Site Update and Message

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week. It was fully my intention to get a Saturday Sermon up on either Saturday or Sunday, but Saturday I got sidetracked when I was able to get my COVID booster and then came home to do a smaller home repair (attic railing was about go kaput) and just lost track of time. Sunday, I spent the day wondering where purple made noise, yes that’s supposed to sound like nonsense because unlike COVID shot #1, COVID shot #2, and the flu shot, COVID booster told me to sit on the couch and drift in and out of coherence. Still, though, worth the weird feelings. I highly encourage getting boosted (or just getting your COVID vaccine if that’s the case).

I did a religion themed podcast over on the Illuminati Social Cub with friend and In Your Earholes co-host, Oliver Rockside. We discussed the differences between the US and Canada when it comes to public-facing displays of religion. It’s Episode 37: Border Signs. It’s a fun, casual conversation about how people tend to wear their religion on their sleeves in the US while it’s a more personal thing in Canada.

Finally, I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Make sure to give thank for all of those around you who have helped you and supported you through these surreal times. I, for one, am thankful for my family, my girlfriend, and all of you who have supported me in my blogging adventure. I thank you all and I will be back to writing as soon as my immune system is well-oiled, virus killing machine.

Leviticus Chapter 11

I am back after a much needed break.

I thought I was going to skate through Leviticus by just doing reaction posts to the verses that are normally quoted from this book. However, I found that this chapter is actually interesting in that it shows how people observed the natural world and made inferences.

This chapter deals with clean and unclean foods. God is setting down the rules of what is good to eat and what isn’t. Animals with divided hooves and cleft-footed and chew the cud are considered clean. Camels are unclean because they do not have split hooves. The rock badger and the hare are both named as unclean because they chew the cud, but they don’t have split hooves. Let’s stick a pin in that and come back to it. Finally, in this section, pigs have split hooves, but they don’t chew the cud, so they are unclean.

OK, back to that pin. Rock badgers and hares do not chew the cud, but they are coprophages which means that they eat their own poop, which is kind of along the same lines as chewing the cud. These animals, though, are herbivores. By the way, in talking to my girlfriend about this chapter, we both wondered if badgers were even native to that area. The rock badger is. I can understand the pig being on this list since they are omnivores and tend to eat anything and everything. Eating pork in those days without cooking it through and through would have resulted in some nasty parasites.

Then we move into sea life. Only those things that have fins and scales may be eaten. That means fish, plain and simple. If it doesn’t have fins and scales, it shall not be eaten. That means no shrimp cocktail, surf and turf, oysters on the half shell, or calamari.

Again, this makes some sense. Crustaceans like shrimp, prawns, and lobsters are bottom feeders and eat the waste of the other sea life. Bivalves like oysters, clams, and mussels are filter feeders which is much the same. Naturally, it seemed like a bad idea to eat things that ate other things’ waste. But they’re so, so good.

The birds that are listed are exactly what one would expect, all scavenger types. Then the directive on insects. All winged insects that walk on all fours are unclean unless they have jointed legs above their feet. I can see some desert dweller picking up a bug and squinting his eyes to see the bug’s legs. Clean insects include locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers. All other insects that have four feet are detestable. Except that insects have six legs.

The rest of the chapter details what one should do if made unclean by any of these animals. Becoming unclean can happen through touching, carrying, maybe even just looking at them (ok, I made that up).

Refuting Apologetics #2

Once again the intellectual featherweights at Frank Turek’s Cross Examined tossed me a big, fate softball. The article, Infinite Punishment for Finite Crimes? attempts to make sense of this idea of sending people to hell for eternity for a sin that has an expiration date.

“The assumption underlying the challenge here is that there should be some correlation between how long the offending act took to commit and the punishment that is attached to it.”

After reading this article over a few times, the author seems to be saying that non-believers think this way about crime and punishment. Well, breaking news, Mr. Apologist, I don’t know of any atheist who thinks like this. That’s stupid. My contention is that even the crime of murder is finite in effect and the punishment ends with the perpetrator’s end. The effects of the crime may be felt long after, but we’re talking about the punishment in this case.

The author states that God cannot be victimized, but he does have the right to separate himself from those who rejected him. I won’t argue that God can’t be victimized. To reject God presupposes a relationship with God. I don’t believe in a theistic god of any type. I am aware that there is a character in the Bible known as God and that many apologists refer to him, but I can’t get past the logical contradictions. There is one other line in that paragraph, “We are not chosen at random for such punishment.” Tell that to the Calvinists.

And here is why I do not believe that the God of the Bible exists:

“Though our bodies will die, our souls live on. Let’s consider for a moment what this means: while we may have forgotten many, or even most, of the times that we erred, the times that we hurt others, the times that we did not live up to what was expected; He has not. Each of our sins, each of the times that we chose to act or think in a way we knew violated His perfect will, each of those instances may seem to be the distant past to us, but God is not limited by time.”

We’re human and we make mistakes. To think that the supposed, all-powerful creator of the entire universe cares that I took a penny and didn’t leave one, or I lied when I said that I couldn’t go to a co-worker’s party, tells me that people are in an abusive relationship with their God. Why the fuck would this allegedly amazing entity be bothered by humans being, well, HUMAN? Didn’t he apparently make us this way? I don’t understand how this author can seriously think that this kind of relationship is healthy.

“We have chosen to stand before God, unapologetic, demanding that He accept us just as we are, proud of our lives and our choices. Judge us and find us worthy, we demand. What choice does this leave to a perfectly just judge?”

Perfectly just? This author spent the entire article describing a petty and vindictive judge who set up humanity to fail from his first words to Adam. This is the same “perfectly just” judge who spent most of his time passing down his laws to Moses talking about how build and decorate an altar instead giving us actual, useful laws like don’t rape women and children, be a good steward to this planet, and don’t be a dick to others. Perfectly just, my ass.

Leviticus Chapter 10

This chapter starts with Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, prepared censers and made an offering to God. Except that it was “unholy fire” that God had not commanded. So being a reasonable, merciful deity, he immolated the pair because that’s normal. Moses had the charcoal remains removed and told Aaron and his two remaining sons that they were not allowed to mourn or else they would be killed too along with the rest of the congregation.

So because did not demand the offering of the sons, he not only did not accept the offering, but he killed the sons. The Oxford Bible Commentary is of no help in giving a reason behind this story. It’s my opinion that this is nothing more than an allegory that tells priests to obey and follow ritual instructions…or else. However, that’s reading too much into the story when it comes to biblical literalists. I can’t even imagine how they would justify God’s reaction to this story. Anyway, moving along.

8And the LORD spoke to Aaron: 9Drink no wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons, when you enter the tent of meeting, that you may not die; it is a statute forever throughout your generations.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 234). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The above verse holds a significance to me and other fans of the TV show M*A*S*H, due to an episode Season 3, “Alcoholics Unanimous”, Father Mulcahy attempts to give a sermon on temperance, but due to being drunk never actually gets past this verse. It’s also why I can’t read the sons’ names without hearing them in William Christopher’s drunk voice. That is my explanation for the picture accompanying this chapter.

The rest of this chapter is about the offerings gone wrong. The goat was burned, but it wasn’t eaten and the blood was spread properly and that meant another sin offering was demanded.

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.