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!

On Martyrs and the Religious Impulse

Stoning of StephenThe great mistake is to assume that the early followers of Jesus had a reasonable basis for their faith, and that they would not have put themselves at hazard over a mistaken or dubious belief. We reflexively take too flattering a view of our shared human nature.

The broader history of religion offers manifold instances of martyrs sipping the bitter cup over complete falsehoods. One might even conclude that the presence of a martyrdom tradition was actually a mark against the validity of Christianity, placing it squarely in the company of myriad cults, equally bereft of truth but ever eager to slaughter animals, to self-castrate, to sacrifice children, and to die in the service of the non-existent and the false. Fervent religious zeal and false beliefs make strange but steady bedfellows in the history of faith.

One might even conclude that the presence of a martyrdom tradition was actually a mark against the validity of Christianity…

We resist admitting the fact that we are but semi-rational creatures where religion is concerned, and that people invent the oddest beliefs imaginable for themselves and for one another without recognizing that they have done so. Our wishing minds have proven reliably willing to perish over a rumor believed. In this lies an answer to all the riddles, for there stands a yawning gap between the miraculous events contained within the gospel accounts – resurrections and earthquakes and darkness and the dead emptying their tombs – and the complete silence of the pagan and Jewish records of the time. So it is for the miraculous events in Islam or Mormonism. These gulfs mirror the chasm between our reasoning faculties and our religious impulses. Reconciling the disparity requires a humbler view of our own nature, but it is an explanation which leaves no remainder.

Martyrdom is evidence only of belief, and belief is not an evidence of anything.

YouTube: Dawkins on Cargo Cults

I first read about the Cargo Cults from Hitchens, then found another such discussion from Dawkins. I was glad to see that the Dawkins chapter has been captured on YouTube with some, albeit not terribly extensive, footage of the believers themselves. Here I will venture only three brief observations:

1. Modern, Western people possess no genetic superiority to these villagers. We are running the same mental “hardware”, so to speak. The only difference is that we are educated and indoctrinated differently.

2. Christianity was started among an initial crop of believers with generally low levels of education and literacy, in a poor and oppressed region. And it was rejected as nonsensical by the educated class of the same region.

3. Arguments made by NT Wright and others that fully-orbed religions such as Christianity require long periods of time to develop are simply mistaken. And like the Cargo Cults, Christianity can be demonstrated as having acquired nearly all of its material from prior myths and cults.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Infographic – Evolutionary Tree of Myth and Religion (reblog)

In keeping with my affinity for educational visual aids, I simply couldn’t resist adding this one to the lineup. Excellent work from Simon Davies @ www.Facebook.com/HumanOdyssey. Thanks to Seth Andrews at TTA for the Facebook post.

My own thoughts… I had a conversation with a friend quite recently, and he asked me what I thought “the truth” was. I told him that at bottom, I think religion is simply something that people like to do. We fear death. We fear uncertainty. And we fear insignificance. Religion gives us an incantation against the parts of our own minds that grasp these realities. Further, we Christians are not special, and we do not have corroborating evidences that our competing faiths lack. The mirage of uniqueness grows from the soil of ignorance. We do not understand “the others”, and so we do not understand ourselves. Only deep reading about our faith from outsiders, and about other faiths from insiders, will dispel the fog. And visuals like this are an excellent help.

Mythology Tree of Descent

The Curious Atheist

Freely Seeking Truth After Religion

Class Warfare Blog

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. ~ Zoe

Variant Readings

Thoughts on History, Religion, Archaeology, Papyrology, etc. by Brent Nongbri

Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

A Measure of Faith

Investigating the collision of faith, science and reason

aspiretofindtruth

Seeking answers for some of the big questions of life.

Random thoughts

Random musings about everything.

Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray