When they nailed him up the fourth time I was like "No way Jesus can survive again!"

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New at Reason: The Bible—the Holy Bible that is—is back as a guide for living, loving and learning. Jodie T. Allen cracks it open and tries to figure it out.

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  1. Blessed are the cheesemakers!

  2. How can Jodie be talkin’ like an atheist and keep her job at US News & World Report? Maybe she’s fishin’ for a job at Time or Newsweek?

  3. You’re kidding me, right? Is reason now alloting entire columns to trolls?

  4. “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.” Ex. 31:15 AND 35:2

    Tattoos are illegal. Lev. 19:28

    A man with a broken foot or hand is not allowed into the house of the Lord. Lev. 21:19

    It is illegal to look at God’s face, but staring at His holy ass is okay. Ex.33:23

    A menstruating woman is ritually unclean and forbidden to enter a church; so is anything that touches a menstruating woman. Lev.15

    Peace is evil, but war is virtuous: “A curse on him who keeps his sword from bloodshed!” Jer. 48:10

    “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them. . .” Titus 2:9

    “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. . .” Ephesians 6:5

    Et cetera.

  5. “But when we encountered the smooth-skinned Jacob swindling the hairy Esau out of his birthright with Heaven’s apparent approval….”

    And God blessed the metrosexuals, being not naughty in his sight. Amen.

  6. Great article — dead on — it’d be nice to see a bill introduced in Congress that would define marriage exactly how it is stated in the bible then watch the family research council et al. squirm…

  7. SPUR-

    The only problem is that Congress might actually pass that bill. Be careful what you wish for when dealing with politicians.

    Anyway, I think we should have a faith-based defense budget, written according to the Book of Armaments.

  8. I am surprised the posters thus far have neglected the verses where the physical attributes of God includes a variety of animal parts. It is not difficult to mock Christianity with a literal reading of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament.

    Insofar as gay marriage, I find another line of argument more compelling… to simply remove government from the equation. On the heels of gay marriage will come polyamorous (or nonamorous)unions. If there are really some 1,000+ benefits related to marriage, there is an incentive to have a spouse or spouses, if in name only. Rather than use Biblical verses as a sharp stick, I think it more productive to examine how to eliminate the 1,000 benefits and make marriage a strictly private matter.

  9. “Rather than use Biblical verses as a sharp stick, I think it more productive to examine how to eliminate the 1,000 benefits and make marriage a strictly private matter.”

    Yup, that’ll fly with the anti-gay marriage crowd.

  10. I’m not sure what those 1000+ benefits are for married people. The friends I have that are married pay more in taxes than if they weren’t.

    But if there really are a 1000+ benefits then maybe the real crime is that they are being with-held from us single folk.

  11. If I don’t take the Bible literally, how am I supposed to take it? Like a Jackson Pollack painting?

  12. Ricky,

    Soon Bush will be using those 1,000 benefits as a means to campaign Maoist style – “Let A Thousand Marraige Benefits Bloom For Heterosexuals.”

  13. “Cast off the shoes! Follow the Gourd!”

  14. We should all follow the gourd because we’re all individuals. We all think for ourselves. And we all do it in unison!

  15. I’m pretty sure mocking literal translations of the Old Testament is not winning friends and influencing people. Actually, I think religious people may be inclined to support government getting out of the marriage business… after the Constitutional Amendment nonsense fails. If given a choice between state-sanctioned gay marriages and no state-sanctioned marriages… they may choose the latter.

    Regarding a literal reading of the Bible, I believe the alternative would be a figurative or metaphorical reading of the Bible. To help you understand, consider the American Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights. To read the Bill of Rights literally, like a grocery list, misses the greater meaning of the document. The larger principles can be applied even as we face issues unimagined by the framers.

    Moving back to religion, perhaps Lot’s wife as not turned into a pillar of salt. Perhaps it is a story to demonstrate a particular point. You may think the whole thing is hogwash, however, the Bible certainly can be read as something other than a newspaper clipping.

  16. Ha ha, the Bible sure has some funny stuff in it! And what’s up with convenience stores? Am I right?!?

    Look, you can tell me my ginger ale is flat, but it’s still better than dying of thirst.

  17. Jose–
    What part of the Bill of Rights is not supposed to be taken literally?

  18. So Jose, the defense of the Bible has come down to, dont take the Bible literally. After all, if you take it literally you just might have to think for yourself, and well the church has been in business for 2 thousand years by thinking for you, what purpose could they possibly serve if they cant do that any more.

    Can someone explain to me how someone who has never spoke to god, doesnt know anyone who has ever spoke to god, can inturput gods word better then me simply because he has a fancy hat and lives in a church?? After your done explaining that to me, could you explain how your church has anything to do with government law??

  19. Like most people, I have resolved to read the Bible straight through perhaps a dozen times in my life…and have never succeeded. What the Bible has to say about marriage interests me very little. (That goes for most other topics.)

    The current debate about marriage seems to work with a definition which has seen service until recently, and which is to be amended (we are told) only in a single particular.

    Most Americans deplore the idea, for a variety of reasons– that it hasn’t been standard church parctice would be (for some people) one of them. This concerns me less.

  20. I should add that I couldn’t get through the Koran, either…in several translations.

    I would be a little more respectful of the “Boob-Thumpers” if they had the daring to mock the scriptures of Islam– a much more dangerous action in practice, even in the secure Western world, still less where it really hits the road.

