Science and Other Drugs

….maybe a little less wrong….

What makes you different

Religion is predictable.

From a series of conversations over on Violet’s blog….

We see worship of the sun, stars, rivers, or other natural elements, morphing into a pantheon of deities. These pantheons expanded as time went on and religious observance became more and more ostentatious and refined. New gods were added on a regular basis. The members of the divine pantheon had very human attributes, lives, and adventures.

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With the excuse of promoting “morality”, these gods “commanded” particular observances and restricted particular practices, with a strict and clearly-defined give-and-take relationship. Weather patterns and seers and fortune-telling was a means of ascertaining the immediate opinion of whatever god was most applicable to the situation. Infighting and pitting one deity against another was common.

Religions also near-universally emphasize the differences between people. The holy is better than the unholy; the priest is better than the layman; men are better than women. It is used to place the religious in positions of power, to strengthen existing cultural mores, to keep people in their place.

In order to keep people in their place, there is an extremely specific system of rewards and punishments. Your value is directly determined by your adherence, past and future, to the code of the religion. Whether rewards are given in this life, or in a reincarnated life, or in an afterlife, they are directly proportional to the “good” you do. Trust-without-question in the teachings of the religious authorities is considered to be a “good” deed.

These are the commonalities shared more or less by virtually all religions. Would you agree?

Here’s why I think Christianity—as I understand it—consistently subverts these tropes.

Christianity never even hints at the worship of nature or elements of the natural world. The god presented in the OT and NT is consistently transcendent; there is no slowly-developed move from nature worship up to polytheism and on to monotheism.

In Christianity, the pantheon of deities does not continually expand. Granted, Jesus’s declaration of himself and the Spirit as subsets of the godhead is a sort of increase, but even it subverts the norm. The three members of the Christian godhead are not in conflict, do not have deceptively human lives and adventures in their celestial plane, and don’t represent different facets of nature. Moreover, prescribed religious practice becomes less rigid and ostentatious as time goes by, moving progressively and consistently away from ritual toward a relational approach.

Subverting the “oracle” trope, the Christian god does not provide direction for personal and business practices through the consultation of priests and the examination of dove entrails. There are no patron deities of one type of undertaking or another. And the number of “commandments” shrinks over time, rather than growing as would be expected.

With surprising and pervasive consistency, the core teachings of Christianity work to break down barriers between people, rather than emphasize and strengthen them as is expected of religion. In the OT, the priests were not permitted to own land, thus keeping them from gaining too much power. Religious and political roles were kept distinct to prevent abuses; kings couldn’t be high priests and vice versa. In the OT, laws were instituted to curb the premodern society’s tendency to subjugate and control others, introducing rights for women like protection from rape and sale and divorce, rights for slaves like amnesty and Jubilee and protection from sale or mistreatment, and more. As society developed, the NT stayed ahead of the curve, breaking down social mores and pushing for equal rights and declaring the equality of all people. The NT did away with a separate priesthood altogether (something the Roman Catholics kind of missed, but that’s another issue altogether). It didn’t play into existing cultural prejudices and abuses; it fought them.

As God’s nature was progressively revealed, human goodness was divorced from adherence to ritual. A person’s goodness was asserted to be inherent in their relationship with God and their treatment of other people, not in their observances (again, something the Roman Catholics went wrong with, but again, beside the point). The threat of punishment for sinful actions, a bulwark of religion, was done away with completely for Christians. The set of requirements was removed. While praising faith inasmuch as it pertains to trust in providence, the NT encourages critical reasoning and skepticism….again, a complete reversal of the typical trope. It says Christians will be taught by God, rather than being dependent on religion as a mediator. Totally contrary to what a human religious system would design.

The NT successfully removes performance pride (see the Pharisee and the tax collector) while retaining personal responsibility. Without guilt. This is totally foreign to religion as generated by human beings. Humans use guilt and pride to motivate; the NT says that guilt is gone, that no one has grounds to boast because of the good they do, and that our responsibility to good works comes from our position as representatives of Christ, not a threat of punishment. The human element is excised at every turn.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, really….but it’s a start.

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117 responses to “What makes you different

  1. john zande 2013/04/20 at 09:21

    Good post, but I will take issue at the idea that the Christian god is somehow unique or stable. As mentioned yesterday it was a polytheistic entity fashioned over 900 odd years, drifting toward henotheism, then ultimately monotheism. Elohim, El, Shaddai, Elyon, Adonai, and Tseboath were all names used throughout the OT instead of or in conjunction with the tetragrammaton YHWH, which was (it seems) taken from the Shasu of YHW. El was the head of the Canaanite pantheon, Tseboath the Canaanite god of armies, and Shaddai (the Destroyer) originates from the Sumerian pantheon.
    Another thing: Noel posted a great video the other day where the speaker outlined that Christianity emerged at a time when cosmopolitanism was on the rise. The religion merely reflected that. Judaism was the opposite. It was an exclusive, cultural-centric, genealogical cult.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 09:34

      Like I said yesterday, it seems to have a lot of the characteristics of a conspiracy theory. I should probably do a little research and see if there are any reputable journal papers on it.

      Christianity as a reflection of emerging cosmopolitanism….that’s one I haven’t heard before. It would definitely provide a possible alternate explanation for why Christianity is unique. One problem I foresee is the pushback so evident through the NT epistles….seems more like they are bucking a cultural trend than riding it.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 09:40

        I’m honestly astounded that you don’t know the polytheist, henotheistic, monotheistic history of the Christian god.

        Here’s the link to Noels video. Well worth it regarding cosmopolitanism and other awkward facts.

        http://maasaiboys.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/just-suppose/

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 09:47

        Oh, I’m quite familiar with the theory. I just find it highly conspiratorial. All the more reason to research and see whether it’s reputably sourced.

        My undergraduate minor was in history. While I love history, one issue I’ve encountered quite a few times is a lack of falsifiability. Once you’ve got your historical paradigm, you’ll find a fit for pretty much any evidence. Troubling.

        I’ll try to check out that video.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 09:51

        Do, you’ll like it.

        Now, what’s conspiratorial about the 7 odd names used for god in the OT… it’s there in black and white! No leaps of imagination, just reading what’s there before your eyes then looking up the names to see their origin.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 10:28

        There are at least 30-40 names used for God in the OT. The chances that an odd half-dozen of those could be positively compared to the names of different deities in different languages isn’t terribly surprising. I’d be surprised if this WASN’T the case.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 10:32

        30 or 40? I’ve never heard such a large figure. Still, the point being there was a polytheistic beginning (which was natural given the time) and that drifted to Henotheism, and ultimately monotheism.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 11:07

        30-40 is a lowball estimate.

        Here are some of the names of God in Judaism alone:

        Adir
        Adon Olam
        Aibishter
        Aleim
        Avinu Malkeinu
        Bore
        Ehiyeh sh’Ehiyeh
        Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzchak ve Elohei Ya`aqov
        Elohei Sara, Elohei Rivka, Elohei
        El Shaddai
        Leah ve Elohei Rakhel
        El Elyon
        El ha-Gibbor
        Emet
        El Roi
        E’in Sof
        Elohim
        HaKadosh, Barukh
        Kudsha, Brikh Hu
        HaRachaman
        Kadosh Israel
        Melech HaMelachim
        Melech Malchei HaMelachim
        HaMakom
        Magen Avraham
        HaShem
        Adoshem
        Ribono shel `Olam
        Shaphat
        Ro’eh Yisra’el
        Tsemach
        Baali
        Ishi
        El Kanna
        El Palet
        El Ga’al
        El Ra’ah
        Yahshua
        Eyaluwth Y’israel
        Ri’shon Acharon
        Immanuel
        Eloah
        Elah-avahati
        Elah Elahin
        Elah Yerushelem
        Elah Y’israel
        Elah Shemaya
        Tzur Israel
        Uri Gol
        YHWH-Yireh
        YHWH-Rapha
        YHWH-Niss”i
        YHWH-Shalom
        YHWH-Ro’i
        YHWH-Tsidkenu
        YHWH-Tzevaot
        YHWH-Shammah
        Rofeh Cholim
        Matir Asurim
        Malbish Arumim
        Pokeach Ivrim
        Somech Noflim
        Shekhinah
        Zokef kefufim
        Yotsehr Or
        Oseh Shalom
        Mechayeh Metim
        Mechayeh HaKol

        Plenty of fodder for playing the match-a-god game. If that’s the basis for the polytheism theory….

