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Jan 03 2014

I cover Heddle’s Question

Heddle’s website is here. Heddle appears to be a Christian engaging us in a slightly problematic concept by dismissing my argument that levite law is still practiced.

No he doesn’t. The Old Testament law also tells Jews to sacrifice animals for sin atonement. It was commanded and it was moral. For Christians, however, sacrificing animals for atonement would be an abomination. What was commanded and moral in the OT is not automatically commanded and moral in the NT. Animal sacrificing is the clear example (at least it should be) that invalidates your simpleminded “gotcha” rule. (Will you argue, stupidly, that if Christians understood their own religion we should still sacrifice animals for atonement rather than call on Jesus’ sacrifice?)

Which is a terrifying attitude to take considering the divinely mandated rape, slavery and genocide in the same region. The virulence of hate mirrors other similar massacres at the time. Why must the Romans be shockingly violent for the desolation of Carthago but the Jews be considered heroes for their rape and slaughter of other tribes?

If Christians received a sufficiently believed message from a prophet that rape and genocide were acceptable they would do it.

Don’t look so surprised, it’s happened quite recently.

It’s an Orthodox priest blessing Sarajevo para-militia and in doing “god’s” work ethnic cleansing was excused.

If Levite law and the Old Testament are pointless then why keep them? They clearly add nothing to the Bible apart from a historical context that god was clearly not a moral being and happily killed innocent people on tribal lines. We can excuse the behaviour of Jehovah by realising he was a tribal god and tribal sensitivities run strong along feud lines. Where tit for tat attacks and escalation results in a permanent state of hatred.

We know our gods are man made which is why they behave like men.

Not to mention that Jesus himself violated OT laws, for example in the way he handled lepers. It is a stupid, common argument you are parroting. But I’m sure you’ll continue to make it without thinking.

He handled a leper and did so to demonstrate magical powers. However it didn’t stop centuries of Christians. Also? Son of a god gives him special compensation.

Also? Matthew 5:17 points out that Jesus did not come to cause the Old Testament to be invalid. It’s explicit that he came to uphold the law by your own book.

Thank you for a textbook internet atheist response. A predictable response based on the ubiquitous model among non-thinking atheists:

It’s a textbook response because it doesn’t need to be anything more. Must we come up with elaborate responses to disprove of fairies and unicorns too? Must I debate the Harry Potter fan with scientific evidence to disprove the existence of wizards? Must I do this for a million gods? Must I disprove the existence of Shiva and the lovely Parvathi at Kailasa? Or of Jehnna? Or of Naraka?

You may guffaw and say that it’s “nonsense” to compare those things. However I am just treating your god in the same way that you treated my old gods. Or indeed how we treat other mythological beings.

Well Jehovah! Don’t be silly!

My “gotcha” was demonstrating that the people from Duck Dynasty quoted a specific line from the Bible that begins by exhorting against lawyers and upholding the Bible and the priest as a method of solving disputes rather than “judges and courts” yet one cannot run a Multi-Million Dollar business without lawyering up.

And then I quoted the variety of biblical references to the wickedness of hypocrites.

So far your argument against the response is “heard it before”, not “this is why it’s wrong”.

1)      The old testament laws are there for all to read

Sure

2)      The old testament laws must still apply because it is a double victory for us:

I refer you to Matthew 5:17

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Good to know that Jesus is wrong on this one.

a. It is convenient for us to point out how brutal they are. 

Well it’s the Christian claim that all morality is born out of directly handed down laws from Jehovah and therefore the rape, genocide and slavery of the Old Testament should ring alarm bells because it did not encourage people to be BETTER than their peers but to be as brutal as any other civilisation.

There is no moral high ground, the Old Testament is not a moral code  by the standards of today and neither is the rest of the Bible. So to use it to enforce bigotry is an immoral act.

b. It is especially convenient to point out that the only reason Christians do not call for the adherence of OT laws (especially its capital offenses) is that they don’t have the stomach for it.

No, I think it’s because we have secular law. If Christianity had it’s way and was allowed to persecute homosexuals in the way they have been allowed to do so in the past we would see a return to the fundamentalist standpoint. Religious progression only really  happens under the umbrella of secularism.

In every situation, theocracy and large interference in the state by Religion has ended relatively poorly. Must we keep making that mistake because it will work “JUST THIS ONCE”.

No, good people have the stomach for it. I wrote about the other problem with Duck Dynasty’s star. The “lynching” of black people was quietly ignored by him as were the Jim Crow laws. And in that good Christians would happily attend a lynching with the air of a carnival. They even took momentoes and traded in photos of events. A real kodak moment for the whole family!

And these were people who saw nothing wrong with what they were doing. These were people who stood for good  strong biblical values and that included hanging uppity black people and rape and torture.

These were men and women who went to the Church and read the Bible and had no qualms about what they did. Not because they had no stomach but because they found a way to excuse their behaviour and remain moral.

Do you think the Nazis never went to Church? Do you think they never found a way to excuse their behaviour through the teachings of the Catholic Church and the writings of Luther? You may in retrospect call them “False Christians” or “misguided” but I am afraid people are capable of brutality if they can excuse  their behaviour. Religion provides a handy excuse. We see it in the Bible itself.

Why massacre? Why commit genocide?

Because god said so and we have to listen to the voice. It was our sacred duty.

That excuse was pulled out in the aftermath of Massacres. It was a “Sacred” duty. From the Nigerian Mall Siege  to Anders Breivik to the sectarian massacres of Northern Ireland to the Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq to the actions of Palestinians and Israelis to the Caste Violence in India to even the actions of the Buddhists in Burma. Hell we don’t even need religion to think like this if we look at gang violence in the USA or among football supporters.

This excuse is not new, it’s not special and you are not more enlightened and superior that your faith is immune to it. Unlike the Hindus who cut out the laws of Manu via the reform of the Buddha and Dharma and the Bhagavad Gita’s morality dialogue we have not seen any such radical change in Christianity.