  21. Andrew,

    “The current debate about marriage seems to work with a definition which has seen service until recently, and which is to be amended (we are told) only in a single particular.”

    Even you admitted earlier that there was no such single definition; now you are committing yourself to an about-face (but lying has always been your best argument, so its not surprising).

    Marraige restrictions have been plentiful over time (despite the current non-sense that marraige has always been between any man and any woman); they have been based on “race,” wealth, caste, class, and any other innumerable distinctions designed to keep one group of people in power (the best way to control the continuation of an elite is to control who they may legally marry after all). The current restriction is like any other that has been seen in the past; and it should be abolished like they were.

  22. “I’m pretty sure mocking literal translations of the Old Testament is not winning friends and influencing people.”

    Actually what we’re mocking it people who use “literal translations of the Old Testament” to support their political agenda. It’s like they’re saying “We can’t let fags get married because the Bible says so.” and our reply is “Oh yeah, then your wife is not your wife, and her and your daughter should get the death penalty for premarital sex.”

    As far as the constitution goes. Some of us weep for the day when it will be taken literally. It’s been completely perverted by those fucking assholes who say “it’s not meant to be taken literally, looking at the big picture we see that it’s OK for congress to forbid speech it doesn’t like, take property without compensation. etc. etc.” Such people deserve to burn for all eternity.

  23. It may be true that the Bible was never meant to be taken literally, but the Constitution sure the hell was.

    How the heck can you base law on something that ISN’T supposed to be taken literally? And remember, the Bible, Torah, Koran, etc. were all bases of law at one point or another.

    Then again, there’s a lot of people that think the law is sacred. These self-delusional morons usually run for office.

    I think the proper alternative to a literal translation of the Bible is to put it in the shit can. You might have to stomp down on the stuff that’s in there first to make room, like the Declaration of Indepence, the Bill Of Rights, etc.

  24. Andrew,

    Of course Islamic law, belief, etc. has exactly nothing to do with the debate at hand.

    However, I am more than willing to mock Islam as much as I am Christianity – they are both irrational in nature after all and full of anacrhonisms and barbarities that modern people do not condone.

    “If you wish to replace a wife with another, do not take from her the dowry you have given her…” (Sura 4:20)

    “Forbidden to you are…married women, except those you own as slaves.” (Sura 4:20, 24)

    “Blessed are the believers who restrain their carnal desires; except with their wives and slave-girls, for these are lawful to them). These are the heirs of Paradise…” (Sura 23:1)

    “You shall not force your slave-girls into prostitution in order that you make money, if they wish to preserve their chastity.” (Surah 24:33)

  25. I heard another argument against gay marriage today, and I wonder if it holds water. If gay marriage is officially sanctioned by the gov’t, any church that refuses to marry a gay couple will be subject to charges of discrimination. If found guilty of anti-discrimination laws, the church might lose its tax-exempt status. Is this plausible?

  26. “Literally!”

    🙂

  27. “Literally!”

    🙂

  28. If god is perfect, why did it create discontinuous functions?

  29. Archeologists near mount Sinai have discovered what is believed to be a missing page from the Bible and is believed to read: “To my darling Candy. All characters portrayed within this book are fictitous and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.”

  30. The Koran has precisely nothing to do with the current debate…and neither does the Bible– it has been merely assumed to be so by the poster.

    The debate is about whether to have an existing definition of marriage willfuly changed by activist courts and activist officials, absent the consent of democratic majorities.

  31. Andrew,

    Have you never heard of the tyranny of the majority? Does it not bother you that absent a controlling document, a 51% majority can remove from a 49% minority not merely marriage rights, but property and existence rights?

    Our ultimate controlling document is the Constitution. The principles of equality under the law, as specified in the Constitution, expressly protect minorities against majorities which attempt to abuse their power.

  32. Andrew,

    Yes, the Bible and Christianity has nothing to do with it; which is why of course Bush and his lackeys and allies drone on and one about religion, etc. Can you be any more dishonest Andrew?

    “The debate is about whether to have an existing definition of marriage willfuly changed by activist courts and activist officials, absent the consent of democratic majorities.”

    Because we all know that the will of majority is best; hmm, it was a falacious argument from tradition earlier, now its a fallacious argument from popularity. To be blunt, if the “will of the majority” were the exclusive standard in the U.S., you would not have courts, a Senate, an electoral college, and a number of other things in your Republic. Your argument from popularity is therefore hollow and baseless.

  33. Andrew makes the rather stupid, flawed and logically fallacious argument that because something is part of a tradition (though indeed, the concept of marraige as we see it today is hardly how it has been regularly in even Western history – so there really is no “tradition” to speak of) and popular it must be right, proper and otherwise persuasive. I differ; tradition, popularity, established blief, or authority have literally nothing to do with the merits of an argument, institution, belief, etc.

  34. “I heard another argument against gay marriage today, and I wonder if it holds water. If gay marriage is officially sanctioned by the gov’t, any church that refuses to marry a gay couple will be subject to charges of discrimination. If found guilty of anti-discrimination laws, the church might lose its tax-exempt status. Is this plausible?”

    Come on! Use you head man. Churches already discriminate. You can’t walk into a temple and demand that the Rabbi perform a Catholic Mass for your wedding. Churches can and do refuse to Marry couples that don’t subscribe to their faith, some even require that the couple attend classes administered by the clergy to instruct them on the particulars of their faith as it relates to wedded bliss. You don’t have a right to a church wedding (the state will marry you for a small fee) and no church is penalized for refusing to marry you.

