November Is Coming

Yes, tomorrow, November begins and so does National Novel Writing month, or NaNoWriMo. It’s been a couple of years since I participated and now that I have a couple project ideas, I am going to participate once again. I am going to take the month off from the regular Bible reading posts to bring you some (hopefully) creative and humorous Bible-based satire.

I also have the seed of an idea for a “children’s book” (quotes necessary), but I don’t want to spoil the surprise as I will post at least the introduction on the blog sometime this week. It will show the way my mind works as I read this book.

I will have a couple more chapters of Leviticus done today and I will post those this week, but after that, no more Bible posts until December. That’s okay, I can use the break.

Leviticus Chapters 1 through 9

God tells Moses to tell the people…and what follows is a litany of instructions about how to properly make offerings to God. I suppose if I titled my posts creatively I would call this one, “There’s more than one way to skin a sacrificial animal.” The instructions include how to dispatch the animal on the altar, how to spread its blood, what to do with the freshly killed carcass, and so on and so forth. Admittedly, I did not read each chapter fully and merely skimmed slowly over them.

All fat is the LORD’s. 17It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your settlements: you must not eat any fat or any blood.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 221). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

So much for that rare steak with the thin ring of fat around it. Fat is flavor, my friends.

God also tells Moses to tell the people that grain offerings that are baked must not be leavened. So does that mean that God is gluten-free? Leaven and honey should not be turned into smoke.

Reading through these rules, even atonement for property fraud and theft is accompanied by animal sacrifice. Either they had an overpopulation of animals and they were just multiplying daily, or the people were starving because their finest animals were burnt on the altar.

Anyone who consumes any blood will be cut off from their kin. Well, again, I guess that means no rare steaks.

Ordination of priests carries with it an animal sacrifice as well. Question for the pastor that follows my blog, when you were installed as the pastor of the church, did the congregation make a burnt offering? If not, why not? If they didn’t, then you missed out on having blood applied to your earlobe, thumb, and big toe.

OK, that tent must have been pretty rank after a short time. Blood was spattered on the altar from all directions. Animals were carved up and their entrails burned.

Part of the ordination has the new priest’s vestments being sprinkled with anointing oil and blood. Do you know how hard it is to get those two stains out of fabric? They had better pre-treat those vestments for at least a couple days prior to washing. They had to stay in the tent of meeting all week. Those stains are going to set in and they will be impossible to get out.

I Don’t Know

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny…”

Isaac Asimov

I have always been fascinated by science and scientific discoveries. It amazes me when a technological marvel created on earth lands on Mars and is able to, almost immediately, send pictures back of its landing spot. I am in awe of the deep space exposures from the Hubble Space Telescope where thousands of galaxies are visible in a tiny spot of “empty sky”. I wish I could have been alive to see the moon landing live on TV. To those that were, know that I envy you greatly.

Those few things and many, many more all started out without knowing whether or not they could be achieved. “Could man go into space and walk on the moon?” The first answer was likely, “I don’t know.” Well, they tried and they succeeded. It all started without knowing whether they could or not.

I love unknowns. There are very big unknowns, such as the origin of the universe and the origin of life itself. We don’t know the answers…yet. It doesn’t help to fill in those unknowns with unscientific guesses or unwarranted belief. Richard Feynman said it best:

You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt, and uncertainty, and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different things. But I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here, and what the question might mean. I might think about it a little bit; if I can’t figure it out, then I go onto something else. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell — possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.

Richard Feynman

Not knowing something is the starting point for learning it. There are a lot of things that we will not know in this lifetime and that’s okay.

Announcements

I have finished Exodus and will eventually start on Leviticus, which I am not looking forward to, but I will get through it.

The month of November is NaNoWriMo and I will be participating this year. I have a few project ideas in mind and will probably post some of that work on the blog.

