Tuesday, 30 November 2010

What does the Bible say about Knowledge and Learning?

During the middle of the first millennium of the current era, the Roman Empire went through some changes that brought, first, a split in its governance, and which placed an Emperor in the East, at Byzantium, and in the West, at Rome. Then a “barbarian” chief attacked Rome, for reasons that are not pertinent to this discussion, which caused the collapse of the Western Empire. Non-theists tend to hold the belief that this happened as a result of the rise of Christianity. This is not true. Christianity was the religion of the Eastern Empire, and that survived until the eighth century when it was overrun by Islam.

Another mistaken belief is that Christianity was the cause of the “Dark Ages.” 

There is some truth and some untruth in that. While the church did not encourage secular learning and often punished people, sometimes rather harshly, for inventions that ran counter to its teaching, the church was directly responsible for the establishment of the ancient universities of Europe. The children of the upper classes were very well-educated. Most of them spoke, read and wrote, several languages, knew their history, and had an understanding of mathematics and some basic science, all of which, albeit biased by the teachings of the church, were taught at the universities.

Islam promoted learning in the fields of medicine, and more advanced science and Islamic teachers brought that knowledge to the West. 

However, ordinary people were not given the privilege of learning before the invention of the printing press and general widespread ownership of Bibles, which ownership was not overtly forbidden, but was not encouraged, simply because it was expensive to mass produce and before the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press was handwritten by monks. 

This does not mean that, even the people who were educated, or the ones who eventually owned their own Bibles, were actively encouraged to learn more than what was contained in those Bibles, because learning is not encouraged in the Bible itself. While the Middle Ages gave rise to the ancient centres of learning and produced some of the most erudite politicians in the history of the world (for example Queen Elizabeth I), that learning was encouraged only to the extent that it did not contradict the teaching of the "Holy Scripture."

In our time of global communication, and the ease with which we are now able to research whatever subject captures our interest, it appears that there is some correlation between lower levels of education and general knowledge, and the depth of the religious belief.

My comments in this website are directed towards specifically Judeo-Christian attitudes towards learning, which includes other religions which were founded on the principles of the Old Testament. This attitude tends to make people closed-minded and to base all their learning on the idea that God is all one needs to know and that the Bible explains everything, which eliminates the need to know anything else.

Deuteronomy 30:9 The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors.
Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Nehemiah 2:20 …”The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…”

It encourages humility and in that humility, allowing God give you everything you need and want:

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Proverbs 22:4 The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life.
Isaiah 1:19 If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land;
Matthew 6:24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other you cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 23:12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

The New Testament says that the only learning required is to be able to understand parables:

Mark 4:11 He told them,  The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving  and ever hearing but never understanding otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!
Luke 8:10 He said,  The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.

In order to obtain this knowledge, it is necessary to remain forever a child. Thus obedience to God, and the acceptance of the “faith” 

Luke 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said,  I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
Luke 16:15He said to them,  You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.
Luke 18:17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. 

Believers are discouraged from questioning authority: any rebellion towards religion, authority and particularly parents, is worthy of death...

Romans 1:29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. 

… and knowledge of the world, i.e. secular knowledge is “foolish:”

1 Corinthians 1:20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.
1 Corinthians 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified….so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
1 Corinthians 14:38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.
Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. 
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
1 Timothy 6:4:...he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
1 Timothy 6:20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge.

The above verses certainly indicate that the Bible advocates leaving all responsibility in the hands of God. It appears that all the believer needs to do is to remain obedient to God (and his representatives on earth), trust that God will provide for his every need, and then spend the rest of his life (and I say “his” here because, as I pointed out in a previous post, women are insignificant) allowing God to direct his decisions which will show him how to provide for his family. In the early history of education that I referred to above, people were also discouraged from owning Bibles, even when they could afford them, simply because the ruling church hierarchy knew that reading and studying the Bible would lead to critical questioning of its validity. Thus keeping people ignorant and dependent on priests for its interpretation, kept priests employed and money rolling into the church’s coffers. 

Thus the low standards of literacy and secular knowledge are explained, but then what about the believers who do enter the fields of medicine, the law, architecture and even the sciences?