  35. I DO believe the will of the majority is best…in the sense of being BETTER than any of the real alternatives.

    And given the need to have portability of marriage privileges, the relevant majority will have to be a national one.

  36. Warran,

    What? You expect people like Andrew and Andy D. to use their minds? 🙂

  37. Andrew,

    “I DO believe the will of the majority is best…in the sense of being BETTER than any of the real alternatives.”

    Then why, pray reveal, is there even a point of having a constitution which is counter-majoritian in many respects? Because the “framers” knew your notion to be hogwash and had a healthy distrust for the vagaries of majority rule, that’s why; thus they established “real alternatives” in the document itself – real alternatives that you would eschew in your headlong bigoted rush to strip liberty away from homosexuals. Anyway, arguments from popularity, as I wrote earlier, are fallacious.

  38. Marriage isn’t “part of a tradition”…it is part of the LAW.

    Of course, anybody can go get some kinda Wiccan ceremony to solemnise their undying love for their dog, or TV set, or the gladiolas in the garden if they wish…but the state will not privilege any legal claims around these commitments, no matter how deeply and understandably felt they may be.

    In practice, most gays just shack-up…so do most straights, probably. Some people wear wedding rings…so do a lot of straights– without benefit of license or clergy.

    I have never been sympathetic to common-law doctrines or Palimony litigation…for straights.

  39. “I heard another argument against gay marriage today, and I wonder if it holds water. If gay marriage is officially sanctioned by the gov’t, any church that refuses to marry a gay couple will be subject to charges of discrimination. If found guilty of anti-discrimination laws, the church might lose its tax-exempt status. Is this plausible?”

    Warren already gave a great answer, but I would add that subscribers to this “argument” read the first amendment a bit more carefully.

  40. If tyranny of the majority is so frickin’ awful, then how is tyranny of the minority any better?

  41. If we’re going to talk about gender and the Bible, I’m still not convinced that Brian of Nazareth’s mother was really a woman. I think that she’s a man, baby! (to quote Austin Powers)

    And some of those men at the stonings seemed to have awfully high voices…

  42. And if religion is so irrational, then how is it rational to believe that the earth and universe sprang from nothing, by accident or by chance? Sounds far-fetched and impossible to me.

  43. Jennifer,
    Since you’re obviously ignorant of basic Christian theology, I’ll give you a brief answer, as I understand it. I’m sure you’ll have more questions, and you can find answers on the Net, if you can be bothered.

    Jesus fulfilled the law for us by leading a perfect life and then sacrificing himself for our sins. Therefore, much of those specific passages in Exodus and Leviticus no longer apply, UNLESS they are specifically reinforced in the New Testament. Like, when the Apostle Paul condemns homosexual behavior.

  44. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it should be taken literally.

    From here on, I decree that “debate” shall be defined as an act of social intercourse between a man and a woman.

  45. Eric,
    I am not trolling, but genuinely curious (I was raised Muslim and haven’t yet gotten around to reading the Bible yet). If God is eternal and omniscient (i.e. He would have known about Jesus coming, dying, etc.), then what was the justification of the rule changes, outside those allowing Gentiles? Why are the ceremonial, dietary and fabric rules no longer valid in the NT vs. the OT. I’m sure the explaination is longer than an H&R comment, but it is something I wondered.

    This is especially curious to me because Islam has a great deal of the Judaic ceremonial rules, no tatoos, no pork, menstrual women are “unclean” and can’t go to a house of worship. It’s like the generation skipping genes of Western religion.

  46. Eric says.

    “Jesus fulfilled the law for us by leading a perfect life and then sacrificing himself for our sins. Therefore, much of those specific passages in Exodus and Leviticus no longer apply, UNLESS they are specifically reinforced in the New Testament. Like, when the Apostle Paul condemns homosexual behavior.”

    So let me get this straight — most of the old laws don’t apply, but Christians must obey the will of the Apostle Paul? I thought it was called *Christ*ianity! Paul doesn’t get his own teachings, he’s just supposed to tell us what Jeebus thought!

  47. Does time exist or is it merely a human invention?

  48. the thing is, gay marriage isn’t a tyranny of the minority. the only part of everyone else’s lives anyone’s marriage affects is their sense of reality. the only people affected by gay marriages will be the gays getting married, their families and friends and the people that this topic causes strokes in.

  49. I reckon I’m a Piegan too!

  50. heathen,
    Get a clue – Christians believe the entire Bible is the Word of God, not just the word of the individual authors.

    Mo,
    There have been various reasons cited for this, One reason is that many of the rules have to do with clean living, as in avoiding food-borne or infectious diseaes (getting a tatoo back then was probably not quite as safe as it is now).

    Another reason is that the rules were meant for a specific people (the children of Israel) and a specific situation (wandering in the desert for 40 years).

    But the NT says (start with the book of Hebrews) that the OT laws no longer applies because Jesus fulfilled it for us, again, unless the NT reinforces them.

    Do some research – none of these questions are anything new, or ones that haven’t been asked before countless times.

  51. Eric

    You’re a flaming drongo.

