Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Greatest Story Ever Told

While I was growing up, we would go through the Easter story every year, we would read about the last supper, Peter denying Jesus 3 times, the scene with Barabas, the random woman trying to help Jesus carry the cross and getting pushed aside, the death on the cross, the resurrection, and let's not forget doubting Tomas. But the focus of the story was the reason for all of this, so that we could get to heaven. God is so great, he loved us so much that he was willing to sacrifice his only son so that we could escape hell and make it to heaven. What a great God!

But is he really? As with many religious stories that I heard as a kid, they really only make sense if you don't think about it too much. Let's start with the heart of the story, that God wants us all to get to heaven but we are destined for hell. Why is that exactly? Ultimately God created everything, including hell and the rules that send us there. So if God really wanted us to go to heaven he could have just set the rules up like that in the first place, or just change the rules midstream by snapping his fingers, there's no obvious reason why sacrificing his son would be necessary.

And while we are talking about that, how much of a sacrifice is it really? According to the story, Jesus is in heaven with God right now is he not? His sacrifice was sending his son off for a bad weekend. I don't mean to be glib here, I don't think anyone would want to spend a weekend in hell, but sacrifice seems to be a strange way to describe the situation. I think saying that Jesus endured a trial would be more accurate than to say he sacrificed his life. Soldiers (and their families) sacrifice far more when they go to war, without omniscience they don't know if they will ever come back, and even if they do come back completely unharmed, what they have given up is much more than what God and Jesus gave up since the soldiers will live at best to around 100 years old, while God and Jesus are infinite beings.

I've recently been seeing a lot of people call the resurrection story the greatest story ever told (this has probably been happening for a long time, but it's the first time I've noticed). I think this must come from looking at the story very superficially. If you take it at face value that God had to sacrifice his son in order to save everybody it seems like he has done an amazing thing. Especially if you had kids, I can imagine it being very powerful, the thought of giving up your kid is unimaginably, the thought of God being willing to do that is amazing. But as I've argued, this isn't a very apt description of what happened. Perhaps a more accurate analogy would be if you threatened to lock up all of the neighborhood kids in your basement for a year, but then offered to let them off the hook if your kid would spend the night down there. Is that father a hero or a monster?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

How Can the Gospels be both Copied and Contradictory?

I've been trying to read more Christian blogs lately in an effort to branch out a little bit, I certainly don't want to live inside a bubble of my own making. As a result I have been coming across a fair number of apologetic arguments, which quite often aggravate me because of how ridiculous and stupid tend to be. This particular argument is bad enough that I would normally completely ignore it, except that I have seen it a few times in the last month. It is an attempt to make atheists look silly by asking how it is possible that the gospels can be contradictory and also be copied. Of course the answer is simple, there are parts of the gospels that are copied from each other and other parts that are contradictory. Nobody is claiming that the entirety of Mark (say) is an exact copy of Matthew, but that certain passages are copies of other passages.

What really bugs me about these kinds of claims is that the people making them know they are bullshit. Of course it is possible for a book to have copied passages as well as contradictory ones. But they don't care, they can straw man our arguments until they are unrecognizable and make fun of the result and their listeners will believe it is representative of what we say because they are trained to not question their leaders. They aren't supposed to think critically about things, they are supposed to have faith.

I think the real reason I have such a reaction to this kind of thing is because I know that when I was a kid/teenager I would have totally fallen for it. If my pastor or a religious person my parents were listening to on the radio said something, I'd believe it. Why not? They are men of God, I can trust them. If they say that atheists make these stupid arguments who am I to question it? Luckily I eventually grew up and realized that I had been lied to, but most people never do this for some reason. It's part of the reason I started writing this blog, I'd like to think if I had come across this type of writing when I was still a Christian I could have left the religion sooner.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Genesis 17: God Likes You, But Not Your Foreskin

Check out today's episode

Abraham and the Covenant of Circumcision (v. 1-14)

God comes to Abram (and renames him Abraham) when he's 99 and tells him, once again, that he will make him the father of a multitude of nations, and that kings will come from him. He says that his offspring will control the land of Canaan forever. But him and any male in his line must be circumcised. This includes people born of his house or bought with their money from foreigners.

First, I'm tired of this promise from God. This is what, the fouth time it has been mentioned? God is promising them someone else's land, it's not cool. Also, this is clearly an endorsement of slavery.

Once again from Guzik, God talking to Abram must be Jesus.

Most of the commentaries completely ignored the issue of slavery, but John Calvin takes the position that this is a good turn for the slaves, they are being accepted into the house.

Isaac's Birth Promised (v. 15-27)

God promises that Abraham and Sarah (formerly Sarai, renamed by God for some reason) would have a son and they should name him Isaac. Abraham laughed because he's 100 and Sarah is 90, but God said it would happen anyway. Isaac would be part of the covenant, and even Ishmael would father 12 princes and he would be the head of a great nation. So Abraham gathered up all of the men in his house and circumcised everyone.
pic found here
I really hope Isaac is actually born tomorrow and we can move on. I'm tired of God promising Abra(ha)m a son and that he will own someone else's land. It's boring, its the same crap every day. Time to move on.

For the verses of note post:


Genesis 17:8 God promising Abram's kids Canaan, even though Canaanites already live there

"And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God."


Genesis 17:12 God approves of slaves, as long as they are circumcised

"He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring"

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Quran Project

Recently Sheldon started a Quran project over on his blog. He's going to read a little bit of the Quran at a time and comment on it. He said that he will somewhat pattern his posts after the ones here, so if you like what I do I definitely recommend checking his stuff out. And I gotta say, when I saw that he has been inspired (at least in part) by my blog to do something similar with the Quran, that was a damn good day. My intention when I started the blog was to learn about these holy books, hopefully along with other people and have some good conversations. To think additional learning and conversations will be started on the blog of a friend is pretty cool.

Go check out his stuff!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Genesis 16: Abram Bangs the Maid

Check out today's episode

Sarai and Hagar (v. 1-16)

Abram's wife Sarai said that the lord had prevented her from having a child, so she gave her servant Hagar to her husband to take as a wife.

