Sunday, August 29, 2010

Prophecy

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TEST TEST TEST

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Searching

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In answer to a question posted on the forums. http://z7.invisionfree.com/TheAtheistJourney/index.php?showtopic=1

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Epistemic Circularity

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CORRECTION: About 3:50 "just as reliable as any other..." is supposed to be "epistemological" not "empirical."
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William Alston's "Piercieving God" is an excellent resource for this concept. Although I do not fully agree with his conclusion.

His conclusion is that, basically, SP (spiritual perception) is just as unreliable as DP (doxastic perception.) Since there is no reasonable cause to doubt spiritual perception is true, it is beneficial to the individual to believe in their spiritual perceptions.

There are problems with this. The first is when spiritual perception is not at all beneficial to the individual, or life. For example, seeing an angel tell you that Jews need to be slaughtered, or God telling you to kill your babies, or demons/spirits telling you they demand rape and slaughtered black kittens. Furthermore, how do you logically separate the ones that tell you to do harm, and the ones that simply tell you you shouldn't have sex before marriage because that's bad for some reason?

The second, is that since that spiritual perception is so exclusive as to not be shared unless it is a group vision. I can go to my memory, or testimonies of others even to prove my sense perception is not lying to me. Or I can use other sense perceptions to validate one sense perception. If my eyes tell me when I stick a straw in the water it becomes contorted, I can reach in and verify with my sense of touch that it's not. Spiritual perceptions by nature are usually exclusive and can't be verified.

But.... this can easily become many other separate blogs.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Atheists in Church

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The issue was brought up multiple times, and is always brought up when I tell someone I'm an Atheist.

Truth be told though, I have not gone to church in a while. Mainly because it's too early in the morning for me and I always have work that night. My one problem with church was always it's totally inconvenient time. When they had Saturday night services I was thrilled, but that's stopped since.

Basically guys, it's a culture issue. My whole family is Christian, and like I said I was born and raised in that place. Luckily here in America Atheists have some freedom and ways to slip through the cracks. The most we have to feign is not digging in to eat during family meals before grace is said. But when it comes to holidays, all of the Christian holidays have pagan roots anyway and have commercial alternative ways of celebrating them and still feeling included in society.

Other cultures do not have it so easy. There are many non-believing Jews, for example. But they still participate in Shabat, Pesach, and Chanukkah. Atheistic Hindus may still go to their services simply because they find comfort in meditation and structure.

Furthermore, there are many Atheists in the pulpit. Yes, I said in the pulpit. Look it up, there's a few books on the subject and they can best answer for themselves why they pastor/priest when they don't believe in God.

So in conclusion, there are many reasons. But I can only answer for myself. =)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

video

In this blog I briefly addresses the issues between Atheism and Agnosticism and explain why I call myself an Atheist.

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Here I address the many questions and objection brought up from the rant against agnosticism as life stance.

I to say one doe snot know, or cannot know as an agnostic theist is absurd. To say I believe in someone I cannot describe or define in any way, and give no empirical or logical data on makes no sense.

Referenced Atheism: The Case Against God by George H. Smith.

Will GLADLY send the book to anyone who will 1.) Read it, 2.) Pay it forward.

Also, I am now the proud owner of www.TheAtheistJourney.net

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010

No religion, know peace.

"This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it" John Adams

Just one of the many thoughts I gleaned after watching the documentary "Religulous" with Bill Maher. After sharing this very quote, I learned two additional details not shared by the movie. First of all, John Adams returned to a religious lifestyle later on in life and is know also for saying "We recognize no Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus" (thanks to Jesse Fortner) . Second, I have come to the conclusion that most atheists are not actually anti-theism, but anti-religion ( "In the history of Ideas anti-religion does not necessarily equal anti-God" thanks to Prof. Garcia). I am anti-theism, and I will explain that in my concluding thoughts.

The real problem many Atheists have is with the manipulating, power-tripping, elitist nature of religions. I agree with their sentiments, but so do many believing theists and deists. Bill Maher's movie definitely pointed out the flaws in religion, and many have before and many have and will after.

The fault is not by the mere fact that religion is human made. I do not believe in original sin or inherent evil within mankind. I tend to think we are a wonderful species. Religion is a marvelously fantastical way for mankind to understand their world and reality. That is, of course, the original intention of religion. Examples being something as complex as explaining a peaceful feeling during the death of a loved one as the love and compassion of God and His Holy Spirit, to something as simple as connecting thunder with god slamming his fist in ager. But religion soon became a tool to be used by powerful people to manipulate the masses.

I could explain here what exactly is wrong with religion, but that's not the point I wish to make. The point I wish to make is that this argument is flawed when it comes to theism. It is equally flawed for believers to use this as a reason why atheists should consider theism.

If religion is a man-made concept, then any organized form of worship is a religion and will probably become just as corrupt as anyone else's creation and well intentions. The only way to believe in God is, therefore, for God to reveal himself. Granted, that's a large leap and for the sake of making this brief, I decided to make that leap purposefully. Before the the religious believers argue with me on this point, I'll bring it to your attention that this comes mainly from a religious institution and comes from a long-line of theistic thought. Our theologians will recognize the terminology thus: the difference between general revelation and special revelation. According to some, (thanks to Dr. Perez and other Calvinist professors) special revelation is the only way to come to a knowledge of God, specifically Jesus. They will argue that knowledge of God is apparent in creation, as says the Bible, but this is assuming that the Bible is a special revelation from God in itself. The later is unfortunate, the Bible is just as man-made and man-handled as anything else.

So, if the only way to believe God is from a special revelation and personalized visitation, the Atheist has no problem. The ball is in God's court. My JW sisters who have been visiting insist the Bible has put the ball in our court, the reasons why this is fallacious deserves another blog entry.

