Hemingway on Fascism

He remains one of my favorite authors, now made a prophet.

“But are there not many fascists in your country?”


“There are many who do not know they are fascists but will find it out when the times comes.”

― Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Jesus & Insurrection, and Why Some Christians Struggle with Right & Wrong

Martyr, or Insurrectionist?

I know Christian conservatives right now who cannot, at least for the moment, seem to find the right side of the Capitol riot that occurred on January 6th. One relative has posted a video lionizing the woman who was shot and killed, painting her as a martyr, an unarmed protestor, slain without cause. It is not hard to find information about the victim, or to discover what she did or why she was doing it. Her Twitter feed made her motives clear:

Less than a day before she joined the Trump loyalist protest, Babbitt, an avowed and public Trump supporter as well as a subscriber to a number of alt-right conspiracy theories, had vowed the insurrectionist movement could never be halted. “Nothing will stop us … they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours … dark to light!” she wrote on Twitter.

~ The Guardian

The circumstances of her death have also been reported upon (same article):

Babbitt, 35, was reportedly shot as she and other rioters tried to break through a barricaded door in the building where Capitol police officers were armed on the other side.

No doubt we will find more details emerging over time, but at present, this woman does not appear to be a good candidate for sainthood. She was killed while taking part in a violent insurrection, which is the most serious of criminal acts.

[Read more…]

Disavowal Day – for My Still-Trumper Friends and Family

Trump supporters storm US Capitol

Hopes and Fears of 2016

I have friends and family members who voted for Donald Trump in 2016. There were a range of assumptions behind their various ballot choices. Some felt he would be good for business. Others that he would gain them ground in the courts. Some believed he was brilliant, playing three-dimensional chess at a level not understood by the press or the government apparatus.

Because I spend quite a bit of time studying history, and because I listened carefully to what Trump said, I believed he had the makings and the yearnings of an autocrat. In my profession, I’ve known and worked with too many actual geniuses to arrive at the miscalibrated conclusion that Trump was even close. And I was born and raised in a household of political extremism, conspiracy theorizing, and firearms fanaticism, so I’ve never had any illusions about the cult following that was drawn to his banner.

[Read more…]

Democrats Usually Win Pennsylvania, Darlings

Pennsylvania State Shape Sticker Outline WHITE | State shapes, Medication  for dogs, States

As this bizarre election winds on unending, I do begin to wonder at people’s memory. Middle age and even older citizens act as though they never witnessed an election before. Many seem to have forgotten what calling an election actually means, and all manner of misconceptions are being attached to the phrase. They seem to have no recollection that mail ballots are not a recent invention, and that methods for securely vetting them have been with us for some time. But one of the starker blips of recall regards Pennsylvania.

Democrats usually win PA, darlings.

That phrase Blue Wall seems rather permanent, doesn’t it? It has the catchy sort of jingle that is meant to conjure immovability, steadfastness, etc. It was derived from what seemed an unwavering truth… What was it ? That Democrats always win certain states, and among them is PA. Its 30 year history:

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Exponentials

Exponential functions are routinely underestimated, and coronavirus seems poised to instruct. She appears to have found another gear. Rather, she, like all exponential functions, does not operate based on gears at all. They grow larger based upon their current size. The larger the size, the faster the growth. There is no intrinsic upper limit. That sentence bears a second reading, because we seem not to have learned it.

The difficult part about watching this is that we actually could do something about it. It does not have to play out in this way. Most countries have done better, and some have done far better. But in America, we are experiencing a tyranny of the incompetent. The daily care exercised by many is nulled out by the indiscretions of the witless.

Growth functions like this one are conditional. Its movement reflects our decisions. The history of coronavirus in America is a measurement of collective action, not inexorable fate. Coronavirus is not an asteroid. We cannot chalk it up as a no-fault collision. Rather, this is the tale of a soccer team repeatedly kicking the ball into their own goal.

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

The 2020 Voting Experience in Texas

We went to early voting this morning, and this being 2020, it was more of a journey than a mere item on the checklist. Reports have surfaced from around the country of people standing in long lines for many hours, so we decided to be prepared.