3)      We will summarily dismiss any attempt to say that the NT nullifies the OT laws as “cafeteria Christianity.” This must be done at all costs to maintain our advantage.

The NT HAS to nullify the OT in the minds of the modern Christian otherwise Christianity cannot survive in the modern world where we jail slavers. The OT cannot survive in the modern world and is only really fished out by the fundies when they want to bash either women or the GLBT while wearing their polycotton jumpers.

4)      Don’t be afraid to employ this model—it is guaranteed to achieve maximal nods of approval and backslapping. With the added benefit that you don’t have to do any homework

.I have done more homework of your faith than you have of any of the faiths you claim are false. 

As usual, atheist apologetics adds nothing to the discussion at hand.

The fact we are discussing the personal opinions of mythological beings and taking such seriously is not lost on me.

What discussion? The Duck Dynasty family are racist and homophobic, they are utilising religion to oppose the rights of the GLBT and to encourage laws that discriminate against the GLBT over decisions that do not affect them in any single way  possible. They are part of a group of people that do this.

Must we find Biblical reasons as to why Homophobia is bad? Or is “your religious view is discriminatory to the GLBT and such bigotry is unacceptable in our modern life. Furthermore we do not like the fact you are utilising religion to reduce the rights of others and legislate your discrimination and homophobia. This is not persecution, this is preventing your from persecuting others. The validity of your gods has nothing to do with this.

92 comments

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  1. 1
    heddle

    I am going to try to respond, but your post is so poorly written that it is quite the challenge.

    You quoted me pointing out that the law regarding animal sacrifices has changed—on this “all” Christians agree, and that thereby sets the precedent. It is irrefutably no longer a question of whether the Levitical/Mosaic law can change, but rather a question of which ones.

    Under this quote you wrote:

    Which is a terrifying attitude to take considering the divinely mandated rape, slavery and genocide in the same region

    Why is it (the notion that the OT law can change) a terrifying idea, and what “region” are you talking about? Ancient Palestine? The present-day middle east? The U.S.? Parts of the U.S.? I have no clue.

    If Levite law and the Old Testament are pointless then why keep them?

    The OT, for Christians, contains fulfilled Messianic prophecy. If you think: “well, why bother keeping a record of prophecy that you believe was already fulfilled in Jesus” is a compelling argument (in the form of a question) then we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    Regarding my further circumstantial evidence that Jesus himself broke OT laws—giving the example of the way he handled lepers, you wrote:

    He handled a leper and did so to demonstrate magical powers. However it didn’t stop centuries of Christians. Also? Son of a god gives him special compensation.

    Didn’t stop centuries of Christians from doing what exactly? And the “special compensation” argument is just silly. There is no point saying that “Jesus obeyed the laws, except the ones he didn’t, because he got a special exemption.” The text doesn’t support the idea that Jesus was exempt–the whole point of the incarnation for Christians is that he was fully human and in his humanity lived on a level playing field.

    You also, as everybody does, quote Matt 17 as a gotcha proof that the laws are still valid. I’ll grant that some Christians agree. But not all, as I have argued elsewhere:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Math 5:17)

    The Law and/or the Prophets is what Jesus would have called the Old Testament. Notice that including “prophets” and using “fulfill”, the same Greek word used throughout the NT to indicate fulfilled prophecy, and not the word used to indicate obeying laws or commandments) does not quite fit with the viewpoint that this passage means (and what you insist it means):

    Do not think I have come to abolish the laws. I have come to perfectly obey them.

    But it does fit with the interpretation:

    Do think I have come to set aside the Old Testament. I have come to fulfill its prophecies.

    So this viewpoint is that Jesus is emphasizing that he is not some unforeseen God, but exactly the Messiah predicted by the OT. He has come to fulfill the prophecy.

    It’s a textbook response because it doesn’t need to be anything more. Must we come up with elaborate responses to disprove of fairies and unicorns too?

    Red herring. I am not suggesting you come up to speed on Christian theology. I don’t give a rat’s ass about your explanations or lack thereof. I am saying that your assertion that all OT laws still apply is trivially wrong and you just use it because it is convenient to do so. (And then, if asked to defend it, fall back on the argument you just made about fairies and unicorns. Nice gig.)

    No, I think it’s because we have secular law. If Christianity had it’s way and was allowed to persecute homosexuals in the way they have been allowed to do so in the past we would see a return to the fundamentalist standpoint.

    Sure. And the majority of us who are not theonomists or Christian reconstructionists are not true Christians™, right? We are outliers who don’t fit your negative stereotype. That sucks. If this was about skin color instead of religion then those of us not calling for capital punishment would perhaps be seen as being “a credit to our race.”

    In every situation, theocracy and large interference in the state by Religion has ended relatively poorly.

    Agreed. Which is why, in the west, we Baptists more or less invented the concept of separation of church and state.

    And in that good Christians would happily attend a lynching with the air of a carnival.

    Yes all good Christians love a good lynching. And all black people like watermelon. And all gays are promiscuous hedonists. And all Jews are unscrupulous businessmen. And all Moslems are terrorists. Why you are no better than a trailer park bigot, are you?

    I have done more homework of your faith than you have of any of the faiths you claim are false.

    Maybe. It is an easy claim to make.

    This is not persecution, this is preventing your from persecuting others

    I am not claiming persecution, and have written many times on the repulsiveness of American Christians claiming they are persecuted. Keep focused: I wrote about one thing only: Your claim that the OT laws are still binding is incorrect. Stop making it about the culture wars—which I vehemently oppose.

  2. 2
    Raging Bee

    What was commanded and moral in the OT is not automatically commanded and moral in the NT.

    The problem with this rule is that too few Christians consistently apply it — they’re perfectly happy to use OT quotes to justify inflicting the most draconian backward rules on others, and only scrap the OT stuff that’s inconvenient for themselves.