So, as is always my personal problem why doesn't God personally reveal himself to each and every individual if belief is so important to him? Or is it?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Keeping the law

There has been a common misconception amongst certain Christian circles that when Paul spoke against those who enforced "the law," he was speaking about Jews. This has furthermore been morphed into a belief that Judaism is a legalistic religion in which one must follow the law in order to be "saved."

This can not be further from the truth.

To break down what Christian often mean by "being saved," it usually refers to, ultimately, eternal life not spent in Hell. This will be an important point later on.

The real question is, is sin a black and white issue? In God's eyes, do you either obey all 613 of his laws or break one and then break all? We can not answer for God, but we can explore what His people thought.

E.P. Sanders in his book "Jesus and Judaism" craftily divides Jesus' words and our english word "sinners" into two categories: The wicked, and the 'amme ha-arets. The wicked are those who "sinned willfully and heinously and did not repent. It is often said that the wicked were 'professional sinners'" (pg 177). These professional sinners were usually those who deliberately took advantage of the common people, usually depicted as those who take inflated interest from their debtors and thus keep the poor, poor.

The 'amm ha arets, or common people, "were not irreligious. They presumably kept most of the law most of the time, observed the festivals, and paid heed to some of the more serious purity regulations."(182) These common people, those who went to church not all the time, tried their best to not lie and to give to the poor were included in God's eternal plan. In fact, no one ever thought the common people would be excluded from salvation! (189) Sanders presses this issue to even say that the uneducated, those who did not know the law, were also included in the plan for salvation!

So who receives God's judgement?

Paula Fredricksen in her article "Judaism, Circumscision, and Apocalyptic Hope" in Mark Nanos' "The Galatatians Debate" writes that even the Gentiles had a part in God's eternal plan. The Gentiles are simply cleansed from their idolatry, and are henceforth deemed "His people." ( see 246-247 especially)

So, again, who receives judgement? For the Christian it is those who do not accept the sacrifice Jesus gave so that we don't have to be bound from by the law. But I just showed that the law was never seen as so binding when it comes to salvation! If God had an eternal plan for the Gentiles, what did Jesus come to do then?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Homosexual Argument Fails

The issue of homosexuality and God/Jesus seems to have been awakened with the recent outing of Jennifer Knapp's homosexuality. At least in the circles of Christianity I am exposed to.

You can read Christianity Today's interview with Jennifer Knapp here:

Also see here, a Ministry I have close ties to which has decided to devote a blog series to address the issue of homosexuality:

In the later link, you'll find some of the fallacious arguments used by the Christian church to argue for a Bible that is completely against homosexual marriage. I will address the main arguments and why they fail here.

1.) Jewish law forbade homosexual marriage. Biblically, this is 100% incorrect. The Bible does, however, read "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." Lev 18:22 The context of this verse will further my argument for why this statement is incorrect:

Lev 18:21 - Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

Lev 18:23 - Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.


It is very clear that these passages are a separation form the former passages in the chapter. We have ceased talking about general sexual taboos and have entered the realm of pagan worship. The verse on homosexuality is no exception.

To further this point, there are no ancient records of homosexual covenental couples. The only records we have, thus far, on homosexual practices are in cult worship, i.e. orgies. Therefore, it is impossible for the Torah to be addressing consensual homosexual relationships as they did not exist. It is very obvious that they are addressing something different and higher than simply the sexual relationship between same sexes.

2.) Jewish law is separated into 3 parts: judicial, moral, and ceremonial. We are not obligated to follow anything but the moral. This argument is completely fabricated and nonsensical. Who separated the law into these parts? Certainly not Jesus, and certainly not any Jew! It's baseless. It may sound good, but it has no foundation whatsoever. Torah is Torah, period.

This argument is usually used to avoid those knit-picky people who point to other verses in the context of the homosexual verses. For example, Leviticus 18:19 says not to lay with a women during her period. If this is a sin on the same line as homosexuality, than men should be more conscientious of when a woman is menstruating. Or, in the context of Lev 20:13, those who curse their parents should be stoned. So the next time you see a little kid throwing a tantrum in the marketplace, get your rocks ready!

3. Homosexuality is called an abomination, and is therefore a higher standard than any of the other laws. This only holds water if 1) you know the Hebrew understanding of the word, or 2) you can validate this with extrabiblical sources and traditions that show that this was the case. I can not do either of these, and do not know Hebrew well enough to say if it really holds water. Also, Lev 11:10 reads that eating shellfish is an abomination as well. Although, I believe, this is a different Hebrew word, arguing that it's different than the Hebrew word used for homosexuality only works if, again,you know Hebrew well enough to argue this.

The best argument I've read for a biblical argument against homosexuality is found in William Webb's book. Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals.I highly suggest reading it. However, even he see the point I made in #1 and sees it as a major failing point in the argument.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Holy Guilt

If there is one thing I miss and hate at the same time - it's the constant self-reflection and guilt found in the fervent Christian walk.

Hate because I could never quite accept who I was at that moment: pray more, love more, forgive more, worship deeper, .. the constant inner turmoil! I find it strange - yet not so strange - that the day I left Christianity, the day I ceased depression and suicidal ideation. I'm sickeningly happy, happier than I've ever been.

And yet something tugs on me when I see the deep convictions found in Christian blogs, journals, prayers, and sermons. What does the atheist have but his or herself to encourage improvement? What presses me to love my husband deeper but my own desire to do so? The Christian believes in an outer Good and Perfect being that calls them to be "holy as I am holy." Holiness being this completely unobtainable property.

But yet this creates a life long tug-of-war between the overflowing mercy of God's Grace and the call to "take up your cross" and follow Christ. One day the beleiver may be standing strong on verses that speak of their sonship and adoption into the Chosen People, and the next day mulling and cutting themselves over verses that require higher standards than they could ever reach.

