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.

Ex nihilo

Here’s a quick one: young earth creationism likes to claim that God created everything out of nothing, but that’s actually a self-refuting claim. Before you can create anything out of nothing, you must first have nothing, and there has never been a time when God had nothing besides Himself. “Nothing” means nothing else existed, not even time. But there has never been a time when time did not exist, obviously. Therefore there has never been a “nothing” out of which God could create anything.

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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!

A short answer

Just for fun, I thought I’d take a stab at the 22 Messages from Creationists, giving each one a short response. Let’s start with the last one.

22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

If we came from our parents and grandparents, why do we still have parents and grandparents? Or, to put it in Christian terms, if Jesus came from God, then why would there still be a God?

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Muslims and Christians united at last

You see? Christians and Muslims can agree on common goals, beliefs, and values.

Kisumu residents engaged police in running battles in the city centre to protest the construction of a statue by members of the Hindu religion along Nyerere Road.

Police were forced to lobby teargas canisters at the protestors who had set the statue ablaze…

The protesters, Muslims and Christians, argued that erecting a religious statue in the heart of the town portrayed Kisumu as a city of the Hindu religion…

“Christians are not allowed to bow down to other gods and the location of the statue means everyone using this road bows,” said Erick Otieno, a resident.

Kisumu is in Kenya, so they don’t have to worry about the First Amendment. But this is why we have one. Secular is better. You don’t have to fight the police, dodge tear gas, and destroy other people’s property, just to defend a silly superstition.

The agnostic creationist

I thought this was interesting. Here’s Ken Ham’s response to the question, “What, if anything, would ever change your mind?”

Well, the answer to that is, I’m a Christian, and as a Christian I can’t prove it to you, but God has definitely shown me very clearly through His Word, and He has shown Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, that the Bible is the Word of God…

No, no one is ever going to convince me that the Word of God is not true.

Or in other words, Ken Ham is never going to be able to genuinely know whether the Bible is true or not. He’s like a broken watch that says it’s 2:45 no matter what time it is. Nothing is ever going to be able to get him to say it’s not 2:45. Ask him what time it is, and after he answers, you still won’t know what the correct time is, because his answer is not tied to the current time. And likewise, there’s no point in asking him whether or not the Bible is really true, because his answer will be completely unrelated to the truth. Evidence, facts, reality itself, are all powerless to change what he says, and therefore his faith can never accurately reflect the state of the evidence, the facts, and reality itself.

Word of the day

Just been reading some of the reviews and comments about the Nye/Ham debate, and I’ve come to the conclusion our vocabulary needs a new word to adequately describe some of what we’re getting from the anti-science side. And that word is….

regurgibate (ree-GUR-ji-bate) v. To take an obscene delight in spewing or spitting up whatever one has been fed, undigested. “Though normally easy to talk to, he can’t defend Genesis without regurgibating creationist tropes that have been debunked time and time again.”

I hereby release this word into the public domain, in hopes that it will prove useful.

The believer’s despair

Our friend AJ has tried a few times to respond to my post, though without much success, and has now begun resorting to just posting links to blog posts (authored by himself) that repeat the things he wants to hear. Since they’re largely tangential if not completely irrelevant, I’ve had to warn him that the comments aren’t for spam, link farms or other types of free publicity for Christian propaganda. But the first link he posted was rather inadvertently poignant, and I thought it might be worth a look just to see how much despair there is in conservative Christian denialism these days.

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Can sin save the Creator?

My last post about AJ Castellitto’s column attacking evolution has drawn the attention of the author himself, in the comments. In my reply, I pointed out the fact that, by denying evolution, creationists are accusing God of failing to come up with any idea as good as Darwin’s. The Genesis design won’t let species improve and makes it impossible for new species to emerge, which means that sooner or later, as environmental conditions change, all of God’s creatures are going to go extinct under conditions where evolution would have allowed life to continue. Rather a shabby bit of work for an “intelligent” Designer!

AJ’s “rebuttal” (as expected) was to try and blame extinction on sin.

Creation is dying – the effects of sin…. Completely consistent with the Biblical rendering of reality…. You needed 3 paragraphs to spew nonsense & propaganda?

Evolution is on trial here not God

But is sin enough to save God from the mediocrity and failure that creationism consigns Him to?

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