That rules out the Gospel then

Pope Francis puts in his two denarius’ worth on Charlie Hebdo.

Pope Francis on Thursday condemned killing in God’s name but warned religion could not be insulted, weighing into a global debate on free speech ahead of a rapturous welcome in the Philippines…

“If a good friend speaks badly of my mother, he can expect to get punched, and that’s normal. You cannot provoke, you cannot insult other people’s faith, you cannot mock it,” he said.

If a man smite you on your right cheek, offer him your left also. But if he insults your mother, POW!

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Women leaders? What women leaders?

Isn’t this charming.

Yesterday’s historic march across Paris included over 40 world leaders expressing solidarity for France after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, but if you read this Haredi newspaper, you’d believe that none of them were women.

The image that ran on the front page of the Israeli newspaper The Announcer edited two female world leaders out of the image, originally provided by wire service GPO…

Among those purged from the photograph were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. If God had meant for women to be leaders, he would have given them penises, eh?

Fun with Santa

Re-posted from Evangelical Realism, 5 Dec 2007

Was Santa Claus a part of your childhood? He was definitely a big part of mine (bigger than Jesus for most of my very-young days, in fact). It was only natural, then, that my wife and I would want Santa to be part of our kids’ childhood as well. But therein lies the dilemma: Santa is not real, and we didn’t want to lie to our kids. So we found a way to have fun with Santa, without ever lying about him.

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A wasted debunking

Via Ed Brayton’s blog last Halloween, we have this story of Raelians attempting to debunk the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

In this study we tested the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation by DNA analysis. Results showed unequivocally that the rituals performed by the priests during the Eucharist sacrament have no detectable effect on the substance of altar bread at the DNA level.

Very amusing, but pointless. The reason the doctrine is called “transubstantiation” instead of “transformation” is because when Catholics say “transubstantiation” they mean something very different from transformation. And it all goes back to Aristotle.

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Everything we need to know about God

I was a conservative, Bible-believing Christian until I was in my early forties, and as a believer, the one thing I wanted more than anything else was to understand God. Ironically, it’s only now, after a decade and a half as an atheist, that I’ve finally reached an understanding that truly does explain everything that seems odd or mysterious about God.

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Tempting God

Via Ed Brayton comes this quote from Senator Jim Inhofe:

Inhofe: Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.

Even by Christian standards, that’s a monumentally stupid and irresponsible thing to say. Of course, Inhofe isn’t the first guy to say something like that. You can find very similar words being ascribed to Satan in the Gospel according to Matthew.

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Two questions, three (incomplete) answers

The Right Side News (“The Right News for Americans”) has a couple of questions, and three answers.

Why are Christians, as a new Pew report documents, the most persecuted religious group in the world? And why is their persecution occurring primarily throughout the Islamic world?

No, none of the three answers is “Because the Pew report went out of their way to make it look like Christians are more persecuted than they really are.” But there’s some interesting stuff in the answers Right Side News did publish.

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Louder than words

Matthew 7 records Jesus as saying, “every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” In context, it’s a reference to how believers are supposed to judge the difference between “true” prophets and false ones. But I thought it might be interesting to apply at a higher level. Instead of judging people sent by God or sent by Satan, what if we applied the same standards to God and Satan themselves?

With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a tour through the Bible and compare the actual deeds attributed to God with the actual deeds attributed to Satan, so that we can know which one is indeed “the good tree.”

Genesis: God kills every man, woman, child, baby, and animal on earth except for 8 people and a few thousand pairs of animals on the ark. He also kills every man, woman, child, baby, and animal in the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Both mass murders (even of the babies) are justified on the grounds that men are evil, in God’s estimation. Also, an unknown number of people die from various famines and plagues, which are presumably controlled by God, for no particular reason. No mention of anyone being killed or harmed by Satan.

Meanwhile, God wants Abraham and his descendants to mutilate the genitals of all their male babies by cutting off the skin at the end, and He wants to be worshipped through taking animals, slitting their throats, cutting up their bodies, and burning them. Satan, on the other hand, is fine with leaving babies and animals unharmed, as far as Genesis tells us.