How can a human being endure such constant warring? Does God really wish to do this to His people? Is this even desirable? Do we have a choice if He indeed exists?

I can say as an Atheist I've become who I could never accept I was/am, and yet inside I still hear the voice saying egotism and cynicism is not right and holy and there is something higher to reach. But yet - if I was only who I am now before I could have fought and won so many more battles. If I accepted the strength I have, the egotism, the out-spokenness I wouldn't have lost so many friends with my shyness and inability to speak my mind because of my belief that this was how God wanted me to be.

But is Atheism the answer? I doubt it. Yet if someone could surely help me see an alternative to this Holy Guilt and turmoil I'd be glad to hear it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorials and Foxholes

On this day, May 31st, we remember those who have fallen for our country. Sadly, it seems very few know this and see it as simply another Veteran's Day. I can't number how many mom and pop restaurants I passed by today that read "we thank our Veteran's for all they do!" They're apparently quite ignorant that it's more a day to remember what our veterans did. Two different holidays.

You may ask, what does this have to do with religion and the lack thereof? A lot. I had a lot to think of today, mainly surrounding a very difficult question: What is it that causes us to be so moved by those who gave their lives for a cause such as their country? I don't know about others, but something inside me moves me to tears when I stand by the grave of a 22 year old boy who died in war. It's a feeling of reverence and thankfulness.

But why?

Certainly this is nothing new. And certainly it is nothing exclusive to Western thinking nor Christianity. Even less foreign to Atheism. I did a simple google search of "Veterans and Atheism" and was surprised to find an organization for this very same idea. http://www.maaf.info/news.html

There has also, as you'd find on that page, a long fight by this organization to deny the charge that "there are no Atheists in foxholes." For the longest time, even I bought this catch-phrase, believing that something in us still looks up at the skies when death comes knocking. This is far from true.

So then, what value is there in a man who does not believe in God and spirituality and the second-coming and all that jazz dying for his country? What value is there in an Atheist man who remembers such people dying for the country they now live in?

There is some value. For whatever reason, we evolved in such a way that caused us to be mindful of our history. For whatever reason, we remember and we record. We're sentimental, and we learn from lives we did not live but that came before us. This can easily become another philosophical debate on morality, seeing that the soldier is fighting for the ideals of his country and who's to say the other country isn't right? But I think it goes deeper than that still. This is a man, many men, thousands of men who willingly die for a cause.

Why? And why does this move us?

Unfortunately, I have no answers only emotions. I just hope it stirs the reader to think and feel as well.

For further reading, I found a article on the issue of Atheists in foxholes:
http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Secular-Philosophies/Atheists-In-Foxholes.aspx

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts on Religious Tolerance

These thoughts were inspired by and my most recent discussion with friends on concerning absolute morality. It's also slightly inspired by my experience with the JW ladies.

As an atheist, I don't see harm in religiosity. At least not to the point of those such as Sam Harris do. I do wish people would accept less stringent ways of life, and do wish people would have foundations for their beliefs that can hold water. But if you tell me you are happy, then I have no desire to change you.

As a Christian, I would have never allow such words, much less thoughts to be connected with myself. As a Christian, it was either Jesus or Hell. Your happiness, internal peace, passion, or inspiration drawn from your religiousness was actually just a lie from the Devil. Why the Devil would lie by providing such peace is beyond me now, but I suppose then I would say "because it lured you into Hell." In fact, I've been told by some close to me the same about my disbeliefs, that they are lies from Satan!

This sounds okay to those of us with.. I'll say.. more open minds? You'll forgive me my Christian watchers, I can't at the moment find a better phrase. I do not mean it in any condescending fashion. But I'm going to press it to a degree that can often times become unacceptable to even self-acclaimed open-minded Agnostics and Atheists, as it has recently among the above quoted forums.

JWs do not receive blood transfusions. This means that if their child, due to an accident, a disease, whatever, comes to a point where they either receive transfused blood or die, they will not permit their child to take the blood.

It seems many people are outraged at this. It is considered mistreating and harming a child. I am not convinced of this. Mainly because I understand the deep conviction of religiousity. For the JW, perhaps they truly believe if they accept the transfusion they have committed a sin and put themselves on the road to Hell. Can you, with clear a clear conscience, force a parent to send their child to Hell? It doesn't matter if you don't believe there is a Hell, these people do. For them, they live happier and more self-gratifying lives if they follow what their God tells them to do.

Do I think it's personally sick? Yes. I have my levels of morality that I follow. If God told me to sacrifice my son, I'd probably tell him to... well... I would spout unhappy things that shan't be repeated here. But can I force someone to follow my morality? Just what makes my morality, my beliefs, more important than theirs?

It's been spouted, and angers me to no end, that "secular laws must be subservient to religious laws." I've been wrapping my mind around it since I heard it, and I still can not see the logic in it. The secular world is just as corrupt, if not more than religious circles. There is nothing to logically state that somehow laws created by secular governors are any more sensical that those fashioned by religious hierarchies.

Philosophically, I think it makes zero sense. I do hope I am not alone.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

1.1 Bible Plan

For anyone curious as to what plan I'm following, it is a 2-month read through plan I formulated myself about 4 years ago. It has gone through many revisions and testings by readers, and could probably use another tweak. But I have found none like it. It's fun, and only takes about an hour out of your day.

Check it out: http://reborndead.deviantart.com/art/60-DayBible-reading-plan-41893758?q=by:RebornDead+bible&qo=1

I started day 1 today. It took me a little less than an hour, and that was with a LOT of cross referencing. Let's begin.

Genesis 1-3

Let me begin by saying that these 3 chapters are by far the most interesting and the most perplexing in the whole Bible. The language is odd, to say the least. Try to find a literal translation Bible for this passage, stay away from Bibles such as NLT for this purpose. Most verses repeat the same word about 3 or 4 times, "living creature with life," "seed-bearing plants with seeds," "flying things that fly" etc.