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 11:30

        Lovely! A perfect demonstration of the patchwork nature of the Judaic god. It’s what we call in Australia, A Bitzer: a bit of this and a bit of that. 🙂

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 12:25

        At what point would you consider the possibility that having a lot of titles may have been intentional? 50 titles? 100? 200? 600?

        If every possibility is interpreted as evidence for the same model, then we really haven’t gotten anywhere, have we?

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 12:30

        An interesting question, but (if nothing but titles) what would the purpose be? Some, though, are not just titles. They are gods. Maybe this is where your number of names and my number differ so much.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 12:52

        In Judaism, the names and titles of YHWH are used as reminders for how their god relates to and blesses them individually and corporately. It’s kind of a big deal; hence the dozens and dozens of names.

        Given the common roots of Semetic languages, it’s a virtual certainty that some of those titles will have similarities to the names of other gods in other ancient near east religions. That’s just linguistics for you.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 13:00

        Titles aside, it doesn’t answer why Elohim, El, Shaddai, Elyon, Adonai, and Tseboath were names used…. these were full card holding, independent, pantheon gods

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 13:06

        Right. I’m sure they all have similar linguistic roots.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 13:12

        Possible for some, especially all the El’s (which is from the Canaanite pantheon) but Shaddai is Sumerian… entirely different language.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 13:40

        My point is, with a list this long, there are bound to be lots of similarities. Shaddai is actually traced to the Akkadian shadû; so there is definitely a Semitic root. But these are linguistic connections, not religious ones. We’d need to find archeological links for the polytheistic-YHWH idea to be anything but speculation.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 14:11

        Don’t understand why you’re simply dismissing the many number of gods used in the OT. Passing it off as linguistics isn’t satisfactory: the names are there. You’d have to come up with a more plausible explanation as to why. These are “independent” gods from different pantheons, named independently. The move to Henotheism is quite evident.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 14:14

        I’m dismissing it as speculation because I know of no corroborating evidence to back up the linguistic connections. It’s like arguing that Jesus was a Muslim because the Aramaic word for “God” sounds like “Allah”.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 14:20

        You’re dismissing gods known to be from the Sumerian and Canaanite pantheons?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 14:29

        No, no; certainly not. Those gods clearly existed (though I’m having trouble finding references to the worship of Shaddai; perhaps you could point me to a source on that). But tying them to the origin of Judaic YHWH on linguist correlation alone is mighty tenuous, especially when there are so many titles used in Judaism. The matching game is easy to play.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 14:35

        Not sure if Shaddai was “worshiped” as such, but his name is used, 48 times to be exact.

        As for YHWH, have you looked up the Shasu yet? He’s a segment of something i wrote ages ago:

        17 Generations – 500 years – before the monotheistic Israelite God was first even mentioned on the Mesha Stele the 9th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, Amenhotep III, made note of a troublesome band of nomadic raiders, the Shasu, whom he listed as enemies in the Temple of Soleb. One of the six tribes who made up the Shasu, the Shasu of Yhw, carried on their lips the stories of their single God – from whom they took their name – and most likely through contact with the copper and tin mines of the southern Canaanite province of Judah (modern Negev desert) inadvertently handed over the patent for this fantastic concept to tribes from which Saul, the first biblical King of Israel, would emerge generations later and unite other language-specific settlements under the banner “Children of YHWH.”

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 14:37

        Here are the passages: Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25; Exodus 6:3; Numbers 24:4; 24:16; Ruth 1:20, 21; Job 5;17; 6:4, 14; 8:3, 5; 11:7; 13:3; 15:25; 21:15, 20; 22:3, 17, 23, 26; 23:16; 24:1; 27:2, 10, 11, 13; 29:5; 31:2, 35; 32:8; 33:4; 34:10, 12; 35:13; 37:23; 40:2; Psalms 68:14; 91:1; Isaiah 13:6; and Joel 1:15.

        these are the passages just for Shaddai

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 14:41

        No, no; I mean outside of Judaism. Just having trouble tracking him/her/it down.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 15:00

        gods can be terribly elusive things 😉

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 15:01

        I know, right? Hide and seek champion of the cosmos, this one. Crafty little bugger.

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 15:03

        Careful, he’s not called The Destroyer for nothing…. i’m guessing 🙂

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 15:05

        Apparently he destroys at the Cosmic Hide and Seek Championships.

        You said Sumerian, right?

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 15:07

        Yup. I had all this stuff at my fingertips last year. Now i can’t seem to find even my notes 😦

      • john zande 2013/04/20 at 09:42

        The second video is the one i was referring to, ok.

  2. violetwisp 2013/04/20 at 11:33

    Two HUGE problems with this that I immediately spot:

    “As Christianity was progressively revealed …” Come on! As it has evolved to suit the whims, desires and preferences of its human followers. It would have died a death centuries ago if it couldn’t be constantly re-interpreted to fit societal norms, and be shaped by each culture it enters. You agree evolution exists but fail to acknowledge the consequences for human belief systems, instead suggesting that Christianity was revealed – *scream*.

    “again, something the Roman Catholics went wrong with, but again, beside the point” So, the most successful version of Christianity on the planet, which has the strongest claim to continuity in terms of original teachings is “wrong” but that’s “beside the point”? You betray the setting you were raised in that you can easily hold it such contempt and still call yourself a Christian.

    Terrible post. I think John just said it was good so he could provide a pleasant introduction to tearing it apart. 🙂

    • john zande 2013/04/20 at 13:25

      You’re wonderfully terrible!

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/20 at 14:00

      Well, the most important thing is that I’ve explained the logical pathway. You clearly disagree with my interpretation of the evidence—and that’s fine—but at least we’ve come to common ground on the logic-for-believing-in-a-god bit.

      To start with, you question the approach of progressive revelation, suggesting instead a social evolution. That’s fine. I’m just curious to know what criteria you’d use for making that distinction. Obviously it was one or the other. What would you take as evidence that it was social evolution rather than progressive revelation, and what would you accept as evidence that it was progressive revelation rather than social evolution? Trying to get an understanding of your metric here.

      When it comes to Roman Catholicism, it should be understood that Catholicism isn’t just one thing. There was the early apostolic and catholic church, the Holy Roman Empire, the post-Schism western Catholics, the pre-Reformation church, the mid-Reformation church, the church after the Council of Trent, and Vatican II. Vatican II Catholicism is pretty awesome and I have a lot of appreciation for it (as well as post-Schism western Catholicism), though I’m not Catholic myself. Finally, there’s the public perception of Catholicism, which may or may not match any of the above at any given time. That public perception is what I was speaking of when I mentioned Roman Catholicism in my post.

      Does that begin to address your two concerns?

      • violetwisp 2013/04/20 at 20:09

        Yes, I can at least understand now from your point of view why you think you logically believe in the Christian god God. It’s an interesting route, although I think you’re failing to recognise the depth of the pathways laid in your brain that take you to your conclusion that logic is your guide. Do you understand theoretically what I mean by that (even if you don’t agree)?