I love that Sarai says that God prevented her from getting pregnant. It actually reminds me of a scene from Sandman where Lucifer is complaining that everyone blames him for everything bad they do
Why do they blame me for all their little failings? They use my name as if I spent my entire days sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commits acts they would otherwise find repulsive. "The devil made me do it." I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.
Anyway, this is a mentality that I unfortunately see still today, bad things can't just happen, there has to be some pulling strings to make it happen, whether it be God or the devil.

Oh yeah, and let's not gloss over the polygamy that just happened, according to this story. I was actually curious about the wording, what does "as a wife" mean?Perhaps it just means to have sex with her, but not actually for her to be his wife or something. I looked at some alternate translations, and this just seems to be incorrect, most of the translations say that Hagar would be his wife. I think it is safe to say we are talking about polygamy here.

Interesting, according to Guzik this is an arrangement where the child would be considered Sarai and Abram's, rather than Hagar and Abram. Perhaps wife isn't the right word, but we don't have an appropriate word for it. I'm not really sure what to make of it then.

So Hagar gets pregnant and she looks on Sarai with contempt. Sarai complains to Abram who tells Sarai that Hagar is her slave and Sarai could do as she wishes with Hagar. So Sarai treated her harshly and she fled.

This story is terrible. Sarai and Abram have trouble getting pregnant. Sarai blames God and then let's Abram marry and bang her servant to give him a son. When that actually happens she doesn't like Hagar's attitude and complains to Abram. He apparently doesn't care about his new wife and unborn child at all because he tells Sarai to do whatever she wants, and she winds up being so terrible that Hagar runs off. Who exactly is supposed to be the good guy here?

From Guzik
Abram was certainly in the flesh when he agreed to inseminate Hagar and not trusting in God’s ability to provide an heir through Sarai. But this wasn’t a matter of a sensual romance. According to the custom of the day, Hagar would actually sit on the lap of Sarai as Abram inseminated her, to show that the child would legally belong to Sarai, as Hagar was merely a substitute for Sarai.
Whoa. One more quote from him.
Sarai blamed the whole situation on Abram, and for good cause. He should have acted as the spiritual leader and told his wife God was able to perform what He promised, and they didn’t need to try to “help God out” in the works of the flesh.
I agree that Abram should have done that, but Sarai has to take some of the blame too, she initiated all of this.

While Hagar was away an angel of the lord met up with her and told her that she should go back and submit to Sarai. He also said that she should name the child Ishmael and that her descendants would be numerous and that Ishmael would be "a wild donkey of a man".

What does being a wild donkey of a man mean? Is it good?

From Guzik talking about the angel of the lord:
We can assume that this was God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, appearing to Abraham before His incarnation and birth at Bethlehem. We assume this because of God the Father it says, No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18), and no man has ever seen God in the Person of the Father (1 Timothy 6:16). Therefore, if God appeared to someone in human appearance in the Old Testament (and no one has seen God the Father) it makes sense the appearance is of the eternal Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, before His incarnation in Bethlehem.
They are so desperate to insert Jesus into the old testament they do it when it makes no sense. This wasn't even God appearing to them it was one of his angels, but even if it was God, saying it must have been Jesus is crazy
My comic archive

Also, I can't help but note that God promised Abram's descendants a bunch of land, of which Ismael surely qualifies. But when Sarai has a son later he will also be promised that same land. I looked up the wikipedia page and confirmed my vague recollection that Ishmael plays a significant role is Islam.  Is this shit the source of the fighting over the holy land? Not just that both sides think God promised them their land, but because, according to Christianity, God indeed promised both sides the land? That totally makes it worse.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Genesis 15: God Promises Other People's Land to Abram's Descendants Again

Check out today's episode

God's Covenant with Abram (v. 1-21)

God comes to Abram in a vision and tells him not to fear, that God will be his shield, and that he will be greatly rewarded.
pic found here
I have a few comments already, the first is that God is talking to Abram in a vision. Previously God just talked to Abram (example, in chapter 12), what is the significance of it being in a vision this time? And what exactly does God coming to him in a vision mean? Is it in a dream, a hallucination, or what? What information is being conveyed by saying God talked to Abram through a vision?

Jamieson, Fausset & Brown suggests that describing this as a vision indicates that a prophetic message is on the way. That certainly happened this time, I'll try to keep my eyes out for this in the future and see if it holds true in future.

Second, it is interesting that god tells Abram not to fear. I'm guessing we have all heard the term "God fearing", of course the context of this statement is that Abram is not supposed to fear his enemies because God is on his side. This all makes sense, if God is on your side why would you fear any mere human? Still, I find the use of fear here interesting.

Guzik points out that the reason God is telling Abram not to fear is because Abram has a good reason to fear right now. He just came through a battle where he defeated a large army with a small force, he should expect retaliation. God is saying he will protect him. Makes sense to me.

Abram then complains to God that he has no offspring, he complains that his heir will be a member of his house. God responds that he will give him a son and his offspring will be as numerous as the stars and Abram believed God.

I'm not sure what "a member of my house" means. My best guess is that his heir would be a nephew instead of his own son, anyone know if that is correct?

Guzik's interpretation here is that Abram appreciates that he is going to help him, but what is the point of saving him if he has no offspring. This helps me actually, when I read the text itself, it felt like a non sequitur to me, but from this perspective it makes some sense. Good. As to whether Abram was doubting that God would give him offspring, Guzik has this to say
Did Abram’s question mean he doubted God? Yes. But there is a difference between a doubt that denies God’s promise and a doubt which desires God’s promise. Abram wants to believe and is looking to God to strengthen his faith.
This is an interesting statement to me. Denying God's promise sounds to me like not believing in God, or at least in what he says, desiring God's promise but doubting it sounds like it means that you believe in God and his promise, but you aren't sure if he will come through. The second sounds worse than the first to me.

God goes on to say that Abram's descendants would possess the land, and Abram asks how he can be sure. God then tell him to go get a bunch of animals to sacrifice to him, a three year old heifer, a three year old female goat, a three year old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon. Abram did that and cut them in half (except the birds) and put them on top of one another.

Wait what? This is a bizarre interaction, first God promises some land to Abram's descendants and Abram doesn't seem to trust that God will follow through, even though God just told him he would give him a miraculous son and there was no hesitation in believing that. In response to him asking how he would know about it, God tells him to gather a bunch of animals for sacrifice. I just have a hard time seeing what one thing has to do with the other.

Guzik justifies this by saying it is the kind of thing Abram would have expected, it is a serious contract signed in blood.