Doesn’t the very fact that there are people who practice medicine (and sometimes make vast fortunes as a result of their career choice) go against the teaching of the Bible? And what about captains of industry who fight for less government control in the running of their businesses? Surely that too is against the rules of poverty, humility and “amassing wealth” on earth? How do these people justify collecting vast fortunes against what the Bible says? I can understand theologians and clerics, they’re needed to interpret the Bible, but why wealthy farmers, lawyers, company directors and so on? Isn’t it a little hypocritical to encourage people to become wealthy so that they are able to contribute more to the church?

It seems to me that the religions of the Bible have an agenda and it is this: any learning that encourages people to give up their religion is discouraged. Otherwise, learning is acceptable as long as it doesn’t detract from the main aim of the religion, and that is to keep the religion flourishing, especially its bank account. The evolution of monasteries into universities, the development of the printing press, the general distribution of Bibles to the ordinary people, and the continued education of believers only to the extent that they understand their religion, is all part of the idea of encouraging the masses to remain ignorant of anything that is not related to religion. The purpose in this is to keep dogmatic belief and religion flourishing so that the churches will continue to amass wealth, and the discouragement of learning is not with the intention of saving the souls of the world’s population. Instead it is with the direct intent to relieve people of the money they accumulate in their labour and thereby to add to the wealth of the churches and the people who control them. Ron L Hubbard, the man who formulated Scientology is known to have said “if you want to make a lot of money, start a religion!”

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Bible contains some strange taboos and promotes bigotry

Most people don’t read the Bible critically. Or, if they do, it’s with the intention of gaining some inspiration from its words. I thought it would be interesting to point out the verses that lay down some very strange laws that most Bible readers simple choose to ignore, or, and I’ll come to the law in another post, they simply say “Jesus nullified all the old laws.” Fine, that’s fair enough -- but what about the people who still live according to the old laws, such as Orthodox Jews and puritanical Protestants? How do they feel about the following:

Mixed livestock and cloth:
Lev 19:19 Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.  
Thus the believer breaks the law every time he farms with modern cattle, who are mostly hybrids genetically modified to produce more milk, or modern grains. or whenever he pairs a cotton shirt with a pair of woolen trousers? Or how about polyester-cotton shirts?

Tattoos and surgery?
Lev19:28 You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you I am the LORD. 
Deuteronomy 18:1 goes further, it speaks about “making baldness between your eyes.”  There must have been some very strange customs among the people of the Near East during the first millennium BCE, otherwise why would the writers make this law? A believer would argue that the law applies to cutting flesh and getting tattoos “for the dead,” and not generally cutting the flesh for surgical reasons. My logic and my knowledge of the people of this period tells me that surgery was not in general practice, and if general “cutting of the flesh” “for the dead” was frowned on, how much more would a superstitious person frown on the removal of an infected part of the body?

In both Orthodox Jewish and Islamic custom, it is preferred that dead bodies not be autopsied because of this law. They want to bury the whole body, and not leave parts behind. Therefore, in strict adherence of this law, surely it is also forbidden to remove body parts while the person is alive? So every time a Muslim or a Jew undergoes surgery to remove some diseased part of the body, they are breaking this law. This must really get Allah/Yahweh riled up.

Washing in blood
Revelation 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
I’m commenting on this one purely from the point of view of “grossness” and its “yuck” value. Imagine that you are washed in human blood when your sins are forgiven? I don’t know if I like this metaphor. Why did they not simply say that he died as a sacrifice, and leave it there? Why drag the nastiness of blood-smearing into the picture, and imagine how children feel about this?

Antichrists, liars and gossips
I’ll have more to say about “antichrists” in another post. On the one hand, the New Testament preaches about judging, and on the other it calls people, like myself and other atheists, “antichrists.”
1 John 2:22-23  Whoever denies  that Jesus is the Christ  is a liar and an antichrist. 
1 John 4:3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 
1 John 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
2 Timothy 2:16-18 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.17Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
The words in “Timothy” speak of “godless chatter.” Does this mean that all conversation has to be about Jesus? It is apparently very wrong to read the tabloids, or to discuss the silliness of celebrities if you are an adherent of New Testament religion.  Watching Oprah has to be a really terribly sinful act, as is the viewing of award shows or perhaps even the news. Is this the reason that most believers don’t bother to read newspapers? Then what about the politicians on the religious “right” who go out of their way to defame their opponents, and who revel in the downfall of the other party? Surely they are sinning and showing themselves to be infected by the “gangrene” of “idle chatter?”