I recall as a Christian arguing for a complimentary first and second chapter and adamently argued against the "two creation story" belief. Now I can't imagine how I even began to do so.

Were animals created on day 6 (1:24-25), or some time after mankind was created ( 2:19)? Do all living creatures have nefesh hi'yah, the breath of life (1:30), or is only man called a living creature posessing this special breath (2:7)? Was woman created at the same time as man in God's image (1:27), or was woman created after animals in man's image (2:21-22)?

I spent way too much time on these passages pondering all these questions. My main question, how was this story shared? We have, for the most part, all come to the consensus that most of what is in Genesis was passed along orally. Should we invision this story being shared to children over the campfire? Certainly we should compare it to other ancient creation tales.

Moving passed my musings I turned to my good ole' "What does the Bible really teach" booklet that the JW ladies handed me last Sunday. Their focus was on Genesis 3 and attaching the serpent to Satan, which is a mind-blowing assumption that is described with such introductory phrases as "evidently" and "apparently" in their propoganda material although it is everything but that in the passage. Then they state that the serpent lied to Eve, although everything he told her in 3:4-5 is confirmed by God himself in 3:22. You can say they eventually died all you want, but 900+ years is a long time for that threat to actually bear fruit.

I promise, this will be the only time I spend so much space on a single passage! Genesis 1-3 never ceases to confound me, no matter how many times I read it.

Joshua 1-4

My only interesting observation here was how Joshua seems to act as a demi-god to the people. I was stunned reading1:18 "Any man who flouts your [Joshua]s] commands and does not obey every order you give him shall be put to death." Mind you this was not an edict by God, but by the people. Strange. Also contrary to the Christian idea of "me and my God and no one else", there is an apparent hierarchy: God speaks to Joshua and him alone, and Joshua tells everyone else what to do.

Psalm 1-3

The contrast between wicked and righteous interests me. Nowadays is seems the contrast is only between those who believe and those who don't. Belief outweighs deeds. Thank Luther for that one.

Isaiah 1-5

Herein were words we can all live by:
"Learn to do good,
devote yourselves to justice;
Aid the wronged,
Uphold the rights of the orphan;
Defend the cause of the widow."
1:17

Job 1

I love this chapter. Mainly because you have God here boasting to Satan about a blameless man, when Christians tout that Jesus was the only sinless man. He was blameless by the narrators voice, blameless by God's voice, and after Satan's disbelief is proved to have not sinned.

One thought-provoking question though: Why does God ask where Satan has been?

Matthew 1-2

I will break the formality of my blog here with a big: OMFG. Annoying. Matthew quotes from so many passages and had me thumbing through trying to figure out just what he is doing and if he is really quoting. After doing so, I have to wonder just what the hell Matthew is doing with the prophets? And just what prophet ever said that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene?

Interesting note, JPS translates the commonly quoted Isaiah 9:6 (in JPS it's verse 5, verse 1 of our Bibles becomes the last verse of the previous chapter): "For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us, And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named "The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father a peaceable ruler." Which makes tremendous more sense than our translations which read that this man will actually be called Mighty God.

Romans 1-2

Again noted the emphasis on good works: "but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good." 2:10

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

JW Witness

So this Sunday morning (my birthday mind you) 2 sweet Jehovah's Witness people came knocking on my door. Frankly, I was excited. The only time JWs have visited I've either been asleep, so someone else has gotten to the door before me.

I played curious and open. I told them straight I was an Atheist which received a strange surprised reaction. They proceeded to share verses with me, I told them I was a Bible student and knew the story. That actually I had been a Christian my whole life. When asked, told them quite honestly why I left and why I don't plan on coming back.

So I invited them in to share/sell their wares. We had a nice chat.

Why did I do this? I'm not sure. Maybe I sympathize with them. Maybe I see my old self witnessing to people with the honest love and concern for their souls. Maybe it's a catharsis process for me, to really seal the deal or to see if I really do buy what I tote (dad claims everyone deep down believes there is a God, in other words "They can't believe in a loving God Who doesn't believe in atheists " ~ Skillet). Or maybe it's because they are the only people I have met who has cared about my soul? Out of all my Christian family, extended church family, and "friends" these ladies are the first to witness to me. And sure, I know the story more than anyone, but is "it's just a phase you'll get over" really the right reaction for family and friends to have?

Whatever reasons you want to attribute to my openness and willingness to listen to them, they wanted to set up their weekly sharings and Bible Studies and I said sure? Why not? They claim they don't want to convert me, and of course that's not true. So our meetings will probably end when they are convinced I have no intention of changing, or whenever I start getting a little too frisky and argumentative.

So, after saying that, this should be interesting. I will share what I learn, share what I tried to help them to learn, and any internal struggles I face if I do face them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer Blog Plan

School has ended, and I really don't have any closing thoughts on what was taught. Finals and papers, that's about it. You are more than welcome to read my paper defending Enoch placement in the canon of scripture though: http://reborndead.deviantart.com/art/A-defense-for-Enoch-as-Canon-161641588

The Summer Blog Plan is as follows:
1. Learn Koine Greek via http://biblicalulpan.org/
2. Possibly read through Bible in 2 months
3. Q & A ? / Current Events

It will be fun.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Week 13.2 - Jesus, Judgement, and Social Justice

Our passage for this blog is Matthew 25:31-46. Those with Bibles may open then, otherwise, utilize the wonders of biblegateway.com! Either way, you may recall it as "The sheep and the goats." It was our ending passage for The. of Poverty this week, oddly connected with Pslam 82. I won't participate in such theological gymnastics myself, and will be instead focusing on Jesus' words.