After the sun went down Abram fell asleep and a great darkness fell upon him. God tells him that his offspring will be slaves in a land they don't control for 400 years, but then he will bring great judgment upon nation that they serve and they will come out with great possessions. 

Such a strange action for an all-loving all-powerful God, setting things up this way requires generations of people to live in servitude, why? Also, this chapter started with God telling Abram not to fear because God was on his side, and yet his offspring will certainly fear for hundreds of years.

You, Abram, will die in old age and be buried, after 4 generations you offspring will come back and I will give them this land, the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.

Yet again, God is promising other people's land to Abram's descendants. This only makes God look good if you only consider one perspective, it's great for Abram's people, but what about the people who are getting screwed in this deal?

For the "Verses of Note" post:


Genesis 15:1 God tells Abram not to fear enemies since God is on his side

"After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: 'Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.'"


Genesis 15:18-21 God promises other people's land to Abram's descendants AGAIN

"On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites."


Genesis 15:13 God tells Abram his descendants will be slaves for hundreds of years (see other translations)

"Then the LORD said to Abram, 'Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.'"

Genesis 15:14 God punishes people for enslaving Abram's descendants.

"But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions."

Monday, March 25, 2013

Genesis 13 & 14: Abram Saves Lot

Check out today's episode

Abram and Lot Separate (ch. 13 v. 1-18)

Abram was very rich in livestock, silver, and gold, and Lot also had flocks, herds, and tents. The land could not support them both and there was strife between them. Abram didn't like this fact, and decided the best way to fix it would be to separate, he told Lot to choose a direction to spread out and he would go in the opposite direction.

Abram and Lot get along, but they are getting in each other's way a bunch. So Abram looks at the situation and finds a simple solution to the problem. Seems good to me.

Guzik reminds us that Abram actually disobeyed God by bringing Lot along in the first place. He links this to the strife between the two of them.

Lot settled near Sodom and Abram settled in the land of Canaan. The Sodomites were wicked, great sinners against the lord. And the land of Canaan was currently had Canaanites and Perizzites dwelling there.

It makes me wonder why they chose these places. Lot decided to settle down near a bunch of sinners and Abram decided to settle in a land which is already filled with two different groups of people. Perhaps it is like this everywhere (or at least everywhere decent). Maybe there are people everywhere, and in particular sinners everywhere. *shrug*

A second time, God has promised the land of Canaan to Abram even though there are already people in the land. This time he specifically says that he will give his offspring the land forever. He also says that his offspring will be uncountable.

Once again, how is this fair to the people already there?

Abram Rescues Lot (ch. 14 v. 1-16)

There was a bunch of war in the area where Lot had settled down and at some point he got taken along with a bunch of other people. Abram heard word of this and took 318 trained men and was able to save Lot along with others.

Sounds good, Abram is basically a hero here right? Heard a member of his family was in trouble and went and saved him.

Map found here
Abram Blessed by Melchizedek (ch. 14 v. 17-24)

Malchizedek (who apparently also benefited from Abram's victory) blessed Abram. Abram then told him he could have a tenth of everything. He replied that he would take people, but for Abram to keep the goods for himself. Abram replied that God told him not to take anything from the king, otherwise he would be able to claim to have made Abram rich.

I'm a little confused by the 10% thing and then the "I won't take a single thing". Perhaps it was 10% of everything Abram had? Whatever, the heart of the matter is Abram doesn't want to take anything from the king and it seems that Abram has set the terms in such a way that was either fair, or if anything in favor of the king. It actually seems like pretty good diplomacy here, Abram got what he was actually after, the safety of his nephew, and he was fair (or more than fair) to his neighboring lands. If they have dealings in the future you would expect them to go well.

There's only one aspect of this that seems a little off to me, he told the king of Sodom that he doesn't want to take anything so the king can't claim to have made him rich in the future. Put yourself in the king's shoes there, do you feel a little insulted? I'm actually not sure myself, but this angle did occur to me. Perhaps he would just laugh it off, or perhaps he would even say "you're right, I would use that as leverage on you in the future" and he would respect him for being shrewd. Who knows.

Very minor point, but interesting, from Guzik here. He says that Abram is not supposed to let another man claim he has made Abram rich because the credit is supposed to go 100% toward God.

What was good about today's reading?
Abram dealt with a few difficult situations in a pretty reasonable way. But I already mentioned that didn't I? I think this whole "find the good and put it in green" thing is a bad idea, when I come across good I highlight it along the way, and I really do try to give the benefit of the doubt as much as I can. I think it is a good idea for me to keep trying to make sure to find any good parts I can and bring them up (and please, call me out on it if I miss something), but I don't like the way this is going. No more of this green text.

For the verses of note page:


Genesis 14:22-24 Share the spoils of war

"But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have lifted my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, 'I have made Abram rich.' I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me."


Genesis 14:14 Go to extreme measures to help family

"When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan."

--Interpersonal Conflict--

Genesis 13:9 Abram prevents further conflict with Lot

"Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left."


Genesis 13:12,15 God promises other people's land to Abram, agian

"Abram settled in the land of Canaan...for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever."

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Social Media

Recently I have been thinking about my twitter account, which I haven't really been using much lately. I've had some interesting conversations on there, but for the most part I have found it somewhat frustrating. The 140 character limit makes having deep conversations difficult, it is interesting for sure, but certainly limiting. Furthermore, it seems that if you offend people and enough of them report you it can result in a ban. Someone who was banned (I can't remember who) said the only theists they talked to had posted to the atheism hashtag. This makes me think twice every time I get into a conversation with a theist which defeats one of the big reasons I started twitter in the first place. The other reason of course, is to promote the blog, which I haven't been doing much but I think I'm going to start doing a little more over there from now on.

But then I asked myself why I should stop at twitter? Why not expand to facebook and Google+ as well? As long as I'm making an effort to link my posts to twitter, it should take almost no extra time to also do it in facebook and G+ at the same time, and both of those places seem much more suited to a good conversation than twitter. We'll see how that works in reality, but it certainly seems like it's worth a shot.

While I was thinking about giving people more ways to see my content, youtube popped into my head. I was thinking about putting my podcast into video form and putting them up on youtube. I always thought it would be cool if people listening to the podcast would read along, but figured nobody ever would (hell, I don't follow along when I listen to thomas and the bible). But if I put them on youtube I can have the text on the screen while I'm reading it. Seemed like it was worth a shot. I did Genesis 1 today, and it was a bit of work but doesn't seem like it will be overwhelming. We will see if I wind up sticking with it, but I'm currently optimistic about it.