  52. Question:
    What part of the Bill of Rights is not supposed to be taken literally?—-Posted by Jennifer

    Answer:
    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

    except there will be:
    No singing of religious songs at school,
    no praying, No taking of Christmas or Easter Breaks
    But it is OK to have IN GOD WE TRUST on money,
    and to swear to tell the truth in court, so help me God.

    “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    …except for certain kinds of weapons,
    to be determined at various later dates,
    but no militias like the black panthers or whiteasses.

    “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches ”

    …except by x-ray or credit record searches

    “Excessive bail shall not be required…”

    Assuming that excessive would mean more than a person could raise…Unless you really don’t want to let the poor guy out

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    …except when the government really, really wants to do so for this or that reason, then they can assume some powers not specified in the Constitution.

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people. ”

    …but who thought there would be so many of them?

  53. Eric, as thoreau will tell you, not all Christians are Fundamentalist Evangelicals like yourself.

    Of course, you’ll probably bring up some bullshit about “true Christians(TM)” to which I suggest you look up the fallacy of the “no true Scotsman.” Do a google search, you might actually learn something.

  54. kmw-

    It’s hard being a liberal Christian and left-leaning libertarian. I belong to two groups that have a lot of loud-mouths demanding purity. No, not everybody demands purity in either camp, but the ones who do tend to have the loudest voices.

    Even worse, many people find reasons for the two sets of ideas to be at odds. A lot of libertarians seem to think that the best way to approach the cause of smaller government is to derive smaller government from a set of axioms that includes atheism. On the other side of the fence, a lot of Christians seem to think that if something is immoral it should also be illegal, and anything short of banning immorality is an invitation to a new Sodom and Gommorah.

    So here I stand, just a spiritual guy who thinks the world would be a much nicer place if the government would leave us all alone. But I don’t derive my support for smaller government from some set of axioms that demands perfection. And my spirituality is rooted in something other than a literal interpretation of a bad translation of a figurative work written in multiple languages over many centuries. I guess that means I’m comfortable with ambiguity and complexity. Or maybe it means I lack consistency. Either way, it works for me.

  55. I thought libertarians defended smokers because the use of tobacco is private, personal decision where the effects are generally limited to the user. I suggest the vast majority of smokers go about smoking in much the same way as the vast majority of the religious practice religion… quietly.

    As for proselytizing, how exactly did tobacco farmers get those subsidies? And how did large cigarette manufactuters gain favorable tax policies? For that matter, how did they get so many customers?

    What you call proselytizing (or lobbying or marketing), I call the free exchange of ideas. You speak as though “wanting” to change the Constitution is a bad thing. This strikes me as a “thought police” manner of thinking. It is extremely difficult to amend the Constitution… and I see no reason to get my knickers in a twist because a small, vocal minority of persons are clamoring to “save” marriage. Rather than engage in the intellectual self stroking of kicking organized religion, I think it better to use the opportunity to look at how the institution of marriage might be better served by the absence of government.

    Finally, I prefer to use the word “hoist” and “flagon” in the same sentence.

  56. thoreau – Agreed.

    As a believer myself (and a libertarian), I’ve always had a hard time understanding why anyone, *especially* other christians, would even want a religious government. Theocracies invariably do far more harm to honest faith than just about anything else imaginable.

    The government has absolutely *no* business, at all, being involved in my, or anyone else’s, religious faith.

  57. RDale-

    I’ve heard it observed in many places that one reason why Americans are so much more religious than Europeans is that (contrary to the religious right’s claims) America was founded with a secular government. In Europe, they had state religions. Even to this day many western European countries have vestiges of those official religions. Not surprisingly, when religion is run by the same people who brought you the DMV, the spread of religious freedom over the years has resulted in Europeans becoming more secular.

    On the other hand, in the US people have used religious freedom to become more religious than their European brethren. Sure, we have plenty of atheists and agnostics, but overall we’re still more religious than the Europeans.

    That religious difference may account in part for some of the cultural differences, including the cultural differences that cause so many on this forum (atheists included) to lambast “Euroweenies.”

  58. “Marriage isn’t “part of a tradition”…it is part of the LAW.”

    And laws are based – especially in a common law country you nitwit – on traditions. And to be blunt, you are making an “argument from tradition” when you state, as you have repeatedly, that the law was always this way and must remain so. Quit trying to be so Clintonian.

  59. keith,

    Look up the terms “weak atheist,” “strong atheist,” and agnostic. T-Bone has accurately described a “weak atheist.”

  60. Eric,

    “If that’s true, it sounds more like a dodge and a cop-out to me.”

    Yes, we are not fundamentalist nutballs like yourself; we don’t arrogantly assume that our understandings should not be tested.

    “If atheists believe there is no god, then how else did the world get here if not by its own natural means, in other words, by chance or accident?”

    Well a rather simple answer (though I am not an adherent of this particular notion) is that the universe could have been created by an entity which is not a God; you make the fatal assumption here.

    I also found your flawed argument from design to be rather hilarious (especially as it seemed to be mixed with a flawed argument from first cause). Thomas Aquinas you are not.

  61. Dear Jodie, Jennifer, etc.,
    The ever-popular “Christians who oppose homosexuality on Biblical grounds have to want to stone adulteresses and Sabbath-breakers, or they’re being inconsistent” argument is a straw man based on ignorance of both testaments.