        “What would you take as evidence that it was social evolution rather than progressive revelation, and what would you accept as evidence that it was progressive revelation rather than social evolution?” I’m not playing argument games here, because I think they’re counter productive and I know why I believe things, but I don’t truly understand what you believe is the ‘progressive revelation’. The only thing I’m seeing is a malleable religion that can be, as you put it, quote-mined to suit the occasion. Did you see my post today about Mormonism? People just believe what they’re born into and any old interpretation or renewed doctrine of anything will do. The longer Christianity survives the more this will be the case, as the feeling of continuity will make believers sure it must be right. There will be believers of Mormonism that can argue with just as much integrity, science and history as you do, to make the same point about their version. I frequently say *your* interpretation to annoy you. But it’s a serious point.

        I understand the history of the Catholic Church fairly well (degree in mainly medieval history, although must admit that most of it has fallen out the big holes in my head) and know what you’re saying about the changes it has gone through. That doesn’t alter the fact that from the believer’s point of view, it is the only one that can claim continuity (in spite of changes) and claim to be the rock that Jesus foretold. For anyone within that tradition, the sheers number of adherents is a persuasive factor in the ‘correct’ feeling. Anyone approaching Christianity from the post-Reformation church has as big a leg to stand on as Mormonism, from an outsider’s point of view.

        I see you’ve become disillusioned with the Christian tradition you were brought up in. Having a background in Physics and History it’s inevitable that you’ve had to question more than the average punter whether it all makes sense. And you’ve managed to extract what you believe is the skeleton belief of Christianity and make it something you’re comfortable with. I think that’s natural and I think it’s the first stop for a lot of people trying to extract themselves from what is essentially a brainwashed youth. I expect you’ll move further out over time but it’s perfectly possible you’ll just continue shaping your own personal interpretation and convince yourself it’s the obvious, logical and correct one. Like Joseph Smith did, only hopefully without the angels and golden plates. On a serious note, have you investigated the Quakers much? From the little I know, I think you’d like it. And there’s really nothing offensive about them.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 00:44

        “Do you understand theoretically what I mean by that (even if you don’t agree)?”

        Absolutely. You recognize that my path would be logical if it represented reality, but you believe that my past indoctrination has introduced undue bias, so I interpret history and evidence with too much weight toward Christianity.

        I totally understand why you would believe that. You may even be right. Of course, I don’t think you’re right, but it’s entirely understandable.

        “I’m not playing argument games here, because I think they’re counter productive and I know why I believe things, but I don’t truly understand what you believe is the ‘progressive revelation’.”

        I’m not trying to play counterproductive games here either, I assure you. I think the teachings in the Bible evolved differently than what I see from other religions. It was ahead of the culture rather than chasing the culture; it moved away from ritual and guilt rather than toward ritual and guilt; it broke down socioeconomic barriers rather than widening them. I don’t think those are the things we commonly see from human society and religion. Are those fair distinctions to make?

        “There will be believers of Mormonism that can argue with just as much integrity, science and history as you do, to make the same point about their version.”

        I’d have to question this one. For one thing, Mormonism isn’t just a version or modification or re-interpretation of Christianity; it’s an entirely new religion that categorically rejects everything that came before it. You could as easily say Islam is a denomination of Christianity. Also, Mormonism has the issue of defending the existence of entire North American countries that bear absolutely no connection whatsoever to known history. Just throwing that out there.

        “Anyone approaching Christianity from the post-Reformation church has as big a leg to stand on as Mormonism, from an outsider’s point of view.”

        The difference here is that I’m not really arguing for something new. Most Protestants don’t think all Catholics are going to hell; most Catholics don’t think all Protestants are going to hell. I have a clear advantage here: I get to benefit from the rich history, doctrine, and tradition of the Church, but I don’t concede anything special or particularly-ordained about the structure of the Church itself or any of the Church’s positions. Sort of a win-win.

        What you’re assuming is my “personal interpretation” doesn’t actually diverge from core orthodoxy. Which means I have twenty centuries of independent scholarly consensus on my side when I try to answer the question of whether Christianity is different. It’s not absolute, but it provides a fair degree of confidence.

        That being said, I’m open to the possibility that I’m simply brainwashed and I’m subconsciously setting up defenses for something I ought to leave behind. It’s definitely something worth investigating. Any tips on where/how to start?

        And I’ll check out the Quakers.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/21 at 08:06

        “It was ahead of the culture rather than chasing the culture; it moved away from ritual and guilt rather than toward ritual and guilt; it broke down socioeconomic barriers rather than widening them. I don’t think those are the things we commonly see from human society and religion. Are those fair distinctions to make?”

        What I disagree with here is the use of “it”. I think you would have to qualify that by saying “the teachings of Jesus can easily to interpretated as …”. I realise now this is what you mean but it’s difficult to make senseof the words when you are referring specifically to Christianity, the generally practised religion that resulted from the philosophy that’s attributed to the words of the character Jesus. This may seem pedantic to you, but you see the two as interchangeable because you’re assuming your interpretation is ‘correct’, which I’m sure we’ll come to again.

        You’re right in saying that we don’t see these characteristics as a matter of course from human society and relgion, in some respects. However, the idea of treating all people equally (in that it ultimately benefits us and our offspring) is natural and it’s something that we see across many cultures and societies through The Golden Rule. The fact that Jesus, or his followers, built a philosophy round this that neatly slotted on top on Judaism (although, let’s be honest, not so neat) is nothing spectacular.

        “[Mormonism is] an entirely new religion that categorically rejects everything that came before it. You could as easily say Islam is a denomination of Christianity.”
        Mormonism is as valid a branch of Christianity as any other. Oh look, I’ve got a new way of practising Christianity and it’s the correct one! This is a common theme. The extra book is nothing to be phased by, every denomination churns out their own guide book, Joseph Smith just went a little further. “by their fruits you’ll know them” and all that. What stench of evil can you see coming from them after 200 years of faithful practice? Islam rejects Jesus as the son the god God and is therefore not Christianity (I have a sneaky suspicion you know this …)

        “What you’re assuming is my “personal interpretation” doesn’t actually diverge from core orthodoxy. ”
        Now we’re getting somewhere. So I’m clear, is your ‘core orthodoxy’ in line with what’s stated here?
        http://www.apologeticsindex.org/159-chart-of-essential-doctrines-of-christianity

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 12:51

        What I disagree with here is the use of “it”. I think you would have to qualify that by saying “the teachings of Jesus can easily to interpretated as …”. I realise now this is what you mean but it’s difficult to make sense of the words when you are referring specifically to Christianity.

        Ok, sure, I get the distinction. I was using the word “Christianity” to represent the foundational elements of the faith as they unfolded in history; I see how that could be confusing, though. My mistake.

        I wouldn’t say it’s “the teachings of Jesus as I interpret them”. It needs to be established that the widely divergent set of interpretations within (and outside) Christendom are issues of application, not content. There’s little dispute over what Jesus said and who he said it to (at least within the depiction by the gospels); the dispute arises when it comes down to applying those teachings in a religious context. For an obvious example: Catholics and Protestants both agree that Jesus told the disciples that the bread and wine of Passover were his body and blood. That’s not disputed. What is disputed are the possible applications of this: whether this means Christians should believe in transubstantiation or a metaphorical symbol or what. I’m not concerned with or talking about the interpreted application; I’m just interested in the actual statements in their historical and grammatical context, no interpretation or application required. When Paul tells the church at Galatia that in Christ “there is neither slave nor free, no male or female”, I don’t give a damn what that means to the Modern Church Ministry or whether women can be pastors; I just want to know what it meant to Paul’s audience in Galatia. I have no interest in coming up with some big interpretive paradigm to apply this to my life. That would be totally premature.

