How the Bible gets almost everything wrong: volume 1

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Scripture is under attack! Yes, really. Answers in Genesis says so, so it must be true. The Enemy with a capital letter is out to undermine its authority. That Satan and his school-boy pranks! What will he think of next?

It doesn’t, though, need an all-powerful personification of evil to undermine the bible. It does it all by itself. In any aspect we might care to mention; scientific, medical, historical, moral, psychological – even how the universe operates- the bible is mistaken, confused and just plain wrong. The truth is not in it.

Let’s take look at some examples:

The bible’s scientific blunders

According to the bible:

the Earth was created before the sun (Genesis 1:9-16)

Stars are points of light in the canopy – ‘the firmament’ – that surrounds the Earth (Genesis 1:16-17)

Beyond this canopy is water (water comes for the sky doesn’t it? I guess the canopy leaks. God opens its ‘windows’ during Noah’s flood) (Genesis 1:6-7)

The sun moves, though it can be made to stop in its tracks with the right magic (Joshua 10:12-13)

Genetic characteristics can be changed by whatever animals look at while they’re copulating (Genesis 30:37-39)

Hares and coneys chew the cud (Leviticus 11:5-6) and flying insects sometimes have four legs (Leviticus 11:20-23)

The value of Pi is 3 (1 Kings 7:23-26)

More here if you can bear it: http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/science/long.html

The bible’s historical inaccuracies

The ‘history’ of the Old Testament is largely fabricated. Much of it is myth and legend, created centuries after the events it purports to describe. There is no evidence, for example, that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, wandered the wilderness for forty years and then invaded the land of Canaan. Historians are now fairly sure that the people who would later fashion themselves as the Israelites were rabble-rousers within Canaan and that set about eliminating, by one means or another, other populations that lived there. The ‘great kings’ of Judaism – David, Solomon – were no more than tribal leaders; think ‘Taliban commanders’ and you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of what they were really like.

There’s no evidence either for Noah’s ark and a global flood, the events of the tower of Babel, Joshua’s destruction of the walls of Jericho, Daniel’s adventures in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar… you name it. Each and everyone of these stories was created to make theological points, to aggrandise the people who created them.

There are similar problems when it comes to the historicity of Jesus’ life.

The bible’s medical ignorance

According to Jesus – God Incarnate, no less – many disabilities and diseases are caused by demons:

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech… Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” (Mark 9:17 & 25)

The way to cure illness therefore is to ‘drive out the unclean spirits’ that cause it. Jesus does so many times (Matthew 12.22 etc) and sends his chums out to have a go as well (Matt 10.1). Now, is this because God knows that sickness and disease really are caused by supernatural baddies, or is it because Jesus’ understanding of illness was as limited as that of any other first-century peasant? You got it – Jesus (and his later script-writers) merely reflect first-century ignorance about the causes of illness. However, if, as today’s Christians believe, Jesus was somehow God himself, then why don’t they opt for exorcism every time they’re ill? There are some nut-jobs who do, of course, but why don’t all of them trust their lord and saviour on the matter?

There’s equally ludicrous medical advice elsewhere in the New Testament: James 5.14-15 tells us that the cure for any ailment is prayer:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up.

Sure enough, some believers have taken this ridiculous advice seriously. Instead of medical treatment, they’ve done as the bible commands and prayed for their sick children, frequently with fatal consequences.

More next time…

 

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Experts in make-believe

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As it is in the secular world, so in the Kingdom of Heaven. Entirely self-appointed experts abound in the religious sphere: priests, pastors, preachers, imams, rabbis. Some have degrees in theology; some have a degree of enlightenment (or so they claim) from personal encounters with the supernatural; some have learnt at the feet of the experts who have gone before them.

But what are religious experts expert in? Unlike our politicians who have at least a degree in a legitimate subject (even if not the one they now profess to know all about) the only thing religious experts are knowledgeable about is a collection of fantasy stories. That’s the Bible, of course, for Christian ‘experts’, with its supernatural beings, monsters, giants, magical incantations, transformations and resurrections.

If these experts were to encounter the same sort of fantastic notions in any other book, they would readily acknowledge that what they were dealing with was myth and legend. Not so their own ‘holy’ text! Oh no. This, of all the books of magic that exist, is, they say, the real deal because in amongst the far-fetched stories is some moralising about being extra-nice to fellow Jews and loving your enemies.

All that Christian experts are expert in is myth. That is their specialist subject. They’re not really interested in the injunctions about serving others; the mythical stuff they refuse to acknowledge as myth is much more to their liking: the eternal God-man, living forever, fantasy heaven, fantasy hell. The expertise of priests, pastors and preachers is in this smorgasbord of twaddle – and even then they frequently get it wrong. Those who offer their ‘spiritual’ experiences as demonstration of its veracity (‘I know it’s true because I commune with the eternal God-man’) add nothing of substance to their claims; all they’ve done is internalise myth, nothing more. Myth it remains. And just how useful is expertise in made-up stories in this day and age?

Like politicians who are skilled in one area but assume expertise in another, Christian experts also think that their knowledge of myth makes them experts about all sorts of other things: psychology, morality, the state of the world, politics, science, history and pre-history – even the future. They know all about these, they like to tell us, because by extrapolating from their book of myths and legends, they have an understanding that surpasses that of the real experts in these areas (we can exclude the future here; no-one in the real world claims to know with any certainty what the future holds. Naturally, Christians like to pretend they do).

You think this isn’t the case?

Because of what they think the Bible says:

Mike Pence, ‘evangelical Catholic’ and vice-President, thinks God will heal America only if ‘his people, who are called by his name, humble themselves and pray’ (quoting 2 Chronicles 7.14). He wants to end state-funded abortion rights into the bargain and disputes climate change;

Franklin Graham, who said prayers at the recent inauguration, insists that God himself engineered Donald Trump’s election;

Pastor Robert Jeffress, who provided a private church service for Trump prior to the inauguration, thinks so too, so that America can have ‘one more chance’.

Jim Bakker, ex-felon, televangelist and guest at the inauguration, claims he was responsible for Trump’s election because he ‘bound’ hell-spawned demons who opposed Trump.

Pastor Rick Wiles, meanwhile, is too busy enjoying being sprayed with the golden showers of God’s Grace that even now are ‘oozing’ from Heaven because of Trump;

Steve Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist & Senior Counselor and one of the architects of the immigration ban, is pushing hard for a return to ‘Judeo-Christian traditionalism’ (which hasn’t stopped him from being married and divorced three times);

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s anti-gay Education Secretary, thinks schools should be used to build God’s Kingdom on Earth and wants Creationism taught alongside Evolution;

Ken Ham continues to influence people like Betsy, by teaching that the earth was created 6,000 years ago, Adam and Eve really existed and humans co-existed with dinosaurs;

Jerry Falwell jr, appointed by Trump to reform higher education, sees no contradiction between being a pro-life creationist and an arms advocate;

Religious Rights leaders are urging Trump to reverse the rights granted to LGBT people under President Obama, both in America and worldwide. At the time of writing it looks like he might;

Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s alabaster daughter, asks what the Bible has to say about the Women’s March in Washington last week and concludes that women who protest are ‘loud, undisciplined and without knowledge’;

Sandy Rios of the religious ‘American Family Association’, agrees, saying feminists are ‘people who live in filth’;

Steven Anderson thinks people in need are ‘lazy bums’, just like the Bible says (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and continues to call for LGBT people to be executed;

A million and one other preachers and pastors think they have your psychology all worked out – you’re nothing but a sinner in need of Jesus’ saving grace.

By any rational standard this is all lunatic stuff. These people know no more than you or I about any of the subjects they spout about. They think they do – and worse still others believe they do – because of what (they think) is in their collection of myths; ‘I know what I’m talking about because it’s in my magic book!’ And who are we to doubt such credentials?

It is all fallacy. Christian experts are experts only in the ephemeral, the unproven, the mythical. Yet they claim to know so much about everything else as a result. They claim they know how you should live your life and what, for you own good, you should be allowed to do and what you should not.

People such as these have now come to power in America.

 

Where was God?

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While they were communing with God, gunman Dylann Roof sat among them for forty-five minutes. Then he opened fire and killed nine of them. That’s forty-five minutes during which time God could have warned the Christians who believed he was listening to them that something terrible was about to happen. But he didn’t. The communication was all one way. They talked to him but he didn’t talk to them. He didn’t even listen. Why not? Because either he doesn’t care what happens to his people, despite what Jesus promised, or he isn’t there.

