Monday, April 23, 2012

The Misfit Atheist reads the Bible: Genesis 4-9

(If you want a list of all of my "atheist Bible study" posts, just click here. Also, if you're feeling a little Bible-d out, here's something that I find makes much better reading: Aesop's Fables.)

Our first post dealt with the Biblical creation of the universe, Adam & Eve and the Fall of Man(aka "original sin") which formed the foundation of the Abrahamic religions. Now we turn to how Adam & Eve make out after getting thrown out of the Garden of Eden. We find out that despite leaving a supposed paradise on Earth, they seem to be doing quite well. They have several children, the first two of which are Cain and Abel.

As the story goes, both Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to God(as Bronze Age farmers usually do), but God likes Abel's animal sacrifices over Cain's fruit sacrifices. Cain gets depressed and God asks "Why so down, bro?". Then Cain kills his brother in the field, and when all-knowing God asks where Abel is, Cain says "Am I my brother's keeper?"(meaning "How should I know? I'm not his babysitter.") When God figures out what happened, he curses Cain to be a "fugitive and a vagabond". At least unlike what he did to his parents for learning, this seems a sensible punishment.

But it turns out Cain got over God's punishment more or less, as he finds a wife(where did she come from?Did  God pull another creation in another county?), has a son and builds a city(both named Enoch). And then a couple of generations later, we have Lamech, who according to the Bible is the first polygamist(he had two wives) and apparently takes up his great-great-grandfather's criminality by killing a man.

Meanwhile, Adam knocks up Eve again(at this point he's multiple times great-grandfather) and has Seth. Seth bares a son(again, where did his wife come from?), and then we're treated to a generational recap with some new insights and questions.

In the recap, Adam actually had some daughters, but they remain nameless. All of the patriarchs supposedly lived ridiculously long lives. Quite a feat, considering they had virtually no medical knowledge or science. At the end of the recap, we discover Lamech gets a son named Noah. Yes folks, that Noah!

Genesis 6 wastes no time getting straight to the Great Flood that gives Young Earth Creationists such a hard-on. Apparently God got fed up with sin in the world and attempted to get rid of it by killing everything on the planet, save for Noah and his family. So God tells Noah to build a boat that's apparently too big to be seaworthy yet too small for every pair of animals on the planet. And there's quite a few other problems with the Flood story that come to mind, but are addressed here.

Fast forward to Genesis 8, and we find that the Flood has receded. Noah makes animal sacrifices to God(effectively making many animal species extinct thanks to the Flood in the first place), and this convinces God not to flood the world again. God then tells Noah and his family to "be fruitful and multiply". Let's take a step back and observe the whole picture thus far, courtesy of DarkMatter2525:

Okay, so now that we have the Flood in the rear-view mirror, let's see how Noah and his family make out in the aftermath. Hmm. Apparently Noah gets plastered off his own wine and runs around in his birthday suit in his tent. His son Ham covers him up, but Noah doesn't like it. As punishment, Noah curses his grandson(who had nothing to do with it) to be a slave. Gotta love that biblical justice, eh?

That's pretty much it for Genesis 4-9. Next up: The Tower of Babel!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Glenn Beck and David Barton lie about Thomas Jefferson

Remember my previous post about seeing Glenn Beck and David Barton on a stage together? Well, it turns out that wasn't a coincidence at all. It turns out they're actually "good friends" and Beck has invited him to plug a book that outright lies about the life of Thomas Jefferson.

Barton, being the unqualified fake historian for Jesus that he is, claimed that Jefferson created his abbreviated Bible for missionaries to give to Native Americans. One problem with this claim is that this abbreviated Bible would be outright rejected by missionaries because it cuts out much of the Christian myths, most notably the assertions that Jesus was divine and resurrected. And another problem is that claim is a bold-faced lie, as shown in this letter he sent to Joseph Priestley. He did it to show his view of Christianity, which he specifically states in the letter is a deistic one. While he didn't accomplish everything he wanted to in the letter, the Jefferson Bible did mostly follow a deistic view of Jesus.