So anyway, now I need to be friends with people on facebook, put people in circles on G+, and get subscribers on youtube. If you use any of those things please feel free add me. And of course if you aren't following me on twitter that's good too.

Thanks guys

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Putting up a Smoke Screen

Love spy hunter (pic from wired)
I recently saw a post by an apologist on the problem of evil. His post was a response to the question of why does God allow such horrible things to happen, and it was in three parts, past present and future. For the past, he said that God hates evil so much he allowed his son to die for it, in the present, he stops some evil and the world would be worse off if God wasn't intervening, and for the future he referenced judgement day.

As far as I'm concerned, the present part of his argument is all that is relevant to the problem of evil. The fact that Jesus died on the cross is a smoke screen here, whether or not Jesus died on the cross, tragedies still happen, same with judgement at the end, it doesn't change the fact that innocent people suffer all the time.

So that is where I focused and argued that "it could be worse" is not a very good argument. An all powerful, all knowing God shouldn't allow these tragedies to happen at all. I also pointed out that this argument will never have an end, no matter how bad it gets, you can always just say it would be worse without God.

He answered back that no, his argument isn't just that it could be worse, but then he simply referenced his other argument and said that God defeated evil by sacrificing his son. He never really answered my complaint. After a very short back and forth he stopped answering my questions. I'd like to say he could tell he was beat and ran away, but he probably thought he won, that is the way these debates usually goes I suppose.

As far as I'm concerned, the whole "Jesus died on the cross" as an answer is just a smoke screen.  It doesn't answer the problem of evil at all. The only remaining question in my mind is whether the author of that other blog knows exactly what he is doing, putting up a smoke screen to obscure a question that he can't really answer, or if he is blinded by his own poor argument.

This is a tactic I see apologists using quite frequently on a wide variety of topics. When asked a question they will answer a different question, or appeal to something that is completely irrelevant. It's pretty irritating, and I'm not really sure what the best way to deal with it is. I suppose the only thing to do is keep trying to get back to the other point and challenge them to answer it satisfactorily. At the very least, hopefully it will be possible to highlight what they are doing for any onlookers.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Genesis 12: Abram is a Coward

Check out today's episode

The Call of Abram (v. 1-9)

God told Abram to travel from his country and leave his kindred and he would make a great nation for Abram. God says he will bless those who honor Abram and curse those who dishonor him. With such a promise, Abram predictably packed up and left, he took his wife Sarai and his brother's son Lot. He also took all of their possessions and "the people that they had acquired in Haran" and set out to Canaan.

So far this story seems reasonable, if God promised you a great nation I why wouldn't you set out to found it? I do wonder about the people that Abram had "acquired" though. It sounds like slavery at first, but is it really? The best thing here seems to be to look at different translations, 2 say it is slaves and 3 say it is servants. Quite a few say "acquired" like this one, I'm going to go out on a limb and say these are Abram's slaves.

As Abram passed through Canaan, the Canaanites were there and God appeared to Abram and said he would give the land to Abram's offspring, so Abram built an altar to the lord.

Umm...What about the Canaanites? Why is it okay for God to just take the land from them to give to Abram's kids?

As usual, these points are either never considered or completely ignored. Guzik has only this to say on the subject
Abram never owned any of this land except his burial plot (Genesis 23:14-20). Yet God’s promise was enough evidence to assure Abram that he did indeed own the whole country.
There is no mention of how unfair this is to the Canaanites. 

Gill doesn't mention how unfair this is to the Canaanites, although he does point out that since God is talking to Abram he must be in human form, and therefore it must be Jesus. Hows that for a few leaps of logic?

Speaking of leaps in logic, Matthew Henry seems to be interested in demonizing the Canaanites here, I guess part of him can recognize how unfair this whole thing is and he has to find a way to justify it. He says that they are "likely to be but bad neighbors and worse landlords" and that they are accursed. He also said this about Abram's arrival in Canaan.
One would have expected that Abram having had such an extraordinary call to Canaan some great event should have followed upon his arrival there, that he would have been introduced with all possible marks of honour and respect, and that the kings of Canaan should immediately have surrendered their crowns to him, and done him homage. But no; he comes not with observation, little notice is taken of him, for still God will have him to live by faith, and to look upon Canaan, even when he was in it, as a land of promise
I don't think the Canaanites are even aware that Abram was coming (it just says Abram was passing through), or that God has promised him their land. Why would they react this way? It's crazy to me how much extra stuff is necessary people put in these stories to try to make sense of them.

Abram kept travelling, when he went through Bethel he stopped and built an altar to the lord, then continued on toward Negeb.

How many altars does the lord need? What does it take to make an altar? Seems like it would be an annoying part of travelling with Abram.

Abram and Sarai in Egypt (v. 10-20)

Due to a famine Abram went down to Egypt. Since his wife Sarai was so beautiful he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him to get her, so they pretended she was his sister. When they saw her they took as a wife for the Pharaoh and gave Abram a bunch of stuff for her (sheep, oxen, donkeys and servants). But then God plagues at Pharaoh and somehow he realized the cause was Sarai. So Pharaoh brought in Abram and asked why he told him Sarai was his sister instead of his wife. He returned Sarai to Abram and let them go with all of their stuff.

Matthew Henry addresses the fact that there is a famine in one place and apparently plenty in another
See how wisely God provides that there should be plenty in one place when there was scarcity in another, that, as members of the great body, we may not say to one another, I have no need of you. God’s providence took care there should be a supply in Egypt, and Abram’s prudence made use of the opportunity
So the fact that there was food somewhere is proof of God? Ridiculous. This reminds me of people who escape an accident where a bunch of other people died and thank God that they lived. With this type of logic there is no way for God to lose.

Wow this is a terrible story. First, Abram is a huge coward. Out of the blue he just assumes that since his wife is so beautiful that Pharaoh is going to kill him for her. His solution isn't to fight for her, or simply go somewhere other than Egypt, he just decides to give her to the Pharaoh. 