Exodus Chapters 33 through 40

Chapter 33

God tells Moses to pack up and leave Sinai and head into the land of Canaan. God would send an angel ahead to drive out all of the people already living there since he promised this land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, he tells Moses that he will not go with them because the Israelites are a “stiff-necked” people. That is, I learned, stubborn. The people were really upset to hear such harsh language about themselves, so they didn’t get all dressed up with their ornaments.

Moses had set his tent up outside of the camp and God would visit him there in a whirlwind and they would talk face to face as friends. The people would bow to the whirlwind when it appeared. Anyway, Moses expresses disappointment that God will not go with them to the land of Canaan and tries to talk him into it. Lo and behold, God can once again be bargained with and he agrees to go with them. However, nobody could see God’s face and live. That’s it, that’s the bargain.

Chapter 34

I’m calling this the last chapter of any substance and it is quite interesting as we will soon find out. I’m calling this an egregious retconning of the commandments. God tells Moses to cut two stone tablets and God shall write upon them what was written on the first set. However (I use that word a lot in this book), as we will see, the commandments are nothing like the previous set. First though, God has to make his presence known, I guess.

6The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 197). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Is it wrong of me to laugh at that, “slow to anger” line? Who flooded the globe again?

Moses is told not to make a covenant with any of the inhabitants of Canaan and to destroy their altars and pillars and cut down their sacred poles. That’s because they are not to worship any other gods because God is Jealous.

Do not make cast idols. Keep the festival of unleavened bread. All firstborn males of livestock, animals, and people belong to God and shall be redeemed. No one shall appear before God without an offering. Remember the sabbath. Observe the festival of weeks. Three times per year, all males will appear before God. Apparently God really hates yeast because the blood of sacrifice will not touch leavening. The best of the first fruits of the harvest will be given to God. And most importantly, no boiling a baby goat in its mother’s milk.

So once Moses wrote this all down, he came down…wait a second…I though they left Sinai, but he was back up there again. Anyway, he came down and apparently his face was shining. So he put a veil over his face unless he was speaking with God.

Chapters 35 through 40

The last six chapters are simply carrying out the instructions given in Chapters 25 through 31. It’s the building of the altar, the tabernacle, the making of the priestly vestments, the assigning of the priests, and the building of the Ark Of The Covenant. I skimmed through it to see if there was anything of interest, nope, not to me there isn’t.

I’m sure in Jewish traditions this is all very interesting and has some historical context and stuff, but for the purposes of this reading, I’m not going to bother. I’m actually more interested in the narrative stories and some of the more well-known laws.

The Theory Of Evolution

I have a love-hate relationship with videos that discuss the Theory of Evolution. I understand the theory (theory, by the way, is a body of knowledge made up of facts, laws, and theorems that support the premises made), but I am unable to articulate into words that would make other understand it. In other words, I am not a teacher. There are some things that I can explain about the theory to give it clarity and keep people from making the same, dumb assertions that people like Kent Hovind, Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, and others of their ilk continually make.

The Theory of Evolution only addresses the diversity of life on the planet. It does not explain the origin of the universe, stars, galaxies, planets, or life itself. Those are different fields of science and each of those fields are at different stages of development. To use an analogy, I am an electronics technician at the PCB (printed circuit board) level which means that I can diagnose and repair a board by replacing integrated circuits (ICs) and discrete components (resistors, capacitors, etc.). I do not need to know how ICs are made or how the PCB is produced in order to do my job. I do know how those things are done and they do not help me in my job at all. What I do need to know are the mathematical laws and theorems associated with electronics theory. There’s that word again.

The word “theory” is not a guess or an assumption. My degree is related to the field of Electronics Theory which is supported by Ohm’s Law, Kirchoff’s Law, the concepts of series and parallel circuits, alternating and direct current (AC and DC), and many other things. The same goes for Evolutionary Theory in that there are laws, theorems, axioms, and other things that support the overall body of knowledge. To be honest, evolution is better supported than gravity in many respects. The theory of evolution is the basis of modern biology.