  3. 3
    Raging Bee

    The OT, for Christians, contains fulfilled Messianic prophecy.

    So republish an abridged OT that contains only the fulfilled prophecy, and stop treating all the outdated crap as part of “Holy Scripture.” How hard is that?

    I am saying that your assertion that all OT laws still apply is trivially wrong and you just use it because it is convenient to do so.

    A significant number of Christians are still trying to inflict OT law on the rest of us; therefore for all practical purposes, that assertion is NOT wrong. I know you can’t face the truth about your religion without feeling a painful amount of shame, but you still have to face the truth and stop denying what’s painfully obvious to the rest of us.

    Which is why, in the west, we Baptists more or less invented the concept of separation of church and state.

    What a pretentious load of crap. Separation of church and state predates all forms of Christianity by centuries. (And Jesus himself commanded it long before Baptists existed.) Get your head out of your ass, stop pretending your in-group is Special, and start learning some history.

  4. 4
    colnago80

    Since Avicenna is, apparently, unfamiliar with David Heddle, allow me to introduce him. Prof. Heddle is a professor of physics at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va. He has a PhD in nuclear physics and is also chairman of the Mathematics Department at that university. Prof. Heddle is a sometime commenter on Ed Brayton’s blog, where he jousts with a number of other commenters such as Michael Heath and Raging Bee amongst others.

    Prof. Heddle is, indeed, a devout Christian, much like my PhD thesis adviser, who was a finalist for the Nobel Prize in physics this year for his contributions to what is known as the Higgs boson theory. Although he vehemently denies it, he is a self proclaimed expert on Christian theology.

    I would point out that his notion that the arrival of Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth means that the Hebrew scriptures are no longer in force is not accepted by many born again Christians who desire to reinstate OT law.

  5. 5
    gshelley

    You could just have told Heddle that you are not a Christian, so his special pleading is not impressive

  6. 6
    heddle

    @RB 3

    Separation of church and state predates all forms of Christianity by centuries.

    You chowderhead, I wrote in the west. Baptists suffered under Catholic theocracy (throughout Europe), Presbyterian/Calvinistic theocracy (Geneva and elsewhere), Anglican theocracy, and even early American theocracy. Take your own advice and learn some history. You can start with wiki on the role of Baptists in the progress.

  7. 7
    Raging Bee

    You chowderhead, I wrote in the west.

    So fucking what? As I already said, Jesus commanded separation of church and state long before Baptists existed to invent anything. Stop taking credit for other people’s inventions.

    Also, last I checked, the Roman Empire was part — a huge part — of the West; and their government was far more secular than most of the regimes that succeeded it in the Christian world. So was the cradle of Western civilization, Ancient Greece. If you had got a decent education, you’d know this.

  8. 8
    colnago80

    Re Raging Bee @ #7

    Folks who major in physics generally don’t get a liberal education because there isn’t time, given all the physics and math courses required. Not as bad as most engineering majors but bad enough.

  9. 9
    Raging Bee

    colnago: heddle is also a minister, or at least claimed to be. If he ever had time for ministry, then he should have had time to get a decent education in the history of his own fucking religion. And besides, he wasn’t a physics major all his life, so that’s not an excuse for the abysmal ignorance of basic history that he’s shown here.

  10. 10
    busterggi

    Poor heddle, always having to defend the Judeo in Judeo-Christian.

    If only he could give up his addiction to that collection of bronze-age myths.

  11. 11
    Joe Padgen

    @heddle
    The debate is not about what rules in the book are valid today or not. The point is, you are claiming this book as an authority. We cannot question the authors as to context of the statements, so all statements can only be interpreted within the context of the book. If the book never rescinds eating shellfish, what authority do you have to do so?

    Joe

  12. 12
    Pierce R. Butler

    heddle @ # 1: … no better than a trailer park bigot…

    A potent denunciation of crude stereotyping, but my irony meter managed to survive it and may even recover full functionality within a few days.

    colnago80 @ # 4: Although he vehemently denies it, he is a self proclaimed expert …

    For a contradiction this blatant, you need (at minimum) two citations.

  13. 13
    heddle

    Joe Padgen,

    The debate is not about what rules in the book are valid today or not.

    Actually, yes it is.

    If the book never rescinds eating shellfish,

    Actually it does rescind the dietary laws, at least arguably:

    9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:9-15)

    This is another example I could have given, in addition to the one on animal sacrifice. Another law that was explicitly overturned is the law on circumcision.

    As to your “we can’t question the authors” point–that would also, preclude, discussion on the symbolism in, say, The Great Gatsby. I would argue that atheists and Christians can have interesting “for the sake of argument” debates on what the bible teaches (I’ve had many–some very fruitful) and do not have to fall back on the argument-stopping copout that the authors are all dead.

    And, by the way, I have no authority nor do I claim any.

  14. 14
    heddle

    #12,

    but my irony meter managed to survive it and may even recover full functionality within a few days.

    Gee. An irony meter joke. And not even the first one I came across this year.

    To the author of this blog:

    I appreciate (seriously) that you attempted to provide a link to my blog. But it is a bad link–even to my old blog. My new blog is here.

  15. 15
    busterggi

    “Actually it does rescind the dietary laws, at least arguably:

    9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:9-15)”

    I still don’t see shellfish on that list – guess you have to just keep looking for a translation that says what you want.

  16. 16
    busterggi

    Oh, btw, I don’t find hearsay about hallucinations several times removed from the source who experienced them (if there even was one) very trustworthy.

  17. 17
    Joe Padgen

    @heddle
    As to your “we can’t question the authors” point–that would also, preclude, discussion on the symbolism in, say, The Great Gatsby
    It doesn’t preclude the discussion, but it renders conclusions as opinion and specualtion.

