is not present in Asia. It seems out of place to me.

The Conversion of Lydia

They came to a city and were talking to a group of women. God opened the heart of a woman named Lydia and she became a believer. She and her family were then baptized and she invited the disciples to stay with her.

What does it mean that God opened her heart? Is this breaking free will or anything? I guess it depends on what that really means. If she needs to have her heart opened to listen to the word of God and become saved, why wouldn't God open everyone's heart? Doesn't really seem fair.

Paul and Silas in Prison

A slave girl had a spirit who let her do fortune telling and brought much profit to her owners. He was following around Paul for days shouting to everyone about who they are and what they are doing. Paul got annoyed so he cast the spirit out of her. But her owners got pissed about it and had them thrown in jail.

More people being infected by spirits. I just don't like it.

The Philippian Jailer Converted

While they were in prison, there was an earthquake which opened all of the doors and broke all of the shackles on the prisoners. The jailer woke up and was about to kill himself because he thought that the prisoners had all escaped, but Paul cried out that he should stop because they were still there. So he asked them how he could be saved and they told him, he converted and was baptized with his family. Then the magistrates sent word that they should be let go from prison. But Paul said that he has been publicly humiliated and now is being let go in secret, he says he won't leave until they get a proper apology. When those in power heard they were Roman citizens they were afraid so they came and apologized and let them go.

This story is less believable than the resurrection story. First an earthquake not only opens the doors to the cells but breaks their bonds, then the jailer tries to kill himself before even looking if the prisoners have run away. Then later they get pardoned and complain that they didn't get a nice enough apology and stay in prison until they get one, and those in power actually comply. Are you kidding me?


Note: I am out of town for about a week. There will not be a disruption is posts as I have front-loaded enough content to fill the void while I am gone, however, I will most likely not be responding to any comments until I get back. If any comments do come from me this week please excuse typos as it means I am posting from my phone.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Acts 15

The Jerusalem Council

There was an argument as to whether the gentiles could worship with them as the gentiles were not circumcised. The disciples didn't seem to care because God didn't seem to care. Barnabas and Paul related everything that God had done through them and the council was amazed.

So why do Christians get circumcised then?

The Council's Letter to Gentile Believers

The council sent a letter welcoming the gentiles into the fold, and also told them to "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality."

Seems like a strange list to me. 

Paul and Barnabas Separate

They decided to revisit the cities they had been to recently and talk again to their new brothers, but they disagreed on where they should go and who they should bring so they split up.


Note: I am out of town for about a week. There will not be a disruption is posts as I have front-loaded enough content to fill the void while I am gone, however, I will most likely not be responding to any comments until I get back. If any comments do come from me this week please excuse typos as it means I am posting from my phone.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Book Review: Wool

This isn't like one of my normal posts, but I just finished reading this book and it was absolutely amazing so I thought it would be fun to share. Wool started as a short story but grew into a series. I don't want to give away too much as learning what is going on is a big part of the fun of reading it, but I'll say what I can. I tried to write something but I'm afraid of accidentally giving something away so I am going to copy the description of the first book.
Thousands of them have lived underground. They've lived there so long, there are only legends about people living anywhere else. Such a life requires rules. Strict rules. There are things that must not be discussed. Like going outside. Never mention you might like going outside.
Or you'll get what you wish for.
There were a number of characters that I really felt attached to by the end of the book, and there were quite a few twists and turn in the plot. Some of them I saw coming and some I didn't, but I enjoyed the hell out of all of it. I definitely recommend checking this one out.


Note: I am out of town for about a week. There will not be a disruption is posts as I have front-loaded enough content to fill the void while I am gone, however, I will most likely not be responding to any comments until I get back. If any comments do come from me this week please excuse typos as it means I am posting from my phone.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blogs I Follow

As I have mentioned in the bottom of my posts this week, I am out of town right now. I figured a good way to write up a quick post here would be to simply share with you guys the blogs that I try to follow on a daily basis.  I actually have a fairly long list that I keep my eye on, but there are a few that I really enjoy and try to read every post.

Deity Shmeity by Grundy: An atheist blogger like myself. He takes on serious issues with a sense of humor. I like his style.

Reason Being: Also and atheist blogger. Very interesting posts and usually a bit more serious. Very thoughtful well thought out posts. I really like the attention to detail.

Perfect Chaos: A christian blogger who believes that God is everywhere in everything and is in complete control of everything. I don't think I have agreed with a single thing he has said, but I have had some pretty interesting conversations over there.

The Atheist-Friendly Christian: The title of his blog pretty much explains it. I've had some interesting discussions over there as well.


Note: I am out of town for about a week. There will not be a disruption is posts as I have front-loaded enough content to fill the void while I am gone, however, I will most likely not be responding to any comments until I get back. If any comments do come from me this week please excuse typos as it means I am posting from my phone.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Acts 14

Paul and Barnabas at Iconium

Paul and Barnabas went to Iconium to preach the word of Jesus. The town was divided, some believed while others didn't. The people who didn't believe got together with the town rules and decided to stone the disciples. They heard of this so they fled.

More stories of the disciples spreading the word. I suppose this would be interesting to someone who wanted to know how the early church was spread, but I don't find it particularly interesting myself. *shrug*

Paul and Barnabas at Lystra

Paul and Barnabas got to Lystra and there was a man crippled from birth who had never walked. They talked to him about Jesus and he had faith, so they told him to get up and walk and he was healed. Everyone in the town was happy so they called Paul and Barnabas Zeus and Hermes and wanted to sacrifice oxen and garlands. Paul and Barnabas were barely able to stop them.

They heal a guy and the town integrates the event into their own mythology. Not surprising.

Paul Stoned at Lystra

Jews from Antioch and Iconium joined those in Lystra and stoned Paul and drug him out of the city thinking he was dead. But the disciples gathered around him and he rose up.

So was he dead and was revived or were the Jews just mistaken about that?

They went on to Derbe and made many disciples there. Then they returned to Lystra and Iconium and Antioch and strengthened the resolve of the disciples there.

Paul and Barnabas Return to Antioch in Syria

Paul and Barnabas returned they told everyone what God had done through them and opened the doors for the gentiles to join them. They did not stay long with the other disciples.

Oh, this is the first time they opened up the teaching to non-jews? I didn't realize that.


Note: I am out of town for about a week. There will not be a disruption is posts as I have front-loaded enough content to fill the void while I am gone, however, I will most likely not be responding to any comments until I get back. If any comments do come from me this week please excuse typos as it means I am posting from my phone.
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