Racism and bigotry
Genesis 9:26-27 He also said, Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave.  
Joshua 9:27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose
Matthew 6:5-6 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell
Titus 1:12 The people of Crete are  always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 
2 Chronicles 14:12 So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.
I don’t really have to point out that these verses incite racism and bigotry. Noah’s son, Ham, who “uncovered his father’s nakedness” in Genesis 9:22, was removed from the family to Canaan, to become a “slave” to his brothers. The Nationalist Party in Apartheid South Africa used these verses as their justification for their racist policies. 

If the law of the Old Testament is no longer valid, do the words of Titus justify bigotry towards metaphorical people of “Crete?” Or are those words to be interpreted as meaning the actual people of the Mediterranean island? In which case, adhering to the strict word of the New Testament means that God approves of his followers judging the people of Crete as “liars, evil beasts [and] slow bellies.” 

Apart from that one direct mention, note the comment about “hypocrites” who openly pray before others, such as people who loudly intone prayers around their relatives who are in hospital, or who pray over food in public.  I wonder if praying in church counts as openly praying?

Most people are aware that the Bible approves of slavery...
Exodus 21:7 And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. 
Exodus 21:5-6 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.    
Leviticus 25:44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.
Luke 12:47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did  according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 
...but is the boring of an ear really necessary? Also note the justification in Luke for the disciplining of recalcitrant slaves, or servants. This from a religion that also preaches treating your “fellow man” the way that you would wish to be treated. 
Alcohol, drunkenness and abstinence
Gen.9:20  And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard
Genesis 19::32-33 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father. That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.
Leviticus 10:9:You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come
Numbers 6:3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.
Deuteronomy 29:6:You ate no bread and drank no wine or other fermented drink. I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.
1 Kings 16:8:In the twenty and sixth year of Asa king of Judah began Elah the son of Baasha to reign over Israel in Tirzah, two years. And his servant Zimri, captain of half [his] chariots, conspired against him, as he was in Tirzah, drinking himself drunk in the house of Arza steward of [his] house in Tirzah.
Matthew 26:29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom. 
Ephesians 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Timothy 5:23 Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
The planting of vineyards is good, but the drinking of wine is not? Or should the believer drink wine rather than water, but not get drunk? It seems that the water in the old days wasn’t any better than the water we’re supplied with today, and that people were just people then, as they are now. Someone should tell all the believers in “temperance” and “sobriety” that God approves of drinking, he just doesn’t approve of drunkenness.

Wastefulness and profligacy
Luke 15:13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.
John 6:12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”
I’m not too bothered about the Bible disapproving of wastefulness. I only wish that the people who believe in the Bible would note that the New Testament advocates that believers should not be wasteful. However, my posts here are not intended as a platform my own opinions on pollution and the environment. All I’m doing with these verses is pointing out that there are some good ideas but that it’s a pity that the people who deny scientific warnings about the dangers of a “throwaway” society, don’t bother to heed the words of these writers.

It seems to me that believers pick and choose which of the Bible’s verses still apply. My knowledge of those who believe indicates that they disapprove of tattoos based on the Old Testament verse, but (most of them) don’t worry too much that the same verse forbidding surgery. It also seems that treating servants badly, and racial discrimination, are quite alright but gossip is not, except when it comes to pointing out the mistakes that celebrities make. Furthermore, it seems as if the Bible holds the view that drinking is fine, as long as it doesn’t lead to drunkenness, and, finally, that the verses warning against waste are simply to be ignored. None of this makes sense.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Nicene Creed

The Nicene Creed

What is it? It’s the expression of faith that all Christian children in the old orthodox religions, Roman Catholic, Church of England and so on are taught to recite, in the early stages of the Christian indoctrination. It was first formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 323 CE and then revised at the Council of Constantinople in 381, both versions are published on the Wikipedia page cited above, as well as an analysis of the differences between them. My purpose here is not to analyse the differences or even to discuss the insecurity of faith that made them change the wording, instead, I want to talk about the hold it has on the people who believe in it.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