We are way past Darwin. Darwin wrote books on the subject of evolution, but since then, and even in his own lifetime, Gregor Mendel expanded on it with the discovery of genes. In the 1860s, Friedrich Miescher discovered deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), in the 1950s Waston and Crick, using x-ray crystallography developed by Rosalind Franklin, discovered the double helix structure of DNA. By 2003, the human genome was completely sequenced and progress marches onward and upward. Charles Darwin would be impressed by the work done since his initial discovery.

Science continues to search for answers to the mysteries of the natural world. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to the Theory of Evolution and there are far better resources to search out. There is no controversy and even if (and that’s a massive “if”) the theory is completely disproven, that would not make creationism true by default. Creationism is not science in any sense of the word. Maybe I’ll dive into that next week.

Exodus Chapter 32

I’m at another chapter that tells me that the god being spoken of in this particular book is impotent at most. If he was truly all-knowing and all-good, he would have let the people know that this was going to take a while. Instead Aaron, who should have known exactly what was going on up on the mountain, gives in to the people and makes them a golden calf to worship because for some weird reason the people need to worship something. God, who could have stopped this before it started, instead tells Moses to get down there and do something about it.

Let us not forget that in one of the earliest commandments, Chapter 20, verse 5, God says that he is jealous and is not putting up with those shenanigans (I might have paraphrased). So naturally, worshiping something that isn’t God is punishable by death. However, God can once again be bargained with and Moses talks him out of destroying his chosen people. All of this happened before Moses actually went down the mountain with the tablets.

Moses carried the tablets of the commandments down the mountain and when he saw the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, he threw the tablets down and reduced the calf to powder, scattered it on the water, and forced the Israelites to drink it. Then Aaron told him how this all happened because the Bible likes to repeat.

Moses called for the people who were still faithful to God and the sons of Levi answered. I think I should let the Bible tell this part:

27He said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.’ ” 28The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (pp. 194-195). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

God could have stopped this before it started. He knew what was going on, but he decided to let it play out. It’s stories like this one that convince me that the God of this book (and several others) is a bloodthirsty monster. After the massacre that looked like something out of Shogun Assassin without the baby carriage, Moses goes up the mountain to atone for the people’s sin and God sends a plague on the people and then sends them off to another destination.

A Lot On My Mind

My mind has been active this week thanks to my Twitter feed, the Bible, and just life in general. Allow me the chance to dump all of this on you right now. Thanks.

The week started off with Dr. Frank Turek tweeting,

Eternity is a concept that is impossible to quantify. As I wrote a while back regarding heaven and hell, eternal reward or punishment for doing finite good or for finite sins is disproportionate at best and immoral at worst. Also, if there is an eternity of bliss or torture after this life, then this life in comparison become but a blink of the eye which renders any meaning here useless to consider. No, this is our one only life. Spend it making the lives of others better by doing good things. Moving along now…

I read through seven chapters of Exodus to come up with Monday’s post, which was comparably short for seven chapters. That’s because in the eleven total chapters from where God first starts giving Moses the laws, the first four commandments and the final seven chapters are all about the care, feeding, and proper worship of the all-powerful God. There is also a large section about the proper treatment of slaves which, if God is all-knowing and all-good, he would not have allowed for the ownership of slaves in the first place. There is one small section that contains laws that make good sense explaining how not to be a jerk, but that’s about it. I could keep going on this thread, but I’m moving on.

I saw a lot of so-called pro-life Christians tweeting about the injunction on the Texas abortion law which got me thinking about gun culture in this country (the US, in case you didn’t know). I tweeted,

How is this perfectly okay? Sure, kids have fire drills and tornado drills, but the latter is an act of nature, the former could be an act of nature or due to human error. An active shooter drill is preparing for the actions of a person who woke up that morning and decided to take up arms and end the lives of children. Think about that.

Announcements:

I only put out one post this week because of all the stuff on my mind. I don’t like forcing myself to write about something in particular when there is so much other stuff going on in my head.