Guzik points out that the lie is actually a half truth, as Sarai is Abram's half sister, he references Genesis 20:12 (also mentioned by Gill). Note that Guzik does go on to condemn the lie, the fact that it is a half truth is not an excuse as the intention was to deceive which is what is important. 

The flavor text should read
"All creatures are now named Abram"
Wizards of the Coast
Second, he's apparently greedy as hell. When Pharaoh gave Abram a dowry for his wife, he demonstrated he was at least somewhat honorable. Abram could have cancelled the whole thing and come clean right then, but instead he took all of the wealth he was given for his wife. Also, when Sarai was given back to him he apparently didn't give back the dowry.

From Matthew Henry
We cannot think that Abram expected this when he came down into Egypt, much less that he had an eye to it when he denied his wife; but God brought good out of evil. And thus the wealth of the sinner proves, in some way or other, to be laid up for the just.
What about this story tells us that the Pharaoh was evil or that Abram was just? The Pharaoh did nothing wrong here and got totally screwed.

Third, Abram is apparently a horrible judge of character, the Pharaoh is clearly an honorable man. Think about this story from his perspective, a beautiful woman comes into town, it turns out she is single and travelling with her brother. So as is customary, he takes her as his wife and pays the brother. Later his is afflicted with plagues and finds out that his new wife was actually married to the man you thought was her brother. He is pissed at the guy and yells at him, but ultimately returns the woman and sends them on their way in an effort to make the plagues go away. Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy in this story?

Gill says that since these are a lustful people, they would rather be guilty of murder than adultery, which is why he was afraid of them killing him to get Sarai. This is apparently wrong based on how the story ended, yet it is still the justification given.

I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find anything good to say about this story, but Matthew Henry said something that I suppose would quality. He said that this is a story where we are supposed to admonish him even though he is one of God's chosen. I suppose then the lesson is that everyone can make mistakes. Seems like a stretch, but all I can come up with.

For the "Verses of Note" post:


Genesis 12:11-13 Abram is willing to give up his wife for his own safety

"When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, 'I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, 'This is his wife.' Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.'"


Genesis 12:15-16,20 Abram took a dowry for Sarai and didn't give them back at the end

"And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels...And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had."


Genesis 12:6-7 God promises to give someone else's land to Abram's descendants

"...At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your offspring I will give this land...'"

Genesis 12:17-18 God punished Pharaoh even though the whole situation was Abram's fault

"But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram's wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said, "What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?"


Genesis 12:5 Abram owns slaves (look at multiple translations)

"And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran,"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Genesis 10 & 11: God Doesn't Want You to Succeed

Check out today's episode

Nations Descended from Noah (ch. 10 v. 1-32)

A huge worthless list of genealogies, guess I'll do two chapters today. The only thing in this chapter that was even mildly interesting was that Ham the ancestor of Canaan, Sodom, and Gomorrah. All places that were "evil" and eventually will suffer a bad fate at the hand of God. 

Oh, also in the middle there is a guy named Nimrod who was the first "mighty man", whatever that means.

The Tower of Babel (ch. 11 v. 1-9)

The section starts off by describing the material that the bricks and mortar would be made from. I didn't mention it myself as I thought it was uninteresting, but Guzik says that they are waterproof, and this is evidence that the people didn't believe God when he said he wouldn't flood the earth again. That seem idiotic to me, do you really think a tower would stand a global flood just because it is waterproof? And if it would that God couldn't just strike it with lightning or something.

Everyone spoke the same language, and a bunch of people settled in the land of Shinar. They said they wanted to build a huge tower with the top in the heavens, otherwise they would be dispersed over the whole earth.

I'm not really sure how these 2 things are connected, the way this reads there are 2 options, either build a tower to the heavens or spread out on the earth. Is this tower full of condos? That might make sense "we need to build a bunch of condos, otherwise we will have to spread out to find a place to live". Seriously though, it seems like a weird dichotomy to me. Also, it doesn't say "tower to heaven", it says "tower with a top in the heavens". I'm not totally sure of the significance here, but it seems important.

Guzik definitely focuses on this detail, these people are being disobedient to God as they are building the tower instead of dispersing.

He also addresses the heaven vs heavens thing...sorta. I'll just quote it as it is hilarious
The top of the tower was intended to be in the heavens. It is doubtful they thought they could build a tower to heaven. It is more likely they built the tower as an observation point of the heavens.
Yeah, it's not ridiculous now. He also says
If they really wanted to build a tower to reach heaven, it is unlikely they would start on the plain of Shinar, which is about Sea Level. Common sense says they would start on one of the a nearby mountains.
Fair enough, but doesn't that logic also hold if they are trying to avoid a global flood? 

God came down to see the city and the tower, he said that this is just the beginning and that nothing will be impossible for them. Therefore, he came down and confused everyone's speech so they couldn't understand one another. They dispersed instead of building the city and the tower.

First, God is clearly not omniscient in this story, as he had to come down to check out the city and the tower. 

Second, why does he not want people to be able to do stuff? It very specifically says that God confuses their language because they will be able to accomplish anything they want if he doesn't. It's not because they are trying to reach heaven, it's because they will be able to do anything. What is god afraid of here?
My Comic Archive
The way Guzik tries to explain this is that God is putting a check on the power of the fallen nature of man. He then cites the evils of 20th century men. So basically, God just delayed these things, he didn't actually stop it. Well done. He also says this is more mercy than judgement, again, if this were true wouldn't God have to come back and do this over and over again as soon as a critical mass of people speak the same language?

Third, who is God talking to? verse 7 "let us go down and confuse their language". I'm guessing Christians will say that he is talking to angels, but I bet he's supposed to be talking to other Gods.

Guzik goes a different way than I was expecting, he say it is a reference to the trinity. He also says that when God came down he was in the form of Jesus, I love how they just make this stuff up.

Guzik talks for 3 paragraphs about how language must be from God and can't be man figuring it out on his own. He says that the only way linguists can explain it without God is if language went through and evolutionary process. Yeah, no shit. I guess if you don't believe in evolution that argument looks like a slam dunk, but really it just makes him look stupid.

Guzik also mentions that after people spread out they have to get by in different environments and have different stresses and with small populations their small genetic differences spread quickly. He's basically describing evolution, well done. I'm sure he would say "it's micro-evolution not macro-evolution", of course what he doesn't understand is that they are the same thing on different time scales.