Another thing Barton says is that the Jefferson Bible contains examples of Jesus performing miracles. This is also proven a lie if you actually do what Barton implores you to do(but counts on the probability you'll just take his word for it): read it. It's mostly Jesus telling parables to his disciples. He performs no miracles at all.

The Jefferson Bible, however, isn't perfect when it really comes to morality. For example, the passages where he orders his followers to steal horses in his name doesn't really translate to a good moral example. Or where he says you should pluck out your eye if it offends you.  And "take no thought of tomorrow" should need no explanation as to why that is a bad idea.

All in all, the Jefferson Bible was a interesting attempt to strip the Bible of supernatural crap and focus on the central character. But Barton doesn't do Jefferson, the Jefferson Bible or himself any favors by outright lying to try and square the circle of Jefferson's deism with Christianity. Beck only allows this because it furthers his crazy religious and political views. Both men should be ashamed, but that's not gonna happen anytime soon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Misfit Atheist reads the Bible: Genesis 1-3

Last year, one of my favorite YouTube atheists, Keight Fahr(aka BionicDance), did a series of videos where she reads and critiques parts of the Bible. Although the series is incomplete(the last video is on 1 Kings), it's excellent yet I think there's quite a few valid critiques she missed. So I finally decided to do something similar, but in blog form and will go into more detail than she did, starting with Genesis 1-3 because it's the foundation where the Abrahamic religions rest upon.

First, there's the two incongruent creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2, in which the first creation story also contradicts what science tells us about creation. According to Genesis 1:

  1. Heaven and earth are created first.
  2. Light comes next(But how can you have light without light-producing objects?).
  3. The "firmament", ground and plants are created.
  4. The sun and stars are made.(The actual light-producing objects)
  5. All the aquatic and flying animals are made.
  6. All the "beasts of the earth" and man are made.
  7. God takes a siesta.
Science tells us that before anything else, you must have light and light-producing objects(stars). We know that the stars created after the initial Big Bang went through a process known as stellar nucleosynthesis, where all the heavy elements were created. Eventually, the stars exploded, spilling out all it's elemental contents outward, creating planetary accretion disks. These disks eventually coagulated into what we now call planets. After billions of years on our tiny little planet, abiogenesis occurred. Then through the incredibly long process of biological evolution, all the animals we know of, and ourselves finally appeared.

But getting back to Genesis, now we're at the Garden of Eden with Adam, Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in chapters 2 and 3. Here we get to see the first lie told in Biblical history. I'm referring, of course, not to the serpent that convinced Eve to eat the apple, but to the lie God told about eating from the tree:
Genesis 2:17 - "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
So God's telling Adam that if he eats from the tree, he's dead on the spot. Yet we discover in Genesis 5:5 that Adam wound up living for at least eight hundred years(even though the idea that a human can live that long is ludicrous, it does nevertheless mean that Adam & Eve had a relatively full life). And going back to the serpent, did the serpent lie? Nope, because we see that God himself confirms the serpent's claim in Genesis 3:22. Then God doles out his punishments and banishes Adam & Eve from the garden.

So just in the first three chapters of the Bible, we see two incongruent and scientifically impossible creation stories, a God that willfully creates the first humans without any knowledge of good and evil, lies about the tree he put in front of them that would give them that knowledge, and punishes them and all future generations for the " original sin" of attaining that knowledge when he wasn't looking. This sounds more like a story about a God whose omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence got easily trumped by a mere animal(that could "intelligibly speak" even though we know only humans can speak), and then punishes all of mankind out of embarrassment and vanity. And that's just the first three short chapters. We're off to a lovely start, folks.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Glenn Beck thinks America "worships Baal"

This came up in a friend's Facebook feed, and I find this too delicious to pass up: Apocalyptic fear monger Glenn Beck(the man behind the awful site, and who thought the Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima was "Biblical prophecy") and David Barton(an accomplished historical liar for Jesus) together on a Christian television show along with some other kooky panelists.