Not that I’ve mentioned it here at all, but I’ve come to a decision on the rest of the Pentateuch. Since it’s mostly laws, I am going to read it through, but I will only be touching on the items of interest that people tend to cite and ignore.

Also, while I have been on a regular posting schedule (Bible posts Monday and Thursday, and the Saturday Sermon), I am going to drop the schedule for the Bible posts. I will still post somewhat regularly, but I need to read other things, too.

Exodus Chapters 25 through 31

I’m not gonna lie, these seven chapters sound like the set design notes for the first Indiana Jones movie. This is basically a long section describing how to make up the offerings for the tabernacle, build the ark of the covenant, how to build and present the table for the bread of the presence, the lampstand, how to make the tabernacle itself, the framework for the aforementioned tabernacle, the curtain, the altar for burnt offerings, the court and hangings for the tabernacle, the oil for the lamp, the vestments, and so on and so forth. I’m not going to go through the details because I’m not running a how-to blog over here.

This is apparently God telling his people how to worship him and what he likes. Go back to my comments on Chapter 23 and read the third paragraph because I really don’t want to repeat myself. I might as well make it the subtitle for this blog. This is the words of men trying to control people and get them to build some pretty stuff.

At one point, God appoints two men to make all of the stuff in the previous chapters. After that, it’s a review of everything that was said in the previous chapters. Finally, God talks about the sabbath laws and tells Moses to tell the Israelites. At the end of all of these laws, God gives Moses all of these laws written on two tablets in God’s finger.

Questions For Atheists Answered

From time to time, I will run across questions from religious folks to atheists. Most of them contain many of the same questions, but seeing as how this is my first time posting any of these, they might be all new to you. Seeing as how I’m an atheist, I decided to try answering some of these. These questions come from Cornerstone Church Kingston in the United Kingdom.

Question 1. How do you know there is no God?

Short answer. I don’t.  OK, I’ll give a longer answer. My first question, if I was asked this point-blank without knowledge of my interlocuter, would be, “What do you mean by god?” since many people have their own ideas about god, so I would have to find which faith tradition he/she belongs to.

Since I can tell from the website that this is an evangelical Christian church, I feel safe in assuming that they mean the God of the Bible. First of all, as an atheist, I do not assert that there is no God. I don’t believe in God or gods, it’s really that simple. However, I feel rather confident saying that I know the God of the Bible does not exist simply because he is an amalgam of contradictions. As I am slowly making my way through the Old Testament, I am wondering where this idea of an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, and all-loving God comes from. It certainly isn’t this book (I am familiar enough with the rest of the Bible to make this assertion).

Question 2. Where did everything come from?

I’m an electronics technician, not a cosmologist or astrophysicist. Apparently, as an atheist, I am required to know the origins of the universe, the galaxy, the solar system, the planet, the continents, life, species, and everything else. In my day to day life I give very little thought to origins of anything except a) my paycheck, and b) my next meal. This is usually posed as a gotcha question because science doesn’t have all the answers, so it must be the God of the Bible who poofed everything into existence. My answer to this question is, “I don’t know.” And that is a perfectly suitable answer.

Question 3. Why are there human beings?

See my above answer.

Question 4. What is the point of life?

This question is asking about the purpose or meaning of life. I believe that we assign our own meaning to our life and that meaning can change several times. At one time, my purpose was to learn as much as I could about electronics and start a career in that field. These days, I think my girlfriend and her pets give me a pretty good purpose to my life.

Note: I am skipping some of these because I’m not really interested in answering them.

Question 7. Why are you scared of death?

I once heard somebody respond to this question, “It’s not being dead that scares me, it’s the getting dead part.” I like that answer. I believe that death is the end of the line. Once we’re dead, that’s all folks. That makes this life, the one I’m living right now, so much more valuable. I wrote about Heaven and Hell a couple weeks ago, but I believe that if I’m a good person in this life, people will remember me for that and that’s how I want to be remembered.

Question 42: What is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything?

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