    I would argue that atheists and Christians can have interesting “for the sake of argument” debates on what the bible teaches (I’ve had many–some very fruitful) and do not have to fall back on the argument-stopping copout that the authors are all dead
    It is not a copout. The “for the sake of argument” part stops when someone quotes the bible as the authority for having a specific law passed, ie gay marriage bans. That is the point it goes past “for the sake of argument”.

    Joe

  18. 18
    heddle

    Joe Padgen,

    It doesn’t preclude the discussion, but it renders conclusions as opinion and specualtion.

    As do biblical debates. One can do more than weigh which conclusion is best supported by a logical exegesis of the text and which is more self-consistent.

    I don’t think you get the concept of “for the sake of argument” discussions. It would go something like this: “I think the bible is nonsense. However, for the sake of argument I will accept it at face value and then use it to show heddle that he is wrong about the OT laws being nullified. That is, I’ll use his own holy book against him.”

    This is quite different from your “the authors are dead” argument stopper.

  19. 19
    Joe Padgen

    @heddle
    I get “for the sake of argument” debates. This isn’t one. It is disingenuous to try to claim that. You are not an atheist taking a counter-position for the sake of argument. You are a Christian. You are not arguing for the sake of arguing.

    Joe

  20. 20
    woozy

    The question still remains: Why do the fundy christians insist dietary law and animal sacrifice laws have been reversed in the New Testament but insist homosexual condemnation is still in force as it ever was?

    I’ll grant you this “gotcha” argument *is* so catch fundies out in their hypocricy. Namely the fundy cites leviticus to claim homosexuality is a sin punishable by death. The Athy then points out the same set of laws claim shellfish, shaving, tatoos, and polyblend fabrics are equally sin and punishable by death and so claiming an out outdated law is capricious at best. To which the fundy replies that NT nullifies OT laws so they are no longer applicable. To which the athy gets gobsmacked dumbfounded because IF THE NT NULLIFIES OT LAWS THEN HOW IN THE BLOODY BLUE BLAZES CAN YOU POSSIBLY CONTINUE TO USE THE NULLIFIED OT LAWS, !!!LAWS NULLIFIED BY YOU *OWN* ADMISSION!!!! AS EVIDENCE????

    It simply buggers the imagination and exacerbates to capacity for circular reasoning. I might as well cite Dr. Seuss as an authoritative proof of curative nature Green Eggs with Ham and when someone if that means I believe in talking Cats in Hats I simply sigh and look at him with pity and say “Of course not; Dr. Seuss was just a children’s author, you know.”

    Anyhoo, Paul’s letter to the Romans and “God is not meat” and all that… (Ha! I said “meat”)

  21. 21
    heddle

    @woozy #20,

    Make no mistake:

    If a Christian points to Leviticus to condemn homosexuality then he should be called out on his hypocrisy–assuming he ignores any of the dietary or other Levitical laws. (I call my fellow Christians out in the same manner.)

    I am not arguing that Christians cannot be hypocrites. I am arguing that one can make the case that the OT laws are nullified thereby avoiding the charge. And I am also arguing that many atheists do not want that to be the case, because they enjoy the easy charge of “cafeteria Christian,” a charge that presupposes that the OT laws should still be binding for Christians.

    It’s a weird thing–part of me thinks that atheists should welcome Christians who believe that the OT laws were nullified by Christ–but, in my experience, that has never been the case.

  22. 22
    woozy

    >>I am arguing that one can make the case that the OT laws are nullified thereby avoiding the charge.

    No. A person using biblical arguments to condemn homosexuality can *not* cherry-pick which biblical arguments he’s going to accept and which ones he is simply going to ignore. If he chooses to cite Leviticus to condemn homosexuals and witches then pointing out that he is ignoring other leviticus arguments is fair and valid and said christian can not change *his* rules mid-game and claim the ol’ “rules have changed” argument. It’s *not* the atheist by playing “cafeteria christian” who is being disingenuous or invalid. It’s the fundy christian who never had a decent argument in the first place who is being disingenuous.

    No atheist ever argued what is the correct way to interpret scripture. But they do point out hypocrisy and lies and faulty reasoning of those who do argue scripture. Pointing out the literalism of leviticus was *never* to preach to a fundy how he should interpret scripture but to point out simply that its specious logic to cite leviticus if he, the christian, doesn’t believe we are obligated to leviticus in the first place. (And if he thinks we *are* obligated to leviticus then why the f*** is he wearing polyblends?)

    The other reason an atheist has for making such an argument is to point out that christian’s insistence that we respect his belief solely because …. well, I guess, solely because it *is* his is no more valid then any other claim. If a fundy christian can claim a NT law is valid than a fundy jew can argue that an OT law is equally valid. Since we can *not* exist in a society where we follow leviticus literally, we can not live in a society where we follow Duck Dynasty’s weird interpretation of Christianity either. And the implication that somehow we/you are civilized christians blessed by God’s love while they/we are nasty barbaric jews hindered in stone-age conniptions over polyblends is nothing but short-sighted arrogant racism.

    And speaking of disingenuous, this entire discussion arises from Pat Whatsisdick’s condemnation of homosexuality via 1 Corinthians 6. 1 Cororinthians 6 condemns sexual immorality and prostitutes but *never* mentions homosexuality in any way, shape or form. To argue that “sexual immorality” implies homosexuality (or oral sex, or masturbation, or pre-matial sex, or maritial sex, or anything at all) one has to look elsewhere. And that elsewhere invariably always seems to be leviticus. At any rate, Pat Whosiwanker certainly never provided any other reference other than his personal aesthetic dislike toward male anuses.

    This is all moot though, because although we live in a country where (theoretically) we have freedom of religion we do not have *any* right whatsoever to use our personal religious beliefs to infringe upon others. And insisting open a religious right whether it be christian or levitican jew (who have every right to their belief that you and I deserve to die for our polyblends as Pat Fugisname has to his belief that gays are denied the kingdom of heaven) that gays do not have a right to exist *is* an infringement.