Exodus: God sends a violent hailstorm to kill every man, woman, child, or beast in Egypt unless they heed Moses’ warning and take shelter indoors. Any plants that survive the hailstorm are subsequently devoured by the locusts God sends after the hail, which is probably going to produce a serious food shortage in the months to come. God then kills all the firstborn of Egypt—man, woman, child, or baby, on the grounds that Pharaoh is being disobedient (after God hardened his heart to prevent him from obeying). Israelites are spared, IF they obey God by killing an innocent lamb and using its blood to mark the doors of their homes. They must also promise to kill animals as an offering to God every time they first give birth, so that God will not kill their firstborn.

Next, God kills Pharaoh and all his armies, for pursuing the Israelites. God then takes the Israelites to Mt. Sinai and instructs them on how to properly worship Him by killing animals, pouring out their blood, cutting up their bodies, burning them, and so on. He also allows them to own each other as slaves who can be sold, separated from their spouses and children, beaten to the point of death (or even to death itself, provided they survive at least 3 days after the initial beating). No record of Satan killing anyone or making any demands on the people.

Leviticus: God kills Aaron’s 2 sons, Nadab and Abihu, for burning incense before His altar in a way that He had not commanded. He also commands the stoning of a boy for cursing. Satan leaves everybody’s kids alone.

Numbers: God kills an unspecified number of Israelites, for complaining. He also sends a plague to kill another unspecified number (presumably large) for asking God to send some meat to eat, so they wouldn’t have to eat manna all the time. (He did send the meat, and then killed them while they were eating it.) A man is caught gathering sticks on Saturday, so God commands that he be stoned to death too, for violating the sabbath. Korah rebels against Moses, and he and hundreds of his followers are killed when God opens up the ground beneath their feet to swallow them up. God sends a plague to kill an additional 14,700 people due to complaints about the killing of Korah.

God then sends poisonous snakes to kill another unspecified number of Israelites, for complaining. The next 24,000 are killed by a plague for participating in Baal worship and sleeping with Moabite women (it would have been more, but Eleazar impressed God by spearing two people to death while they were having sex). God then sends the Israelite army to commit genocide against the Midianites, except the men are allowed to keep virgin Midianite girls for slavery and other “amusements.” All other Midianites are to be killed though. Then He sends Israel into Palestine, with instructions to wipe out the current inhabitants completely, and take possession of their lands. Still no interference from Satan though.

Well, I think I’m sensing a trend here. For all that Satan is supposed to be the bad guy, when it comes to fruits that we would call “evil” (at least if anyone else did them), God is far and away the biggest fruit-bearer. I could keep going, but frankly, the litany of violence and abuse coming from God is both monotonous and horrifying. Yet Satan, somehow, is supposed to be the epitome of evil. You could, I suppose, find some way to blame Satan anyway for all the evil things that God finds Himself “forced” to do, but the Bible, in fact, does not do that. Not until you get to the book of Job do you find Satan acting with any kind of evil intentions towards men, and even then he first asks—and receives—God’s explicit permission. Even when God employs agents for the evil He dispatches against mankind, He is still ultimately responsible.

Expectations: exceeded.

Since I previously expressed reservations about Bill Nye’s wisdom in agreeing to debate Ken Ham at the Creation Spewseum, I think I owe him a follow-up: he blew me away. My pessimistic assessment was wrong, and he totally pwned the opposition. Nor am I alone in this assessment. Dana Hunter has this to say:

I thought this would be a fiasco when I found out he’d agreed to debate Ken at Ken’s own Creation Museum, with only Answers in Genesis putting out DVDs, and when it seemed like only creationists were getting in the doors. And I’m still not happy this stunt will pull in some dollars for that epic fail of an organization. But to go on the creationists’ own turf, and still hand Ken Ham his ass in a sling, that’s some serious good-for-science there.

Indeed.

Check out the full article for a bunch of good links and good reading.

Go Science!