        I’m just trying to examine the Bible as a historical document, no divine inspiration or modern application required. And not just the teachings of Jesus; the whole thing (‘twould be hard to find a trend over 3 years of teaching). Make sense?

        The idea of treating all people equally is natural and it’s something that we see across many cultures and societies through The Golden Rule.

        I’m not talking about the generic “be nice; do good.” I’m talking about the specific teachings with respect to the culture in which they were asserted, and I’m talking about the overall trends in religious practice.

        Mormonism is as valid a branch of Christianity as any other. Oh look, I’ve got a new way of practising Christianity and it’s the correct one! This is a common theme.

        It’s a common theme to adjust existing practice, sure. What’s not so common is to declare that all preceding churches are damned and apostate. Catholics and Orthodox and Protestants and Anglicans and Evangelicals may differ on a wide range of points, but they all largely agree that they’re all part of the same religious community. Mormonism came along and said that everything before it was bunk and they were the One True Church. Big difference.

        The extra book is nothing to be phased by, every denomination churns out their own guide book, Joseph Smith just went a little further. Islam rejects Jesus as the son the god God and is therefore not Christianity (I have a sneaky suspicion you know this …)

        Oh, come now….you can’t be serious. Ordinary denominations don’t typically claim to discover ancient tablets asserting to be another testament, declare all former instantiations to be false, and start setting up temples. Besides, Mormonism rejects Jesus as the only son of God as well. In Mormonism, we are all divine alien soul offspring bound up in mortal bodies that can be transcended by adherence to the teachings of Joseph Smith.

        I’m not coming up with a new religion here.

        So I’m clear, is your ‘core orthodoxy’ in line with what’s stated here?

        No. Apologetics Index is a fundamentalist evangelical organization; I wouldn’t consider them to be an authority. There are plenty of Christians who don’t believe in substitutionary atonement or infallible inerrancy or the inefficacy of works. But we’re moving in the right direction.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/21 at 16:33

        “There’s little dispute over what Jesus said and who he said it to (at least within the depiction by the gospels); the dispute arises when it comes down to applying those teachings in a religious context.”

        It’s odd that you insist on separating these, as if whatever teachings you personally apply would be free any inconsistencies with the words. It’s impossible to apply teachings without interpreting them.

        “When Paul tells the church at Galatia that in Christ “there is neither slave nor free, no male or female”, I don’t give a damn what that means to the Modern Church Ministry or whether women can be pastors; I just want to know what it meant to Paul’s audience in Galatia. ”

        Don’t you mean ‘make a best guest on what he intended his audience to understand’? Anything else would make no sense, as it would be impossible, and in any case their understanding of it might not reflect what he meant. If you took 100 Christians to a William Lane Craig lecture they would all report different understandings of his words, based on what made sense to them, what was relevant to them and what appealed to them.

        “I have no interest in coming up with some big interpretive paradigm to apply this to my life. That would be totally premature.”
        Premature? So you do intend to do that eventually. You’ve been brought with Christianity and know the book inside out but you’re not ready to interpret it? I’m confused. What are you waiting for?

        You’ve already rejected the first ‘core orthodoxy’ I found, which is an interesting development in itself. Tell me what yours is.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 19:35

        It’s odd that you insist on separating these, as if whatever teachings you personally apply would be free any inconsistencies with the words. It’s impossible to apply teachings without interpreting them.

        Sorry, I must not have explained well. I mean that unless we’ve already concluded that the Bible is some divinely inspired rulebook for life, the rather subjective question of “what does this mean to me” is right out. I don’t need to figure out how to “apply” anything.

        The whole debate over “interpretation” presupposes that we want to use the Bible to come up with religious doctrines. Throw that out, and “meaning” is a matter of historical and textual evidence, no “interpretation” required.

        You’ve been brought with Christianity and know the book inside out but you’re not ready to interpret it? I’m confused. What are you waiting for?

        I have no reason to “interpret” or try to otherwise apply it to my life unless I have reason to believe it’s true. Wouldn’t you agree that evaluating the Bible as a historical text is simpler and more objective than trying to interpret and apply it as a divine missive?

        You’ve already rejected the first ‘core orthodoxy’ I found, which is an interesting development in itself. Tell me what yours is.

        Not all those things are wrong, per se, but the list itself doesn’t represent “core orthodoxy” for anything beyond evangelical fundamentalism. So, pretty useless.

        The only real core element of orthodoxy I could think of off the too of my head would be the bodily historical resurrection. I’d throw in salvation by grace and Trinitarianism, but both of those can be described in so many ways that it would get horribly convoluted.

        Of course, just because someone believes in the resurrection doesn’t make them a Christian, but one can’t be a Christian without belief in the resurrection. Make sense?

      • violetwisp 2013/04/21 at 20:03

        — The Bible
        I can’t follow what you mean here unless you clearly state what you believe this book is. Is it a random collection of stories to provide food for thought? Even as a simple historical text that your god made available for humans, it must have some sort of practical application. You cannot completely separate it from a guidebook, therefore interpretation becomes a n issue.
        — Core orthodoxy
        “The only real core element of orthodoxy I could think of off the too of my head would be the bodily historical resurrection. I’d throw in salvation by grace and Trinitarianism, but both of those can be described in so many ways that it would get horribly convoluted.”
        You’ve been beating around the bush with over 10,000 words (approx) to get to this? Earlier you were talking about an obvious core orthodoxy that theologians for 2000 years have agreed, and now you can only come up with one thing “off the top of your head”, and another couple of things that get messy? Is Ark right? Are you playing a silly game?
        — Resurrection
        “one can’t be a Christian without belief in the resurrection”
        “I don’t think penal substitution is a necessary element of orthodox Christianity. ”
        Okay. So the one thing you come up with is the one thing that isn’t necessary? Or do you have to believe in the resurrection but it doesn’t have to mean anything? (I’m assuming I’ve missed something here.)

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 22:20

        I can’t really start with the assumption that the Bible is a divine rulebook or anything like that. Otherwise I’m playing into bias. The Bible is a conglomeration of texts from antiquity organized by a couple of religions; that’s it. Everything else is up in the air.

        Is the Bible from God? Yeah, I think so. But that’s a conclusion, not a premise. I’m trying to be very careful not to make it a premise. Until a conclusion is reached, I can’t treat it as anything else but a text of antiquity. Of course, that makes it easier, ’cause I don’t have to worry about a “proper interpretation” or anything like that; I just get to examine it like any other historical text.

        Earlier you were talking about an obvious core orthodoxy that theologians for 2000 years have agreed, and now you can only come up with one thing “off the top of your head”.

        When I talked about what scholars have agreed on for twenty centuries, I’m talking about the historical content and context of the New Testament, not interpretations themselves.

        Obviously there is a lot more to Christianity than the resurrection. But that’s the single most significant distinguishing point. Wouldn’t you agree?

        “one can’t be a Christian without belief in the resurrection”
        “I don’t think penal substitution is a necessary element of orthodox Christianity. ”
        Okay. So the one thing you come up with is the one thing that isn’t necessary? Or do you have to believe in the resurrection but it doesn’t have to mean anything? (I’m assuming I’ve missed something here.)

        Yes, I must have missed something too. What does penal substitution have to do with the resurrection?

      • violetwisp 2013/04/22 at 12:43

        I think we have to start from the beginning again. What are we discussing here? You are trying to logically construct an argument, from scratch, for a logical belief in Christianity. Is that right?