  23. 23
    heddle

    woozy, #22,

    No. A person using biblical arguments to condemn homosexuality can *not* cherry-pick which biblical arguments he’s going to accept and which ones he is simply going to ignore.

    If that is meant as a challenge to my argument then you are mistaken. I agree with this. Either all the OT laws are nullified or none of them are (in my opinion). I happen to think that all of them are nullified and I believe I can make the case that scripture supports my conclusion.

    but to point out simply that its specious logic to cite leviticus if he, the christian, doesn’t believe we are obligated to leviticus in the first place.

    Again–given that I have stated my agreement I am confused at the comment. Are you referring to me?

  24. 24
    woozy

    Why do you think people are referring to *you*? The discussion is about the the Duck Dynasty weirdo and the pantheon of fundy christians who use the argument it’s god’s eternal word and law that homosexuality be condemned with death and is simply evil.

    Well, the humanitarian, who sympathizes and supports gay rights, does not accept this. Now the christian humanitarian may attempt to argue christian to christian via scripture. Or she might not. I don’t know. Many atheist humanitarians will simply point out the inconsistency of the statement that any such passages are equally weighted with passages condemning shellfish, mixed crops, haircuts, talking to women during menstruation, etc. Now the atheist doesn’t care that these are christian or jewish, or muslim or budhist arguments. She simply cares that they are *wrong* arguments; you can not claim one arbitrary law from a region thousands of years ago is pertanent while claiming the other arguments of the same region and time aren’t.

    Well, “oh ho!” says the christian. “There’s the new testament covenent, doncha’ know, and by christ’s sacrifice we are no longer bound by the old testaments laws (those nasty vengeful ignorant jews; we’re civilized forgiving merciful christians *now*). Aha! Gotcha! So your counter argument isn’t valid.” … um, well… yes, it is. We weren’t arguing christian theology. Why *would* we? Theologoy ultimately doesn’t matter as it’s humanitarian concerns (which as atheists, we personally believe are independent of, and more relevant than, theological concerns). We were simply pointing out an inconsistency. Correcting any faulty theology we may have had doesn’t address our fundamental point: you can’t arbitrarily apply one law and ignore another. The new covenent only *supports* the atheists’ claims of inconsistency because by the christian’s own admission now, he should never have been citing the OT law in the first place.

    As far as the argument goes:
    C1: Homosexuality is condemnable because it violates god’s law.
    A1: But so does shellfish.
    *is* valid because the legitimacy of two statements are equally valid (i.e. not at all).
    The counter argument
    C2: NT laws invalidate OT laws.
    is *not* a valid counter-argument because C1 is predicated *entirely* on OT laws.

    Okay, perhaps the atheist better versed in christian theology (but where in the world did anyone get the idea that this debate was going to be framed in by christian theology in the first place; why *should* the atheist be versed in christian theology– this began no more as a christian debate than it did as a Jewish or Rastafarian debate) should have countered with:

    C1: Homosexuality is condemnable because it violates god’s law.
    A1a: But as a christian you can’t claim an OT law as binding.

    but the result would have been the same. The “god’s law” argument is inconsistent and the duck dynasty guy can go fuck himself.

    Now if some-one wants to start all over from scratch with an entirely new anti-homosexuality argument, we can revise a different tack altogether. But note, the entire argument was never intended to be within the framework of christian theology in the first place.

    (And, by the way, many jews, even orthodox jews support gay rights and find reason within jewish theology to reject many of the anti-humanitarian and archiac levitican laws. Christian theology does not have any claim on ethical enlightenment over other religions or lack thereof.)

  25. 25
    Raging Bee

    We cannot question the authors as to context of the statements, so all statements can only be interpreted within the context of the book. If the book never rescinds eating shellfish, what authority do you have to do so?

    Our authority to choose which incoherent drivel to believe, supercedes anyone else’s authority to tell us which incoherent drivel to call “Holy Scripture.” So why can’t we question any authors of anything?

  26. 26
    had3

    Sorry to be late to the party, but what does Jesus mean when he says what is quoted in Mathew 5:17-19, along with Luke 16:17? Or, alternatively, if saying the law will not change actually means the law will change, what would he have said to mean “the law will not change” that would not be interpreted to mean the opposite? Then again, I’m trying to still figure out why god kicked man out of the garden to prevent him from gaining ever lasting life, only to turn around and then give him ever lasting life?

  27. 27
    heddle

    RB, #9

    colnago: heddle is also a minister, or at least claimed to be.

    Never was, never claimed to be.

    so that’s not an excuse for the abysmal ignorance of basic history

    Yes your history is impeccable. I am still marveling at your use of the Roman Empire as an example of the separation of church and state. An empire which, at various times, you could only practice officially registered religions, and where at times the emperor was to be worshipped as a deity, and where Christians were used as human torches, where practitioners of various religions were killed in public sporting events, and which later made Christianity the state religion. Truly your education is far superior.

    woozy, #24,

    Why do you think people are referring to *you*?

    I dunno. maybe it’s the title of the OP that has me confused.

    had3, #26

    See #1 for my partial response (Matt 5:17)

  28. 28
    Marcus Ranum

    Heddle writes:
    One can do more than weigh which conclusion is best supported by a logical exegesis of the text and which is more self-consistent.

    Perhaps you should spend some time studying textual criticism. Anyone who learns how the bible was cobbled together out of forgeries and mistranslations is going to be cured of their belief that there’s any divine inspiration to be found in that mass of piffle. Since the whole house of cards is built on that particular foundation, you can’t take anyone seriously who wants to claim some kind of scientific credentials while simultaneously swallowing a great big wad of unsubstantiated nonsense like the bible. And why the bible and not one of the large number of other man-written cobbled-together “holy books”? For that matter, you may as well read Carlos Castenada and claim he was doing “anthropology” and believe that, too. There’s a sucker born every minute.