In discussions with believers, atheists ask for evidence for the existence of God. An atheist is someone who does not believe in the existence of gods, it is not a religion or a cult or an organised group of people who seek to discredit the beliefs of others, all I seek from believers is that they furnish me with evidence that their god exists, and that he/she has some power over my life. So far, no one has yet been able to do that, until this week, when a believer told me that I would find evidence for God, and for the basis of the belief in God within the Nicene creed. Therefore, I want to take it to pieces to see whether there is anything in there that will convince me that I ought to believe in things I can’t experience with my five senses.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

The believer attests here that he/she believes in God and that God created heaven and earth and all things that can and cannot be seen. Dare I say that the implication of the ‘unseen’ here is the metaphysical, rather than whatever exists outside of my immediate presence? Is belief enough for the metaphysical to exist, a little like saying that if I believe in Santa Claus, he really will exist? I don’t think so. I’m no scientist but my (brand new) intense interest in science has taught me a few things in the last year. One is that God (whether he is the Father Almighty or not) did not “make heaven and earth” and that the rest of it came about as a result of the creation of the universe as a result of the “Big Bang” 13.7 billion years ago. This can be measured, there is ample evidence for both the Big Bang and the length of time that our universe has existed, therefore the first sentence of this creed, is nothing but a statement of ignorance of what really happened. 

The second thing that science is teaching me is that everything that was previously thought to be metaphysical in origin, can be examined and explained, by science. Poltergeists, the ghost in the cupboard under the stairs and aliens in "Area 51" don’t exist, and the events attributed to them are easily explained with a little physical examination.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Here we have the explanation of the “monotheism” of Christian religion. Jesus, an ordinary man, born to an ordinary Jewish family, who may have lived during the first few decades of the first century, was just a man. There is no evidence that he was conceived by a virgin, or ascended into the sky. Without any evidence for it, the “only-begotten Son of God” declaration is again, merely the subjective idea of the believer. However, I do like the “before all worlds” bit. But then again it says again that all things were made. So this sentence can also be discarded. Until someone produces valid evidence that Jesus was anything more than an ordinary person who happened to make some interesting friends, I, and I’m sure I can speak for my fellow atheists, will continue to refuse to believe that there is anything more to his story.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

Pontius Pilate has been spoken about by various historians, so he’s a real person. The whole crucifixion story has already been discussed in an earlier post. I keep having problems with the “third day” business. How did these people, living almost four hundred years later have such absolute belief that there was going to be a return to the earth by Jesus? The story they believe was told by Jesus said that it was going to happen within the lifetime of the people in his audience. In Matthew 24:34 he says:
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Was he lying? Or were the writers of Matthew simply writing their version of what they thought he might have said being asked “when will it happen?” 

Thuycidides has been accused of inventing direct speech in his story of the Peloponnesian War, when we read pieces where he could not have overheard the conversation and where, even if he did get the story from an eye-witness to the discussion, what he wrote could not have been verbatim. 

In Ancient Historiography and its Contexts Studies in Honour of A. J. Woodman 
Kraus, Christina S. Kraus, Professor of Classics, Yale University,  John, Leon Golden Marincola, Professor of Classics, Florida State University and Christopher, Regius Pelling Professor of Greek, University of Oxford, John Moles discusses this problem and how it was common in the ancient world (before the historical method) to report what the writer thought the speakers might have said in a particular situation. Other writers of the time have done this as well,  Homer, Hesiod and Herodotus, so why should the writers of the Gospels have been any different? 

The only thing that this sentence in the creed proves, is that the people who wrote the creed believed that Jesus would indeed come down from heaven to rescue them. My opinion about the second coming was that the idea originated from fear, of death but more likely, of the power of Rome in the first century. By the time the creed was written, it was part of the indoctrination process, reward for being obedient believers, a belief that still exists today. Thus believers waste the lives they have and that they ought to be experiencing now in favour of an empty promise of something yet to come. 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

Well, why not invent some mysticism. The people of the first millennium were as superstitious of the things they could not explain as the people of the Old Testament were. So the Holy Ghost, the “giver of life” the “carrier of the soul” was invented to explain what they could not explain about the first breath a child gasps as it is born, and the last breath a dying person breathes. We can explain this, with science, fairly easily today, so is it not time to put the Holy Ghost to bed?