What makes this extremely laughable is that Beck declares that America is "in bed with absolute evil", referring to the increasing secularization of American society(a good thing, IMO) and his contention that we're all "unconsciously worshiping Baal". And not only does not a single person call out such bullshit, but they pile on with more tripe such as comparing the relatively non-existent threat of Islamic imposition on the United States with the Biblical tale of Jeremiah and the Babylonian captivity. And of course they say the "solution" isn't better security via law enforcement, military or diplomatic means driven by reason and rationality, it's dropping everything and going back to hysterical Bronze Age ideals(what they refer to as "getting back to God") that would make us no different than the theocratic Islamic states they rage against. And that is a nightmare that would make our Founding Fathers roll in their graves.

Happy Belated Christopher Hitchens Day!

While Christopher Hitchens Day has officially ended one hour ago, I just came across this video of Hitchens making his closing comments at a debate he had with William Dembski, and I simply had to share it here:

Belated Introductory Post

Hi there. I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Tony Agudo. I'm 31 years old, currently single(hint, hint ladies), I work in a major supermarket store, and just recently become something of an atheist activist. I have another blog which focuses on my other interests(Second Life, OpenSim, and many things related to open source programming), but this one will focus on issues around atheism, secularism, and religion. You can find me not only on here, but also on Facebook and Twitter(though I don't keep up with it much). Thanks for visiting my blog and I hpe you'll find it interesting and thought-provoking!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Joel D. Hirst gets it wrong on charity

(Apologies for not taking the time writing a proper introductory post, but the subject below necessitated the creation of this blog. So consider this post as "hitting the ground running" and I'll update here when I make a proper intro post. Update: Here it is.)

The other day, I came across this guest article on The Blaze(because I have a high tolerance for right-wing BS that borders on sadomasochism), in which the author(some guy who used to be involved with charity organizations) argues that charity should be "devolved to communities of faith". In other words, he believes only religious institutions and communities should do charity and aid, using examples of government-run charity and aid failures to buttress his argument.

I took him to task on that in the comment section, pointing out the existence of secular charities and asked his opinion of them. I also pointed out that faith-based charities can and often do impose their beliefs on recipients, using the example of some Salvation Army chapters refusing to give out donated Twilight or Harry Potter toys, citing the organization's Christian beliefs as reasons why.

His response-
Hi Tony – Thanks for your comments. I of course have no problem with MSF, CARE or others. But if you look historically; these types of organizations emerge as an offshoot of Christian Missions. They are the values of Christianity seeping into society – which is exactly my point. And still, the lion’s share of this type of financial support goes to Christian organizations – World Vision, Compassion, Food for the Hungry, etc. MSF (biggest in Spain and France) is relatively small, gets lots of $ from the govermnent. As to the second point – of course you can point to individual failures of charities. I can probably point to more than you can (I’m very familiar with the industry). Unfortunately, this is so often the excuse of big government folks – they highlight one failure for the takeover of the industry. This is actually faulty logic, as an “indicutive fallacy”; its an “unrepresentative sample” or sometimes an “appeal to emotion”. Like saying “All catholic priests are pedophiles” when the fact is that it really is a tiny percentage.

Notice the emphasized sentences. He's now claiming that a specific religion's(Christianity) "values" are the source of the moral action we label as charity. While I will gladly agree that historically organized charity was primarily conducted by religious institutions, that is a false and propagandistic claim by religious leaders and Mr. Hirst that I absolutely must refute. Ironically, Joel unknowingly did it for me in the article:

The act of helping people through these difficult moments is an act of personal sacrifice (for both those helping and those being helped).  It must be motivated by the humanizing emotion of empathy and compassion, not that of pity.

Empathy and compassion are not "Christian values". They are evolved human emotions accessible to all regardless of religious beliefs(or lack of them). Empathy and compassion(and indeed charitable acts) existed well before the emergence of Christianity, and today we have charities explicitly run by nonreligious groups(like Foundation Beyond Belief). That should tell Joel that charity is not, and should never be exclusive only to his professed religion. Everybody deserves the opportunity to serve those who need help, be it the government, churches or secular/nontheist organizations.

Update: Jared Smith gives a great counterpoint to the religious hijacking of charity.