  29. 29
    Marcus Ranum

    condemnation of homosexuality via 1 Corinthians 6. 1 Cororinthians 6 condemns sexual immorality and prostitutes

    This passes for “reasoning” among the religious? Even if one assumes Pauline authorship, Corinthians represents nothing more than a human’s second-hand interpretation of … what? How is it authoritative unless we make some great big assumptions (such as that Paul knew the will of god…) and it’s horribly vague – “sexual immorality” is underfined. We can imagine or assert that Paul was referring to furryporn and not gay sex. We have no way of knowing. Neither did Paul. Nor is Paul an authority on the will of god. And that’s barring translation errors or editing over time.

  30. 30
    heddle

    @Marcus Ranum #28,

    you can’t take anyone seriously who wants to claim some kind of scientific credentials while simultaneously swallowing a great big wad of unsubstantiated nonsense like the bible.

    Are you talking about me?

    1) I don’t have to claim scientific credentials, I have them (for what that’s worth.) I teach physics at the undergraduate and graduate level and perform research at a national lab. There is no question about credentials. A serious person, if he wanted to attack, would not bring up “claims of credentials” which are rather trivial to establish (for example, nobody disputes that PZ has a Ph.D. in a scientific discipline) but rather examine the work one has done.

    2) I am not asking you to take me seriously and I don’t give a damn whether you do or don’t.

    Anyone who learns how the bible was cobbled together out of forgeries and mistranslations

    See rule 25:

    25. The “We Know” axiom: This is a common favorite of internet atheists, as the use of the “we know” axiom is another method that has the advantage of precluding the need for evidence or rational debate. Anything that “we know” is simply—true. You might read, for example, “we know that most of Paul’s letters are forgeries.”

    and perhaps rule 8:

    8. The Super-duper Paul of Tarsus View: Atheists often attribute the Apostle Paul with powers far beyond what Christians grant. To wit: it is often suggested that he a) did not exist. And yet in spite of not actually being real he managed to b) usurp Christianity, creating an entirely new religion quite different from that taught by Jesus—who by the way probably did not exist either. And c) Paul managed, while not existing, to steal Christianity —through the use of forged letters. Remarkable! In a nutshell the “super Paul” view is that two people who never existed created two distinct religions (fraudulently). Then later fools, who believed in both of these non-entities, merged their contradictory teachings into a franken-religion.

  31. 31
    Raging Bee

    Never was, never claimed to be.

    Really? I could almost swear I heard a claim to that effect. In any case, I stand corrected, and apologise for that mistake.

    I am still marveling at your use of the Roman Empire as an example of the separation of church and state.

    The Roman Empire allowed most of its subject peoples to practice their own religions, as long as they practiced certain civic ritual functions, and as long as their own religions didn’t become bases for anti-Roman revolt. That was a major step in the direction of separation of church and state in the West. And like I said before, Jesus himself articulated that concept as well; so your claim that the Baptists invented it is still laughably bogus — especially after today’s Baptists spent so much time and energy attacking the concept you claim they invented.

  32. 32
    Holms

    Oh, it seems the party moved venue without telling me :(

    …Bleh. Just the same attempts to avoid the bible being picked apart as an incoherent, contradictory mess, which only serves to highlight the highly interpretive nature of the whole mess. Person A and Person B both identify as christian, both go to church etc., both can point to the bible as the source of their morality and stances on various public policies (e.g. gay marriage, contraception etc.) and yet they have differing views on almost all points.

    The bible can be, and is, used to support a whole range of stances on many issues, many contradictory, and all supported by different bits of the text.

    As a guide to morality, the thing unavoidably remains a mess.

  33. 33
    Raging Bee

    I am not asking you to take me seriously and I don’t give a damn whether you do or don’t.

    Then why do you spend so much time arguing here? Quit acting like such a crybaby every time you lose an argument.

  34. 34
    heddle

    @RB #33,

    Quit acting like such a crybaby every time you lose an argument.

    I love the way you argue. It is brilliant! In addition to your first class history education, it appears that you have mastered the highly advanced rhetorical technique of “Victory by declaration of victory.” Which Ivy League debate team did you captain?

  35. 35
    busterggi

    I am still marveling at your use of the Holy Roman Empire, you could only practice officially Christianiity, and where the emperor was to believed appointed by god, and where non-Christians were used as human torches, where practitioners of various non-Chrisitan religion were killed in public sporting events.

    That is historically accurate heddle.

  36. 36
    heddle

    @busterggi #35

    I am still marveling at your use of the Holy Roman Empire, you could only practice officially Christianiity, and where the emperor was to believed appointed by god, and where non-Christians were used as human torches, where practitioners of various non-Chrisitan religion were killed in public sporting events.

    That is historically accurate heddle.

    Is there a relevant point you are trying to make?

  37. 37
    busterggi

    Take a look at the bee’s post @ 31 above and compare it to your claims about how wonderful Christianity changed the world.

    Tell me, how can you teach science when at heart you believe everything was created by & works by magic?

  38. 38
    heddle

    @busterggi #37,

    Nope. Still don’t see your point. My description of the Roman Empire was to show that it was not secular–the state was heavily involved in religion. You point (just a guess here since it is so unclear exactly what your point is) would seem to be that the Holy Roman Empire is another example of a government that did not practice separation of church and state. Of course I agree.

    compare it to your claims about how wonderful Christianity changed the world.

    What claims? I made no claim about how “wonderful Christianity changed the world”, apart from stating that Baptists (a subset of “Christians”, you graps that?) were instrumental in the development of separation of church and state in the west. I stand by that claim. And even if you wanted to refute that, your blurb about the Holy Roman Empire fails. Miserably.

    Tell me, how can you teach science when at heart you believe everything was created by & works by magic?