Finally, Guzik says that man rebelling shows that people are no better after the flood than they were before it.  Now God will start to make man better by starting with a man who will do his will. Why didn't he just do that with Noah then? If people are just as evil now as they were before then what was the whole point of the Noah story?

What is good about this story?

This is a new thing I'm trying, which I mentioned a few days ago. I want to try to find a good angle on the story, or at least explain why people have thought it valuable for thousands of years. The only thing I can really think of here is that it attempts to explains why we have languages. For people who don't understand how language could evolve, this would give them an answer. That's basically what all old myths are for right? To give an explanation when the real answer is out of reach.

Shem's Descendants (ch. 11 v. 10-26)

Just a bunch of genealogies. I suppose one interesting bit is that people seem to be living shorter lives as time goes on.

Terah's Descendants (ch 11 v. 27-32)

There is nothing of value here.

For the "verses of note" post:


Genesis 11:6-7 God wants you to fail

"And the LORD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.'"


Genesis 11:4 They didn't want to follow God's command to spread out on the earth

"Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.'"

--Properties of God--

Genesis 11:5 God is not omniscient or omnipresent

"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What RSS reader do you use?

On my first day back I didn't have time to do a bible post, but I did see that google reader is being retired. This is a bummer because it works fine and I have it set up already, now I need to find a new RSS reader. Any one have a suggestion?

While we are talking about these things, what program do you guys use to listen to podcasts? I use google listen, which is apparently also retired. Perhaps it is time to update that as well.

Monday, March 18, 2013

2 ideas

Hey everybody, I'm still on vacation, and even though I've decided not to really do any blog stuff, it has apparently been sitting on the back of my mind a little. I have 2 thoughts about the way things are going with the old testament, and in a way they sort of pull in opposite directions.

First, I'm afraid I'm pushing things just a little too hard in the negative direction. Quite frankly, it's easy to do, as these stories are horrible. So far we have seen the creation stories, Cain and Abel, and the Noah story. I think these stories are terrible, and I find it bizarre that we tell them to kids. And yet, these stories have been told for thousands of years, there must be a good side to them somewhere, from some perspective. I want to try to find the good perspective on these stories and include them (If I recall correctly, Guzik has that at the front of his commentaries, so it should be easy for me to consider and include in my writeup). I'm not exactly sure where I want to put it, either out in front of the story, or at the end of the post, I'm not sure, I guess I'll do a little experimenting and see which format I like better. I was also thinking about doing it in another color, I like the black for regular and blue for commentary stuff, perhaps I'll put the good spin of the story in green or something. Again, I'll have to play with it a little bit to find something I like. Any thoughts or ideas on this stuff?

Second. In regards to some of the really bad stuff I've come across so far, the worst bit of it is how the Christian commentaries justify the horrible stuff. Given that they seem dead set on making the bible perfect, they have to justify everything, which is a problem as some of it is just awful. I think I would like to collect the really bad Christian justifications in one place for later reference. I was trying to figure out the best form for this, and realized that now that I am doing the verses of note post as I go, the overview posts at the end of each book are open. This seems like a good place for Christian justification summaries as well as a 1 or 2 sentence summary of each chapter.

Alright, back to soaking up some sun before I have to go back to the snow. See you in a few days.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Thanks to my Readers

I'm still out of town, so I will have a few days gap, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all of my readers and listeners. I've been having fun writing this blog and recording the podcast, and a huge part of what makes it fun is having readers, and having conversations with some of those readers through the comments and email.

A couple weeks ago I started Genesis and asked you guys to spread the word if you know anyone who would be interested as this seemed like a perfect time for someone to jump in. Clearly quite a few of you have done just that as I have seen better numbers than usual in the past few days. Thank you very much.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Guest Post: The Creation Myth Demystified

This will be the last of my guest posts from some friends who volunteered to help me out while I'm out of town for a few days. Today's entry comes from Cephus, who writes Bitchspot and of course is one of the hosts of the bitchspot report. He is a great writer and he comes from a conservative atheist perspective which is somewhat of a rarity it seems. If you have yet to check out his stuff I definitely recommend it.

Not long ago, we had a wonderful visit from Hausdorff on our podcast, The Bitchspot Report, where we discussed the absurdities of the Biblical account of creation.  However, at the time, we looked at them mostly as a simple Biblical narrative without acknowledging where the stories actually came from.  Most Christians simply accept that the stories in the Bible were original to the ancient Hebrews without the understanding that most ancient cultures were quite adept at plagiarism.  Joseph Campbell, the famous mythologist, referred to it euphemistically as “borrowing”, but there were many mythic elements that were  commonplace among ancient cultures that they “borrowed”  back and forth between their tales to lend them legitimacy.  This kind of thing is rampant throughout the Bible; even many of the miracles supposedly performed by Jesus were “borrowed” from other mythologies to make Jesus appear more acceptable.

I did promise to expand on the Babylonian mythology that predated the Hebrews and the clear similarities that exist between the Enuma Elish and the two creation stories that appear in the Bible.

Two, you ask?  Most certainly.  The first story appears in Genesis 1:1-2:3, but was actually the later of the two accounts, dating no earlier than the 6th century BCE and is part of the Priestly narrative.  The second, which starts in Genesis 2:4 is a far earlier and more primitive story which directly contradicts the first in many of the details and in the order of creation.  It can be dated to around the 9th century BCE and is part of the Yahwist narrative.  What many people don’t realize, especially most theists, is that there are four distinct styles of storytelling in the Pentateuch that have been woven together, the Priestly (P), Yahwist (J), Elohist (E) and Deuteronimist (D).  Each of these styles dates from a different time and has a different voice.  There are books written about each of these narrative styles, but to study them in detail goes outside of our stated purpose, therefore I think we’ll pay the most attention to the first creation story here; it is the most detailed and bears the most similarity to the Babylonian predecessor.  Please, don’t get the idea that they only “borrowed” from the Babylonians; there were many other myths common in the Middle East at the time from which they flagrantly stole.  There are elements of Hindu stories, Akkadian myths, Egyptian tales, etc. that run through the Bible.  However, that would be a book in itself so I’ll limit myself primarily to the Babylonian creation myths here, but may throw in a reference here and there to the others.

In order to really understand where these ideas come from, it’s important to have at least a basic grounding in the Babylonian mythic structure so I’ll give you a quick overview and try not to bore anyone too badly.