I'll ignore the many questions that can arise with the first verse, and skip to the next fascinating introduction. The gathering of the goyim, the nations. A Jewish reader would immediately recognize this as "everyone but me." Everyone not Jewish. If you want to read this through Christian eyes, even so, the term is used for the unbelievers, those outside of the covenant. As an Atheist, I can safely include myself in this group brought before the King (? ).

We are then divided into two groups, The two groups are, basically, those who participate in acts of social justice:

" For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me
"

I can imagine the Atheist and Agnostic here chiming in, like those here in the passage do, and asking "when did I (or didn't I) do that for you? I never saw you, heck I don't even know who you are!"

We are then informed that the "I" is actually the "least of these brothers of Mine." Basically, without going into it, the people around you who exhibited the above needs.

It's a good sermon indeed, and preached often! I, however, would find this to be an immediate soteriological problem.

The problem? These acts of social justice and care for the poor is what the nations are being judged upon. Not "did you say the sinner's prayer?" not "did you believe I existed?" not "did you love me with all your heart, soul, and strength?"

This shouldn't at all be a problem if we look at the Old Testament. We see many cases of YHWH being a god actively concerned for the poor. All throughout psalms we see a god who rises up to defend the needy and put low the rich and greedy. Throughout the Torah we find laws bent towards taking care of the orphan, widow, and sojourner. Laws such as do not glean to the edges of your field, with the purpose of leaving behind sheaths for the poor (see Ruth for an example). If anything, God doesn't seem to give a hoot whether you believe in Him or not when it comes to the poor. People in the OT are not judged for unbelief, but for acts of unrighteousness. I'll add here that tsedek, righteous in Hebrew, is synonymous with charity!

So where do we get this idea that those who inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world are those who believe Jesus is God, believe there is a God, and believe that Jesus died on a wooden cross as the only way to forgive you of your sins and thus let you into said kingdom?

Well... that's another blog in itself! A fun one at that. But for now, and with this passage, it seems quite clear how we are eternally judged. And me? I have no problem with that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Week 11.2 - Do we need immortality?

As an Atheist, I am continually given the question "what is the point of life if it ends?" and demanded to answer. In PHI441, we faced the issue of immortality by first opening our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15 and reading aloud the entire chapter (I suggest you do the same). Besides my initial reaction that Paul is spouting nothing more than the recent Greek philosophical trend, I took note of the verses that were, no doubt, of theological significance:

v.14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is without foundation, and so is your faith

v.16For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

v.40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is different from that of the earthly ones

v.40 addresses another related topic: the intelligibility of what is philosophically called the disembodied life. Fact is, besides the main point that will be made here, a disembodied existence is completely unintelligible. Without of physical capacities, life can not be defined. What is a consciousness without input and stimuli? If you saw nothing, felt nothing, heard nothing, sensed nothing at all, how would your thoughts progress? We are of course assuming you have thoughts at all after your neurons cease to fire, which is a leap in itself! Religion then seems to make the claim, as Paul does here, that our minds/souls are transcended to this indescribable "heavenly body." Which is all good and well, and I will leave religion with that concept and continue to the main discussion:

Why do we so need eternal life?

Because this discussion took place in a Christian context, I withheld most of my comments. The Bible says explicitly that the Christian faith is meaningless without the possibility of resurrection. Whether you interpret that as just Jesus' resurrection or ours as well, is besides the point, here it seems the later is the one fought for by the line of Christian thought represented by this college and these Christian philosophers.

Such questions are asked such as:

(1) How can God's love permit us to cease to exist?
(2) How can the sufferings we have incurred be reconciled without an after-life?
(3) Wouldn't God's plans and purposes go unfulfilled?

These are, naturally, theological questions more than philosophical ones. However, being a theologian, technically, I will address them briefly with the excessive help of Grace M. Jantzen who's title of her work I borrowed for this blog.

(1) Grace makes an excellent point from which I can add very little:

"..Christian theology does hold that there are other things which are precious to God and which, in spite of that, perish forever... We cannot have it both ways. 'Are not three sparrows sold for a farthing?' Jesus asked. 'Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your heavenly Father's knowledge.' These words of Jesus have often (and rightly) been taken as his teaching of the tender concern of the Father for all his creatures; what has not been noticed so often is that Jesus never denies that sparrows do fall." *

Simply, the question is, why must we live eternally onward for God to love us? The analogy is in the sparrows who fall, and yet whom God loves. As Grace says, if "taken to its logical conclusion, the implication, surely, is not that we will not die but that our death will not go unnoticed."

(2) I spin this question on its head and leave it there: How can an after-life reconcile for sufferings incurred in this life? Does it? Perhaps the lolli-pop at the doctor's office remedies a child's experienced trauma, but can eternal happiness truly remedy traumatic experiences? Does heaven make up for a woman's violent rape? Does heaven make up for brutal, senseless murder? For holocausts? Genocide? Torture?

Perhaps the theologian will respond with something similar to the unfathomable love and peace of The Comforter. Which perhaps, the atheist would have to leave alone with upward palms, but would hardly be converted to anything more than Agnosticism given the lack of empirical evidence for such unfathomable comfort.

But the proposition of the theist is, it seems, to solve the problem of evil with a life after this reality. It is as if God pulls a big "April Fools!" on everyone by informing them after death that those 70-120 years, or whatever, were all a drop in the bucket and existence will hence forth continue in peace and goodness and love.

Which leads to another level of the sub-topic, the rationality of eternal-life. Besides it's logical rationality (does it make sense) there is practical rationality (is it useful?) It would seem to me this type of theology is too nihilistic in nature and can, and has lead to great harm. The doctrine of martyrdom, for example, in many religions leads to tragic harm! The seductive belief that this life is just a step into the better after-existence has caused many suicides and dangerous life-styles that eventually lead to one's death. Is this a rational way to live? The answer is obvious a emphatic No! if this life is all there is!! That is for certain.