We went in a small group — my wife and I, my eldest son, and my brother and sister in law — so that any long wait would at least entail company and conversation. Polling locations in Austin are fewer than last year, and our normal venue was not active. The nearest polling spot was perhaps a 20 minute drive from our house. Expecting long lines outdoors, we took two or three camp chairs. And we were determined not to let this eat our entire day, so we rose early. We left around 625AM and arrived before the polls opened, around 645AM.

We rolled in to the parking lot and saw the promised lines already winding around the building. Here is the pre-dawn image of the line, with the actual poll about 50-60 yards to the left, and the line receding into the darkness on the right:

Turns out the line went much further, wrapping behind a grocery store…

[Read more…]

Tolstoy’s Warriors

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

~ Leo Tolstoy

Gravity Applies

People like to talk about the power of believing. Mind over matter. Their faith in whatnot. Alternative medicine. Woo-woo of every brand.

As the news of Trump’s coronavirus infection this morning conveys, there are immutables in this world, beyond the reach of human narrative.

[Read more…]

Evidence-Free Zone: Nonsense Claims about Superiority of US Coronavirus Response

The following image shows per-capita coronavirus case counts for the US, Canada and Mexico. These per-capita rates are proportional to population size. This image was obtained from the Weather Channel mapping utility on September 27, 2020.

Let’s juxtapose that map against a few claims over the past month by Trump (here and here):

We’ve done a great job in Covid but we don’t get the credit. (August 31)

We’ve possibly done the best job.” (September 10)

[Read more…]

Working Definition of Faith-Based Claims, for Religion, Politics, and Life

Working Definition

Faith-based claims are more frequent and pervasive than most people think. Most people probably connect this phrase with religion, but I believe this is too limiting. Faith-based thinking is a method of thought, an algorithm for truth claims, and humans apply this algorithm well beyond the fence-line of religion. As a prelude to subsequent posts on a few topics, I’m going to propose a working definition for faith-based claims. Working definitions should be simple, and I propose the following two characteristics:

  1. Faith-based claims are grounded in belief without proof and/or sufficient evidence.
  2. Faith-based claims are not open to revision based on contrary evidence.

To qualify, a truth claim or assertion must contain both aspects. Hypotheses in science satisfy Condition 1, because they are guesses ahead of conclusive evidence; but they are tentative and discarded if they fail to survive experimental testing; thus they do not satisfy Condition 2. Much of of our working knowledge in life functions in a similar way. We may or may not know much about the evidence behind a lot of what we are taught or learn. There is nothing wrong with that. But if those views are held dogmatically for any reason, and we are closed to revision, they function as faith-based claims about the world. [Read more…]

Hitch-ing the Supreme Court

The situation with the Supreme Court in the United States has caused no end of commentary, hand wringing, and gloating along different points of the political spectrum. It all reminded me of a Hitchens quote that boiled things down to the ugly little stone sitting at the bottom of the pot. But first, a bit of context.

[Read more…]

Shahadah, Revised & Updated for Accuracy

There is no god but Physics,

and Mathematics is her messenger.

Truth, Poetry, and the American Wall

Many may recognize this quote from Adam McKay’s movie The Big Short. My basic personality has a high tolerance and craving for repetition, and coupled with my love of cinema, I happily re-watch movies many times. I have watched The Big Short more times than I can recall. It is indeed a fine movie, in no small part because it was based on an excellent book by Michael Lewis.

This particular quote can be taken so many ways. Pregnant with cynicism and deeply contrarian, it leaves the audience with options. Dismissal of the negativity and condescension. Affirmation of a felt resonance. Perhaps a political snarl at the city of origin. And if you are one who savors poetry (I am), you may clutch something more literal from this observation. I probably feel each of those things, depending on the year and month I happen to be re-watching the film.

[Read more…]

Plot Twist on Ehrman vs Wallace Debate

This article in the Atlantic tells a fascinating story of antiquities theft, cover-up, and fraud. The basic topic was attention grabbing. But I was positively arrested by the opening scene, because I remember watching it quite distinctly:

[Read more…]

Jericho Brisance Re-Opened

Greetings to those who may still be subscribed to Jericho.

After three years of dormancy, I’ve decided to reopen and re-brand a bit. In the past, Jericho was largely focused on religion: Christianity, deconversion, atheism, and historical studies related thereto. Moving forward, Jericho will serve as a broader platform, featuring content divided into a few departments:

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Guidance for the Perplexed Regarding the Exodus

helpFor those who may feel lost about the Exodus question, I’ve briefly collected a few helpful links and references here. I’ll start with a bottom-line summary, then provide articles, YouTube lectures, and books below.