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

And then finally. This is not a metaphysical inexplicable thing. It’s the Church. The organisation that will take your money and give you nothing but empty promises in return. Pay the church your money, tell the priest how bad you are, get dipped into a bath of water and for as long as the money keeps rolling in, you can be assured that you no longer have to fear death, and the nothingness that comes afterwards.

I find nothing that proves the existence of God to me in this piece of writing, as I found no evidence for him in the Bible. All I find, the more I read and learn about the religions who use the Bible for the basis of their religion is the irrationality that I’ve spoken about in my previous posts. There is nothing inspirational in there, nothing that I want to use as a signature or to remember in the way that people memorise pieces of text. I still fail to see what the reason is for religion. I continue to ask the questions “why do people still need religion?” “What purpose does it serve?” If people need someone to talk to, or for social purposes, to relieve loneliness, insecurity and other emotional problems, why not simply find other people who have the same problems and form a support group? “Charity?” How much charity is there in keeping the people of under-developed countries ignorant and under-educated while you refuse them condoms and birth control? I can’t see any purpose. 
I shudder to think that children are still indoctrinated with this nonsense, rather than the story of how the universe really happened, and where people really came from. 

Monday, 1 November 2010

Family values does the Bible promote this?

"Family values" and “morality” are at the core of the politics of people on the right of the political spectrum of most western countries. Those of us who lean to the left and who have a wider perspective of what constitutes a family are constantly criticised for not upholding the idea of “family” as instructed in the Bible, and we are questioned about the basis of our morality. 

Today I want to look at what the Bible says about these issues.

Brotherly love:
In the book of Matthew, which I’ve already mentioned was taken from the writing of “Mark,” the writers talk about brothers betraying each other, people turning away from their parents and...
 Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; Matthew 10:37
When Jesus is told that his family are waiting outside to speak to him, he brushes them aside, saying that his followers are his brothers. Luke repeats this:
Luke 8:20-21 Someone told him, Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you. He replied,  My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice. 
“Luke” also talks about divisions within families and people giving up everything and everybody to follow Jesus, with the promise of “the kingdom of God”  and “eternal life” for those who do.

Certainly when it comes to ‘brotherly’ love, atheists and liberals appear to be the ones abiding by the rules according to the book of Matthew, in that we regard the people who share our lives as our family, and not only our ‘blood’ family. Also we’re not prepared to reject our family for the sake of religion. When it comes to brotherly love, it is definitely not a ‘Christian’ value. We take it further, we accept those members of our family who believe in Christianity; we don’t discard family members because of their religious beliefs. 

This has put me at a loss to understand how devoutly religious people can call themselves believers in “family values” when the only family values they respect are the ones that fall into line with their religious beliefs and if their morality comes from the Bible, they have to have some rather peculiar ideas about constitutes “morality.”

On family history, and keeping the genealogical tables up to date, the New Testament has a clear instruction about not bothering with these, yet breeding and family genealogy has always seemed to me to be extremely important to deeply devout people, both with regard to Jesus’ ancestry and that of the ancestors of his ancestors.
1 Timothy  Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies. [note especially the genealogies found in Gen.10, 1 Chr.1-9, Mt.1, and Lk.3. 1:4 ]
On the subject of incest and marriage within families, the Bible was also pretty ambiguous. That was probably until people realised that physical problems arose after a lot of inbreeding and then it became taboo. Abraham was married to his half-sister, Isaac married a cousin, the children of the coupling of Lot’s daughters with their drunk father started two nations, David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, and Moses’ parents were aunt and nephew. 
Genesis 20:12   And yet indeed [she is] my sister; she [is] the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 
Judah, son of Jacob, who is also the father of the people of the tribe of Judah, has a child with his daughter-in-law, in all fairness he didn’t know who she was at the time:
 Gen 38:16  And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee;  for he knew not that she [was] his daughter in law.  And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me?
Women’s position and value as people:
Feminists already know that the Bible regards them as less than men, yet women continue to support the religions that promote their second-class status. Genesis tells them that they will “bring forth children in sorrow,” Exodus, that men may sell their daughters into slavery and Numbers has a direct ruling that the “women-children” of conquered people should be kept alive for their use. 