(3) This is really just a sub-question of (1).The answer is another simple question, why can't God's plan for us go unfulfilled in this life? Unless one assumes God's plan for us is to live forever, of course! Which is fine and dandy, but not a necessary belief by a long-shot.

*Exploring Philosophy of Religion: An Introductory Anthology by Steven M. Cahn. "Do we need Immortality" by Grace M. Jantzen (1984). pg 279

Monday, March 29, 2010

Week 10.1 -Adultery

A lady or two left the classroom during this discussion/lecture tangent in, as I perceived (biased as I am), denial. The tangent was original from a discussion on the Woman Caught in Adultery passage found in John 8:1-11. It had started off as a linguistic discussion on the Hebrew baraz translated into the English "caught" and a cross-referencing to Numbers 5:13. Apparently there are Rabbinical traditions that take this to be a physical catching. In other words, rape. We usually read it in our English equivalent of "to be caught"as the woman being "discovered in adultery."

The discussion turned, shortly, to adultery. The fact is, only a woman commits adultery. Biblically. A man is never spoken of as committing adultery. A man only commits adultery if he sleeps with another man's wife (Deuteronomy 22:22).

Go ahead. Look it up. I'll wait.

How many examples can you think of off the top of your head of men sleeping with women they aren't necessarily married to without any consequences? The rest of the context of Deuteronomy furthermore makes it clear the male preference. Especially verses 28-29. Keep in mind at this time it is common for a man to have multiple wives.

Furthermore, it was discussed in class that if a woman is raped, though she has not sinned, she is still considered adulterous. Again drawing from Deuteronomy 22 and other verses and examples she can not marry, she is not a virgin. How terrible for the woman!

With the Woman Caught in Adultery in John 8, notice there is no man present. Reread 22:22 and you'll see both the man and the woman must be stoned. Which rules out her being, as the English would render it, discovered in the act of adultery. So, she must have been raped and our physical rendering of "caught" must be applicable here. So, why are the religious leaders wishing to stone her? Probably because of the formulated tradition that a woman is an adulterous whether it is willing sex or forced sex. This isn't new. There are other nations who do not blame men for rape but the women. The question is, is this a right and good theology? Should we be basing our theology of adultery on the Bible?

I would not, that's for sure. And who's to say I can't have multiple husbands, but a man can have multiple wives? Well, that's another discussion.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Week 5.2 - Biblical type scenes

In Bible as Literature we have been discussing the construct of type-scenes as used in ancient and particularly biblical literature. English majors might enjoy this if I can articulate it well enough.

Basically, biblical literature often times fits into what are called type-scenes that have inherent expectations. A modern day comparison is Western movies. You have the sheriff of the town who is a great shot, the best. He comes into conflict with a criminal of some sort. They have a shoot-out, draw, whatever they call it. The sheriff wins due to his quick hand. We all know the tales! Furthermore, genres in general usually have their own type-scenes. Ever watched criminal sitcoms, or soap operas so often that you can tell what is going to happen? We know that she is going to fall in love with him before anyone else, we also know that he is not the killer because it's too early in the show and we know the real discover always happens at 7:52!!

Likewise, there are such conventions in Biblical literature, it seems, that would have been predictable to the audience reading it.

As discussed in class, there is the woman at the well type scene. What happens in these scenes is a journey into a foreign land, a meeting of a woman at a well, a drawing of water, a running of the woman, testimony of the woman to family, feast and betrothal of man to woman. Isaac met Rebekhah at a well, Jacob met Rachel, and Jesus met the Samaritan woman. Deviations are found in each, but deviations are put in place for a meaning, to make a point. When in a Western the sheriff is someone crippled, we know the story may follow the same conventions loosely but will be making a special point. Or if they find the murderer sooner, we know something else will be revealed later.

Taking type scenes to another stretch, we have this strange type scene in Genesis of lying. Abraham lies twice concerning Sarah being his sister to Pharoh, and then to Abimelech. We then see his son doing the same with his wife! (Genesis 12, 20, and 26) In each case, we have a further elaboration of the specifics. Why? To make a point.

I want to focus on Abraham and Sarah. Check out Genesis 12 and 20. Notice the basic framework: the telling of the lie/half truth, the "taking" of Sarah, the discovery (by different modes, compare with 26's discovery) of her married status, the plague upon the nation, the offerings for forgiveness/vindication.

Although the structure is fascinating, and there are many ethical issues here, there is a slight deviation and language issue that is even more interesting!!

12:15 "...was taken into Pharoh's house."

12:19 "... so that I took her as my wife"

Most of us have been taught to read this innocently. Sarah was taken into pharaoh's house, Pharaoh was shown that Sarah was actually Abraham's wife,, and Sarah was released. What we don't realize, is that we are imposing the facts found in 26 because we assume each account is the same, not stopping to read what is said.

It says she was "taken," which in Hebrew is a euphemism for a sexual taking.

Pharaoh explicitly says he took her as his wife.

Chapter 20 elaborates this story more, almost seeming to attempt to clarify the questions in the previous chapter (theologically) but literarily we can't help but notice the differences as meaning something!

Notice the repetitions in this account. We have a repeating of "take" in verse 2 and 3. Then we have the repetition of claims of innocence by Abimelech and we can't help but be reminded of our dear President Clinton "I did not have sex with that woman!" Why else would someone so emphatically claim his own innocence but by the fact that he is guilty? Even God in this passage says he has "done this" out of the cleanness of his hands, but done what?

Then notice Abimelech's address directly to Sarah, what man speaks directly to a woman in ancient times? We rarely see this in biblical accounts and here we have a king addressing her, saying that she is giving her husband money to vindicate her. Vindicate her for what?

And the clincher, immediately after this is chapter 21, the birth of Isaac.