    A short primer on Christian teaching on the Old Testament law:
    1. The Old Testament laws of the Torah/Pentateuch were binding on the Jews in the period before the coming of Christ. Besides the criminal penalties that Rep. McDermott, Ms. Allen, and Jennifer are so fond of citing, they also included laws on sacrifice, the kosher dietary laws, etc.
    2. The first great controversy of early Christianity was whether Gentile converts were obliged to obey the Torah. The faction led by St. Paul said that the old laws were not binding on Christians; a rival faction (sometimes called the “Judaizers”) said that they still were. As Christianity gained more and more Gentile converts, the issue became of pressing importance, and eventually Paul prevailed. As a result, Christians don’t have to circumcise their sons on the eighth day, can eat pork and shellfish, and don’t have to implement the Old Testament penal code.
    3. Homosexuality is wrong not because it is condemned by Leviticus, but because it is condemned again by St. Paul and St. Jude in the New Testament, and because it is against natural law anyway.

  62. JB,
    Another fine insult, but rather than dodging and ducking the question, why don’t you answer it?

  63. Eric,

    But I did answer it; reading comprehension was lost on you in your bac days I see? 🙂

  64. No, JB, you provided a “simple” answer that 1. made no sense and 2. you don’t believe yourself. Not much of answer.

  65. Eric,

    (1) It makes perfect sense (you are wrongly assuming that an atheist rejects all manner of supernatural entities, etc., including God(s), when in fact an atheist can believe in ghosts and other entities while at the same time rejecting the notion of God(s) – this was your fatal error); (2) because I do not accept it does not mean that other atheists do not. Case in point – some adherents of Buddhism are atheistic (they do not believe in a God or Gods – they may accept that entities live on planes of existance above our own that have god-like powers however); yet they do not believe in a naturalistic formation of the universe. You really must do more reading.

  66. Eric,

    “And if religion is so irrational, then how is it rational to believe that the earth and universe sprang from nothing, by accident or by chance? Sounds far-fetched and impossible to me.”

    Who believes that? Scientists can, with reasonable methods starting from good observations and very reasonable assumptions (if you can follow them – and anyone with enough patience can) to trace back to an early time a plausable, consistant description of much of the universe – and one which can be proven false, if indeed it ends up being so. This version of the univese only goes back so far – not to the very beginning. Athiests hold this version of the nature of things in high regard; unlike theists, they hold no beliefs about what they can’t with good certainty assume to be true. Athiests (ideally) have no firm opinions about the the metaphysical origins of the universe; instead of choosing an explanation that would end their questions, they struggle with the concepts, and resign to constantly put all assumptions under scrutiny. They certainly don’t believe everything just “sprang from nothing.” Get a clue.

    Also, certainly the general tone of the New Testament is to re-examine the Judaic beliefs as practiced then, under a new light and attitude; “the sabbath was mad for man, not man for the sabbath,” ect. But where does it say to ignore the Old Testament unless expressly approved of by Jesus and His teachings? It’s doesn’t, does it?

  67. Eric,

    I mean, its not dodging and ducking on my part if you are so ignorant of the issues involved that you cannot understand a rather simple and correct answer to your query. This leads me to suspect that you’re a true believer and that you have likely never questioned the ideas handed down to you from the irrational and primitive goat herders, fishermen and what not that started your religion.

  68. JB,
    Again, a nice rant, but it may surprise you that you’re not the first athiest I’ve discussed this subject with. I had some athiest friends in college, and we discussed this topic and others at length, but they never could give me a satisfactory answer to the same question I’ve posed to you.

    What I’m rejecting is the idea that Casper the Ghost created the universe, not that athiests don’t or can’t believe in Casper the Ghost.

    In a last effort to get something resembling an answer, I’ll rephrase the question: how do you think the universe was created?

  69. Eric,

    “Again, a nice rant, but it may surprise you that you’re not the first athiest I’ve discussed this subject with. I had some athiest friends in college, and we discussed this topic and others at length, but they never could give me a satisfactory answer to the same question I’ve posed to you.”

    (a) You didn’t pose the question to me; (b) it is not a rant; its an observation; and (c) it is satisfactory; you asked for a non-naturalistic explanation for the creation of the universe that does not include a God, and I gave you one. One can conclude that you are either very obtuse or a liar; either one is a satisfactory explanation for your refusal to act like a rational human being.

    “In a last effort to get something resembling an answer, I’ll rephrase the question: how do you think the universe was created?”

    Well, that wasn’t the essence or the nature of the question you asked; let me repeat your original question.

    “If atheists believe there is no god, then how else did the world get here if not by its own natural means, in other words, by chance or accident?”

    I gave you a non-naturalistic, alternative, non-God explanation. You refused to accept that as an adequate answer to your query, when in fact it was more than adequate answer. You did not ask how I or anyone else thought that the universe was created; you asked what other alternative was there between a naturalistic and deistic creation; I gave you one; it was satisfactory; now you want to change the question to something else, and pretend as if you are asking the same query. Fine, but somehow I thought Christianity frowned on the sort of dishonesty you present here.

    How was the universe created in my studied and learned opinion? By “naturalistic” means – meaning Big Bang, evolution, etc., none of which were inspired by, introduced, etc. by a non-corporeal being, but by the natural processes that order our universe.

  70. JB,
    Finally a straight answer! Thank you!

    “How was the universe created in my studied and learned opinion? By “naturalistic” means – meaning Big Bang, evolution, etc., none of which were inspired by, introduced, etc. by a non-corporeal being, but by the natural processes that order our universe.”