    This semester I am teaching electricity and magnetism. I will use Maxwell’s equations and solve lots of problems. I will teach the students how to calculate electric and magnetic fields and solve boundary value problems. Where exactly do you see a problem? By the way, Maxwell believed in God–if he were alive would you ask him how he could teach his own theory, given his “belief everything was created by & works by magic?”

    Many atheists can’t seem to get it through their thick skulls that science is agnostic when it comes to the beliefs of those who practice it. It only cares that you play by the rules: hypothesize, experiment, don’t fuck with the data, present for peer review, document everything. It doesn’t care what you believe or what your motives are–you don’t even have to believe in or like science to do science. It is not a religion with scientists as its priests.

    Tell me how you can be so ignorant about science?

  39. 39
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    science is agnostic when it comes to the beliefs of those who practice it.

    No, it isn’t.
    If you believe the moon is full of pirate gold or gravity is caused by goblins, science disagrees with you. It doesn’t say, “Oh, but if you’d feel better believing that, I’ll just be over hear pretending reality is whatever you’d prefer.”

  40. 40
    Jackie, all dressed in black

    *here. argh.

  41. 41
    heddle

    @Jackie wishes she could hibernate, #39

    No, it isn’t.

    Yes it is. I said it is agnostic to the beliefs and motivations of the practitioner, and it is. You can believe the moon is made of cheese and still do lunar science. You’ll just never confirm what you believe. You can not publish that the moon is made of green cheese in a science journal because no experiment will ever confirm it–but you can go right on believing it if you like. You can publish the results that you obtained that refute what you believe–while not accepting them yourself.

    A more realistic example that I always give is this: you could be one of those physicists who despises String Theory. At the same time, while reading the scientific literature, you could come across a great unsolved problem in String Theory. If you have the mathematical skill you could solve the problem, publish, and become a hero in the String Theory community–all the while maintaining your position that String Theory is nonsense. Nothing is preventing you from doing the science–even though you don’t believe it.

    You simply cannot look at a scientific paper and tell whether the author believed what he/she wrote or whether the motivations were noble or evil. You cannot tell whether the author was an atheist, a Muslim, a pedophile, a murderer, etc. Because…science is agnostic to beliefs and motivations.

    Another example is the repulsive Jonathan Wells. When he started out (if you believe what he wrote), he actually had the right idea for someone who didn’t believe in evolution. He was going to learn everything he could about evolution and then go into the lab and show where it failed. Of course he failed and descended into pseudoscience instead–but in principle he could have done perfectly acceptable evolutionary science while not believing in what he was doing.

    Keep in mind I am not recommending such an approach–but it highlights the fact that science is a process that we have developed to study nature, and what it takes is ability, training, and adherence to the rules. That’s it. Nothing else matters.

  42. 42
    CJO

    Atheists often attribute the Apostle Paul with powers far beyond what Christians grant. To wit: it is often suggested that he a) did not exist.

    There is no absurdity in rejecting the portrait of Saul/Paul in Acts as a pious fiction while still agreeing that some single individual in the mid 1st century wrote the bulk of a number of the texts that came to be attributed to that figure.

    And yet in spite of not actually being real he managed to b) usurp Christianity, creating an entirely new religion quite different from that taught by Jesus—who by the way probably did not exist either.

    Yes, writings can be falsely attributed and novel and influential. Shocker.

    And c) Paul managed, while not existing, to steal Christianity —through the use of forged letters. Remarkable!

    Are you saying that you “just know” that no texts were falsely attributed to Paul, either by outright, intentional forgery or later appropriation?

    Sarcastic, know-nothing backslappery isn’t any more persuasive coming from you than it is from your antagonists.

  43. 43
    colnago80

    Re Heddle @ #41

    Marcus Ross?

  44. 44
    heddle

    @CJO, #42

    Are you saying that you “just know” that no texts were falsely attributed to Paul, either by outright, intentional forgery or later appropriation?

    Nope. Never made such a claim. What I am saying is that, given the extant evidence. it is impossible to “know” that Paul’s letters were forgeries (or that they are definitely legit). So a reasonable person would say something like: “Some textual studies seem to indicate that the letters have different authors.” That’s a reasonable statement–especially when coupled with the caveat that a) the writings attributed to Paul span decades and b) some of Paul’s letters may have been written by him and others by, say, Luke under Paul’s imprimatur, which is not the same as a forgery. All that said, I have no problem whatsoever with someone saying that they are swayed by the textual studies that there is a good chance that some of the Pauline corpus was not written by Paul. What I take issue with is chuckleheads stating that we know some of the letters were forged.

  45. 45
    heddle

    colnago80,

    I don’t know what Marcus Ross is doing. I don’t know if he is doing ID type pseudoscience. But, in principle, he could do valid science while holding on to a young earth view. But to do valid science he has to follow the process and disseminate the results, even when they (inevitably) contradict his beliefs.

  46. 46
    had3

    Well, I read Heddle’s #1 above and I guess I could see his interpretation (although it seems odd that so many translations would allow people to infer the different meaning). Nevertheless, Luke 16:17 doesn’t seem to jive with Heddle’s interpretation unless the word for law again means prophesy, in which case, how does such an egregious mistranslation keep happening when we see the word prophesy also used? Still stuck on why god kicks humans out of the garden to prevent immortality and then decides to make us immortal.

  47. 47
    Raging Bee

    You can believe the moon is made of cheese and still do lunar science.

    Only if you put that belief on ice and keep it far apart from your actual thinking and decision-making. Because the science you do flatly refutes the belief, and it would only compromise your work.

    The same goes for religious beliefs: even if they’re not proven false, they’re still an impediment to good science unless you set them aside where they don’t play a role in your thinking or your work. So no, science is not “agnostic” about such beliefs; it’s incompatible with them, and the only way to have compatibility is by treating the beliefs as irrelevant when you’re on the job.