=)

It seems here what should follow is a state address by Abimelech "I did have sex with that woman..."! By Abraham's treatment of Sarah, I think it's fair to assume he didn't like her much. Maybe she wasn't barren herself, but Abraham had some failings in performance with her. Stretch? I think not if you read these two stories. Doesn't it seem odd that this affair with Abimelech is immediately followed by Isaac's birth?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Week 2.4 Biblical Rape

Judges 19

If you have not, read it.

We discussed this class in Bible as Literature class and it was a surprisingly quiet session. I could tell this was the first time some of the students have ever seen this passage in their Bible. No one ever preaches it, that is for sure! So who can blame them for their silence?

The passage, as you can speaks of rape, murder, and gender differentiation.

I am in the process of asking Christians, through forum discussion and 1 on 1 to discuss this passage and its implications in the Bible for me. So I will update on the study if it bears fruit.

As a non-believer, I ask myself why is this passage in a holy and sacred book? The first, obvious answer is that the author is describing a historical event. This did in fact happen and the Levite did in fact cut up his concubine (alive?) and mail her pieces to the 12 tribes, and the 12 tribes did in fact go to war because of this display and event.

However. The event and actions of the Levite speak so much more, ojectively and textually than just a historical fact. It speaks of cultural traditions. For one, we know that in middle eastern societies, even to this day, people have the social demand that if a stranger comes to your town, you must offer him your hospitality for 3 days. So we know that the person who invited in the Levite was exhibiting a social duty. We also know that he of course would protect him against any attackers coming to his door.

But is not the Levite's concubine also a guest? Is not she also protected?

Apparently not. Which is where the problem begins. Why is the woman tossed out, a guest, and the guest's concubine? The host knew what these men were going to do, rape her. He also knew they had evil intents and would probably cause her deadly harm, besides the initial trauma of being gang raped. Yet he threw her out to them to be their toy all night. What does this say?

A lot. Now what does this say to someone who believes that the Bible is the guidebook for humanity? How does someone rationalize God's silence in a book that is supposedly the Word of God?

Reactions I gleaned from the class discussion? My professor said the first time she read it was when a friend of hers, who had been raped, read this passage for the first time and called her weeping and asking her "why is this in the Bible???" My professor said, shocked, she opened her bible and read it for her first time. She also wept. She didn't have an answer then, and doesn't have an answer now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Belief and Spiritual Atheism

Wittgenstein taught that the term "I believe" did not convey anything and was in itself meaningless. What does belief add?

His example: When you say "I believe it will rain" is it not the same as saying "it will rain"? For you state to state it, it must follow that you believed what you just stated to be true.

This seems to make tremendous philosophical sense. Practically, why do we use "belief" terminology? Perhaps because of religious texts that push "faith," believing in what can not be substantiated/seen. So the article of faith demands a person use the precursor "I believe." For if you believe in something that can not be found to be true, for example, again, "It will rain today" you are making a statement that can be validated. (I added "today" simply because if you do not put a timeframe on the statement, it elongates my argument's point.) Either it will rain today, or it will not. Thus, you are either making a true or false statement. Belief is neither true, nor false. Although certainly we can say belief can be grounded, or absurd!

However, when it comes to God, we also encounter the issue of existence. Which... well I would suppose will have to be left to another post because it's another deal all together. But basically, if someone can give a definition of that thing which exists, we can then seek to find that thing! But people make God such an incomprehensible concept, that the discussion is meaningless. I can not substantiate whether X is true if you don't tell me what X is! Especially if there are other incomprehensible variables in the equation. You can have one X in an equation, and most of the times solve it, but only if you can provide an equation that can be solved.

Which leads to my personal application of this information and the issue of spiritual atheism. Is it feasible? The latest book I read, "Atheism: The Case Against God" by George H. Smith boiled down Atheism to its core: lack of theistic belief. Since then, I have born the label. But I wonder, is this misleading? Certainly, many bear many titles and do not fit the supposed mold! But is it acceptibile? Can one be open, and be an atheist? Can one be open, and be a Christian? I frown upon the label of agnosticism for many reasons, so I will not address that supposed "middle-ground" here, but can the title of Atheism fit someone as I who is open to God existing, just makes the decision not to believe in it?

Going back to the issue of belief, why state belief in something that can not be validated? Thus, a*theism for me.

But I wonder, can the concept of God be discussed philosophically in his existence's favor? I pondered this in class, as our professor offered himself as an example of one venturing into the philosophical world as someone who can "bring something new to the table as a Christian." I couldn't help but wonder, just how he goes about philosophically supporting this God's existence without completely stripping it of all understandable definitions and thus, return back to the prior point.

Unless.

Belief is a decision? Hence our created, emotionally-wired word "faith." If faith a choice? Is faith a logical choice? Or is it absurd?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Week 2 - Bible and philosophy

I began my philosophy class with a friendly discussion among students. We had a good amount of time before our professor showed up, so we turned to each other to get the philosophical ball rolling.

I can not recall the exact question. The religious studies major first voiced his position through the lenses of his field, turned to the business major for his interpretation, and then to myself as the "theologian." It was fascinating to be in such a mutual learning environment! All I remember about the topic was what I shared, I think it was surrounding the Atheist and how he can believing in an incomprehensible universe. Something like that. My response, again, as the theologian, was that "doesn't the theologian (notice my objectivity! I craftily avoid proclaiming my stance..) believe in an incomprehensible God?"

So class begun shortly thereafter. We delved into all the problems with religion. From the problem of evil, to the problem with Arminianism and the fact that if God is omniscient, we have no free will.

After this, in facing all the problems with God head on, our professor clarified and said "now we cannot take off our glasses." In other words, we look at all this through Christian lenses and do not remove them. So although we realize none of this makes sense, we still believe in our God.