The Enuma Elish is a Babylonian epic, found on seven tablets.  Anthropologists believe it was read as part of a ritual performed at the Celebration of Akitu, the Babylonian New Year.  It details the Babylonian creation story, among other things, as a great war among the gods.  It begins with two great water dragons, the married gods Apsu, the dragon of the fresh water and Tiamat, the dragon of the salt water.  Within Tiamat are born other gods who live within her, but they make so much commotion that they perturb both Tiamat and Apsu.  Apsu wants to kill them so they can be in peace, but Tiamat disagrees.  And thus, a war begins.  The god Ea uses a spell to put Apsu to sleep and he is slain, pissing off Tiamat to no end.  She and her new consort, Kingu, set forth to conquer the gods that killed her first husband, creating 11 monsters.  In the end, Marduk, the son of Ea and the greatest of the gods, challenges Tiamat and kills her, using her body to create the world we see around us.
The order between the two tales is identical and it is clear where the ancient Hebrew writers “borrowed” content and modified it to their own purposes.  It is important to understand that ancient peoples didn’t look at stories the way we do today.  To them, a mythic story was a way of getting across an idea; it was not necessarily a means of transmitting facts.  Modern people can recognize that something like Aesop’s fairy tales can pass along a message without being a story about real things; they have problems accepting the same thing for ancient myths.  Unfortunately, when debating theists, we are often frustrated by their inability to treat the Bible as anything but a modern-day history when it is demonstrably anything but.        
Let’s start looking at this in more detail, shall we?  We can touch on each day of creation and see where the similarities lie.

Before Day 1:  Genesis 1:1-2 begins before the first day and so shall we.  It describes, as the Babylonian epic, that the world was not, in fact, nothingness; it was a vast sea, over which the “Spirit of God” hovers.  In the Babylonian, it was the great water dragons; here it is the vast waters.  This idea of divine spirits floating over the waters is commonplace, particularly in the aftermath of a terrible battle between the gods.  We have many such examples in mythology, Soshiosh battling Tiamat, Odin fighting Ymir, the gods of the Rg-Vedas battling Parusha, etc.  But wait, you might say, there is no sign of the “Spirit of God” fighting anyone here!  No, but there are signs elsewhere in the Bible, such as in the more ancient writings in Isaiah 27:1, where God is shown to be fighting with Leviathan.  In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, we find “In that day shall be distributed for food two monsters, a feminine monster whose name is Leviathan, dwelling in the depths of the  sea, above the springs of waters, and a male monster whose name is Behemoth.”  Remember those names, those will be important later on.

Day 1 (Genesis 1:3-5):  It seems odd that the Genesis account would list the creation of light before the creation of the sun, as though they were two different things.  In the Enuma Elish, light is said to emanate from the gods themselves and is quite different from the illumination that would later come from the sun.  This is a clear case where the ancient Hebrew writers “borrowed” a concept, yet did not understand the concept they were borrowing, otherwise why would there be light before the creation of the sun?  Modern day apologists try all kinds of hand-waving rationalizations for this but really can’t come up with a better explanation than the obvious, that the ancient Hebrews blew it.  However, the ancient Hebrews did leave us some clues as to their sources.  In the earliest manuscripts, “Day” and “Night” are capitalized, which gives us an indication of something more than the mundane meaning.  Remember, at this point, the earth had not been created, nor was there a sun or moon, thus this cannot refer to a traditional day/night cycle.  What we’re seeing here is called by the Hindus, “the Day and Night of Brahma the Creator” and refers to long periods of time in creation, measuring, according to some Hindus, 4,320,000,000 earthly years.
Day 2 (Genesis 1:6-8):  At this point in the Babylonian myth, Marduk, son of Ea, the god of wisdom, killed the evil dragon Tiamat and split her into two pieces.  The upper half was fixed into the sky, to keep the waters above separate from the waters below.  Both Hebrew and Babylonian cultures viewed the universe as a series of nested spheres, very similar to a set of Matryoshka dolls.  The earth was a curved bowl, above which was a solid, dome-shaped structure that held back the torrential waters of the sky.  The sun and the stars, which will be created later, were simply lights attached to the inside of the dome.  The word used for “firmament” in the Hebrew is “rakia”, which literally means “to beat metal into thin plates”.  Today, we know that the Earth is a mere speck of dust in a vast cosmic sea.  It’s understandable if a primitive people didn’t comprehend that, it’s not understandable if some all-knowing, all-powerful deity doesn’t.
Day 3 (Genesis 1:9-13):  On the third day, the gods in both pantheons have created the three levels of the cosmos, the heavens, the seas and the earth.  They are then populated in that order in both mythologies.  It is important to note that in Genesis, the concept of “ruling” is introduced, with the heavens “governing” the day and night and the cycles of the seasons.  In the Priestly tradition, the various religious rituals were based around the seasons and the cycles of the sun and moon.

Day 4 (Genesis 1:14-19):  Here, the gods put lights in the firmament.  The word used in Genesis is “ma’or”, which means “lamps”.  The Babylonian story, however, refers to gems and precious stones that shone.  As you can see in the illustration, the ancient view of cosmology is quite different from what we know today.  Surely an action deity would have known better, this is certainly the uninformed beliefs of primitive man, not some omniscient God.

Day 5 (Genesis 1:20-23):   We do not know if the Enuma Elish discusses the creation of animals, that story would appear on Tablet 5, but it is largely damaged and portions are missing, so I cannot speculate what may appear there.  Instead, we’ll touch on something I brought up earlier.  Remember I told you to remember the monsters fought by God?  This is a very common mythic theme that also appears in the Egyptian and Mesopotamian creation myths, but which is not as clear in the Hebrew myth unless you know where to look for it.  Far too many people assume that the Bible is a chronological work, where each book is written after the one that precedes it and before the one that comes after.  This is simply not true, there are books that are actually written before the creation account and these give us clues to the beliefs and culture of the Hebrew people.  As I said before, if we look at Isaiah 27:1, we find a story with God fighting the great serpent Leviathan, which is very similar to the Babylonian war with Tiamat.  In Psalm 74 we find “Thou breakest the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness.”  These passages betray a background very close to the idea of Apsu and Tiamat in the Enuma Elish.  So why does this not appear in the creation story?  Because the writers of the Priestly account need a superior being, one that does not need to fight for supremacy, it is already supreme.  However, all traces are not missing; let’s look at some more Hebrew.  To plug some Hebrew into Genesis 1:1, we see “In the beginning Elohim (many gods) bara (cut out, not created) the heavens and the earth. And the earth was tohu and bohu and darkness was on the surface of the tehom.”  Tehom, the word used for “deep” comes from the Akkadian word Tiamat, the dragon of Babylonian myth.  Tohu and bohu are two words mistranslated as “formless and void”, but as Professor Jeremias, the German orientalist says, “There can be no doubt that tohu is connected with Ti(h)amat and bohu with Behemoth.  Bohu is the equivalent of the Babylonian Apsu, the male mate of Tiamat.”  We come back to the concept of a council of gods cutting out the world from the skin of a great serpent, virtually identical to what appears in the Babylonian story.