  48. 48
    Raging Bee

    …in principle he could have done perfectly acceptable evolutionary science while not believing in what he was doing.

    In practice, if you’re doing good evolutionary science, and not letting creationist nonsense compromise your thinking, then, for all practical purposes, you believe in what you’re doing, and don’t really believe in creationism. Saying you believe something, while consistently acting on the opposite belief and getting good results, is meaningless. Deeds matter more than words, and de-jure recognition of creationism doesn’t mean squat when faced with de-facto recognition of evolution.

  49. 49
    Holms

    #13Actually it does rescind the dietary laws, at least arguably:

    9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:9-15)

    This passage, and the conclusion you draw from it, only emphasises just how ambiguous and open to interpretation these sorts of readings are. Yes, one interpretation of this says that all dietary restrictions are lifted, but that is only one reading. Another way of looking at this is to actually pay attention to the words used. Kind of like… reading? And comprehending what was written? With this method, we see that the restrictions being lifted are specifically called out: reptiles, birds and four footed animals. Not shellfish.

    Some people will read it one way, others will read it another, and both will end up saying that their rules are sourced from the Bible despite coming away with completely different rules. The document remains useless.

    #35
    I am still marveling at your use of the Holy Roman Empire…

    The conversation thus far has been referencing the Roman empire, which is very distinct from the Holy Roman Empire in both location and time. You’ve conflated the two.

    #38
    Tell me how you can be so ignorant about science?

    I am quietly marvelling that someone can be so vehement regarding the application and methodology of scientific research, while consistently failing to apply it to a certain major aspect of his life.

    #41
    You can not publish that the moon is made of green cheese in a science journal because no experiment will ever confirm it–but you can go right on believing it if you like. You can publish the results that you obtained that refute what you believe–while not accepting them yourself.

    Meaning, the results obtained through the application of research do in fact make a clear statement regarding your beliefs: in this case, they are wrong.

    Nothing is preventing you from doing the science–even though you don’t believe it.

    A person may maintain their beliefs in spite of evidence, but science can – and frequently does – disconfirm many beliefs.

    #44
    What I take issue with is chuckleheads stating that we know some of the letters were forged.

    We can, however, conclude that it is a plausibe – even likely – possibility. Refusing to acknowledge this likelihood purely because we haven’t found something obviously incorrectly attributed / forged is a cop out.

  50. 50
    heddle

    Holms 49,

    The conversation thus far has been referencing the Roman empire, which is very distinct from the Holy Roman Empire in both location and time. You’ve conflated the two.

    And yet here is what I was referencing and responding to, busterggi #35:

    I am still marveling at your use of the Holy Roman Empire,

    But thanks for the info that The Holy Roman Empire is distinct. Whodathunkit?

    busterggi was, I think, trying to introduce the Holy Roman empire as an example of Christians behaving badly perhaps (just guessing) because he interpreted my comments on the Roman Empire (which he sort of sarcastically mirrored in his comments on the HRE) as a whine that Christians were persecuted rather than what it was: a debate with RB over how secular the Roman Empire was.

    We can, however, conclude that it is a plausibe – even likely – possibility. Refusing to acknowledge this likelihood purely because we haven’t found something obviously incorrectly attributed / forged is a cop out.

    Yes it would be a cop out. I certainly would never state that I know the bible contains all the books it should or has not left out some by mistake or that no author has been misidentified.

    Now if someone thinks it is “plausible” or “likely” I might disagree with them, and if it is a routine blog commenter I will suspect that they never really looked at the textual debates or understand the difficulty and error bars associated with the task and are just parroting what they have read, but I don’t take exception. It is when they use the phrase “we know” that I object.

    had3 #46,

    I am amazed (in a good way) that you considered my interpretation. It is very rare (in blogs) that someone willingly thinks about a different perspective, even if they ultimately reject it. Usually it is just instantly dismissed without thought with some variant of the “cafeteria Christian” charge. Good show. As for Luke 16:17,

    16 “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.

    I think it is the same deal here. Jesus is reaffirming that his arrival does not mean that the OT is to be jettisoned but rather he is fulfilling it. Here is also clarifying a point that was confusing, in that he preached “The Kingdom of God” (sometimes “The Kingdom of Heaven”) frequently–but it is a concept that doesn’t appear explicitly in the OT. He is again emphasizing that (in spite of his expounding on a concept only foreshadowed in the OT) he is not something that was unforeseen by the OT. For Jesus the importance of the OT is in its Messianic prophecy and from literally the very beginning of his ministry he teaches: see this written here? that’s about me.

    It would have been nice if the Greek word for Law (as in the books of Moses) had been different from the Greek word for law (as in commandment) but they are the same.

    Furthermore “the law still applies” view has a very hard time with the very next verse:

    18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    given that under the Mosaic Law divorce (initiated by the man, of course) was allowed but here (and elsewhere) Jesus forbids it. Verse 18, and Jesus’ other teaching on divorce, is another nearly irrefutable example that the law changed. (Of course the catchall comeback: “see, that just proves how self-contradictory the bible is” is always available.) Jesus even later says why divorce was legal under Moses (because their hearts were hard) and no longer legal (essentially because we now are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and no longer have the excuse of a hard heart.)

    @RB 47,

    Saying you believe something, while consistently acting on the opposite belief and getting good results, is meaningless. Deeds matter more than words, and de-jure recognition of creationism doesn’t mean squat when faced with de-facto recognition of evolution.

    How do you address the more realistic example of doing String Theory when you actually despise String Theory? It is just a more palatable example. The point is that science doesn’t care why you do it–you just have to do it right. (Again, I don’t recommend this, it is just pointing out the principle.)

    Or let me say it differently:

    I think if you hate science or don’t believe it you will not be, especially long term, a successful scientist. But that will not be science filtering you out as a reject–it will be something like the cognitive dissonance reaching unbearable levels.

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