After the massacre, Christians across America resorted to pleading with this negligent God to comfort the bereaved and to help police find the killer. We can be sure God didn’t do any such thing because if he cared at all, he wouldn’t have let the massacre happen in the first place. 

Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee declared that if only some of those at the prayer meeting had been ‘pistol-packing’ themselves, they could have taken out Roof before he did too much damage. And he’s right – absurd as it sounds, one of them could have done. So why didn’t the God who never forsakes his people prompt one of them to take a gun to church? Perhaps because, unreasonably, he thinks it’s better to turn the other cheek. Either way, mark God down for another fail.

Fellow crank, the ‘reverend’ E. W. Jackson, blamed the shootings on liberals, gays and Obama. So, God – pissed with those who don’t support ‘Christian values’ –  allowed a gunman to mow down nine of his own. Makes sense.   

Debbie Dills, meanwhile, spotted the killer’s car on the freeway and informed the police. She later claimed this was God’s doing; the very God incapable of warning his loved ones they were about to be murdered. This God, who allowed his people to be massacred, directed Debbie Mills, who cannot see that she was just happened to be in the right place at the right time, to notice the killer’s vehicle and report his whereabouts.

Let’s get real: a God who can’t prevent the murder of nine of his children but then behaves like a third-rate Jessica Fletcher is no God at all. He is an impotent creation, a being of trivial pursuits, who fails to materialise when he’s really needed; a mythical figure who keeps his super-powers to himself, except in the most insignificant and coincidental of occurrences; a figment of believers’ imaginations.

Show us he’s not, Christians, why don’t you. Show us how he loves you, never forsakes you and protects even the hairs on your heads. Where is he? Where’s the evidence he exists, outside your inconsistent, fallacious scriptures and your own wishful thinking? Where in this real world? The people of Charleston really need to know.

Christians’ Favourite Delusions 2: Prayer works.

CaptureThe Bishop of Honolulu, Larry Silva, is upset. He wants true believers to pray away the gay. He’d really like God to stop same-sex marriage from coming to Hawaii. And prayer is the answer, because, without it, God might not be inclined to bother himself.

It worked so well in the UK. Groups of Christians muttering about abomination, sin and damnation petitioned God to stop equality from happening here too. Which is why, last month, the same-sex marriage bill passed into law.

So what went wrong?

According to those who know God better than the rest of us, he’s pretty uncool about the gay (Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 etc) so we might wonder why he didn’t just veto same-sex marriage and have done with it. Maybe, though, he couldn’t be trusted to do the Right Thing, and needed reminding, by the most fallible of human beings, of what it was he was required to do.

Still he didn’t take the hint and even though they told him, God decided in the end – or maybe it was In The Beginning – not to bother preventing same-sex marriage in the UK and in other parts of the world.

So what does this tell us about all those unanswered prayers Christians sent heavenward? There are four possible explanations of why they failed miserably.

Either:

1. God has other plans. Namely, he wants to use same-sex marriage to bring about the End Times (yes, really).

2. The faithful didn’t pray hard enough, – though why intensity of prayer should have any bearing on whether God decides to grant petitions is never explained. Be that as it may, on this occasion Christians just didn’t pray with sufficient feeling to persuade their Heavenly Father to buy them the chocolate bar at the check-out er… prevent gay marriage. (Yes, it’s completely nonsensical, but I’m trying to give them the benefit of the doubt here).

3. God doesn’t give two hoots about human politics, institutions, social arrangements… and has no interest in who marries who.

Or,

4. God doesn’t actually exist. How else to explain his unresponsiveness, his perpetual invisibility, his total absence from any sphere of existence outside human imagination?

Whichever alternative applies in this scenario – and let’s be honest, there are no others – it is evident that prayer doesn’t work in the way Jesus said it would (Matthew 18.19, John 14.13 &16.23). Not even the most devout Christians can get it to, demonstrating emphatically that, actually, it doesn’t work at all.

So good luck, Bishop Silva. Looks like we can expect to see same-sex marriage in Hawaii some time soon.