    Some follow-ups, and this is also for any other interested parties (if there are any left). I ask because I’m genuinely curious.

    1. How did these natural processes start?

    2. How can those same natural processes that order the universe exist before the universe itself?

    3. One law of science says matter can neither be created nor destroyed, so how did matter get here by naturalistic means?

  71. Hey Jimmy:

    3. Homosexuality is wrong not because it is condemned by Leviticus, but because it is condemned again by St. Paul and St. Jude in the New Testamen
    ——

    Quite spewing out the easy lines here’s your damn rebutal from the QRD (http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/FTR/religion.html)

    According to Gomes, three references from St. Paul are frequently cited as scriptural evidence of the evils of homosexuality (Romans I:26-2, I Corinthians 6:9-11, and I Timothy 1:10). “St. Paul was concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to his Jewish-Christian spiritual idealism. He was against lust and sensuality in anyone, including heterosexuals. To say that homosexuality is bad because homosexuals are tempted to do morally doubtful things is to say that heterosexuality is bad because heterosexuals are likewise tempted. For St. Paul, anyone who puts his or her interest ahead of God’s is condemned, a verdict that falls equally upon everyone,” writes Gomes.

  72. Not to quibble, but “evolution” is not really a theory related to the creation of the universe. I think the proper list would include theories like “Big Bang,” “Vacuum Genesis” and “Steady State.” Of course, each of these present certain problems. It would be indeed unfortunate if the discussion of the differing theories devolved to gratiutious insults. And it is hard to see how such an tawdry exchange would reflect kindly on a tradition of intellectual inquiry and debate that dates back to well before St. Thomas Aquinas.

  73. thoreau,

    My point was my last sentence. Government’s (and religion’s) whole purpose is to meddle into people’s affairs. Do you agree or disagree?

  74. I’m so glad I have a natural indifference to religion. Let the nonsense wash o’er me, I’ve got a raincoat! And it’s looking like rain, brothers!

  75. Eric,

    I gave you a straight answer to your original query; then you directed another question toward me (though you lied and said it was merely a re-wording of the original query).

    “How did these natural processes start?”

    I don’t know; I’m not a physicist; there is much work to be done in this area.

    “How can those same natural processes that order the universe exist before the universe itself?”

    Perhaps they didn’t; perhaps they evolved as the universe evolved. According to the Big Bang theory, the natural processes of the early universe (before the bang) were different than those that exist today.

    “One law of science says matter can neither be created nor destroyed, so how did matter get here by naturalistic means?”

    Its transformed; duh.

  76. jc-

    Government’s purpose is to meddle, but there is a place for some of that meddling. For instance, ruining a murderer’s day, or getting involved in a contract dispute.

    Religion’s purpose? Well, that all depends on whom you ask and what church he or she is from.

  77. Jose,

    Well, creation and development of the universe is perhaps a more proper statement. That was certainly what I was getting to.

  78. Get a clue – Christians believe the entire Bible is the Word of God, not just the word of the individual authors.

    Unless it proscribes or prescribes something they don’t really feel like doing, or which would be politically or culturally inconvenient. Then they look around for some other passage that contradicts it, or invent reasons why it no longer applies. (Men wearing long hair, women sitting in the back and shutting up, and so forth.)

  79. thoreau,

    I should have phrased my stance better. Government’s purpose is to proactively meddle in people’s affairs. Do you agree or disagree?

  80. “Athiests (ideally) have no firm opinions about the the metaphysical origins of the universe”

    Sounds like you mean “agnostics”. I’m pretty sure an athiest would be firm in the opinion that there was no god involved in the origin of the universe.

  81. Government’s proper purpose, or the purpose that it actually pursues?

    It’s proper purpose is not to proactively meddle in our affairs. The purpose it actually pursues is of course proactive meddling.

    When I stated above that I’m comfortable with ambiguity and not being “ideologically pure”, I don’t mean that I just sign off on all sorts of gov’t intrusions. What I mean is that in practical politics I see no need to push for the whole kit and kaboodle. It won’t happen any time soon anyway, so I’m perfectly content with pushing for smaller steps that do indeed downsize gov’t. Demanding the whole thing simply alienates people.

  82. Kings2 2:23-24

    Don’t make fun of someone for being bald, God will send a bear to kill you!:

    From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD . Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

  83. kmw,
    No, I wasn’t going to bring up anything about a “true Christian.” Maybe you need to learn a thing or two about Christians. But I’m sure you already know everything.

    T Bone,
    “Athiests (ideally) have no firm opinions about the the metaphysical origins of the universe; instead of choosing an explanation that would end their questions, they struggle with the concepts, and resign to constantly put all assumptions under scrutiny.”

    If that’s true, it sounds more like a dodge and a cop-out to me. If atheists believe there is no god, then how else did the world get here if not by its own natural means, in other words, by chance or accident?

    Also, please point to where I said we should ignore the OT. I didn’t. As I suggested earlier, read the book of Hebrews (it’s not long) to get more of an idea of basic Christian thought.

  84. JB,

    You are aware that when you argue with an idiot, it is often difficult for the observers to tell which of you is the idiot, right?

  85. I’m not sure I understand libertarian interest in theology. Lampooning Biblical verses is not going to change the mind of the believer or the atheiest. So, religion is a nonrational practice… so is smoking cigarettes. Yet I find that some libertarians will rally to defender smokers while rarely sparing the opportunity to castigate the religious. Odd.