Day 6 (Genesis 1:24-31):  And so we come to the creation of man.  In Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us make man.”  Us?  Yes, the word “Elohim” comes from the word “Alheim” and means a council, in this case, a council of the gods.  Numerologically, the council had 12 members and this number shows up throughout many cultures.  It makes sense, lifting this from the Babylonians, where there were multiple gods, but the Hebrews were very influenced by numerology and its symbolic meaning.  This is the same point in the Greek myths that the 12 Titans started creating man.  The name Adam first appears in Sumerian mythology as Adamah, which means “clay” or “clod of dirt”.  So too appears Eve as Heve.  In Sumerian, the word “ti” means both “rib” and “to make alive”.  In the Babylonian myth, the goddess Ninti is called “the lady of the rib” and also “the lady who makes alive”.  In their creation story, she is made by the god Nimhursag to heal Enki’s sick rib.  So too is Eve created from Adam’s rib to be his helpmate.

Day 7 (Genesis 2:1-3):  And on the seventh day, all the gods in both pantheons rested, although at least the ones on the Babylonian side got to party.  The Hebrews get their word for this day of rest, “Sabbath” from the Sumerian word “Sabbatu”.

But what of the second, earlier, creation story in Genesis?  Surely it must owe it’s origins to some earlier mythic tradition.  In fact, we find that it does very closely resemble a secondary, and again older, creation myth in the Babylonian tradition called the Atra-Hasis epic, which demonstrates parallels throughout much of Genesis, right up to the flood story and its aftermath.  They share many attributes including the divine garden and man’s place therein, man’s creation from the dust and a chance for man to gain immortality.

One thing I did want to touch on, Hausdorff was curious when I mentioned that Christian apologists have long since claimed to know the date of creation, dating back to Bishop Ussher.  I came across a quote from Dr. John Lightfoot, written in 1654, which lays out the details.  “Heaven and earth, center and circumference were made in the same instance of time and clouds full of water and man was created by the Trinity on the 26th of October, 4004 B.C., at 9 o’clock in the morning.”  How they came to that figure, and I have seen formulations which state that it was, in fact, 9:04am in a particular time zone that creation poofed into existence, I shall never know.  Working through the genealogies only gets you so far.

And so, you can clearly see that the stories that appear in the Bible are not fully-crafted tales passed down to man by an omniscient, omnipotent deity in the sky, they were tales which were crafted by primitive man out of stories that started in distant lands.  When groups started to trade and communicate with each other, they passed along their myths and the Hebrews, like virtually every other culture, simply kept the parts that appealed to them and re-wrote the stories using their own social biases.  The idea that the stories in the Bible are original in any way, or that they are the product of anything but the human mind, is absurd if you bother to look at the evidence.  Too bad the religious are unable or unwilling to do so.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Guest Post: Communication Breakdown

As I mentioned yesterday, I am out of town for a few days and a few blogger friends of mine have agreed to write some guest posts for me to fill in the gaps. Today's post comes from TWF of The Wise Fool and Speaking in Foolish Tongues. He has many great insights, much of which center around the bible. I would say if you like what I write here you would most likely enjoy his writing as well, go check his stuff out if you haven't yet. Now on to today's post: Communication Breakdown (pic added by me found here)

I work in an industry were people get killed, and multimillion dollar pieces of equipment get turned into scrap metal faster than you can tie your shoes.  That's not the way it's supposed to be.  I'm not in the military, after all!  In fact, like many others, my industry spends millions in training each year to help prevent these catastrophes.

Training? Yeah, training.  A very significant portion of these disasters are the result of human error, and a hefty chunk of those are due to communication mistakes.

When you have a conversation, you are constantly translating, even when you are speaking your native language, because your precise definition of "is" may not match my definition of "is," and visa-versa.  Even when you think that you understand someone, the truth is that you only have an impression of what they have tried to tell you, and that may or may not be accurate.

So in my industry, we've implemented various Human Performance Tools to help mitigate these issues.  One of the best is 3-way communication.  Calm down.  It's not that kind of a 3-way.  ;-)

The principle is dirt simple, and incredibly effective.  It goes like this:

You say: "Bob, I want you to go turn on switch 1A."
Bob then replies "Surely you want me to go over to switch 1A and turn it on."
You then reply "Yes, I want you to go turn on switch 1A.  And don't call me Shirley."

OK, it doesn't go exactly like that.  I couldn't resist throwing in the classic Airplane surely/Shirley joke.  ;-)  But you get the idea.  You say something.  The person hearing repeats it in their own words, verifying that they have understood it.  You say it one more time again to verify that verification.  That simple step saves a lot of miscommunication, and a lot of lives.  And that brings us back to the Bible...

In the realm of religion, not only are lives on the line, but the eternal fate of souls are on the line as well.  It's pretty damn important to get the message out there correctly, and in a fashion which is easily understood.  Verses like Luke 9:45 and John 8:27 make it obvious that Jesus was pretty hard to understand at times.  Not only that, but a legacy of hundreds, if not thousands of Christian denominations have spawned over differences in interpretation.  Those differences arise mostly because things are not well defined and clearly communicated, which again leaves us interpreting our own particular meanings.

While this is squarely in the space of circumstantial evidence, I think that the lack of clear communication in the Bible is just one more reason to consider it to be the false workings of man.  Unless, of course, God is not really interested in saving everyone, as some of Hausdorff's posts have illustrated.  :-)

In case you are interested to know more about Human Performance Tools, I found this great summary of many of the common tools used in hazardous industries at the TVA website.

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