        So, you think if you can find a religion that doesn’t look like any other religion, there’s a bigger chance it might be true. Correct? You’ve presented an argument that Christianity, in breaking down social barriers and teaching about treating people equally, doesn’t look like any other religion. Correct? I disagree with this part in that basing a religion that logically extracts a way of living from the The Golden Rule (a philosophy that pops up all over the place and can be traced to natural empathy and desire for a better world for our offspring) is inevitable. Its roots are obviously human and its appeal is obviously natural.
        But if we accept that based *your* sense of logic, it’s virtually impossible that humans could have invented Christianity, what’s your next step? Checking the divine rulebook to see if it makes sense is the obvious way to go. Claiming that the divine rulebook is a historical text to be analysed makes no sense, unless your only purpose is to understand how people lived and what they thought in the olden days. You’ve already accepted that you think Christianity is so special it’s likely to be divinely created, so you are already compromised and unable to study it like any other historical text (besides which you’re clearly a full-on Christian who has known nothing but Christian-led thoughts their whole life, so you couldn’t even begin to approach the Bible in an unbiased way).

        “Obviously there is a lot more to Christianity than the resurrection. But that’s the single most significant distinguishing point. Wouldn’t you agree?” Perhaps my theology is weak, I don’t understand what you’re saying here. The most important thing about Christianity is the philosophy and guidance attributed to the character Jesus. The fact that he died for Christians is important because they believe this atones their badness, but coming back to life is a supernatural bonus – a demonstration of divinity.

        Penal substitution on Wikipedia – “Important theological concepts about penal substitution turn on the doctrine of the Trinity. Those who believe that Jesus was himself God, in line with the doctrine of the Trinity, believe that God took the punishment upon himself rather than putting it on someone else. In other words, the doctrine of union with Christ affirms that by taking the punishment upon himself Jesus fulfils the demands of justice not for an unrelated third party but for those identified with him. If, in the penal substitution understanding of the atonement, the death of Christ deals with sin and injustice, his resurrection is the renewal and restoration of righteousness.”

        “What does penal substitution have to do with the resurrection?” Do you think that resurrection can occur without death? You’re playing silly games, aren’t you? Just come clean. I’ve been enjoying our discussion, but either everything is going over my head at this point (LURKERS?) or you’re just trying to divert my time and energy from my divine deconversion calling by talking nonsense.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/22 at 14:30

        You are trying to logically construct an argument, from scratch, for a logical belief in Christianity. Is that right?

        Sure. You wondered how anyone could use logic to arrive at theism; I pointed out that if it seems improbable that Christianity was invented by human beings, it’s logical to accept that it might be divine in origin. The rest of this has been a discussion of whether or not it’s improbable for Christianity to have been invented by humans.

        Christianity, in breaking down social barriers and teaching about treating people equally, doesn’t look like any other religion. Correct?

        I think it’s more nuanced than that. Any religion can arrive at the conclusion that people ought to be treated equally; that’s a no-brainer. Cultural pressures will take care of that. But the unique thing about Christianity is that its treatment of social barriers and human rights consistently progresses faster than the culture and society.

        When the society said that women were chattel, the Torah said divorce requires due process. When the society said slaves could be treated in any way their owners wanted, the Torah said owners could be held accountable for mistreatment. When the society said a raped woman could be killed, the Torah said the innocent could not be punished.

        When the society assumed henotheism, the prophets preached monolatry. When the society moved to monolatry, the prophets affirmed monotheism. When the society said that meeting certain rituals was all religion required, the prophets said faith had to be personal.

        And all that is just the Old Testament. At each point, the teachings of the Bible were unpopularly progressive in comparison to cultural consensus. That’s what’s unique.

        If we accept that it’s virtually impossible humans could have invented Christianity, what’s your next step? Checking the divine rulebook to see if it makes sense is the obvious way to go.

        Why are we presupposing that it’s a divine rulebook? Just curious.

        “What does penal substitution have to do with the resurrection?” Do you think that resurrection can occur without death? You’re playing silly games, aren’t you?

        Not at all. Penal substitution is just one possible explanation of the purpose of the crucifixion. The death of Jesus is obviously necessary as a prequisite of the resurrection, but penal substitution is an explanation only used by one subset of Christians; that specific explanation isn’t a necessary element of Christianity in general. Unlike the resurrection.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/22 at 17:01

        “When the society said that women were chattel, the Torah said divorce requires due process. When the society said slaves could be treated in any way their owners wanted, the Torah said owners could be held accountable for mistreatment. When the society said a raped woman could be killed, the Torah said the innocent could not be punished.”

        When society said that women were chattel, the Torah pointed out that you get more value out of chattel by treating them a little better. When society said slaves could be treated any way their owners wanted, the Torah applied the Golden Rule (common sense) and realised that “I wouldn’t want to be treated like that” – all the more common sense from a group of people who were at one time slaves, according to their tradition. When society said a raped woman could be killed, the Torah thought it was better if they married their rapist. I’m seeing a mixture of common sense based on the Golden Rule, and continued barbarism. No hint of a clever or nice god in any of this.

        “Why are we presupposing that it’s a divine rulebook? Just curious.”

        It’s a book that, according to your logical pathway, has been at the VERY least inspired by a deity, and it has rules in it. That brand of curiosity is called time wasting. 🙂 If you don’t think it’s a divine rulebook, tell me why, don’t ask me stupid questions.

        “penal substitution is an explanation only used by one subset of Christians; that specific explanation isn’t a necessary element of Christianity in general. Unlike the resurrection.”

        A subset? My understanding of Christianity is that all Christians believe the whole point of the death of Jesus was to wash away their sins (in the place of sacrificial animals) and THAT is the main selling point of the entire religion. The Lamb of God. Who doesn’t believe this?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/23 at 14:45

        When society said a raped woman could be killed, the Torah thought it was better if they married their rapist.

        This is an unfortunate misconception, perpetuated by a bad translation of Deuteronomy 22:28 in the NIV. This passage parallels Exodus 22:16-17, the section I mentioned in passing here. The Torah never commands that a raped woman marry her rapist. On the contrary, this provision is another protection for a woman’s rights, on a level with child support laws (though obviously this particular protection is unnecessary in the modern world).

        It’s a book that, according to your logical pathway, has been at the VERY least inspired by a deity, and it has rules in it. If you don’t think it’s a divine rulebook, tell me why, don’t ask me stupid questions.

        The Bible contains poetry, myth, quotations from clearly uninspired sages, personal letters, interviews, visions, eyewitness accounts, historian accounts, bookkeeping, records of civil and criminal laws, and a lot more. Evaluating the historicity of given events and learning about God based on the text doesn’t mean trying to personally apply every single section as if it was written as a rule divinely intended for your life. That’s just silly.

        In re penal substitution being only a subset of accepted interpretations for the cross, can I address that in a blog post? It’s a little long for a comment thread discussion.

  3. Ben Nasmith 2013/04/20 at 11:58

    I thought this was a great post. I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds in the comments. A lot for me to learn here.

  4. Arkenaten 2013/04/20 at 12:32

    Just lurking….don’t mind me

  5. holly 2013/04/21 at 12:29

    Interesting,
    What are your thoughts on the evolution from animal sacrifice to the one time atonement?
    Does it all really “fit” to you?
    And if we can forgive one another without requiring blood…why couldn’t a god?

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 13:48

      Hey, glad you commented! And good question, too.

      I think growing up fundamentalist made me tend to look at things from a one-dimensional perspective. Everything had to be interpreted in one way, and all the other ways were wrong.

      Penal substitution seems like the only approach to most evangelicals, but it’s not the only game in town; church history has presented a lot of theories of the atonement. Penal substitution may work for some people, and that’s fine, but we don’t have to act like it’s the only possibility. There doesn’t have to be one “right” answer as opposed to everything else.