    Insofar as the Bill of Rights, allow me to offer an example. There is no “right to privacy” therein, however, the decision in Roe v. Wade is based on “finding” this right amidst the Amendments. While perhaps privacy was not an issue for the framers, one can apply the general principles of the Bill of Rights to reasonably conclude that a private person ought to have a right of “privacy.” Unfortunately, the real “story” of the Bill of Rights… that liberty should be the “default setting” for society has been largely lost.

    On another note, literal reading can lead to excesses (which is yet another reason libertarians find it nearly impossible to be elected.) Most people would agree that private possession of thermo-nuclear warheads is probably not a swell idea. A strict reading of the right to “keep and bear arms,” however, does not limit one’s right to possess WMDs. Now, admittedly, my neighbors might be much more civil were I to have a 10-megaton warhead sitting next to my BBQ. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have to worry about neighbors at all. I’m sure we can find libertarians who would argue that any self respecting neighborhood militia ought to have nuclear capabilities.

    I will be among the first to argue that government has been far too draconian in limiting personal liberties. I also think that most attempts at government intervention (read “War on _____”) have been horribly unsuccessful. The answer, however, is not a literal reading of the Bill of Rights, but a more enlightened application of the its core principles to modern society. The default setting should be “free,” to include the private practive of any religion… no matter how silly one might find the theology thereof.

  86. “I guess that means I’m comfortable with ambiguity and complexity. Or maybe it means I lack consistency. Either way, it works for me.”

    Or maybe it means you haven’t been hassled. Yet. Once you get hassled by government/religion (the same thing really), and you realize that the ambiguity is the justification for the hassle, you will change your mind.

    Because the statement “the world would be a much nicer place if the government would leave us all alone” misses the point that government’s purpose for existing is to NOT leave people alone.

  87. Jose Ortega wrote –
    “Yet I find that some libertarians will rally to defender smokers while rarely sparing the opportunity to castigate the religious. Odd.”

    “The default setting should be “free,” to include the private practive of any religion… no matter how silly one might find the theology thereof.”

    “Odd”, eh ? Let’s help you out here, Jose. Libertarians “defend smokers” only insofar as they are against government sponsored behaviour-modification experiments. I haven’t yet seen any libertarian proselytize for government to subsidize peoples’ private smoking habits.

    The Gay Marriage debate stands at the opposite pole from this. Religious partisans who want to amend the constitution to the point where it agrees with the biases of 1 B.C tribal elders are not exactly engaging in “private practice” of religion.
    As for “libertarian interest in theology”, here’s your homework for today – can you frame a sentence using the words “hoist” & “petard” ?
    A bit simplistic, but i better get back to work

  88. Or maybe it means you haven’t been hassled. Yet. Once you get hassled by government/religion (the same thing really), and you realize that the ambiguity is the justification for the hassle, you will change your mind.

    Um, what’s your point? That once I’ve been hassled by organized religion I’ll understand that, since the “bad guys” are reading it literally, a literal interpretation is the inevitable consequence of religion and hence I either need to jump on board or finally turn agnostic? Sorry, but a literal interpretation of a contradictory book is impossible. Especially when it’s a literal interpretation of a bad English translation of a contradictory book. Given that, the choice is between Christian spirituality with ambiguity, or no Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality without ambiguity is a pipe dream.

    And what, that when I’ve been hassled enough by the government I’ll eventually realize that the only effective way to oppose them is by assuming a stance of absolute purity that immediately isolates me from 99% of the electorate? i.e. 99% of the people who must be won over if we’re to get the government to stop hassling people?

    You have every right to preach the dogma of absolute purity and literalism and all things, and I have every right to say that you’re full of it. In fact, I believe I just did.

  89. I suggest you miss my point, Mona. I did not say the Constitutional and Bible are like documents. More accurately, I said that they can be read in similar fashions–literally or figuratively. I think a narrow legalistic reading of either document is unfortunate… the sort of thing that leads people to think that only gold can be a currency and that stoning is an appropriate social sanction. Both documents represent larger ideas worthy enough for discourse more civil than found on this thread.

    And to Jean Bart, you missed my point as well… but as a civilized man I am reluctant to make it a second time.

  90. “Get a clue – Christians believe the entire Bible is the Word of God, not just the word of the individual authors.”

    Actually, there are rather a lot of us who believe that the Bible is the word of prophets inspired by God.

    jc, “Government’s (and religion’s) whole purpose is to meddle into people’s affairs.” Government is only external to an individual. Religion is either entirely internal to the individual, or has both internal and external components. So while government can only meddle in people’s affairs, religion IS people’s affairs.

  91. Jose writes: “Not to quibble, but “evolution” is not really a theory related to the creation of the universe.”

    I’ll quibble with that. ;)Evolution yielding the bio-diversity on Earth requires vast amounts of time, and that is why young earth creationists generally refuse to concede a universe that is billions of years old. That light is seen here which has to have been traveling for millions or billions of years from its point of origin drives them batty, and they resort to much special pleading to get around this fact.

    So, the origin and age of the universe are quite related to the fact of evolution, as well as to the various theories about its mechanisms.

    –Mona–

  92. Dear Doc,
    My main point was not so much to defend Christian teaching on homosexuality (although I do believe in it myself), as to try to explain why “Since homosexuality is condenmned in Leviticus, anyone who criticizes homosexuality must want to implement all the death penalty provision in Leviticus” is a phony argument. Alas, this doesn’t seem to have made any impact on you or any other poster, and the next time homosexuality is in the news, the same phony argument will undoubtedly be trotted out again.
    As for Rev. Gomes, peace be with him, but I have almost two thousand years of interpretation on my side, and he has about a decade or two on his.

  93. P.S.
    Joe is right: The Bible is believed to be inspired by God, but not dictated by God in the same way that Muslims believe the Koran to be.

    Also, in an attempt to demonstrate that I am not a Christian fogey, I will say that I found Mr. Cavanaugh’s headline to be very funny.

  94. Theists who demand that non-theists “prove the gods’/god’s nonexistence” have it backwards. They have the burden of proof that such a being(s) ever existed, let alone still does. A “god” as a first cause is one thing. Attributing the traditional monotheists’ god-elements – omnipotence, omniscience, absolute benevolence – to a supposed creator-god is not necessary. Creator-god could have brought the universe into being, and then, having overestimated how powerful it actually was, expire from the effort, or (and this would explain much about the mixed-up world we live in) be crippled, even insane. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if all the revealed texts of all religions actually came from a god who kept forgetting what he had told the last bunch of humans he inspired? Or how about a god who, as a result of creating, fractured into dozens or thousands of lesser beings, all thinking they were Deus Numero Uno, or at least members of the True Pantheon?

    God, the all-true, all-good, all-beautiful, all-knowing is an artifact of Greek philosophy, grafted onto the Jealous Jehovah of the Old Testament and/or the Lamb’o’God of the New. Neither the gods of Olympus or of many of the other pantheons had those attributes. They were as like to be human foibles writ large as paragons of virtue.

    Believers would do well to couch their arguments for public policy in philosophical, rather than theological terms. “He made them male and female” doesn’t cut any ice with the rest of us when it is a revealed proscription. If you argue that there is something detrimental to others about the practice of same-sex marriage, and can prove it by non-religious means, then we might listen to you.

    BTW, put me down with the “privatize all marriages” crowd. If religions want to solemnize those contracts, fine. The government needn’t do more than offer a forum of last resort to those seeking to enforce or dissolve those contracts’ terms, and if people are smart enough to use private arbitration, that won’t happen often.

    Kevin

  95. > I did not say the Constitutional and Bible are like documents. More accurately, I said that they can be read in similar fashions–literally or figuratively.

  96. Jennifer asks: “What part of the Bill of Rights is not supposed to be taken literally?”

    Where it says “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Oh, wait.

    But seriously, I think Jose was mistaken to liken Con Law with biblical exegesis. The Bible was written by a wide variety of authors over thousands of years who had no notion of empiricism or objective truth standards; any internal coherence is accidental or attributable to a common theology and/or ethos of the peoples from whence the various writers sprung. But it is not at all always consistent.

    The Bill of Rights was written by a very few in a quite limited time and narrow context, and one (for all practical purposes) place. The Constitution does not address ulitmate issues, the Bible does. The Constitution, written largely by rationalists, is internally consistent to the nth degree.

    While it is true that parts of the Bible are law, it was not written when a divorce between secular and sacred was accepted; the Bible is a mishmash, if an elegant one, of law, cosmology, theology, eschatology, mythology, poetry, history and prophecy. To read it under current rules of statutory construction would be absurd.

    Different kinds of writing under utterly different circumstances and drafted for very different purposes.

    –Mona–

  97. To the few still reading this thread, I recommend N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. Believe it or not, not all Christians are stupid or gullible; there are some who have studied the evidence and have concluded that the evidence points to the Resurrection as a historical fact. Even if you don’t agree with Wright’s conclusions, you will at least learn a lot about what Christ’s contemporaries actually believed about resurrection, the nature of God, etc. There is a great tendency on God-related posts here and elsewhere to make sweeping generalizations sayinhg that “the ancient Greeks thought such and such”, or “the authors of the Bible had such and such a worldview”, or “Christ is a rip-off of Mithras and/or the mystery religions” without many supporting facts, and often with quite erroneous supporting “facts.” I recommend Wright’s other works, as well as the works of Fr. John Meier and the late Fr. Raymond Brown, for the same reason.

  98. Re: Mona

    Perhaps I should have said related to all serious theories about the creation of the universe. None of the serious theories of how the universe was created rely on the theory of evolution. The scientific community has concluded that the earth is some 4 to 5 billion years old (though it doesn’t look a day over 3 billion to me.) The age was established by radiometric testing… not by measuring biodiversity. On this note, a fair measure of the biodiversity you cite occurred during the “Cambrian Explosion.” By a geologic standard of time, the Cambrian period is a twinkling of the eye (some 50-odd million years that occured roughly 500 million years ago.) With all due respect, Mona, I think we are better considering the creation of the universe as an exercise in astrophysics rather than muddying the waters with references the evolutionary biology.

    By the way, evolution is a theory, not a “fact.” Those who generally agree in a theory of evolution may have some disagreements about the details. Furthermore, it is impossible to prove with scientific certainty what exactly happened when life emerged from the primordial soup. While I’m not current on my journals, I am unaware of anyone who has scientifically replicated the creation of life. Calling evolution a “fact” strikes me as something of a “leap of faith.”

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