So I asked myself. Is it that simple? Is faith really just a matter of wearing glasses? What about me, have I taken the glasses off? If so, can the glasses be put back on? Would I see God clearer through these lenses? The ultimate question: Can I face the fact that none of it makes sense, and still believe?

Certainly, if we destroy all of our doctrines, we simply strip God of human definitions, do we not? We do not actually destroy the possibility of his/its existence.

But then what would I be believing in? If it is devoid of the capacity to define it, can I still call myself a Christian? Although, naturally, the Christian believes in more than God, the Chrsitian believes in the Bible and in Jesus, which is embeded in those glasses.

Which leads to the next class, and next thought process:

If the Bible can be found to be true, does Atheism fall apart?

I have though long and hard (*giggle* long and hard...) about this and have not come to a consensus.

For one, can the Bible be proven to be true? I recall lists that can easily be found on the internet of "problems with the Bible." But every time I go to my classes, the Bible makes more and more sense. The questions are explained, it it suddenly makes contextual sense. So what if all those problems can be answered with reasonable, contextual, critical analysis? Would it be true? Just what does it take to prove something like the Bible as true?

Furthermore, if I can find the Bible to be true, can I again accept Jesus? Can I make that step? Can I intellectually grab a hold of the concept that I am a sinner although I find such a doctrine as absolutely repulsive? Can I wrap my arms around the fact that I must accept this man, Jesus, who lived 2000 years ago as my "savior" (from what, I don't know) from whom I am granted access into the afterlife?

Even further, do I have to? Well, the Bible says that if I do not, I burn. So I have no choice if I find it to be true. But I wonder if I have the capacity? It makes no sense to me, but many things don't make sense and are true. I look at the platypus for example and think... well that's just odd! It doesn't make sense to me and is, to me, the strangest creature to be found. But it is real.

Then again, my use of "sense" is not congruent with logic!

So can the Bible make logical sense? I wonder!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Week 1.3 - Hallway oddities classrom absurdities

Walking through the hallways today in college, I came across three separate occasions of group prayers. As a christian, seeing such interactions were heart-warming. Objectively? They're comparable to an insane asylum, honestly.

Two in particular stood out to me and made me walk quicker to my classroom. The third was quiet in nature between two people just holding hands and murmuring with their eyes closed.

The first two consisting of people screaming, mostly in what evangelicals call "tongues" (a christian language that even they do not understand but the spirit of God utters through them). It was passionate, and kind of frightening in a sense.

The second encounter was one man, in the hallway, standing in a corner crying and screaming "Help me Jesus!" and someone or another, some specific request to Jesus to help him understand something.

Now I'm not one to objectify people's personal experiences. But this was in public, and Christian college or not... odd and strange, and raised eyebrows from me at least.

Classroom absurdities? I have two words: Pat Robertson.

This Haitian man, whose working as the Teacher's Assistant, uttered the fatal words "pact with devil." I lost it. Asked him his sources, informed him that no, 90% of Haiti does not practice voodoo, but is actually Catholic. He insisted it was "history" (this vacuous title) and then did what every Christian does: make jabs at Catholicism as idolatrous in nature and having actually "synchronized" with voodoo. In other words, claim they are Catholic but actually practice voodoo.

*sigh*

But I have much else to share. Philosophy of Religion class: Excellent. Will reflect on that in a soon to follow post. I have "The Bible as Literature" in 10 minutes which is actually being held in the Teacher's lounge!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Week 1.1 - First day of class

I had a moment where I seriously got a nauseating "what the fuck have I done?" reaction. I seriously almost broke down back into faith. I mean... I saw all my friends, liberal and conservative and just... felt sick having to save face and hide my disbeliefs.

And then class was just... it was awesome. It reminded me of my former passion for the Bible. It brought up those deep brainwashed ideas that "The Bible is canon! The Bible is canon! It's God breathed!" etc etc.

So when I asked the usual Atheist's problem with Luke 1-

"How do you respond to those who say "virgin" in the Greek is a complete mistranslation of the Hebrew "almah" in Isaiah from which the gospel writers are supposedly writing to say Jesus fulfilled this verse?"

...and actually got an answer I did not expect? An answer that showed there was former Jewish tradition of Melchizedek being born of a virgin? That this MAY have actually been a real Jewish expectation and not a mistranslation?

I almost lost it. I felt sick.

I still feel kinda sick. I've been schooled, man. Which is maybe why I knew, deep down I just new that I had to go back to this college.

But I'm trying to hold my own. I sat on the bus really thinking and had to ask myself "why should the Bible be the only true account of God?" "What makes you think God, if he exists, would fit this mold?" "What of your other problems with the bible (infanticide, genocide)?"

And I still know I'm going to stay in my disbeliefs. I can by no means just jump back! That's for certain. It's be taking on a butt-load of doctrines I can't accept.

Maybe I have to start reconstructing? Maybe I'm at the last stage, like Descartes was, when all he could say is "I think, therefore I am" and then reconstructed his faith from scratch? I dunno if I'm there yet... but I have a feeling this semester is going to deeply impact me. (Atheists out there, help my shock!)

For anyone interested:

I didn't find the source yet, but apparently the myth of Melchizedek says that his mother came to his father with news of a miraculous pregnancy. The father accused her of infidelity and had her stoned (or whatever, killed). As she dropped to the floor, out popped Melchizedek.... prophesying!! His father picked him up, and raised him.

Hence why Hebrews says "he was born without a mother, nor father." He had no father due to miraculous birth, and his mother was dead. Ever question why Hebrews said this when the Bible said nothing of it? Now you know.

Also with John the Baptist being Elijah, someone questioned if the Jews expected a physical return of Elijah himself. The answer was no. To seal the deal, he gave the example of how to this day, Jewish fathers place their just circumcised sons on the "seat of Elijah" with the hope that "this one will be he!"

4 classes to go, including philosophy of religion which will probably jolt me back to my senses.