      To me, there’s no inherent contradiction in suggesting that God related to the ancient Hebrews through something they would understand….the sacrifice of livestock in an agrarian culture….rather than blood sacrifice having some unique esoteric value to the Divine.

      Just because we don’t hold to the same fundamentalist evangelical view as before doesn’t mean we have to throw the whole thing out. At the very least, it’s still a prominent historical text.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/21 at 19:25

        I love Holly’s questions. And I can’t see how you in any way answer them. If we can forgive each other without a weird payment in blood or anything else, why would a god want one? We can forgive each other without understanding what went through each others’ minds when any slight or damage is caused. This god who understands all our motives, and all our faulty physical hardware (the wonky bodies the god allegedly created), all the experiences we went through that inform our decision making, is angry when we do something he thinks we shouldn’t have done and wants a payment to make it better. That is simply insane.

        “there’s no inherent contradiction in suggesting that God related to the ancient Hebrews through something they would understand….the sacrifice of livestock in an agrarian culture”
        I’ve been bad, I’ll go break my TV and burn a couple of packets of pasta. Make sense to you? I can relate to that, it’s part of my culture. You want us to believe this religion is truly divine because it’s *so* different from all the others. Blood sacrifices to appease frightening gods? How mundane!

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 19:43

        I answered her question about forgiveness by saying that I don’t think penal substitution is a necessary element of orthodox Christianity. It’s assumed by the fundamentalism both of us hail from, but it’s not an essential part of being a Christian.

        I think you missed my point about animal sacrifice. There’s no inherent contradiction in suggesting that God related to the Hebrews through something they already understood from existing religious ritual. He temporarily accommodated (with significant modification) divorce and slavery; why not livestock sacrifice? It was a good source of food for the priests, if nothing else.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/21 at 20:03

        Okay. I’ll respond to this further down with the other stuff.

      • holly 2013/04/21 at 20:54

        Fair enough. I am familiar with many of the nonevangelical , generally considered highly heretical, interpretations of the “reason for the cross”. What specifically seems workable to you, (if you do not mind me asking?)
        I could also see a god relating in a way that people could understand, and gradually revealing more as humans evolved. That leaves a few more questions for the “christian” view being logical. Did the resurrection actually occur? Did miracles really happen? Were the followers of Jesus actually given power to do miracles, and do followers have something like “the matrix” available to them? If then…why not now? (if then…why not recorded by other sources?) etc…
        I suppose there are hundreds of other questions…but perhaps we will run into them on further posts… 😉 (like the problem of evil etc)

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 23:05

        Penal substitution really only got going post-Calvin in the 1500s. Prior to that, atonement models within orthodoxy included the ransom theory, Christus Victor, scapegoating, recapitulation, expiation, satisfaction, and more. Less orthodox (but not at all heretical) views before and since have explored the concepts of exemplary martyrdom, participation, moral influence, and governmental theory.

        To be perfectly honest, this is an area I haven’t studied enough. But I doubt there will be just one answer. I don’t see anything wrong with God relating to different people in different ways. For some, a strict penal substitution has an intuitive appeal, and that’s fine. For others, the image of Jesus laying down his life for his followers is the strongest possible motivator to live for the good of those around us. It doesn’t have to be just one way. If God exists, it’s a fair bet he is bigger than just one narrow approach to something this broad.

        Do I think the resurrection occurred? Yes, it seems like the simplest, best explanation for the existence of the New Testament and Christianity itself. That’s just from my view of history. And if you’ve got the resurrection down, miracles aren’t terribly far-fetched. As far as miracles by followers of Jesus….well, even if we accept it as a valid part of the New Testament, there’s very little to imply that such things are to be expected from anyone other than those who were personally sent out by Jesus.

      • holly 2013/04/21 at 20:57

        Thanks violet! That was an honest question that hit me in the gut once upon a time. If god could do anything (omnistuff) why could I forgive without needing payment in return…and not him? It called into question the theory of the atonement as is commonly taught within evangelical christianity. Add to that some interesting conversations with some of the Jewish faith, and why they do not believe sacrificial atonement is necessary and I ended up doing some serious soul searching and reconsidering…..

  6. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 13:58

    Are you still Chrstian or not?

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 13:59

      That’s the question, isn’t it?

      • Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 14:07

        And this is what has baffled me all along. Are you merely using atheists and deconvertees as sounding boards for your insecurity/uncertainty or are you still a Christian merely playing silly buggers?

        I don’t mind either way, especially if you’re having fun ( It’s probably something I’d do) and I’ll keep ragging you whenever the opportunity arises.
        It’s cyberspace…nothing is seriously ‘real’.

        But if you are being genuine then why not come out and a state your position?
        The Jimmy Durante, ”Should I stay or should I go” routine was why I said you were not quite out of the closet.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 14:35

        I’m somewhere between a skeptical Christian and a very doubtful atheist, curious to know whether the really hardcore atheists employ as much bad reasoning and demonstrate as much self-assured dogmatism as the fundies I was raised with. So far, you seem to be serving as Exhibit A for the affirmative conclusion.

  7. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 14:44

    Clever….Now try intelligent.
    I truly would hate to be in your position. ‘Trying t show you are so ‘smart and trying to use rational argument for a completely irrational belief.
    The primary tenet to be a christian is belief in the resurrection. As this is utter codswallop I cannot see what your problem is…unless you are still metaphorically need to hold Yashua’s hand while you cross the road.?
    You’re a big boy…make a decision.

  8. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 15:59

    I read the post when you put it up, for Christ’s sake!
    It is merely more of your off the wall philosophizing.
    If you don’t want to be an atheist, then say so. All you seem to be doing is trying to justify your piss-willy belief in the supernatural.
    Do you believe in the resurrection, yes, or no? Simple question…give me a straight answer.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 16:02

      I figured you read it, based on your bit about lurking.

      Glad to answer. Yes. At present, I think the best explanation for the existence of the New Testament as we know it (and the best explanation for the evidence we have from the first century) points to the historicity of the resurrection. Thus my earlier statement that I find atheism more intuitively appealing, but theism more logically convincing.

      Do I go with my feelings, or do I go with reason?

      • Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 16:16

        Well as I have said before, I could care less.
        But at least you have come outt and stated exactly where you stand. I respect you for that.
        You’re still an idiot, but that we can work on.
        Our Muslim friend, Corbin, was shown the error of her ways re: Death Penalty for apostasy, and was pleased and by the sound of it, relieved to recognize her error of interpretation, so if a poor delusional soul like her can be saved from herself and the internal torment she seemed to be going through then I am sure we can have a go at sorting out a simple christian like you.
        Now…first thing Repeat ten times before you go to bed. The bible is fiction.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 16:18

        She did? Glad to hear it.

        Replace “fiction” with “a conglomerate of ancient literature” and we’ll be getting somewhere.

  9. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 16:39

    Yes, Persto showed her why it was all crap. He occasionally reads my stuff, saw the relevant post, hopped over and voila!
    Now…maybe he can do something for you?
    “a conglomerate of ancient literature” that has at its core a fictional pastiche drawn together from oral tradition and pasted over the backdrop of the mythological exodus and later the Roman occupation of Judea, at the height of messianic fever.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 16:41

      I’ll be happy to entertain.

      Fictional pastiche? Sounds like you’re using your conclusion as your premise. Come, isn’t there at least a little bit of historian buried under there somewhere?

      • Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 16:46

        I think it is important you read twice.
        “at its core…” which does not completely negate a small degree odd historicity.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 16:48

        Right.

        Still doesn’t change the conclusion-before-the-premises thing you’ve got going on here. It’s fine for you to conclude that the Bible has a fictional pastiche at its core. But there’s no reason for me to adopt your conclusion as my premise.