Bottom-Line Summary

Those who simply want an evangelical crutch to give assurance of Biblical accuracy will find the gate wide and road broad. I leave such readers to brace their insecurities as they wish. But for those who want to understand the state of knowledge and agreement within the overall community of evidence-based research, I offer the concise summary of the moderate scholar William Dever, given in a 2013 lecture:

To make a long story short, today not a single mainstream biblical scholar or archaeologist any longer upholds Biblical Archaeology’s “Conquest Model.” Not one. Various theories of indigenous origins [for the people of Israel] prevail, in which case there is neither room nor need for a Biblical Exodus — at least of that [Biblical] proportion.

~ William Dever, UC San Diego Exodus Conference, June 1, 2013 (YouTube)

[Read more…]

Beyond the Final Fear

I found myself arrested this evening to learn of the passing of a distant but steady friend, Archaeopteryx. He proved himself a reliable companion and support to many of us fledgling deconverts, hobbling as we must from our personal wreckage toward the daylight. Not a god, but in many of our lives, he could almost seem omnipresent, ever ready to comment on anything you posted.  I feel that I owe him a debt, and in partings without goodbyes, the ledgers go unreconciled.

I cannot help but think of Hitchens, who said that he didn’t fear death, because there was nothing to fear in it. Rather, he feared the waste and sordid decline of dying. Honest, as ever, regarding the truth of that final fear.

I’ll miss Arch. I’ll miss his reliable wit, there every time I post something. I also think, when one day I finish writing my bloody book, I’ll miss him reading it. I think maybe the best I can manage is a Hitch farewell, spelled in Johnny Walker Black. My eyes may not be dry, but there will be no blubbering fictions about a better place. Instead, I can say that I do find consolation that Arch has passed now, beyond the spectre and the reach of that final fear.

American Values & Greatness

America may need to rethink the notion that our country’s values are what made us great (or make us great). I say ‘rethink’ because it is so routinely stated as some sort of axiomatic truth.

Values do not create growth and expansion out of thin air. To think in this way is to embrace a sort of magical sense of conjuring. [Read more…]

Infographic – Book of Acts – Comprehensive Relationship & Timeline Diagram

*Updated 09-07-2016*

As part of my ongoing historical research efforts, I found it necessary to develop a comprehensive outline of the book of Acts. This has taken several forms, one of which is the following relationship diagram and timeline for Acts. The notion was simple, but the doing turned out to take a good deal longer than I had anticipated. I’ve decided to pause my research long enough to publish this as an infographic, in the hopes that it may prove useful to others. Feel free to print and repost; all I ask is that attribution to JerichoBrisance be included. Further details and notes are below.

Click on image for high resolution PDF.

Acts RD Preview Whole

Additional Notes:  [Read more…]

Yale Lecture Series on Hebrew Bible

My friend Archaeopteryx was good enough to share the YouTube lecture series by Yale Professor Christine Hayes, “Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)”.  After watching the first video in the series, I believe this will make a good resource for serious seekers who want to understand the historical events, cultural forces and literary composition of the Old Testament. I read many volumes written by various historians during my own investigations, and I suspect this video series would shorten the learning arc for others.

I’m linking the first video here, which I have cued to mid-lecture as Prof. Hayes discusses 5 common myths about the Hebrew Bible that most Americans do not understand. If you have another 15 minutes, feel free to back it up for full context. I’ll also be adding a link in the sidebar under Rapid Resources, though these lectures are admittedly a bit long to be considered truly rapid. Cheers!

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My Quest to ride through all 254 Texas Counties

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A Skeptic's Quest for Science, Wonder, & Books

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I don’t want to start a class war; it started a long time ago and, unfortunately, we are losing.

Secular Wings

My freedom from spiritual abuse happened when I walked away from the abusers. My healing and recovery from the complex trauma of spiritual abusers, spiritually abusive faith and toxic religion happened while I was still a Christian and continues to this day. My deconversion came later after many many years of studying the Bible, Christian apologetics, cults and spiritual abuse. When I realized that the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God, the only honest thing I could do was to stop calling myself a Christian. What I write here, may be very different from what I’ve written in the past. It might also be repeats of the past themes. ~ Zoe