Women, because of their cycles and child-bearing are deemed to be unclean, and more so when they have girl babies:
 Leviticus 12:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.  12:5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.  
When they are accused of adultery, which includes being raped, women are punished by being made to drink contaminated water and to be cursed for being affected by the contamination:
Numbers 5:26 And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, [even] the memorial thereof, and burn [it] upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.
Numbers 5:27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, [that], if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, [and become] bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot and the woman shall be a curse among her people.
If a woman does not cry out during her rape, she is seen to have consented and is condemned to be stoned.
Deuteronomy 22:24:Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife so thou shalt put away evil from among you. 
Women are to be  brutally mutilated when they defend their husbands in a fight:
Deuteronomy 25:11-12 When men strive together one with another, and the wife of the one draweth near for to deliver her husband out of the hand of him that smiteth him, and putteth forth her hand, and taketh him by the secrets then thou shalt cut off her hand, thine eye shall not pity her.   
Women are the cause of all men’s problems, and men are allowed to disrespect them.  They should remain respectful of men, and most of all, silent, according to the book of Ecclesiastes which calls them “a plague,” “the beginning of sin,” “whorish” for having “haughty looks” and “too much liberty.” “Shamefaced” and “modest” women are to be admired, while a shameless woman “shall be counted as a dog.” 

The New Testament is extremely vocal on the position of women, they are “created for the man,” to “keep silent in churches” to not “usurp authority over men” and to be “submissive” to their husbands. They should also dress modestly and without  “adornment:”

Right to the very end, on the day of the rapture, women are see as “defilers of men”
Revelation 14:1 And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty [and] four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.  
Revelation 14:3-4 ...the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. 
On the subject of divorce, the Old Testament approves of divorce, but only for men, and only for adultery. Women are not allowed to divorce their husbands. If a man has paid for a woman he raped, then he may not divorce her:
Deuteronomy 22:19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
Men are also not allowed to remarry women they divorced previously:
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.
The New Testament allows divorce, only for adultery, but not remarriage. Matthew, Mark and Luke speak about divorce for “marital unfaithfulness” but if the man then remarries, “he commits adultery” against the new wife.
The New Testament has a lot to say on the subject of marriage, and the reasons for it, most to do with “lust” and “unnatural’ acts,” and as a way out for people who do not have any “self-control.”
Romans 1:26-27  Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Now for the matters you wrote about It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. ... The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. ...Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am….Now to the unmarried and the widows I say It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
When it comes to children, the Bible is brutal. Children, according to the Old Testament are evil, stubborn and rebellious and should be beaten into submission, and even used as a food source in a famine:
Lev 26:27 If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.
Deuteronomy 21 18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders,  This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.  21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.
Deuteronomy 28:53:And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD they God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straightness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee   
Deuteronomy 28:57:And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.   
2 Kings 6:28-29 And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him and she hath hid her son....   
Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
Proverbs 23:13: Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
Isaiah 9 19-20 By the wrath of the LORD Almighty the land will be scorched and the people will be fuel for the fire; no one will spare his brother. On the right they will devour, but still be hungry; on the left they will eat, but not be satisfied. 
Isaiah 13:15 Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.
I could not find a basis for the idea of “family values” anywhere in the Bible. It seems to me that the Bible rather sees wives and children as a necessary evil for those people who are out of control in their sexual desires. You would think that with way that the Bible speaks about the evil and rebelliousness in children, there would be universal birth control, and a desire to not ever again produce one. Or is the desire to gain new souls for God, i.e. more people to pay money into the coffers of the churches, greater than the hatred of children? From my point of view, family values, brotherly/sisterly love, respect and love of parents, a loving family and children who are a credit to you, are all the result of rational, clear-headed family life, uncluttered with nonsensical hellfire and brimstone ancient mythology, and definitely not based on the Bible’s idea of “family values” and “morality.”