  10. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 16:46

    Sorry…degree of historicity

  11. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 16:47

    I am busy watching a Joe Satriani video on the ”other side”, excuse any typos…

  12. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 16:52

    Ah… assume my eyes just went wide…You are telling me, an intelligent feller like you , believes in the exodus and the whole Moses trip?

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 16:53

      **blinks**

      What gave you that impression?

      • Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 17:02

        I can’t keep having these half-jacked conversations. It is late over here in Joburg. Answer yes or no otherwise this is just pissing about and it becomes really tedious and I might as well listen to Satriani.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 17:31

        I haven’t come up with anything definite. It would be highly irregular for a prose document from that period to be purely fictional; most epics (fiction or non) were in epic poem format. So there’s likely some set of real events underlying it all, though I’m sure the dates are all jacked up.

        But, again, I’m treating it like any other document from antiquity. No superstitious presumption of inerrancy here.

  13. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 17:42

    So you are not even taking note of the historical evidence (or complete lack of to be precise) or the consensus ? Moreover, the expert opinion of archaeologists such as Herzog and Finklestein?

  14. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 18:23

    And now that you have taken note of two such eminent people what is your view regarding the Exodus?

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 18:41

      I mean that I’m taking note of the overall historical (and other) evidence.

      What does textual analysis say? Are there linguistic clues that sort the text into fragmentary components? Based on content, which elements are likely to be embellishments and which elements are likely to be accurate? Is there evidence of redaction? What about the use of numerology or poetic structure or fantasy that would imply an allegorical subtext? Are there other contemporary texts with positive correlation? Do described events fit other periods than those asserted by the text?

      It’s actually quite interesting.

      • Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 18:57

        Smile…thought you’d say something non committal like this…’
        There is NO evidence of an Exodus..
        There’s goes any vestige of integrity you had…
        T’ra, Ill go watch a bit of Jeff Beck, then I’m off to bed You can play silly buggers with the others.
        You aren’t worth the effort.
        When you think you have matured a bit and are ready for a serious chat …give me a shout, maybe you might be worth listening to.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 19:02

        Figured you’d completely ignore the metric I suggested. Typical. I didn’t say a single thing about the Exodus and you know it.

  15. Arkenaten 2013/04/21 at 19:10

    We were talking about the Exodus and Moses I raised the issue’of the archaeology. I could give a damn about biblical texts and there is nothing else to support the story,so please, don’t get cute. You’re not clever enough …yet.
    When you’ve done your homework and read the relevant archaeology come back. and maybe you’ll have something we can talk about.

    Silly Person.

  16. Ben Nasmith 2013/04/21 at 20:00

    Hi,
    I haven’t followed the conversation above in great depth and I haven’t read all of your posts (I just started following recently). But I’m curious about your views on the rationality of Christianity in general. Broadly speaking, which sort of arguments or approaches to you find the most helpful (besides the one presented above)? Which ones do you find unconvincing and counterproductive? You mentioned a couple times yesterday that “this isn’t the way I’d approach it”.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 21:49

      My degree was in physics and I minored in history, so falsifiability and a thorough awareness of historical context are both really important to me. I like seeing models that are simple and that identify their own weak spots automatically.

      I wouldn’t say that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is unconvincing per se; I just see it as less productive because there’s very little that theism simpliciter provides. I have yet to see an argument of this type that couldn’t be used with equal ease to support a holographic or simulated universe….so what’s the use? Besides, history just seems like it would be a lot more accessible to most people.

      • Ben Nasmith 2013/04/21 at 21:52

        I can understand that. I’ve recently begun to realize that the resurrection is the best argument for theism, let alone for Christianity. Could you tell me more about holographic/simulated universes?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/21 at 23:15

        Well, if we are a holographic computer simulation, it would clean up string theory nicely. It would also provide an uncaused first cause—at least, a cause outside this reality.

      • Mark Hamilton 2013/04/22 at 23:54

        I agree that the cosmological argument only gets us as far, but I think that’s an important step. I don’t expect anyone to go from atheism to full out religious belief all in one leap! From atheism to deism, from deism to theism, that sort of thing. Then again I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis and that’s how his philisophical walk turned out, so I may be extremely biased. We are not all C.S. Lewis, to be sure.

  17. violetwisp 2013/04/28 at 13:30

    Hi PeW, I missed one of your responses up here.

    “This is an unfortunate misconception, perpetuated by a bad translation of Deuteronomy 22:28 in the NIV.”
    NET: Suppose a man comes across a virgin who is not engaged and overpowers and rapes her and they are discovered. 29 The man who has raped her must pay her father fifty shekels of silver and she must become his wife because he has violated her; he may never divorce her as long as he lives.
    ESV: If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29 then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days.
    Complete Jewish Bible: If a man comes upon a girl who is a virgin but who is not engaged, and he grabs her and has sexual relations with her, and they are caught in the act, 29 then the man who had intercourse with her must give to the girl’s father one-and-a-quarter pounds of silver shekels, and she will become his wife, because he humiliated her; he may not divorce her as long as he lives.

    I think it’s safe to say that sex resulting from either grabbing, seizing, overpowering or raping is not consensual. Don’t be ridiculous is attempting to defend rules like this by claiming *your* translation (never mind your bloody interpretation) is correct.

    “The Bible contains poetry, myth, quotations from clearly uninspired sages, personal letters, interviews, visions, eyewitness accounts, historian accounts, bookkeeping, records of civil and criminal laws, and a lot more. Evaluating the historicity of given events and learning about God based on the text doesn’t mean trying to personally apply every single section as if it was written as a rule divinely intended for your life. That’s just silly.”

    I agree it’s silly. If your god exists why did the overwhelming majority of his faithful followers not work that out? He clearly doesn’t have the gift of divinely inspiring very well.

    “In re penal substitution being only a subset of accepted interpretations for the cross, can I address that in a blog post?”

    Hope you’re not forgetting about this, I’m very interested to read your thoughts.

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/28 at 14:34

      I can understand how one might interpret Deut. 22:28 as a reference to rape. But it isn’t, and there are three very obvious reasons why.

      First, it doesn’t say rape (despite what the rather loose NET and NIV have to say about it). Verse 22 in this same chapter is an unequivocal reference to rape (“as when a man rises against his neighbor and slays him, so is this matter”), and the word used here is chazaq, “to force”. That verse is the law regarding rape: the man should be executed; the woman should be held innocent. Verse 28, on the other hand, describes something different, using the word taphas (typically translated “to take” or “to handle”).

      While we don’t know exactly what is meant by taphas here, it’s obviously not rape, because that’s already been described by chazaq earlier. Plus, there’s the subsequent statement: “and they are found”. Being “caught” doesn’t match the concept of rape at all.

      Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this verse is a direct variation on Exodus 22:16-17, which I talked about here. In this passage, it’s the same law, but the word used is pathah, typically translated “to seduce”. So this is probably closer to the correct meaning of Deuteronomy 22 as well.

      Make sense?

      “Evaluating the historicity of given events and learning about God based on the text doesn’t mean trying to personally apply every single section as if it was written as a rule divinely intended for your life. That’s just silly.”

      I agree it’s silly. If your god exists why did the overwhelming majority of his faithful followers not work that out?

      Overwhelming majority? See, that’s the misconception I’m trying to address here. Fundamentalism is only a century or two old, and it’s only a subset of what Christianity has been over that time. Fundamentalists are the ones taking this silly approach. They’re certainly quite vocal, but they’re by no means the overwhelming majority….not now, and certainly not through history.

      There’s a tendency in antitheism to assume that fundamentalism is the “essential form” of Christianity. But that’s not accurate, and shows a startling lack of understanding about the history of religion itself.

      Hope you’re not forgetting about this, I’m very interested to read your thoughts.

      I’m not! It’s being developed slowly but surely. Gotta get part 2 of the purity culture post done, then the response to the Richard Carrier video John wanted me to watch, and then we’ll see about tackling theories of the atonement.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/28 at 21:04

        Sorry PeW, but I’m losing some respect here for your amusing claims about *your* interpretation and knowing *correct* translations that failed to make it to any known English versions. Utterly ridiculous and very embarrassing. Read the whole thing in context – it’s a clear case of rape contrast. If she is pledged to be married he’s committed a crime and dies, if she’s not, they get married:

        25 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, 27 for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

        28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/28 at 21:24

        It’s not “my” anything. You can look it up on your own.

        If it’s a reference to rape, why doesn’t it use the same word as verse 25? And, more importantly, why would there be a reference to being “discovered”? Translating taphas as a reference to rape makes no sense whatsoever. Take a look at parallel translations; there’s no consensus on this phrase, mostly because the “rape” interpretation just doesn’t fit.

        And, like I pointed out, this law derives from the same law in Exodus 22. It’s pretty obvious.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/28 at 21:26

        Obvious to you because you’ve made your mind up. I believed you till I checked the parallel translations and looked at the verse in context. I have no idea what you think you’re seeing.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/28 at 21:30

        Notwithstanding the decisions of the NIV and NET translators, I see no way to make the “rape” interpretation fit, not with the use of a completely different words and the business about “discovery”.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/28 at 21:39

        “force” in KJV, “overpower” in Jewish Orthodox … you’re living in la la land.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/28 at 21:44

        That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Take another look.

        The KJV uses “force” in verse 25…the verse describing rape. Not in verse 28, the one we’re talking about. I don’t know exactly what “lay hold” is supposed to convey (seducing? running away together?), but it’s clearly not the same as verse 25.

        If it’s talking about rape, then why the difference?

      • violetwisp 2013/04/28 at 21:55

        It’s another way of expressing force. The consensual sex beforehand has no qualification. Look at the whole thing, nothing else makes sense, and you’re trying too hard if you think it does.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/28 at 22:11

        If you’re determined to interpret it that way, I’m sure you will. 🙂 But it’s not sufficiently implied, and it makes no sense with the “discovery” element that directly follows. Given that Exodus 22:16 is painfully clear about this particular situation, I don’t think it’s a big deal.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/28 at 22:19

        “discovery” means nothing! And there is NOTHING obvious about it coming for Exodus – that is a different situation, with nowhere near the detail and obvious structure in Deut. This is the first time I’ve realised you’re actually deluded. I’m going to tell Ark!

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/28 at 23:30

        Let’s look at it this way. If you had no prior belief that the Bible teaches raped women should be forced to marry their rapists, what probability would you give to these two possible interpretations? 40-60? 90-10?

      • violetwisp 2013/04/29 at 01:18

        98 percent rape (translated words and context), 2 percent consensual (context makes no sense). If you had no desire to prove your god is nice, what probability would you give?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/29 at 06:57

        What context? There are five other examples of sexual activity in this passage. Only one refers to rape.

        How about I just blog this?

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/29 at 13:07

        Take a look at Persto’s response at the bottom of the page. It’s not just me, I promise.

  18. Persto 2013/04/29 at 12:57

    Physics,

    I agree with you.

    It appears, in my opinion, that Deut. 22:28 is a law that was formulated to demoralize and inhibit pre-marital sex, to defend the unmarried woman involved from disrepute–no man would marry her after throwing off her virginity–and to safeguard the godliness and security of marriage.

    Observe verse 22:23-24. The writers are clearly speaking with reference to consensual sex between a man and a virgin *pledged* to be married. Strangely, the punishment is death for the woman because, “she was in a town and did not scream for help.” What? Why would she? But it all becomes apparent when one apprehends that unsettling the marriage fellowship was most abhorred by the ancient Hebrew. For the ancient Hebrews marriage and children were necessary for a fulfilled and righteous life, and, in that light, it makes sense why they should desire to preserve the utility and righteousness of marriage. All of the verses antecedent to the one under discussion, are about penalizing adultery, in one way or another i.e., sheltering marriage. Accordingly, it is commonsensical that in a situation of pre-marital sex where the woman was not married the man would be compelled to compensate her father, which was appropriate for the times, and not only marry the woman but remain married to her for as long as he lives. It seems this is a case of defending the Hebrew ideal of marriage and, at the same time, shielding the girl from ignominy–if the man was not required to marry her she would never find a husband (at that time, men rarely married a non-virgin) and, by consequence, she would never live a fulfilled Hebrew life.

    Additionally, look at chapter 23: 2 of Deut. Children of a forbidden marriage, that is, illegitimate children, and their descendants were prohibited from entering the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation. Once again, another attempt at dissuading individuals from pre-marital sex and, if illegitimate children were truly believed by the Hebrew people to be objectionable in the sight of the Lord, then it would be compatible with the ancient Hebrews striving to prevent pre-marital sex or, at the very least, marry the two sex enthusiasts as swiftly as possible so as to forestall the likelihood of illegitimate children being born because the resultant damage for the children of such disallowed unions was extreme in Hebrew society–themselves and their descendants down to the tenth generation not being allowed to enter the Lord’s assembly.

    Regards

    • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/29 at 16:19

      Hey, thanks for your comment.

      This is definitely the explanation that makes the most sense to me. It is, of course, quite alarming to note the phrasing in verse 23-24….it would almost imply that failure to scream loudly enough implies consent….but of course these are being posed as caselaws, so that’s not the case at all.

      Great point about the following chapter; I hadn’t noticed that at all.

      A great deal of this has to do not only with protecting the rights of women, but also with protecting the rights of children in an era without birth control.

      • violetwisp 2013/04/29 at 19:33

        I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t see where Persto agrees, or even suggests, the meaning you’re putting forward.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/29 at 20:07

        Maybe where he says “I agree with you”? Or perhaps where he says that Deut. 22:28 deals with “premarital sex” rather than rape? Maybe where he terms the two individuals “sex enthusiasts”?

        Don’t tell me you’re going to argue about the correct interpretation of Persto!

      • violetwisp 2013/04/29 at 21:21

        We’ll have to ask for some clarification. Seriously, apart from the ‘I agree with you’ (which I assumed was for the post generally) I thought it was just a ramble about the verses generally.

        Assuming Persto does agree with you, I still don’t get what you’re both not understanding. It’s a pretty straight-forward chat about men’s uses of women, like cattle or something, and how they can get best value out of them. You’ve made me realise that the woman consenting isn’t much of an issue for the author, but I’m still quite sure it’s rape in the last one. The change of words in all the translations shows there was a clear element of force implied.

      • physicsandwhiskey 2013/04/29 at 21:28

        If consent isn’t considered an issue, what are verses 26-27 about?

        If not for the inclusion of the word taphas (which could be translated “seduces”), there would be nothing whatsoever about this verse to imply rape.

      • Persto 2013/04/29 at 22:54

        Violet,

        I was agreeing with Physics interpretation of the passage.

        I think you are right that women were treated exceedingly poorly–perhaps this is an understatement–in Hebrew society–no argument here. I simply don’t imagine the verse under discussion was about rape.

        However, I do think that, though, at times demeaning and even barbaric, Hebrew society attempted to protect the rights of women in a myriad of dissimilar circumstances. Sometimes they were very wrong and sometimes they were very right.

        Also, I think you have produced some excellent postulations about the passage and its context. And you may be correct, of course, I merely happen to be at variance with your well-reasoned argument.

        Regards

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